Sunday, March 23, 2008

NEW COMICS DAY: Early Works & Crying Giants

Things are getting busier and busier, with a big deadline coming up, and my Japan vacation now less that 2 weeks away (YES!). Things with the secret project are coming along swimmingly, with final proofreading this weekend and our back cover blurbs all lined up. We'll be able to tell you more about it very soon.

Aside from all that business, it was an awesome week for comics: a new entry in both my favorite manga series and favorite comic series? FUCK YES:

+ Phoenix Vol. 12(of 12): Early Works

The final installment of all things Phoenix. The real meat of Tezuka's favorite project concluded in Volume 11, but this addendum book brings us back to his first stab at weaving the Phoenix mythos.

As noted in the Author afterword, Tezuka created these short stories on the heels of the success of Princess Knight, for a similar female readership. The noted influence of American films like Helen of Troy, and his hometown Takarazuka Revue are palpable in these sweeping but light tales, each which takes place in a different ancient civilization (Egypt, Greece, etc).

While it's just a snapshot, it's great to glimpse Tezuka's skills in the shojo genre, which he also helped pioneered. This book is not an viable entry point for checking out Phoenix (or Tezuka) and more for the completist fan. That said, it's just a shame that so few manga fans have actually bothered to read Tezuka's Phoenix.

+ Dungeon Monstres Vol. 1: The Crying Giant

Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim's Dungeon series are everything good about European comics. But more than that, they're a summation of everything that is awesome about fantasy, as a device/genre/whatever. Without resorting to mere parody or satire of the genre, Dungeon employs all the fantastical action, monsters, tropes of fantasy adventure, with dashes of slapstick, buddy comedy humor, and really poignant romanticism. Not to get hyperbolic, but this dorky ass comic works you over, in a ton of really happy ways.

The newest batch of volumes (Monstres) is drawn by guest artists, and tells the side stories of other monsters and secondary characters in the Dungeon. This book includes art by French cartoonists Mazan and Jean-Christophe Menu.

The main complaint about Dungeon (and it's a totally fair one) is that the numbering of editions and non-linear volumes don't make it easy for new readers to figure out where the hell to start. But as a standalone read, Monstres Vol. 1 totally works on its own; However, Sfar and Trondheim pepper in tons of fan service-y connections for longtime readers. You can check out a preview on NBM's site.


Cal said...

I was a little wary getting Dungeon: Monsters because the art (esp. Menus) is so different from what it usually looks like-- and let's face it, half the reason I picked up the book in the first place, but I guess I didn't have cause to worry. I like that Lewis T. and Joann S. care so much about their universe that they even bother to flesh out the backstories of the really minor characters. I just hope the next one explains those Cthulu squid guys in the Duckheart!

Ryan S said...

hey calvin... Yeah, I was a bit dubious (I first though it was drawn and written by other cartoonists) but flipping through it at the comic shop, I laughed out loud 2-3 times within the opening ten pages, so I went for it.

These tales aren't as immediate as Zenith, but you can hear the Sfar/Trondheim script and weirdly spontaneous plotting in both stories. I definitely preferred Mazan's art (the art not featured on the cover) to Menu's, but that's a minor quibble.

I was looking around the official French site ( and they get super specifica about where exactly each book falls. It turns out that one takes place before Zenith and one after (like.. -4 vs. 6, etc). So unwieldy and confusing... but rad!

zytroop said...

so, like, secret project info before or after you go to Japan?

bittermelon said...

you are the only reason i could ever be swayed into reading trondheim. seriously.

Ryan S said...

I can't really tell who does what, but most of the time it's Trondheim's art predominantly and Sfar's writing. IIRC, the first 2 books of Zenith are that way, and they're the strongest/hilarious-est to date.

I am not gonna go to bat on any other Sfar Trondheim projects (although I can say that I did really dig Vampire Loves).

That works? You know you can just borrow the damn books from me if you're gonna be a butthead about it.