Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I got a nice surprise today when I found that Scott Green, the anime/manga columnist for Ain't It Cool News, wrote a review of Electric Ant #1 in his newest post!

I'm a big fan of Scott's weekly columns, so it's a real pleasure to be on AICN. In the review, he talks about the first issue of EA overall, with a focus specifically on my 16 page interview with Fred Schodt. Click for the review on AICN.

I was emailing with Fred this week, and he was happy to see the zine. He is honestly still so very under-appreciated for all his manga missionary work, his translations and his numerous and equally insightful books on the non-manga realms of Japanese history and popular culture. (Additionally, did folks know that he & Dadakai co-founder Jared Cook are currently working on the translations for Naoki Urasawa's Pluto series for Viz? That's PERFECT.) For what it's worth, I think I'll put the entire interview on Electric Ant sometime after Thanksgiving...

Spotlight on Electric Ant #1 - By Scott Green:
If you're not reading Same Hat! for their "weekly manga commentary, featuring horror, gag & erotic-grotesque nonsense," rectify that as soon as you're done with this column! I can't see how anyone who is an AICN follower hasn't added the blog to their RSS reader. If you even half agree with Harry Knowles weekly DVD picks, "ero guro nansensu" manga should be on keen interest.

Same Hat!'s Ryan Sands and Evan Hayden have now launched the print zine Electric Ant. Named as a tribute to Philip K Dick and Suehiro Maruo, the first issue features an interview with the man who literally wrote the book on manga, Frederik Schodt, comics strips, NIN Libs, a collection of illustrations that reinterpret or recontextualize a host of "Dark Lords" of popular media (you'll never look at Shredder the same way again) and an annotated photographic tour of Beijing's Dongyue Temple.

Over the summer, I was looking into what's been said about the concept of heta-uma or "good-bad" manga for a piece on Tokyo Zombie (localized by Sands and Hayden).

What I came up was the discussion of Teruhiko Yumura aka "King Terry" in Frederik L. Schodt's Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga.

"I wanted to draw the picture I wanted in the space provided, rather than tell a story. I started drawing whatever I wanted in each panel, and because I can't draw the same face twice, the character faces all changed." The result was manga with a weird mix of primitivism, energy and dada-ist storylines - a comic where the art, the text and the entire concept fused together in a good-bad style...

At first glance Terry's cartoons appear to be bad art, but on close inspection, they are also good. Hence, they are heta-uma or bad-good. Terry believes that everyone starts as a "bad" artist and tries to become good. But simply becoming "good" is not enough. Artists who try too hard to become "good" emphasize technique over soul, and the life goes out of their drawings; their spirit fails to live up to their technique.

Since reading that, I've been struck with the notion that North America's ongoing conversation on manga still has a long way to go before catching up with Schodt.

For decades, Schodt's 1983 "Manga! Manga!" was the reference source on the subject. In the mid 90's, I remember reading a novel, I think it was one of the Nancy A. Collins' Sonja Blue pieces, that pulled a description of sexual content in manga straight from a panel reprinted in Manga! Manga! A few years ago, when Archie (the red headed guy from Riverdale) did a report on manga in his comic, it read a lot like how Manga! Manga! described the medium.

Schodt's follow-up Dreamland Japan predated the North American manga boom, but it still features breadth and sophistication that's rarely been matched. Set aside for a moment that few North American manga fans have heard of the Avant-garde anthology Garo or even looked at a panel of Doraemon manga. In 1996 Schodt was asking "Do Manga Have a Future?" Now, the trends that Schodt was calling attention to have gotten to the point where commentators are pondering if the west has again fallen in love with another dying Japanese art.

I don't want to apply a tacky label like "gem" or "invaluable" to Sands' interview with Schodt, so, plainly put, if the topic of manga interests you, acquire a copy of Electric Ant.

To do the geek thing and start delineating the field... There's the consumer approach to manga and related pop media. This follows the intended purpose and tracks what's hot. What's the new release? Should you buy it?

There is the academic approach. If you look at what's been said about writings of authors like Susan J. Napier, you'll catch a layperson reaction to the effect that this approach is given to over-interpretation.

Then, there are the people who try to analyze and explain. In this category, there are experts who can authoritatively speak to the subject, then, there are bloggers, podcasters, librarians, AICN columnists and so on who try to offer informed supposition.

From within its DIY framework, Electric Ant offers authoritative insight into the field of manga. Schodt is Schodt. If you don't expect him to be illuminating, you've probably never read/heard him before. But, it has to be said that Sands conducted a brilliantly informed and constructed interview. It starts with the cascading circumstances that made Schodt a manga guru, before looking at the process by which North America adopted its manga reading habits , as well as the current landscape of the medium.

Rather than inside baseball, the conversation offers a savvy, human look into the field. A good example is when the talk turns to manga luminaries, particularly Schodt's late friend Osamu Tezuka, and a keen subject of Sands' interest, Kazuo Umezu. Both of these giants have cultivated cartoonish personas, as much about an image as a real figure; Tezuka in the black beret, Umezu in his striped shirt. The interview succeeds in painting a more fleshed out picture of how they worked and what they aspired to.

Throughout the rest of the zine, whether pop culture or personal subjects are handled grotesquely or irreverently, it's done so in a clever, natural manner. For example, the photo tour offers a look at a 700 year old Daoist temple's catalogue of the tortures of hell, coupled with snide comparisons to Warhammer 40K, Castlevania and Klaus Nomi. I couldn't help but think how often rapid stream of bombardments of irreverence falls short. In this case, both the subject and commentary hit dead on.

In addition to smart geekery with QR codes and such, massive credit to producing appearances by the antagonists from Jem and the Holograms and Go-bots. Shouldn't that be reason enough to seek out a copy?

Electric Ant can be purchased online and at these physical locations.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


God bless YouTube. I was doing a periodic sweep of familiar search terms, and came across this video from August 21, 1998 (which was posted online a few months ago).

Here is a profile of Suehiro Maruo from a Beat Takeshi variety show (Takeshi no daredemo PIKAN), which features great footage of his work and studio, a shot of him as a sorta-goth teenager, commentary by a horror author that Maruo did book covers for AND... an in-person interview talking about his paintings! Fucking fantastic stuff here:


Same Hat's cerebral godfather, at work in his studio.

Goth Suehiro Maruo was born in 1956 in Nagasaki Prefecture.

Hot lady paintings.

Mr. Maruo in studio being introduced.

Beat Takeshi looks mortified.


As an addendum to the Umezz Fest 08 post, here is a clip of Demerin playing the FEVER theme from Dr. Mario:


We all missed it, but a few months back in Kochijoji, Kazuo Umezu hosted a big UMEZZ FESTIVAL '08 event. I was secretly scheming a way to get over to Japan in time to attend (or get Nate, Same Hat's Man in Japan to sneak in) but no luck this time. Luckily, Umezu and Demerin have posted pics of the entire happening.

The event was held on 9/14 at Star Pine's Cafe, and included dancing, comedy skits, a Q&A, exclusive Umezu goods, and prizes like DVDs and figurines for folks in the audience.

Party people in the place to be.

Umezz webmaster & mangaka, Demerin.

The sultan of horror manga.

Rocking the cape with UMEZZ PERFECTION edition panels on the walls.

The greatest jacket of all time?

Goddess of Love and themed Yokosuka base silk jacket. AMAZING!

Scooby Doo-eseque comedy sketch, it appears.

Very disturbing stuff, this.

Finale group shot...

So, who else wants to go to the next one in 2009??

Monday, November 24, 2008


Just a quick mention that a few more shops will be carrying Electric Ant #1 on their shelves:

+ Needles & Pens, 3253 16th st, san francisco, ca 94103 (site)
+ The Beguiling, 601 markham st, toronto, on M6G 2L7 (site)
+ Pony Club Gallery, 625 nw everett st, #105 portland, or 97209 (site)
+ Giant Robot SF, 618 shrader st, san francisco, ca 94117 (site)

These are in addition to:
+ Quimby's, 1854 w. north ave, chicago, il 60622 (site)
+ Giant Robot 1, 2015 sawtelle blvd, los angeles, ca 90025 (site)

(Image courtesy of the talented, sheisept)

Issues are still very available via gCheckout or Paypal on the site. A few folks have also bought copies by sending hidden cash or a money order in the post. GET YOURS NOW!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

THE COLLECTION by Shintaro Kago

We've been sorta overrun with Kagomania here the past week, haven't we? But I assume that nobody really minds, right? Today, we received another great gift from the manga-duo of Rizzah & Anonymous K over at Wanted: Cheap Manga - a new and utterly gruesome short scanlation of The Collection by Shintaro Kago.

This one is old style Kago, with a simple conceit and pretty realistic and grisly gore, like The Savage Mouth by Sakyo Komatsu or Chuck Palahniuk's Guts. As Rizzah explains it,
The Collection is a fucked-up story of one girl’s obsession with a dude. She collects everything he touches… EVERYTHING. Very NSFW, NSIFOYGF, and NSIFOYMAD (try to figure out those last two!).

Click here to download The Collection, then go over and leave comment on Wanted: Cheap Manga.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


DESIGN FESTA 28 was held at Tokyo Big Sight a few weeks ago, during the weekend of November 8-9. DESIGN FESTA is like the colorful mutant child of Lollapalooza, the MOMA in New York and San Diego Comic Con. Both Same Hat's Man in Japan, Nate, and Tokyo Damage Report's Schultz were in attendance this time.

I'll be posting an event report from Nate (with tons of pics! and goods from Kago!) soon, but until then here is a Shintaro Kago poster picked up by Schultz:

Schultz says, "Kago Shintaro is famous for being the most disturbed manga artist in a country where that title is like a coveted olympic medal."

More detailed information and tons of great pics/scans from Tokyo Damage Report, here and here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


A quick post from the wilds of St. Louis; Electric Ant #1 is now on the shelves at the midwest indie comics/zine mecca, Quimby's in Chicago!

Quimby's Bookstore
1854 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
tel. 773/342-0910

A few copies of the zine are also on-sale at Giant Robot (GR1) on Sawtelle Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


[This is the first of hopefully many posts written by my good buddy Nate who is living in Tokyo. Nate is a grad student who helped me out on Tokyo Zombie and contributed The Department of Implementing 15 Kinds of Violent Death article to Electric Ant #1!]

Halloween is not a major holiday in Japan. Recently, people here have started trying to half-ass it with pumpkin decorations and a few chintzy costumes, but for the most part, it's not a big deal in Tokyo. This year on Halloween however, people who wanted to experience true thrills and chills hightailed it to the Flying Teapot Cafe in the obscure suburb of Ekoda for an evening of film and fun with the one and only, Kago Shintaro.

The main man himself was in attendance for the event, which was being held to kick off a mini-exhibition of his artwork at the cafe. There was a screening featuring a glut of Kago's live-action DV films, as well as just general fanboy (and about two-ish fangirls) hangouttage. There were about 15 souls in the house total, so it seems like Kago's fan base is bigger abroad than at home.

After a bit of coffee sipping, prog rock listening, and Jan Svankmeier watching to get the audience warmed up, the films hit the screen / cafe wall. Kago started off with a selection of short shorts (1 to 4 minutes each), including predictably Kago-esque (and hilarious) gags like poop coming out of phones, voodoo dolls hidden in birthday cakes, bloody feet in christmas stockings, and girls bashing strangers with baseball bats to the rhythm of an enka beat, among others.

Another fun one had a girl getting her fingernails pulled out, only to have them instantly grow back. The gangster torturing her keeps pulling faster and faster, until it becomes almost Chaplin-like; the story has a happy ending when the girl opens a successful fingernail boutique!

Next were a few longer films: Ekimae Setsudan (駅前切断, Stationfront Cutdown), Ekimae Hanayome (駅前花嫁, Stationfront Bride), and Paranoia Street (パラノイアストリート). it seems like these might be based on older Kago manga - maybe a reader who is a far bigger Kago otaku than I am knows? "Cutdown" featured an executioner for hire who roams about looking for jobs; "Bride" is a (literally) tangled tale of the threads of fate connecting lovers, as well as the severed fingers that result when those threads get rearranged; and Paranoia Street can only be described as Poop Overload (even for Kago!)

The final long film was perhaps the most "atmospheric" / creepy / Halloween appropriate: a girl's friends and relatives keep disappearing, leaving behind only notes saying "they'll be back later." Before she knows it, everyone else starts doing the same thing...and then she stumbles and finds a farewell letter from her left leg... To close, Kago let rip a few digital animation shorts (think cardboard cutouts, not anime) with goodies like car-carsh victim tossing as an Olympic sport and popular uses for post-circumcision foreskins (fried appetizers, hula hoops, Jesus halos...)

Several of the films are available on DVD (probably Japan region coded, unfortunately) through Kago's website.

After the film, there was more general hanging out and browsing the artwork:

If I had 300 bucks to spare, I would have bought this on the spot!

Kago had literally his whole back catalog out to browse (!!!):

Crying yet, fanboys?

He also had all kinds of goods for sale, from new comics to more of his ever popular crazy toys!

This is the "Old Man Sex Set" - it comes with tea and cakes to seduce the geezer, polident for his stinky gums, and most importantly, an L-bracket to hold up his uncooperative wilmo!

Other toys on hand included the "Anti-Nationalism Kit" with a mini-flag and matches, "Corpse-Fucking Set" (don't forget the nose-plugs!), and the ever popular "Curry / Poo Set" to trick your friends into eating your feces! (Also, see this old post for the Bullying Kit! -ryan)

I chatted with Kago a bit afterwards, and he revealed that his answer to the age-old question "Would You Rather eat poo that tastes like curry, or curry that tastes like poo?" is: poo that tastes like curry, which is perhaps unsurprising when one considers his oeuvre.

Did I just refer to the guy that drew these as having an "oeuvre"?!?!

Homeboy also confirmed that he is in fact doing a monthly comic in Vice mag. Perhaps the most shocking sight of the evening, however, was the wedding ring on Kago's finger - You can guess what I was pondering on the way home...

I picked up a couple of small Kago goodies for Same Hat readers as prizes for a future contest (contest TBA, stay tuned! -ryan), and Ryan is working on getting up a gallery link to post some more photos from this and future events in Tokyo. So keep yr eyes tuned to this here computer-box!

–Nate, Same Hat's Man in Japan


Hot news for Bay Area folks... Chip Kidd will be giving a public presentation and book signing in support of "Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan." The event is free to the public at 6PM on Thursday (11/12/08) at the 111 Minna Gallery in SoMa!

The Bat-Manga "cover controversy" buzzing around blogs aside, the book is an incredible and strange artifact, and my good friend Anne Ishii (ex-Vertical) did the translation for Jiro Kuwata's wild-ass manga pages included in the book. I had the luxury of attending a similar talk by Chip about the project (with Anne during MoCCA in June) and loved the presentation, unseens images and Chip's theatrical recreation of Batman vs. Lord Death Man!

Details from Last Gasp's blog:

Last Gasp is proud to host a reading and book signing with Chip Kidd for his newest book BAT-MANGA. See you Thursday, November 13 at 6pm at 111 Minna Gallery!

In 1966, during the height of the first Batman craze, a weekly Japanese manga anthology for boys, Shonen King, licensed the rights to commission its own Batman and Robin stories. A year later, the stories stopped. They were never collected in Japan, and never translated into English. Now, in Chip Kidd’s BAT-MANGA! The Secret History of Batman in Japan hundreds of pages of Batman-manga comics more than four decades old are translated for the first time, appearing alongside stunning photographs of the world’s most comprehensive collection of vintage Japanese Batman toys, courtesy of Saul Ferris.

This is the Dynamic Duo as you’ve never seen them: with a distinctly Japanese, atomic-age twist as they battle aliens, mutated dinosaurs, and villains who won’t stay dead. And as a bonus: Jiro Kuwata, the manga master who originally wrote and drew this material, has given an exclusive interview for the book.

More than a dazzling novelty, BAT-MANGA! is an invaluable, long-lost chapter in the history of one of the most beloved and timeless figures in comics. The signed, limited hardcover edition will have a distinctly different cover, full-color printed endpapers, and an amazing extra adventure written by Jiro Kuwata (not included in the paperback), about a band of rogue alien robot art thieves at large in Gotham City. Who Could possibly stop them?!

About the Author
Chip Kidd is a graphic designer and writer in New York City. His two previous books about comics for Pantheon were Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz and Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross. Both won the Eisner Award and were national bestsellers.

Author Reading
Thursday, November 13-San Francisco
6pm @ 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna St., San Francisco, CA 94105

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Quick update for the Electric Ant site!

For folks that prefer it, I've now added the option to buy Electric Ant #1 using Paypal! This is in addition to Google Checkout, and both payment systems support a variety of shipping options. This week, I sent copies out in the US and to Canada, New Zealand, France, Finland, Netherlands, UK, Japan and Australia!

If you have any questions about buying multiple copies or sending money directly, please just shoot me an email: electricantzine AT gmail DOT com. Things are going well so far- if you happen to dig the site and post on a forum or have a blog, a shout-out and link to would be very appreciated!!

This weekend, I'm working on getting copies out to zine and comic shops. Copies should be available at the following stores in the near future:
Giant Robot shops in CA
Quimby's Bookstore in Chicago
The Beguiling in Toronto

...and hopefully more will be added to the list this month!


Friday, November 07, 2008


Whoa, what the HELL!!? I was totally not expecting this news!

From the website of Creation Books, I learned today that they will be reprinting an English edition of the infamous art book, 江戸昭和競作無惨絵英名二十八衆句 (28 Famous Scenes of Murder and Verse)!!

Wow! Many of you probably know that Creation Books is the OG weirdo manga publisher (and way ahead of their time!), having released the only Suehiro Maruo story collection in English, Ultra-Gash Inferno. And many of you probably remember that I posted a while ago about this joint art book by Suehiro Maruo and Kazuichi Hanawa, including a link to check out scans of the original Japanese book.

It sounds like will be releasing this book under their Yubari Books imprint, and it appears to include the Maruo & Hanawa paintings but and not the coupled Muzan-E by master painter Tsukioka Yoshitoshi... But dizang, a hardcover edition of the book! Very exciting...

In 1866, renowned UKIYO-E artists Yoshitoshi and Yoshiiku collaborated on a shocking series of MUZAN-E (atrocity prints), EIMEI NIJUHASSHUUKU – also known as "28 NOTORIOUS MURDERS" or "THE SADISTIC COLLECTION OF BLOOD".

In 1988, modern cult MANGA stars Kazuichi Hanawa and Suehiro Maruo created their own collection of atrocity pictures, SHIN-EIMEI NIJUHASSHUUKU – BLOODY UKIYO-E or THE NEW ATROCITIES IN BLOOD.

These 28 new blood-soaked pictures, featuring not only infamous Japanese murderers such as Sada Abe but also the likes of Fritz Haarmann and Adolf Hitler, take the premise of the original collection and stretch it to the very limits of ultra-violence.

Yubari Books have now announced a special new 20th anniversary edition of THE NEW ATROCITIES IN BLOOD. A limited hardback of 50 copies only, in full colour throughout, and with introduction and notes newly translated into English. Also includes a full mini-gallery of the original EIMEI NIJUHASSHUUKU.

THE NEW ATROCITIES IN BLOOD has never before been published in English; the original Japanese edition is long out-of-print, and used copies fetch prices of $150 and upwards.

ONLY $69.00
(+ $5.00 shipping in USA, $13.00 shipping outside USA)

Two of my favorites from the book:

Are you guys gonna get this book? I think I'll send my order in this weekend :B


Hot news fresh off the desk of Same Hat's American stepfather, Johnny Ryan:

This month = Vice Comics & Illustration issue

He describes it thusly,
It's got comics in it from the following people: Matt Furie, Benjamin Marra, Matthew Thurber, Radio Wada, Paco Alcazar, Frederic Fleury, Shintaro Kago, Rowan Tedge, Simon Gardenfors and me and maybe some other names I'm forgetting.

Very cool news for manga nerds - we always love more Shintaro Kago, but the very first(?) publication of Radio Wada in English a US publication is especially unique and rad. My friend Robert (gifted artist and indie manga fanboy to the extreme) gave me a copy of Radio Wada's collection of gag strips, Labrador Radio Wada, earlier this year.

I don't know as much as I should about Radio Wada, but I really, really enjoyed his rugged and brut lines and subversive strips. He also does some really wild coloring and effects in some of his strips. You can also check here for a complete listing (in Japanese) of his books, most of which are published by EnterBrain and Shueisha.

Look for the new Vice hitting stands some time later this month...

Thursday, November 06, 2008


I'm gonna try to start posting stuff that isn't related the the zine (we'll see how long it lasts, haha). Recently on the PictureBox site, publisher Dan has shared some incredible original paintings and sketches by New Engineering and Travel author, Yuichi Yokoyama!

These pieces of original work were used in planning and production of PictureBox's gorgeous English editions of his work. Yokoyama has quickly become one of the contemporary artists I'm most fascinated with; his experimental and architectural manga is literally like nothing I've ever seen. When I read it, it really feels like the book was created by an aesthetically empathetic alien possessed by vastly superior sensory organs.

Just this week, Yokoyama's newly-released to America (and wordless!) manga, Travel, was named to PW's best comics of 2008 list. Originals below, and more here.

Sketches and layout ideas for the English edition of Travel

Paintings and faces for the Travel cover and jacket. (These look similar to paintings of his I saw in Kyoto earlier this year.)

Crazy little dudes for the inside jackets of Travel

Cover paintings for the English edition of New Engineering, also from PictureBox.

+ Alternative Press Expo recap and pictures of The Bang Gang's incredible new books!
+ Summary and photos from Sean Michael Wilson's ALTERNATIVE MANGA talk that I helped out with...
+ Pictures and report from the Halloween Shintaro Kago event from Nate in Tokyo

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


As of this morning, all online orders have now been shipped out!

Folks interested in the zine, please keep them orders coming! Here are a couple new previews up on the Electric Ant site:

(First Kiss comic by The Fart Party's Julia Wertz!)

(Dark Lords by Jenn Yin & Hellen Jo!)

(4-Koma strips by Alice, Me & Sophia)

(Zine Wisdom from Eric Nakamura!)