Monday, April 26, 2010


A gross and rad group art show is on display right now in San Francisco; The Boys are Back in Town, featuring the art of Matt Furie, La Merde, and Johnny Ryan is at Giant Robot SF until May 12, 2010. The show is made up of 150 small pieces and paintings, many of which are takes on popular culture, characters from other comics, and riffs on each other's books.

I checked out the opening, and really loved the stuff that Johnny Ryan created (Matt's stuff was awesome as usual too. I'm not a hufe fan of La Merde's simple style but the entire show is worthwhile). Johnny's a friend of Same Hat and a fan of weirdo manga, so I was geeked (and not too surprised) to see that he had done a Kazuo Umezu tribute piece as part of the show!

All of Johnny's pieces from the show are selling out fast, but the Cat-Eyed Blecky one is still available for sale via the GRSF website!

For more Johnny Ryan action, check out his website. Volume 2 of his battle manga serial gross-out fest Prison Pit is coming out later this year.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


As some of you have perhaps already seen on my twitter or on the EnterBrain site, a new book was released by Suehiro Maruo this month in Japan! Unlike his last two works, this release is more of an art book than a proper manga. But like his last few published works, the theme of this collection is the world and works of the king of Japanese noir & macabre, Edogawa Rampo!

The book is titled RAMPO PANORAMA, and looks really stunning:

I've ordered a copy via my local Kinokuniya, and will be picking it up after work tomorrow. Full details on the book size/cost are all on the EnterBrain online shop. From my understanding (and hearing from Same Hat buddy Ho-Ling), the book includes the following things:
  • A collection of various Rampo-inspired paintings, drawings, album art, etc. from Suehiro Maruo's long career.

  • Sketches and designs from Maruo's work on The Strange Tale of Panorama Island and Caterpillar, his previous longer-form adaptations of Rampo stories.

  • Maruo's third manga adaptation of an Edogawa Rampo story, a shorter manga this time of 踊る一寸法師 (Odoru Odoru Isshunboush - Dancing Dwarf).

  • Nice art book paper stock and a great painted cover.

I'm not sure exactly how long it is or more specifics yet, but I'm planning to post pictures of this book over the weekend, once I've gotten my hands on my own copy! Have any of you seen the book in person? What do you think of it?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Just a short reminder, tonight from 6-8pm at New York's Center for Book Arts is the opening reception of "Garo Manga, 1964-1973". The reception is free, and will feature "every issue of Garo, from its first issue in September 1964 to its 120th issue in December 1973." A catalogue of the exhibit will also be on sale in person (UPDATE: And is now available via their online store.)

Have fun, New York people! If you happen to attend and sneak some photos of the event and exhibit, lemme know how it went over email at samehatATgmailDOTcom.

Opening Reception: Garo Manga, 1964-1973
Wednesday, April 14th, 6 to 8pm
Free to the public

Directions from their site:
The Center for Book Arts is located at 28 West 27th Street, between 6th and Broadway. (Broadway is east of 6th Avenue in this neighborhood.)

by subway
N or R train to 28th Street and Broadway
F train to 23rd Street and 6th Avenue
6 train to 28th and Lexington Avenue
1 or 9 train to 28th Street and 7th Avenue
B, D, Q and F trains to 34th and 6th Avenue (Herald Square)
2, 3, or 7 to 34th Street (Penn Station)

by bus
M1, M2, M3, M5, M6, M7, M10 buses
crosstown buses M23 & M34

from outside the city
PATH trains to 33rd Street and 6th Avenue
Amtrak and NJT to Penn Station (34th Street and 7th Avenue)
MetroNorth trains to Grand Central Station, then the downtown 6 subway to 28th Street and Lexington Avenue

parking lot locations
29 West 28th Street, between Broadway and 6th Avenue. Enter on 28th Street or Broadway
6th Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets
101 West 23rd Street, near 6th Avenue
1251 Broadway, near 31st Street
39 West 23rd Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues

pics are by me, from shopping in Koenji last month


In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except taxes and new Shintaro Kago daily strips. Keeping to his impressive schedule, Kago has pumped out another 7 short gags for your viewing pleasure at his site. This batch is all over the map, and my quick translations are presented below. Enjoy!

Monday - Miso Soup Curling

Tuesday - Sakai Masaaki's side job at the nursing home
Says: Using his tablecloth trick to help out
But how do you put the sheets back on...?

Wednesday - Fitting Room

Thursday - Tire

Friday - Chaplin's The Gold Rush

Saturday - Unending long roll TP system

Sunday - Irreconcilable differences between the buttons & buttonholes

(You can check out all the previous Kago strips by clicking the daily strips label)

In other Shintaro Kago news, he has recently updated his site with details about upcoming events/appearances. These are only helpful for folks in Japan, but perhaps some of you will be in Tokyo around these times?

May 4, 11am - 4pm
Tokyo Big Site, Halls 1&2
Kago's booth: え01b
He'll be selling comics & dojinshi

Shintaro Kago special goods event
May 8, 2pm - 6pm
ちょこれーとちわわ(Chokore tochiwawa) 3min walk from JR Koenji South gate
Selling original goods, more details later

Design Festa 31
May 15 & 16, 11am - 7pm
Tokyo Big Site
Kago's Booth: C-0547

Film screening at Capriccio in Ekoda
June 11, doors at 7, starts at 7:30
Showing new animated shorts, selling goods

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


(This post is part of a series I've tagged as "early manga days", chronicling rare/weird gems from the beginning of manga's now 30+ year history of publication in English)

As mentioned in my earlier post about Mai the Psychic Girl, the first few floppy issues included a series of essays called "The Manga Story" in the back. These were written in 1987 by the manga/Japan experts of the day. I'm going to re-create the text of these essays here, as I don't believe they were reprinted elsewhere(?).

The first of these articles was published in Mai the Psychic Girl #3 and written by Fred Patten, "one of the five creators of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization (C/FO) and author of numerous articles on Japanese manga and animation. Fred Patten came up in my interview with Frederik Schodt about the early days of manga fandom for Electric Ant Zine #1.

Click for large versions! Full transcript below!


What is there to look for in Japanese comics? To start, set your tastes for something rich and exotic. Costumed heroes are fine, I enjoy many costumed-hero titles myself, but they aren’t all there is to cartoon-art literature. Conventional American / British cartoon-art storytelling isn’t the only approach to the writing and drawing of comic books, either.

Japanese comic books are very personalized works. This is no longer unusual in America, given the rise of the Independent comics industry. However, the standard American practice is still for the publisher to own a title and assign various artists and writers to produce it over the years. Japanese comics are owned by the writers and artists who create them, which gives the comics a very individual look. Even when a Japanese title is the work of a cartoonist who has a large staff to assist him or her, the book unmistakably shows his personal artistic touch. Virtually no Japanese comics, no matter how popular, are passed on to new writers or artists when their creators are no longer able to continue them. If you have an eye for an artist’s style -- If you’re more interested in the individual nuances of Byrne’s art or Bark’s art or Spiegle’s art rather than in generic costumed-hero art or funny-animal art -- then you’ll find much to enjoy in the varied styles of the many excellent Japanese comic-book artists. (There are also many lousy Japanese artists, but their work isn’t being reprinted in America so you don’t have to worry about getting any of it by mistake.)

American comic books are traditionally open-ended, intended to be produced indefinitely, as long as they sell. There are some open-ended Japanese comics as well. Many of the best, however, are designed as novels, with a definite conclusion in mind from the time that the story is conceived. The Japanese practice of publishing comics as thick “real books” is a key factor here. Two of the first Japanese comics I saw were Osamu Tezuka’s Vampire (1968), 575 pages published as two thick paperback volumes, and Takao Saito’s The Shadow Man (1967-68), 559 pages (plus two separate 50-page short stories), published in three volumes. I was stunned when I read these (well, when I looked at the art and guessed at the story), and realized that they weren’t just complete sequences from an open-ended title such as Dick Tracy or Batman. They were clearly designed as independent novels in cartoon-art form. We are just getting to this in America, with such works as Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest, Frank Miller’s Ronin and The Dark Knight, Howard Chaykin’s The Shadow, and Alan Moore & Dave Gibbon’s The Watchmen. The Japanese have been doing this for decades. There are many tightly-written stories that are 500 pages or more. America doesn’t have the habit of publishing comic books in a 200- or 300-page format, so we’ll be getting these stories serialized in the standard “pamphlet” format of about 30 pages at a time. But, we have the foreknowledge that these aren’t just a publisher’s open-ended commercial product. They are literary works and there is a well-planned climax and conclusion to come, when the story has run its course.

American comic books tend to be very current. There are some reprint projects such as the Collected EC Comics and Donning/Starblaze’s four-volume Elfquest set, but generally, once a comic book is a couple of months old and is replaced by its next issue, it’s gone. In contrast, Japanese comic books tend to be kept in print in paperback collections. Osamu Tezuka’s Mighty Atom (Astro Boy) was written between 1951 and the early 1970s. There hasn’t been a new story in fifteen years, but the complete Astro Boy stories are available in a 22-volume paperback set. Kaoru Shintani’s Area 88 was first collected in 1979. That first volume now carries a “40th printing” statement and is still available, as are the more than twenty volumes that have followed it.

Japanese comic-art is generally more cinematic than its American counterpart; check the average American comic book, and you’ll find speech balloons in seven panels out of eight. Check the average Japanese comic book, and you’ll find lots of wordless art. Some of this may be establishing shots, setting a scene or a mood. Some of it may be pure visual action or suspense, told solely through motion, facial expressions, or body language.

Another cinematic trait in Japanese comics is the use of detailed backgrounds. Automobiles, beer cans and other commercial products are genuine, recognizable brands. The character-art style of Kaoru Shintani's Area 88 aerial-adventure series is very cartoony, but his military hardware is accurate. The reader can distinguish one type or airplane or missile from another, and all are models actually in use in the air forces of the Middle East. Some artists, such as Takao Saito in his Golgo 13 stories, open a sequence in a foreign city by "rotoscoping" an actual photograph of that city to establish it as convincingly as possible before beginning the fictional action.

Many Japanese cartoonists pride themselves on creating original "sound effects" rather than relying on the standard BOOM, WHAM or WHOOSH. Others, such as Sanpei Shirato, the author of The Legend of Kamui, prefer to keep written sound effects to a bare minimum. They trust that the reader will mentally supply the appropriate background sound from the visuals alone, such as a scene of heavy surf crashing on a rocky shore.

One major difference between American and Japanese comics is the tendency in the latter toward realistic depiction of mature themes. For one thing, there are fewer taboos on these in Japanese society. For another, comic-art in Japan is more accepted as a literary art form for readers of all ages, rather than just children. As a result, Japanese cartoonists are more experienced in depicting such themes. Despite recent advances in America towards producing comics for mature readers, many artists have not yet mastered the realistic details. Visual violence is often either too sanitized or sophomorically exaggerated. Nudity is, to some extent, still censored, or played for shock value or risque humor, rather than with naturalness. Dialogue is either too cleaned up or overemphasizes the use of profanity. Japanese comics for mature readers look more like what you might see in today's average R-rated motion pictures, rather than comic books designed to titillate adolescent boys.

While American comics tend to fall into a few specific genres (superhero, science fiction, etc.), Japanese comics are designed for a much wider range of reading interests. There are Japanese comics for infants, young boys, young girls, teenage boys, teenage girls, young men, young women, and adults of all tastes and interests. There are sports comics, soap-opera comics, "ambitious young corporate executive" comics -- just about any subject matter you can name. Many of these are much too specialized for the American market (how many buyers would there be for a comic book about the adventures of a high school girls' volleyball team, with page after page devoted to a single game in details?), but they are fascinating to know about. And you just might find something that's really tailored to you!

Japanese comics are just beginning to be introduced into America. There are those who say that they'll never catch on, that they're too unusual; that American comics-buyers won't touch anything that's not stuffed inside a super-hero's costume. Fortunately, not every comic-art title has to conquer the mass-market appeal and be written for the broadest possible tastes. For those readers who are interested in something more challenging than world-shaking hero/villain slug-fests, Japanese comics have a lot to offer.

Manga Story #2 and #3 are coming soon!


This past weekend in San Francisco was WonderCon, our wetter and more contained version of Comic-Con. I opted this year to skip the main festivities entirely, save for seeing cartoonist friends Lark and Thien; WonderCon is growing, a show that is definitely on the rise in terms of exposure & celebrity appearances, but for a fan like me there was little of specific interest-- give me APE or TCAF any day!

That said, I did make a point of attending the end of WonderCon on Friday to watch a panel titled, "How Computers Took Over Comics." This panel featured Steve Oliff reuniting with a number of artists from his original Olyoptics crew, along with Erik Larsen of Image Comics. In the panel, Steve and the guys talked about their work on the Epic color edition of Akira, which was a major and important step in the transition from flat 64-color to computer full-color.

If you want to read a little deeper into the specifics of computer color and blue-line process, please check out this interview with Steve Oliff conducted by Frank Santoro. For folks that remember, Last Fall I put up a post about the Akira color guides, the
B&W xeroxes of Otomo's line work that Steve hand painted and colored to serve as guides for separations and computer coloring. Steve also mentioned he will again be selling the Akira color guides at APE 2010(!).

I wasn't able to get my hand on an audio recorder to capture the entire panel, but I took a few notes and shot a short video when Steve was discussing Akira. Two asides that really stuck out to me were:
  • Working and thinking in CMYK was the way of life for the Olyoptics crew; To this end, they used to play games around the office where someone would point at a color on a wall or sign and folks would try to guess the exact CMYK numbers!
  • When asked for his main piece of advice, Steve said to always "Color a comic like you were lighting for a film."
  • When asked about his favorite color work he's done, Steve pointed to Issue #32 of Akira as the high point of trying out new techniques with the technology.
  • As for current projects, Steve/Olyoptics are now working on doing new coloring for Walter Simonson's entire run on Thor for a re-release Marvel is planning to tie-in to the film next year.

For Akira fans, here is a 4-minute video where Steve Oliff goes into some of the specifics of working on the first few issues for Epic:

I'll add this video to Vimeo soon, but here's another short clip about Oliff working with Otomo on blocking out color themes for the first issues of Akira:

Thursday, April 01, 2010


As posted previously, this month in New York The Center for Book Arts is hosting an exciting showcase titled "Garo Manga, 1964-1973". I've just received some details from show curator Ryan Holmberg regarding a exhibition catalogue available for purchase.

I won't be making the exhibition, but have hopes I might find my way out there before it closes on June 26, 2010. I am hoping that some of you guys will go to the opening reception and in-person discussion with Akin Kondoh and send pics?

Related events at CBA:
Opening Reception: Garo Manga, 1964-1973
Wednesday, April 14th, 6 to 8pm
Free to the public

Artist Talk: Garo Manga, The First Decade, 1964-1973
Wednesday, April 21st, 6:30pm
With Ryan Holmberg and Akino Kondoh, Artist, Illustrator and Author.
$10/ $5 CBA Members

Here are the details on ordering a catalogue from Ryan Holmberg:
For those interested in obtaining a copy of the catalogue of the Garo exhibition, please note the following instructions and the pre-opening discount.

A scholarly catalogue (color, 50 pages) will accompany the exhibition, and is available from the Center for Book Arts for $20. A $5 dollar discount is available to those who reserve and pay for a copy prior to the opening of the exhibition on the 14th (see note below). Payment can be made in person at the Center for Book Arts, or by check, MasterCard, or Visa (NO AMEX). Personal checks should be made out to the Center for Book Arts and mailed to the address below; credit card orders should be phoned in: (212) 481-0295. A shipping and handling charge of $3 must be added to each order.

DISCOUNT NOTE: When submitting your payment information to the CBA, you must mention the keyword "Kamuy." This discount is not available after the 13th of April. For those ordering in advance, you may opt to pick up your copy of the catalog on or after the opening to avoid shipping charges. Please note that you will be doing so upon payment.

The Center for Book Arts
28 West 27th Street, Third Floor
(Located between 6th Avenue and Broadway)