Thursday, March 31, 2005

Contest Linkage

Over on Spatula Forum, Nik Dirga, winner of our Spider-Girl contest from earlier this month, is paying it forward with a contest of his own. Nik is running a Jay's Days contest, giving away three prize packages of Jason Marcy's comix. All you have to do is relate your most embarassing moment; that's worth it for free comics, right?

(There's still a couple of days left in Trade Whore's 100% Mix Contest too...)

(Edit: Guy LeCharles Gonzalez chimes in down in the comments to let us know that he is running a contest to give away copies of Elk's Run #1.)

Quick Super-Hero Reviews

Flash #220
by Geoff Johns, Howard Porter & Livesay
It may be fair to accuse Johns of 'darkening' super-hero comics, but it cannot be argued that he doesn't know how to construct a story. The first chapter of "Rogue War" sets up the explosion of the long-brewing conflict between the Flashes' reformed enemies and those who are still criminals. Johns jams in action, exposition and plot into 22-pages of comics, and although it's the first chapter of a longer story, it never once feels decompressed (although the digression about a recent visit from detectives from Gotham Central, while a nice nod to continuity, was unnecessary). Porter's art is clear and attractive, a real improvement over his JLA days, and James Sinclair's colors pop off the page, making this look like a real super-hero comic. This is a good solid super-hero affair with an epic and so-far old school feel, in a good way.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Legion of Super-Heroes #4
by Mark Waid & Barry Kitson, Leonard Kirk & Mick Gray, Dave Gibbons & Drew Geraci
I had a feeling that Kitson wouldn't be able to keep up a monthly pace on an oversized book, and it turns out I was right, as this issue breaks into a lead story/back-up story mode and brings in two sets of fill-in artists. Still, when one of those fill-ins is Dave Gibbons, it's hard to complain too much! Kitson provides co-plot on the lead story, one that focuses on Lyle Norg, the Invisible Kid. We learn that Lyle is a shy genius (not exactly an original characterization for someone with that power), Cosmic Boy is a bit of an ass (not a characterization I'm fond of at this point), and that Sun Boy's parents are wannabe teens. We also get some time with Colossal Boy (aka Micro Lad), one of my favorite of the new Legion, and a big fight scene in which we get to see how the Legionaires use their powers. Kirk & Gray's art is decent, but at times it seems like they're trying too hard to look like Kitson rather than their own style. In the back-up, Waid provides an interesting twist to Phantom Girl, but it's one that falls apart logically if you stop to think about it at all. We also learn about the Karate Kid's background, and get to gaze on some fine Dave Gibbons art. This is probably the weakest issue of LoSH so far, but that just means that it's good, rather than very good.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Fantastic Four #524
by Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo & Karl Kesel
This is Waid & Wieringo's last issue, and it's probably just the right time for them to leave. The FF scour Manhattan to reclaim their lost powers which are hopping around from civilian to civilian, and run into that same Reed's-guilt-about-Ben issue that frankly has been done to death. It ends ona high note though, affirming the FF's status as family, heroes and adventurers. Instead of belaboring their run on the title (e.g. JMS on ASM), W&W are leaving at a good point, having said and done what they needed to. In a few months they'll be taking on a Spider-Man title, and I'll be following them over there to see how they approach that other Marvel icon.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


This came via a post on the GNLIB email list. If you're a librarian whose library has a graphic novel collection, you may wish to consider responding (at the email address given); if you're a patron whose library has a GN collection, you may wish to bring this to the attention of your friendly librarian:

Dear all,

The American Library Association, National Coalition Against Censorship, and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund are developing a librarian's guide to graphic novels and would like your input. The guide will focus on graphic novels for adults, but we welcome information on any experience you've had with graphic novels for any audience. Please take a few minutes to share your experience with us. Please respond to bbecker (at) by Monday, April 11. Thank you!

1) What type of library do you work in?

2) Do you include graphic novels in your collection?

3) If so, how are they catalogued and shelved? For example, are all graphic novels together, or are they organized by content/age group? If your graphic novels are not shelved together, in which categories are they shelved?

4) Have you experienced any problems with or challenges to the graphic novels in your collection?

5) Do you have any success stories to share?

6) Do you have any tips you think we should include, or is there any specific information you would like included in our guide to graphic novels?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

New This Week: March 30, 2005

Based on the NCRL list for this week's comics shipping from Diamond, here are a few things to look for at the local comic shop tomorrow:

The Pick of the Week is the third paperback collection of Warren Ellis & John Cassaday's Planetary: Leaving the 20th Century. It includes issue #16, in which Cassaday impressively succeeded in representing a martial-arts movie combat scene in static, sequential form.

In other comics:

Aeon has the fourth issue of Matt Howarth's Bugtown.

Dark Horse has the final issue of BPRD: The Dead (#5), along with new issues of Concrete: Human Dilema (#4) and The Goon (#11).

DC has a little-noticed book called DC Countdown to Infinite Crisis, but given that there's been almost no press coverage on this I doubt that any retailers bothered to order any copies, so you might want to make sure to get to your LCS early to get a copy befor ethey sell out of the one or two shelf copies they ordered. They also have the first issue of Phil Jimenez's Otherworld, and new issues of Legion of Super-Heroes (#4) and Ocean (#5).

Del Rey has new volumes of Negima (vol. 5), Othello (vol. 3), and Wallflower (vol. 3).

Drawn & Quarterly has the second issue of Kevin Huizenga's Or Else.

Fantagraphics has a re-issue of Roegr Langridge's Zoot Suite.

IDW has the third issue of the very enjoyable Grimjack: Killer Instinct.

Marvel has the delayed Astonishing X-Men #9, a third Spider-Girl digest, and Waid & Wieringo's final issue of Fantastic Four (#524).

NBM has their first Nancy Drew OGN.

Origin Comics has the second issue of Temporary: The Real Me.

And finally, Dark Horse has the trade collection of the Star Wars - Episode III movie adaptation, just in case you'd rather experience the movie on a flat comics page rather than on a big screen with all of the special effects (which, let's face it, is really the main reason why people go to the Star Wars movies).

Be a Military Contractor!

Are you a comic creator? Have you always wanted to be a military contractor? Well now you can be both!

The U.S. Special Operations Command out of Fort Bragg is looking for a comic book series (to be published in Arabic) "based on the security forces, military and police, in the near future in the Middle East in cooperation with the Ministries of Interior of some of those countries."

The solicitation continues: "In order to achieve long-term peace and stability in the Middle East, the youth need to be reached. One effective means of influencing youth is through the use of comic books. A series of comic books provides the opportunity for youth to learn lessons, develop role models and improve their education."

If you don't know Arabic, the military will happily provide a translator for you.

See Solicitation Number H92239-05-T-0026 for all of the details.

(this was brought to my attention by a posting on the Comix Scholars list)

Monday, March 28, 2005

Big ol' Book Meme

Via Mike Sterling, The Book Meme to End All Book Memes.

Reviews: Real Kids Comics

Disney Adventures Comic Zone Winter 2005
$3.95 Disney Publishing Worldwide

Nick Mag Presents: The Best of Nickelodeon Magazine Special All-Comics Issue Spring 2005
$4.95 Viacom International, Inc.

Kids and comics. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and chocolate, peanut butter and marshmallow; well, you get the idea. But it seems that kids just don't read comics these days. Or do they?

According to Disney & Nickelodeon, kids love the comics that show up in their magazines, Disney Adventures and Nickelodeon Magazine; and to prove it, they've both released special all-comics editions.

Both collection are remarkably similar in many aspects, featuring comics based on their various media properties and throwing in a few original comics creations as well. Disney Adventures is mostly Disney-related properties like Mickey Mouse, W.I.T.C.H., Lilo & Stitch, Kim Possible, The Incredibles, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Aladdin. Nickelodean features SpongeBob SquarePants, Jimmy Neutron, Hey Arnold!, Rugrats, and As Told by Ginger, but they also have a number of non-Nick properties represented as well.

Both magazines also surprise on occasion, including work by comic creators usually associated with indy comics; Nickelodeon has a "Patty Cake" story from Scott Roberts, a how-to-create-your-own-comics feature from Scott McCloud, a couple of comics from Craig Thompson, "Amanda & Her Panda" by Andi Watson, and "Fiona of the Felines" from Terry LaBan. Disney throws in a couple of Mickey & Goofy comics from Glenn McCoy, "Gorilla Gorilla" from Art Baltazar, and an absolutely hysterical two-page comic from Matt Feazell.

Of the two, the Nickelodeon fares better as a whole, due to its greater amount of non-Nick content. Disney Adventures is longer (100 pages vs. 60) and less expensive, though digest-sized and printed on cheaper paper (Nickelodeon Magazine is regular magazine-sized). Disney is all original material, while Nickelodeon is all reprints. Both contain a good deal of advertising, mostly for video games and corporate media properties.

If you have a six- to ten-year-old in your life that you'd like to get into comics, both of these magazines would be an excellent start. (And if you're a grown-up-comics fan, you may want to take a look at the Nickelodeon Magazine for yourself!) Disney has announced their intentions to make their all-comics Comic Zone editions a quarterly affair; I'm not sure what the intentions of the Nickelodeon folks are, but this current edition should be available on newsstands and in grocery aisles until mid-April.

(Read more about the Disney Adventures Comic Zone in this Newsarama article, and The Best of Nickelodeon Magazine Special All-Comics Issue in Dave Roman's press release, available many places online, including here.)

Ratings: Disney Adventures Comic Zone: 3 (of 5); Nickelodeon Magazine Special All-Comics Issue: 3.5 (of 5)

(a review copy of the Nickelodeon Magazine Special All-Comics Issue was provided by the publisher)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Monkey Covers

Sunday is Monkey Covers day here at YACB. Because there's nothing better than a comic with a monkey on the cover.

From 1976 it's The Great Grape Ape #2 (artist unknown). That's right, a giant purple ape. Goodness but I loved this cartoon when I was a kid.

(standard disclaimer about giant apes not really being monkeys applies)

Image is courtesy of the GCD. Click on the image for a larger version.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Two Short Things

Thing #1: I think I'm finished with JMS's Amazing Spider-Man. It wasn't the "Sins Past" story that did it to me, but rather the just completed "Skin Deep," which was boring boring boring. I think he's run out of things to say about Spidey. I had already planned on stopping the floppies and moving to trades, so I haven't pre-ordered any further issues, but if I continue at all at this point it'll be because the public library gets a copy of the trade.

Thing #2: Speaking of the public library, I returned the massive tome of American Elf: James Kochalka's Collected Sketchbook Diaries this morning, after having read about 10% of it. On the one hand it's a pretty amazing achievement: five years of daily journal entries in comic strip form. On the other, that's something like 1800 comics about Kochalka's mostly mundane life. I think I got the jist of it from the amount that I read. I can see why many others would like this so much, but it's not for me, and I've got huge stacks of other comics stuff to read.

Prof. Gloeckner Goes to Angoulême

The new issue of Indy Magazine is now available, and among other things it features Phoebe Gloeckner's photocomic-journal/travel report for the trip she took to the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême, France (with Annette, our art & design librarian, in tow). It makes for a good, quick read, and includes Robert Crumb's feet.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Marvel Hinders Chance for 7-11 Success

The ink is barely dry on the announcement that Marvel will be putting comics back into 7-11 stores, and already it looks like they're going to shoot themselves in the foot and blow their chance at success.

As reported in a Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services article (link via Thought Balloons), the Marvel comics that will be available in 7-11s across the country are their Marvel Flip Books.

What are the Marvel Flip Books? They're 64-page comics reprinting relatively recent issues of Marvel comics, for $3.99. They're in the latest Marvel Previews (or see the Marvel June solicitations on Newsarama):

Ultimate Marvel #1 reprints Ultimate Fantastic Four #1 & Ultimate X-Men #1.
Marvel Heroes #1 reprints New Avengers #1 & Captain America #1
Ultimate Tales reprints Ultimate Spider-Man #1
Marvel Tales #1 reprints Amazing Spider-Man #34 & Amazing Fantasy #1
Marvel Adventures #1 reprints Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #1 & Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #1
Marvel Select #1 reprints Astonishing X-Men #1 & New X-Men: Academy X #1

The problem? Except for Marvel Adventures, these are all comics that reprint the first chapter of story arcs that were constructed for the trade edition. So when Marvel Heroes #3 shows up at the 7-11, it'll presumably contain reprints of the third issues of New Avengers & Captain America, middle chapters of six-part stories. While dedicated comic shop customers may be willing to put up with following long decompressed story arcs, I can't see them appealing to kids wandering into the 7-11. Why are they not focusing exclusively on the Marvel Adventures titles, which are inteneded for kids & newsstand audiences?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The New 80s Revival

I think we're starting to enter a second 80s revival in comics.

The first 80s revival manifested mainly in the proliferation of comics based on 80s comics that were based on toy properties: G.I. Joe, Transformers, Thundercats, Micronauts, etc. That seems to have pretty much run its course, although a couple of those properties are still hanging on.

This second 80s revival is rooted in some of the better, more creative works from that decade. We're seeing the emergence of new comics for Grimjack; Jon Sable, Freelance and Concrete; Frank Miller on Batman; a deluxe hardcover edition of Watchmen; even the dim hope that we'll finally see Miracleman again before the year is out.

(Of course, we're also seeing a new Crisis and a new Secret War...)

I think that this latest revival is better than the first--and I for one am thrilled to be getting new Grimjack and Concrete--but it's still a movement largely based on nostalgia. Now nostalgia has always been a huge motivator in comics, but it's also fickle and a moving target. This too shall pass, and then it's on to the next thing (nostalgia for early 90s Image-style? Shudder!)

Not much of a point to be made here, I guess; just an observation. What do you think?

Pupshaw and The Thing

Jim Woodring fans may enjoy this.

(link via Sara Ryan)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

New This Week: March 23, 2005

Based on the NCRL list for this week's comics shipping from Diamond, here are a few things to look for at the local comic shop tomorrow:

The Pick of the Week is Queen & Country, vol. 7: Operation Saddlebags from Oni, the latest installment in Greg Rucka's excellent spy series, with very good art by Mike Norton. (I reviewed the main part of this collection in its original comic form here.

In other comics:

AAA Milwaukee Publishing (getting to the front of Previews with that name!) releases Essential Arsenic Lullaby, vol. 1.

Antarctic has a new issue of Fred Perry's Gold Digger (#62).

Checker has a third collection of the old Gold Key Star Trek comics.

DC starts another of Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers series, Guardian, with Cameron Stewart on art. Nightwing #106 finishes up "Nightwing: Year One," while JLA: Classified #5 continues "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League," where if you wish you can just pretend that the whole IDCrisis thing never even happened. They also have new issues of 100 Bullets (#59), Authority: Revolution (#6), Hellblazer (#206), and Sleeper Season Two (#10).

Drawn & Quarterly starts reprinting Chester Brown's Ed, the Happy Clown in floppy form, instead of doing the sensible thing and releasing a trade collection.

Image has the first issue of B. Clay Moore's Expatriate, and the second issue of Pigtale.

Kenzer & Company releases issue #101 of Knights of the Dinner Table, and I've barely made a dent in reading last month's massive one hundredth issue.

Marvel has an Ultimate Spider-Man collection (volume 12: Superstars), the second issue of the second volume of Runaways, and the debut of Mike Carey's Spellbinders.

TokyoPop has the eighth volume of that Fruits Basket book that some people seem to really like.

Wizard has the first issue of New West, with pretty Phil Noto art.

No smarmy comment at the end this week; I've got to go fill up my $65 Doctor Who Dalek Cookie Jar!

Muppets has extensive information about Disney's plans to release season sets of The Muppet Show, starting with season in late 2005. It looks to be a really good DVD set, with the episodes being uncut and including the UK-only skits (the show was produced in the UK, where there are fewer commercials per half hour than in US syndication). It will also include several historic pilots and specials, and interviews with several muppeteers.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I'm Incredible!

Which Incredibles Character Are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

New Library Comics

Now that the Newly Catalog Items feature is working again on the library's Website, I can easily share the list of new comics that the library is getting in for our collection.

Here is the listing of new comics & GNs added to the catalog over the past four weeks.

Assuming there's any interest, I'll probably continue to generate a list either every week or every other week.

Quick Manga Reviews

Club 9, vol. 1
by Makoto Kobayashi
Club 9 is the story of Haruo Hattori, a cute but klutzy country bumpkin who comes to Tokyo to attend college and ends up working as a ginza at Club 9, the hottest hostess bar in the city. Kobayashi imbues Haruo with a charming combination of naivete and pluckish enthusiam, making her a likable character. The ginza profession is made to seem glamourous and exciting, though one suspects that the reality is far from that, as putting up with the leering and pawing of middle-aged leches is something that most girls would do only for the money. However, Kobayashi does take advantage of the scenes in Club 9 to poke fun at manga-ka, even including an analogue of himself as a drunken lout. The art is strong--better, I think, than in Kobayashi's What's Michael--the backgrounds are well-detailed, the storytelling flows nicely, and Kobayashi knows how to draw attractive women with realistic proportions. I find his faces though to be overly cartoony; they work well in a gag strip like What's Michael, but they seem out-of-place amidst the more reliastic suroundings here. I'm also put off a bit by the translation, specifically the dialect given to Harou which reads like she is an American back-woods hick. I know the effect they were going for, but it comes off like a low-rent Daisy Duke.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

IWGP, vol. 1
by Ira Ishida & Sena Aritou
Take one part young adult drama, one part sex farce, one part detectice story and one part gang comic, mix them all together, and you may get something like IWGP. Based on a popular novel (that also spawned a Japanese television series) IWGP tells the story of a group of young adults who meet in Ikebukuro West Gate Park on New Year's Eve at the turn of the millennium, then follows them as the flirt, fall in love, have sex, and get imbroiled in the case of a serial killer who rapes and strangles escorts. There's sex, violence and melodrama, all in nearly equal amounts (at at times rather graphic), and the various elements of the story don't ever quite mesh together; it's as though there are three different types of stories being told, all vying for the limelight. Still, despite the fact that it really shouldn't work, I find myself drawn to the characters. The art is 'standard manga' style, but manages to keep the various characters delineated and tell the story clearly, even as Aritou changes his style around slightly depending on the mood of the story at a particular point. It's all a bit of an uneven package, but it's better than I thought it would be.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

(A review copy of IWGP was provided by the publisher.)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Monkey Covers

Sunday is Monkey Covers day here at YACB. Because there's nothing better than a comic with a monkey on the cover.

Today's cover is by Scott McCloud, from 1987's Zot! #16, in which the entire cast gets devolved into monkeys. Great Fun!

Image is courtesy of the GCD. Click on the image for a larger version.

Friday, March 18, 2005

More Lieber

Here's a more recent piece by Steve Lieber, "$209 Round Trip," a two-page remembrance of his father:

page 1 - page 2

(link via Johanna, who also makes some nice observations)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Steve Lieber's IPL Blast from the Past

Continuing on our IPL Birthday theme, here's a very rare Steve Lieber cartoon that appeared in the IPL's one-time newsletter for kids, WebINK, back in 1997:

Happy Birthday, IPL!

On March 17, 1995, the Internet Public Library opened its virtual doors to the world.

In early January of that year, a group of thirty or so graduate students at the University of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies gathered in a room and launched their plan to create a public library for the Internet community. Ten short weeks later that dream became a reality, and now ten years later the IPL continues.

I was proud to be one of those thirty students who created the IPL, and after the class I continued to work on the IPL project for seven years, spending the last 3.5 of those years as the Director. During that time I had the privilige to work with scores of talented students on the project. I have now continued on my career away from the IPL, but I look back on those days fondly and continue to be impressed by the work of those who continue what we began a decade ago.

So Happy Birthday, IPL--here's to at least ten more!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Quick Comic Reviews

Street Angel #5
by Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca
In this final (for now) issue of Street Angel, Jesse finds herself teamed up with one-time superhero Afrodisiac, under siege from an army of gun-toting thugs intent on killing them. As our hero's situation grows grim, we learn Afrodisiac's backstory in grey-toned comic panels made to appear as though they are from the 70s and 80s. This issue brims with innovating storytelling, including a dense, frenetic two-page spread near the end where Jesse brutally takes out the thug army. Every issue of Street Angel was different from the others, but it maintained a unique vision throughout and each issue wa a treat. Though the series is done for now, I hope that Street Angel is able to return soon.
Rating: 4 (of 5)

Action Comics #825
by 'J. D. Finn', Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Marc Campos & Oclair Albert
The final oversized issue by the current creative team is full of action, action and more action as Superman vaces off against the twin threats of Gog and Doomsday. Austen (writing as Finn) tries to wrap things up and bring about a conclusion, and considering the mess he made for himself earlier does an okay job, even though it involves some dodgy time travel and even dodgier motivations. It fares a bit better than some of Austen's earlier stories in that he has little time to attempt his ham-fisted character development with the supporting cast, focusing instead on the super-powered characters beating the snot out of each other, all dynamically rendered by the small army of artists.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Blood of the Demon #1
by John Byrne, Will Pfeifer, & Nekros
I had vastly mixed expectations for this book. On the one hand I like Kirby's The Demon as a character, and I generally enjoy Will Pfeifer's work. However, Pfeifer is just scripting over a plot by Byrne, whose recent work has left me cold. Since DCBS had the first issue at 75% off, I decided to go ahead and order it; thankfully it turns out to be a rather good start to a new series, presenting an interesting new status quo for The Demon and his alter ego, Jason Blood, without reconning or making a radical change to the character. Byrne's art is well-served by both inker Nekros and colorist Alex Bleyaert, just as Pfeifer's scripting does well for the plot. It's still too early to tell, but this could turn out to be a good series after all.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Wolverine: Soultaker #1
by Akira Yoshida & Shin "Jason" Nagasawa
I'm a bit disappointed; I was promised Wolverine fighting ninjas and zombies, but while their was plenty of ninja-ass-kicking, the zombies are nowhere to be found. Aaside from that let down, this admitedly completely unnecesary mini series (how many comics does Wolverine appear in each month?) turns out to be a bit enjoyable. Yoshida takes a standard Wolverine-in-Japan plot and infuses it with a dash of actual Japanese culture, while Nagasawa deftly blends western super-hero and manga styles. The plot is just barely there, enough to set-up the action, but it works on its own level. There just better be zombies soon!
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Gotham Central #29
by Greg Rucka, Stefano Gaudiano & Kano
With Promethea officially over, Gotham Central now stands alone as my favorite ongoing title from DC. After the devastating events of last issue resulted in a cop falling prey to an old trap set by Flash foe Dr. Alchemy, Detectives Montoya and Allen travel to Keystone City to see if they can bargain with the incarcerated Alchemy to save the officer's life. Supporting characters from The Flash make an appearance, allowing a compare-and-contrast between the police departments of two cities plagued by very different types of costumed villains. There's genuine drama in Rucka's story: will the detectives be able to save the officer, and in so doing will Montoya regain the respect of the cops in the GCPD? Kano steps in to provide inks over Gaudiano's pencils, smoothing out some of the rougher edges and making for a very attractive book. I still miss Michael Lark, but with Kano tapped to become the new regular artist I think this book will continue to be an excellent marriage of story and art. Now if only sales were better...
Rating: 4 (of 5)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

New This Week: March 16, 2005

Based on the NCRL list for this week's comics shipping from Diamond, here are a few things to look for at the local comic shop tomorrow:

The Pick of the Week is Dorothy #2 from Illusive Productions. This fumetti-for-the-21st-century is an inventive reimagination of the Oz story. I liked this second issue better than the first.

In other comics:

Amaze Ink has a third Dr. Radium collection.

Archie has a new issue of Sabrina (#65).

Dark Horse has the first Conan collection (in both hardcover & paperback) and the trade collection of Peter David & Pop Mhan's SpyBoy: Final Exam.

DC has a trade collection of Paul Pope's 100%; the tenth Starman collection, Sins of the Father; and new issues of Adventures of Superman (#638), Birds of Prey (#80), Ex Machina (#9), Human Target (#20), JLA (#112), Lucifer (#60), Manhunter (#8), Plastic Man (#15) (is this now bimonthly?), and The Question (#5).

Image has new issues of Invincible (#21), Noble Causes (#8), and the final issue of Ultra (#8).

Marvel has new issues of Black Panther (#2), Captain America (#4), Incredible Hulk (#79), Ultimate Spider-Man (#74), and Ultimates 2 (#4).

Oni has the long-named Hopeless Savages B-Sides All Flashback Special One Shot.

Top Shelf has the second volume of Owly.

Vertical has the fifth volume of Tezuka's Buddha.

And finally, I count no less than eight different editions of Brian Pulido's Lady Death Swimsuit 2005. You people who buy stuff like this, you do realize that on the Internet you can find pictures of real women in bathingsuits, right?

Bookstores Are Afraid of The Manga, Too

Reading all the press about how manga is selling like gangbusters at bookstores, you might get the impression that bookstores are falling all over themselves to stock manga.

Not necesarilly true; it would seem that many bookstores are approaching manga (and other graphic novels) with the same wary trepidation as many comic book stores (but for perhaps different reasons), as evident from this post by UCDavis Bookstore's Paul Takushi, which reads in part:
I must admit that I resisted at first. I heard stories from other booksellers about how the books get trashed and picked-over but not actually bought, how GN readers are notorious shoplifters, and how GN readers like to hide books in other sections so they can "reserve" it for themselves while they read it inside of the store.

Well, the section does get picked over, but not exactly trashed. That's a good thing because it means that people ARE looking at the books. The sales continue to increase while I fine tune the selection and the word gets out that we stock them. Since we created the section, no books have ever been stolen.

The reasons may be different, but the root cause is the same, in that some are reticent to go outside of their 'comfort zone' in merchandise: floppies for comic stores, 'normal' books for booksellers. But when there's an audience with dollars to spend, commerce will find a way. Those stores that recognize this emerging market, and cater to it, will undoubtedly find it profitable.

Reviews: Badass High School Manga

Worst, vol. 1
by Hiroshi Takahashi
$12.95 Digital Manga Publishing

Cromartie High School
by Eiji Nonaka
$10.95 ADV Manga

High school in Japan must be a pretty rough place! Based on what one reads in certain manga, high school boys are not concerned so much with the three R's as they are with proving who is the toughest badass around.

In Hiroshi Takahashi's Worst, Suzuran High School is considered to be one of the toughest schools for boys; not because of the academic rigor, but rather the brutal way in which the social pecking order is established. At the begining of every year, the upper classmen force the incoming first-year class to face off in hand-to-hand combat in order to prove who is the toughest badass (and by extension who will rule the class).

Into this situation comes Hana Tsukishima, a bald-headed country bumpkin who is innocent and freidnly, but whose mastery of martial arts can make quick work of any badass wannabe. He shares a boarding house with four other first-years, run by a suspected Yakuza (and his cross-dressing brother).

Having already laid waste to a bunch of bullies before the school year starts, Hana starts to make friends in school, but gets caught up in the excitement of the Freshmen's Battle. He enters, vowing that if he wins the contest, no one in the freshman class at Suzuran will be allowed to rule.

Takahashi's art is attractive, and he delineates his characters well, especially their out-of-the-early-eighties hair styles. The larger-than-normal size of the book really gives the art room to breathe.

Presumably Japanese high schools really aren't like this, as situations are obviously manufactured and exagerated for satiric effect. By taking typical social situations of rank and dominance and presenting them as contests of physical conflict, manga such as Worst are able to explore in an exciting and explicit way the unseen battles of male society. Known as 'Yankee' manga, these stories of young men and thugs as battling badasses seem to be rather popular with the young males at which they are aimed.

Taking a satirical piss on badass high school manga though is Cromartie High School from Eiji Nonaka. A funny spoof on 'Yankee' comics, CHS finds Takashi Kamiyama accidentally enrolling at the titular school, a school for deliquents renowned thorughout Tokyo as the home to the biggest badasses around. While not a badass himself, Takashi finds himself the unofficial leader of a group of badass misfits, his quick mind and relative social adjustment being recognized by the other students as leadership material.

Among the students who find themselves in Takashi's group are Freddie, a mute, hairy-chested wrestler-type old(er) guy; Shinichi Mechazawa, a barrel-shaped robot who doesn't seem to understand that he's not a human; and Gorilla, a, well, gorilla. The other characters' quirks may be less outrageous, but still manage to play on stereotypes, such as Yutaka, the large bald Yakuza-wannabe badass who falls easy prey to motion sickness; and Takeshi Hokuto, the child of privilige who finds that his dad's government connection won't be of help at Cromartie, so he invesnts a secret conspiracy in the upper reaches of society which he claims that he is on a secret mission to overthrow.

The typical episode of Cromartie High School finds the students facing a standard high school badass situation (e.g. face off to decide who is the toughest badass), but they either end up getting sidetracked or fall to a piece of logic from Takashi that circumvents the conflict all together. It's made all the more funny by the completely straight way in which all the characters approach their situations, as if every insane thing they do or encounter is perfectly logical. In CHS, the characters play straight men to the absurdity of the plot.

As funny as Nonaka's comic is--and it often is quite humorous--his art is, well, limited. Not to say that it's bad--his figures seem to have walked out of a Ryoichi Ikegami story--but it's a lot of talking heads, usually in 2/3 profile, and there's very little attention paid to background, scene setting, or anything beyond basic storytelling. In that way it has more in common with a comic strip than a full-fledged comic book, but it works given the nature of the material. Still, CHS might work better as a satire if it more closely resembled the material of which it is making fun.

Both Worst and Cromartie High School make good starts in their initial volumes, and their differnt approaches compliment each other as a reading experience.

(A review copy of Worst was provided by the publisher.)

Rating (for both): 3 (of 5)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Spider-Girl Contest, Part Four: The Winners

This is it, part four of our run-down of entires to the Spider-Girl contest, where we will announce the Grand Prize Winner! (See part one, part two & part three for the previous entries.)

There's no particular reason why these were chosen as the winner and runner-up, just that they both seemed right to me as I liked both the actresses chosen and the reasons given.

Our runner-up is David Welsh, whose choice is Joan of Arcadia co-star Becky Wahlstrom. David writes:
She's smart as a box of whips, has a compelling physicality and puckish sense of humor, and shows a mastery of the kind of subtext that would suit a character with a secret identity. Also, I would like for her to become a very big star, snapping wispy starlets in half as she makes her ascent.

For second place, David wins our (previously unannounced) second-place prize, a copy of the first Spider-Girl digest! Congratulations David!

And now the moment you've all been waiting for: our Grand Prize winner!

First place goes to Nik Dirga, whose choice is actress Zooey Deschanel. Nik writes:
Not exactly a household name, she's been in Almost Famous, Elf, All The Real Girls and this summer's Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy adaptation. I think she projects a keen intelligence and slight but not overpowering cynicism, qualities also present in Spider-Girl. She's optimistic but not naive -- check out her performance in the Will Ferrell comedy Elf, as the Christmas-hatin' crank who (of course) develops true holiday cheer by the end, even chiming in on a Christmas carol or two. Now, that whole Grinch-becomes-grinner thing is pretty clichéd, but damn if Zooey didn't sell me on it in that little turn. Or take her performance in Almost Famous as William Miller's jaded sister, another excellent turn that takes a small role and gives it a little more complexity. I think the best comic adaptations are those where the actors/actress give a subtle oomph to their portrayals -- see Maguire's Spider-Man, Jackman's Wolverine, McKellen's Magneto -- not quite winking at the audience, but the reverse -- making the most extraordinary ideas and actions believable through the humanism of their performances.

As our Grand Prize winner, Nik gets copies of the first two Spider-Girl digests, containing the first twelve issues of the comic. Congratulations Nik!

That wraps things up for us. Thanks to everyone who entered, and a special thanks to Johanna Draper Carlson, who provided one of the prizes. This was a lot of fun, and hopefully I'll run another contest in the not-too-distant future.

Spider-Girl Contest, Part Three

Welcome back! We're now in part three of our run-down of entries for our Spider-Girl contest. (See part one and part two.)

I really liked the choices made in this batch, and honestly any one of them could have walked away with the prize. But alas it is not to be.

Isaac's choice is Christina Ricci (who has previous comic book movie experience in Casper). Isaac writes:
Christina Ricci is the best-suited actor to play May Parker. She has the youth, the build, the snarky outlook, and the chops. She will be able to pull-off the self-doubt/optimist combo in a way that a more traditional beauty might not, and at her age she better fits the profile of the character.

Luke opts for The L Word's Mia Kirshner. Luke writes:
Although she's 30 years of age, she'd still make a great Spider-Girl b/c of her young appearance. In addition, she plays a very strong character in The L Word who is conflicted with her sexuality. This could easily allow her to capture the character of Spider-Girl in a movie, strong willed but conflicted with her sense of responsibility and the pressure of living up to her father Spider-Man. She carries with her a lot of personality and acting range, which today's actresses closer to Spider-Girl's age, sorely lack. The picture I sent has her with short hair similar to Mayday's, all she'd have to do is add a little bit of muscle. It took Tobey Maguire 4 months to take his flabby form and shape it into a chilsed Spidey, I think Mia can handle it too!

Bill's choice was Wonderfalls star Caroline Dhavernas. Bill writes:
She's probably too old to be a convincing teenager (not that that's ever stopped TV casting people before), but she can pull of the right mix of strength, charm, wit, vulnerability and a quality I can only really describe as "Raaaar!" needed to make Spider-Girl work. Plus, killer smile and exceptionally pretty eyes. Not that you'd see that behind the mask, but it'd make the Mayday Parker scenes all that much better.

Lee chose actress Claire Danes. Lee writes:
I feel our actress should be recognizable, but not overly achieved. Someone who relates to those of us with mortal failings and trappings yet can display the introspective strength deserved by the character. I believe Claire Danes (Best known for television's My So Called Life and the 90s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet) would make a marvelous May Parker. Identifiable to many in their early twenties, it has been some time since she found a role to fill comfortably, and this would be a great opportunity for her to be introduced to a new audience. As May Parker her awkward charm and grace along with strong feminine traits could really shine. Much like her male counterpart she could make those less sure believe with great acting (as the 'Spider-Man' movies have proven action is truly second to the story and those involved) and rally any gender to support a thoughtful heroine.

A contestant identifying himself as Brainiac Five made the choice of actress Schuyler Fisk. B5 writes:
She's the appealing young actress who played Colin Hanks' girlfriend in the under-rated movie Orange County. She doesn't look like the character as drawn in the series by a longshot, but with her red hair she'd easily pass for MJ's daughter, and looks more like an actual teenager than a young supermodel. Above and beyond her appearance, she can actually act and, just as she was able to take a teen movie love-interest character and make her three-dimensional, would be able to root the character of Mayday Parker in an emotional reality that would make the rest of the film work around her.

Our last choice for this segment is from Martin, whose choice is Christy Carlson Romano. Martin writes:
My choice to play May Parker is Christy Carlson Romano, the voice of TV's Kim Possible. She has experience with the type of character, a young athletic (but brainy) heroine, and enough of a physical resemblance to pull it off as well.

That wraps up this third segment. If you've been keeping track, you know that there are just two more entries left. Who will walk away with the grand prize? Check back in a couple of hours to find out!

Spider-Girl Contest, Part Two

Welcome to part two of our four-part rundown of entries for the Spider-Girl contest. (See part one.)

For this batch we have entries of a humorous bent. At least, I assumed that they were meant to be humorous, as they made me chuckle!

Dave H. nominated Angelina Jolie. Dave writes:
This sexy siren of the silver screen is world-famous for her luscious lips. While many a casting agent (and studio executive) would be wary to cast her in a role covering those beauties, they need not fear. Ms. Jolie's lips can actually appear through the mask! Yes ladies & gentlemen, Spider-Girl not only can walk on walls via her hands & feet, but with her lips as well! Just ask Brad Pitt, the suction on those puppies is strong!

Of course, Ms. Jolie is also quite capable of any physical feats that may be called upon Spidey's little girl. Twirl through the air, jumping from wall to wall, playing with dangerous knives, she can do it all folks! She can even use her spidey-sense to detect when Billy Bob Thorton shows up! Never be surprised again by the king of white trash of Hollywood!

So what about chemistry with a possible love interest? Glad you asked, because Ms. Jolie has burned up movie and television screens across the world with such heartthrobs as the aforementioned Brad Pitt, Edward Burns, Antonio Banderas, Nicholas Cage, Jude Law, and even her own brother! Fans will melt at the very sight of her.

Next up is George, with a rather strange entry:

I'd say if there was a show or movie to be made, make it a cartoon and have the crazy women that throws the cats at people from The Simpsons play the lead. I'd be comedic and most certainly interesting to see what antics and hyginks ensue.

I must admit that even though I sometimes watch and enjoy The Simpsons, I have no idea which character George is refering to...

Perhaps equally odd, but in a completely different way, is Stephen's choice: Tobey Maguire. Stephen writes:
Who should play May Parker? The answer could not be more obvious: Tobey Maguire. Why Tobey? For many reasons:
  • Star appeal would bring in many fans otherwise unlikely to attend a Spider-Girl movie

  • It worked for "Spider-Man", and Hollywood never looses the chance to repeat a winning formula

  • Cross-dressing nature of the role would give Tobey a chance to expand his acting horizons

  • Close resemblance to actor who played Peter Parker who support notion that May Parker was Peter's daughter, thus adding an important dash of verisimilitude

  • Tobey already has a costume, thus saving on the sure-to-be-costly budget

  • Unusual yet (let's face it) perfect casting choice would bring publicity and hence more movie-goers

  • Something about Tobey Maguire just says "wall-crawler"

Thanks for the grins guys! Come back in a couple of hours or so for part three, where we'll reveal our next batch of nominees.

Spider-Girl Contest, Part One

It's time now to go through the entries for my Spider-Girl contest. As you may recall, I asked readers to submit their choice for an actress to play May "Spider-Girl" Parker in a film or television version of Spider-Girl, with the winner getting copies of the first two Spider-Girl digests.

Judging on this contest is by me and is completely subjective, based on my reaction to both the suggested actress and the reason given. There were seventeen entries in all, and I find myself wishing I could give out multiple prizes. Alas, despite the many good entries, only one can win.

Throughout the day (assuming that Blogger cooperates...) I'll be posting all of the entries I received, and in my final post today I'll announce the winner (ah, the suspense!)

So without further delay, here are the first batch of entries for Who Should Play Spider-Girl:

Martin's choice is What i Like About You star Amanda Bynes. Martin writes:
I think Amanda Bynes should play May Parker. I haven't seen much of her work (only Big Fat Liar), but I thought she had that Toby thing going for her. She could be very comical, but at the same time really fit the 'teenage' girl persona. She was born in 1986, which makes her age approriate for the role (19).

Two people, Jim & Brandon, both chose Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Natalie Portman. Jim writes:
I say this not knowing anything about Spider-Girl, as I have never read it. My entry is based completely on the fact I think her age is about right from what little I know of the Comic, and she has a big enough name to get people to notice the movie yet is still not superstar enough to make it a star driven movie. I really think with these comic movies, the best ones are the ones that are story based, the worst are the ones that are star based. (DD and Catwoman sucked, X-men and Spider-Man were good, others vary in between them.)

I knew a lot of people that went to see Catwoman just to see Berry jump around in a skimpy outfit, which I think would turn off the number of women that would go see the flick. I don't think they would happen with Portman, as she is not such a sex symbol, hopefully not turning away the female audience.

Also, she has shown she is willing to do a comic movie with V. So, I guess some of how good of an idea this is depends on how good that movie is...

Brandon writes:
Okay, she's in her early twenties, but she can still play young. Give her a hair cut and she looks the part. The Star Wars movies show she can put up with special effects, which is always a plus for a superhero movie. Most importantly, she can act. So, she could handle the action AND the drama and could look the part.

Scott's choice was Jessica Biel, who recently starred in the comic book movie Blade: Trinity. Scott writes simply:
Why? Come on, just look at her. She's like a goddess or something.

Rick's choice is Hilary Duff, who starred as the title witch in the comic book movie Casper and Wendy. Rick makes the observation:
Little girls want to be her, little boys have crushes on her, and middle aged men wish it wasn’t so creepy when they had "those" kind of thoughts about her.

Our last choice for this segment is from Richard, whose choice was Jennifer Love Hewitt (who starred in the comic strip movie Garfield). Richard writes:
Ron has told me that when he draws May he has the actress Jennifer Love Hewitt as the model. So I'd go with her as the choice.

That wraps up our first batch of entries for Spider-Girl actresses. Interesting choices, but alas not everyone can be a winner. Stayed tuned for part two of our four-part run-down in a couple of hours or so...

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The State Meme

Found via Johanna:

Bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C

Go here to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Monkey Covers

Sunday is Monkey Covers day here at YACB. Because there's nothing better than a comic with a monkey on the cover.

Today's cover is by Bill Wray, from 1989's Secret Origins #40, which featured the origins of three great comic monkeys: Gorilla Grodd, Congorilla, and Detective Chimp.

(standard disclaimer about neither gorillas nor chimps not really being monkeys applies)

Image is courtesy of the GCD. Click on the image for a larger version.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The Contest Ends

The Spider-Girl contest has now ended. Thanks to everyone who entered. I will review the entries over the weekend and announce the winner on Monday.

If you're still looking for contests to enter, might I suggest The 100% Mix Contest over at Trade Whore (with lots of Paul Pope stuff), or Rick Gebhardt's Daisy Kutter trade contest.

Previews-o-Rama part 2: The Middle

It's time to go through the latest Previews to discover the good, the bad, and the strange:

Alernative Comics has Bishakh Som's Xeric-winning Angel One-Shot.

StrangeHaven #18, from Abiogenesis, concludes the third book of one of my favorite comics; I imagine that there will be a trade collection out soon.

The fourth issue of Following Cerebus is a Will Eisner tribute issue, with what I think is a SpiritRoach cover. (Aardvark-Vanaheim/Win-Mill)

I was sad to see Gisele Lagace and T. Campbell's Cool Cat Studio end, so I'm very happy to see that they have a new comic, Penny and Aggie, with new publisher Alias.

Matt Howarth's Bugtown comes to a close with issue #6 (Aeon).

It's Gold Digger month at Antarctic Press! Besides the regular series (#64) there's a fifth Pocket manga volume, a swimsuit issue an a spin-off OGN, Peebomanga. (Fred Perry does Ninja High School [#128] too!)

Amaze Ink/SLG has a new issue of Patty Cake & Friends (vol. 2 #14) and a collection of aaron a.'s Serenity Rose.

Avatar debuts comics based on old slasher flicks, with multiple covers, of course. I'll be saving my money.

Boom studios debuts, with a regular Hero Squared series, and a collection of Keith Giffen's Trencher.

Ape Entertainment has Go-Go Gorilla & The Jungle Crew. You know how I like the monkeys!

CPM Manga enters the manga chick-lit market with Pale Pink, about the trials of young women living in Tokyo.

Del Rey has a fifth volume of xxxHOLiC.

Walt & Skeenix vol. 1 is the first in what promises to be a complete collection of Frank King's Gasoline Alley, edited and designed by Chris Ware. (Drawn & Quarterly)

If you are even thinking of buying a pre-slabbed DF Ultimate Iron Man #1 - Signed Foil Alternate Cover, you should quick sign over power-of-attorney to a responsible adult, because you are obviously no longer capable of managing your own finances.

Fantagraphics has Three Paradoxes, an new OGN from Paul Hornschemeier.

iBooks has a new Magnus: Robot Fighter series, from Louise Simonson & Damien Hendricks.

Illusive Arts has the third issue of their Fumetti version of Oz, Dorothy.

NBM have apparently decided to go straight to OGN with a second Hardy Boys volume (there's a second Nancy Drew OGN too), but are debuting Zorro in comic form. Odd...

Pantheon have a new GN from Marjane Satrapi, Embroideries, a "gloriously entertaining and enlightening look into the sex lives of Iranian women."

He may not be Buckaroo Banzai, but Erik Burnham tells the tale of Nick Landime vs. The World Crime League in a comic from Shooting Star Comics.

Sirius has two more pocket-sized editions of Mark Criley's Akiko.

Speakeasy brings us Ravenous, an OGN from Dawn Brown inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

Puffin Graphics have a manga-sized and -priced adaptation of Black Beauty, with art from original Power Pack artist June Brigman. Look for this to be a surprise hit in the bookstore market.

Ah TokyoPop: with all your product, is there anything of interest to me? Dead End, vol. 2 perhaps, though I haven't yet read vol. 1.

Vertical has a sixth hardcover volume of Osamu Tezuka's Buddha.

Okay, that wraps it up for another edition of Previews-o-Rama. See you next month!