Having reflected back on the best (and most cruelly ignored) comics of the past year, it’s time to look forward. Here are six comics I’m really excited about reading this year. As usual, my list reflects my own alt-comix/alt-manga interests/biases. So let me know in the comments what titles I’ve been such a clod as to overlook.
Keiji Nakazawa, who lived through the bombing of Hiroshima as a child and wrote the internationally acclaimed Barefoot Gen about his experiences, died Dec. 19 of lung cancer. He was 73.
Nakazawa was 7 years old on Aug. 6, 1945, the day the bomb was dropped. As he recounted in his autobiography, he was walking to school and stopped to answer a question from an adult, when suddenly, in an instant, the whole world changed: “a pale light like the flash of a flashbulb camera, white at the center, engulfed me, a great ball of light with yellow and red mixed at its out edge.”
He was standing next to a concrete wall, so he was partially shielded from the blast, although he was covered in rubble, and a nail went through his cheek. The adult he had been speaking to was burned to death on the spot. There was more horror to come: His father, brother and sister were killed when their burning house collapsed on them. Nakazawa recounted these events, which his mother told him about later, in a 2007 interview:
With 2012 still fresh and new, it seems like as good a time as any to look at various publishing companies’ plans for the year ahead and pick out what looks good, or at least interesting. Because the year looks to be filled with so many delights, I decided to double down and offer not just six but 12 comics I’m really looking forward to reading. Obviously this list is reflective of my own, indie-slanted interests, so feel free in the comments section to tell me what a dope I am for forgetting about Book X by Artist Y.
Less than a month ago (and just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11), Rick Veitch‘s latest project (published by Image), The Big Lie, was released. While the one-shot has already been released, it’s clear that Veitch hopes the comic can foster discussion. As a storyteller who began pursuit of his craft in the early 1970s, Veitch has a perspective and creative voice shaped by a wealth of experience that few active current creators possess. In that spirit, I interviewed Veitch via email about his latest collaboration with artist Gary Erskine. While it was a one-shot so far, Veitch clearly intends to do more with The Big Lie platform. Here’s Image’s official description of the story: “A lab tech travels back in time on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 to try and get her husband out of the world trade center before it falls, but will the facts convince him before it’s too late?” For additional context on The Big Lie, be sure to also read CBR’s August interview with Veitch as well the preview we ran in late July.
Rick Veitch: Only in the sense that the “Truther” name lumps together everyone who doubts the government’s version of what happened. I think there’s a huge difference between the architects and engineers who’ve put their professional careers on the line by speaking out and those who are claiming space aliens were responsible.
Politics | Ah, comics, the language of diplomacy. During his visit this week to the White House, French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave President Obama an 18th-century document accrediting Benjamin Franklin as ambassador to France and, for his daughters, a collection of Asterix graphic novels. [AFP]
Publishing | Rebellion Publishing, publisher of U.K. comics anthology 2000AD, will begin releasing U.S. editions of new and classic titles in graphic-novel format beginning in June with The Judge Dredd Complete Case Files and The Complete D.R. and Quinch. [PW Comics Week]
Manga | A 14-year-old middle-schooler in Owosso, Michigan, has been suspended indefinitely after a classmate found a Death Note-inspired note containing the names of two students and times, and turned it over to a teacher. In Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note, the hit manga turned anime and live-action movie franchise, a high school student sets out to rid the world of evil using a supernatural notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it.
Although the incident with the Owosso student was turned over to police, who forwarded the case to the prosecutor’s office. Police and school officials say they don’t believe the teen intended to harm anyone, and that no one was in danger.
Ooku: The Inner Chambers
by Fumi Yoshinaga
As story hooks go, Ooku’s got a great one: A strange plague during the Edo period of Japan kills off more than three-quarters of the country’s male population. As a result, the culture and gender relations end up going all topsy-turvy, and succeeding generations find the women ruling the roost and men being protected and prized for their ability to produce offspring. This is especially in the Shogun’s harem, or Inner Chambers, where the story takes place.
It helps that the story is by Fumi Yoshinaga, who, in books like Antique Bakery and Gerald and Jacques, has proven herself to be more interested in gender relations and identity issues than mere yaoi squickiness (although she certainly likes that too. Certainly the fact that Ooku won the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize in its home country has led to a certain amount of anticipation among some manga fans.
Unfortunately, while Yoshinaga remains an excellent and expressive artist, the series stumbles out of the gate. One of the main problems is the translator’s decision (no doubt motivated by an attempt to approximate a certain Japanese dialect) to have everyone speak in a formal, Renaissance Faire-like manner, with lots of “thees” and “thous” and “didsts.” It has the unintended effect of coming off as forced, and distancing the reader from the characters and the story.
Beyond that though, Yoshinaga doesn’t really seem to do much with her idea, at least so far. She seems more interested in conveying the various back room politics and romances that take place in the inner chambers than giving thought as to what such a huge change in the population would do to a culture. Would the fashion still be identical to what it was in the real world, with men shaving their heads and women wearing long gowns? Wouldn’t that change somewhat drastically? Would a female shogun really keep a male harem and if so, would it be so identical in structure to what the real Edo shoguns had? This may sound like nit-picking, but makes the story seem more than a bit facile, as though she just swapped everyone’s sex and that alone would be interesting enough. It may well be that I’m not giving Yoshinaga enough credit and that she’s actually considered these issues and will explore them in more depth in future volumes. But so far, I’m not encouraged.
Reviews of Red Snow, Pelu and more after the jump …
Is it Sunday again already? Time for another What Are You Reading then. Our guest this week is blogger and Bleach fanatic John Jakala. Has John been reading Bleach this week? Click on the link to find out. Oh, and don’t forget to tell us what you are reading in the comments section below.
* Warren Ellis hinted at two upcoming comics projects over on his blog: Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindary Island, which will be published by Avatar Press with art by Raulo Caseres; and Supergod, about which little is revealed beyond the title.
* The Same Hat guys reveal that Last Gasp will be publishing a new manga by Junko Mizuno this fall, entitled Little Fluffy Gigolo PELU Vol. 1. Adults only kids.
* Johanna Draper Carlson drops the news that the 600th issue of Archie will have him marrying Veronica in one of those “what will the future hold” type dealies. Apparently it’s part one of a six-part story.
* Percy Gloom author Cathy Malkasian will publish her follow-up book, Temperance, through Fantagraphics this fall.
* AdHouse pulls back the curtain on Process Recess 3, the third book of art by James Jean.
* Want to know what the cover to that upcoming collection of John Stanley’s Nancy stories looks like? Click here.
Continuing our publishing preview for the new year, today we’re taking a look at Last Gasp, one of the oldest underground comix publishers around and still distributing and publishing quality material today, a lot of it having to do with Tintin oddly enough.
Anyway, even though there’s only a few comics-related titles in the new catalog, I thought I’d list all of the company’s releases for the first half of the new year anyway, as there are quite a few books that have some potential crossover appeal.