"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Crime | Police in Amarillo, Texas, are searching for a man who robbed the Big Apple Comics at gunpoint on Tuesday. An employee was locking up the store at about 7:10 p.m. when a man approached him and told him to unlock the doors. The employee resisted, and the robber reportedly drew a semi-automatic pistol and demanded money. The employee handed over an undisclosed amount of cash. [Amarillo Globe-News]
Passings | Zack Davisson, who translated Shigeru Mizuki’s works into English for Drawn and Quarterly, pens the definitive obituary of the late manga master, writing not only about his impact on Japanese culture but also his criticism of Japan’s actions in World War II and its treatment of disabled veterans, which led writer Jake Adelstein to call him “the Voice of Japan’s Conscience.” [The Comics Journal]
Shigeru Mizuki, author of the enduring supernatural manga GeGeGe No Kitaro, which popularized the Japanese spirits known as yōkai, passed away today at age 93.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Mizuki had been hospitalized since Nov. 11, following injuries he sustained when he fell and hit his head at his home in Tokyo.
Long beloved in his own country, Mizuki rose to international attention in 2007 when his NonNonBa became the first manga to be honored as Best Album at the Angouleme International Comics Festival. Drawn and Quarterly began publishing his work in English in 2011, with his searing semi-autobiographical war story Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, which won an Eisner Award; two volumes of Showa, his history of the Showa period, won the 2015 Eisner. His most recent work to be released in English is his biography of Hitler, published earlier this month by Drawn and Quarterly.
Creators | Cerebus creator Dave Sim was scheduled for surgery Tuesday after checking himself into the emergency room for severe stomach cramps. According to Sim’s friend, Dr. Troy Thompson, “the presumptive diagnosis is cecal volvulus, which is a twisting of the colon causing obstruction.” However, nothing will be known for sure until after the surgery. Sim was already feeling better after doctors inserted a nasogastric tube to remove the contents of his stomach. [A Moment of Cerebus, which is offering updates]
Legal | Matthew Pocci Jr., who in July drove into the crowd of ZombieWalk: San Diego, held annually during Comic-Con International, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of felony reckless driving. His lawyer said that Pocci, who is deaf, was scared for his safety and that of his family when his car was engulfed by a crowd of people during the event. He initially stopped the car but then restarted the engine and moved forward, striking several people. [UT-San Diego]
Crowdfunding | Digital Manga Publishing’s recent Kickstarter campaign raised some questions as to the proper role of crowdfunding in publishing. When DMP acquired the rights to all of Osamu Tezuka’s manga that haven’t already been translated into English, CEO Hikaru Sasahara launched an ambitious Kickstarter effort to publish about 400 volumes in just a few years. The campaign raised eyebrows not only because of the large amount of money involved (with stretch goals, it would have been more than half a million dollars) but also because it went beyond the direct costs associated with single volumes to include travel and staffing. That campaign failed, but DMP immediately launched another one that’s closer to the usual model. I interviewed Sasahara and one of his most prominent critics to get both sides of the discussion. [Publishers Weekly]
Passings | Jay Maeder, who was the last writer for the comic strip Annie (formerly Little Orphan Annie), passed away Tuesday at age 67. A former New York Daily News columnist and editor who authored Dick Tracy: The Official Biography and contributed to The Encyclopedia of American Comics, Maeder worked on Annie, together with artist Andrew Pepoy, from 2000 its cancellation 2010. He created Amelia Santiago, a pilot and CIA agent, and once said of the strip, “I tell people it’s Indiana Jones with chicks.” [The New York Times]
Manga | Deb Aoki rounds up the manga news from Comic-Con International, including UDON’s license of Kill la Kill and Drawn and Quarterly’s plans to publish Shigeru Mizuki’s biography of Hitler. [Publishers Weekly]
Digital comics | Ethan Gach contemplates what the popularity of tablets means for the comics industry, with a particular focus on comiXology. He points out that the digital distributor offers not only bestsellers but also titles that appeal to a broader audience — and has brought success to some indie creators via its comiXology Submit program. [Forbes]
Academia | Tom Spurgeon talks to Professor Benjamin Saunders, director of the Comics & Cartoon Studies Program at the University of Oregon, which just received a major donation that will serve as an endowment for the program. [The Comics Reporter]
Manga | Kodansha will release a second printing of the January issue of Aria magazine, which features the debut of Hikaru Suruga and Gan Sunaaku’s Attack on Titan spinoff No Regrets. The first printing was five times greater than the magazine’s usual press run — Aria has a verified circulation of 13,667 copies — so with this new printing, the January issue will have 10 times the number of copies of the average issue. [Anime News Network]
Since 2011, Drawn and Quarterly has published three major Shigeru Mizuki books. The first was Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, a semi-autobiographical comic about Japanese soldiers in a bizarre, existential crisis at the end of World War II, when it was pretty clear they were defeated: continue to fight to the death anyway, or be put to death by their own leaders. The second was NonNonBa, a childhood memoir about the artist’s relationship with his grandmother, and the interest in the yokai of Japanese folklore that became central to the artist’s long life of work.
The third and latest is Kitaro, a 400-page collection of 1967-1969 stories from Mizuki’s Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro manga. Of the three, it’s the book that is definitely the least interesting to talk about, and perhaps has the least literary value, being a more straightforward genre work focused more on entertainment than wrestling with the big issues of national identity that the two previous releases.
It;s also the most fun and easy to read, however, and it bears an important, even foundational, place in the story of Mizuki’s life’s work: This is his signature work, the reason Mizuki is so famous, so beloved and so influential.
And he is influential. Like Osamu Tezuka in manga and Jack Kirby in American superhero comics, even newer or younger readers who might never have heard of those men or never read a single one of their works nevertheless unknowingly enjoy works by artists they influenced. In his introduction to the collection, Matt Alt not only situates Mizuki with a place of honor in the centuries-long history of yokai study and celebration, he also partially credits Mizuki’s comics with paving the way for Pokemon.
Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]
Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]
Having released his World War II indictment Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths in 2011, and his compelling childhood memoir Nonnonba in 2012, Drawn & Quarterly will publish Shigeru Mizuki’s most beloved and best-known work, Kitaro, for the first time in North America in 2013.
Created in 1959, Mizuki’s Kitaro, known in Japan as GeGeGe no Kitaro, follows the adventures of a centuries-old little boy who — well, I think the D&Q press release says it best:
Meet Kitaro. He’s just like any other boy, except for a few small differences: he only has one eye, his hair is as an antenna that senses paranormal activity, his geta sandals are jet-powered, and he can blend in to his surroundings like a chameleon. Oh, and he’s a three hundred and fifty year old yokāi (spirit monster). With all the offbeat humor and a delightful cast of characters, Kitaro is a light-hearted romp where the bad guys always get what’s coming to them.
Kitaro is not only incredibly popular in its native country but something of a native landmark, so its release on these shores (the book comes out in February) is noteworthy. As part of Robot 6’s anniversary celebration, the folks at Drawn & Quarterly were kind enough to share a sample story from this upcoming volume, Monster Night Game:
A few weeks ago we looked at Fantagraphics publishing plans for 2013. Today I thought it might be worthwhile to peek into Drawn & Quarterly’s crystal ball and see what they have in store. I skipped over some re-releases and new volumes of expected material — a new Moomin collection, a paperback release of Paying for It — mainly because I’m lazy.
You’re Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld. Gauld’s weekly comic gets the fancy book deal. Expect lots of really funny riffs on history and pop culture in Gauld’s stone-faced, deadpan style. January, $19.95.
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our guest today is Caleb Goellner, pug lover and senior editor of ComicsAlliance.
To see what Caleb and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Matthew Thurber of 1-800 Mice and Infomaniacs fame. To see what Matthew and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Drawn and Quarterly announced Wednesday that it has the license for Shigeru Mizuki’s GeGeGe No Kitaro, the third manga the publisher has acquired from the award-winning creator.
The book, which D+Q simply refers to as Kitaro, is a retelling of a traditional Japanese story about a boy who fights with yōkai, the spirits of Japanese folklore who range from good-natured tricksters to dangerous menaces. The series debuted in 1959 in the boys’ manga magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine, and has been adapted for several anime and games as well as a live-action movie.
This is actually the second English translation of Kitaro; the Japanese publisher Kodansha put out a bilingual English/Japanese edition in 2002, but I believe that was intended for English students in Japan, not the import market, and it doesn’t seem to be available in the United States.
D+Q’s other two Mizuki manga are Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, the story of a doomed battalion of Japanese soldiers in the waning days of World War II, and NonNon Ba, his memoir of growing up with his grandmother in a world populated by yōkai.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d grab the latest Lio collection, Zombies Need Love Too. Cartoonist Mark Tatulli has one of the better newspaper comic strips going these days.
If I had $30, I’d nab what is clearly the book of the week, NonNonBa, the latest book from Shigeru Mizuki, author of Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths. NonNonBa aims more toward Mizuki’s traditional milieu of Japanese folklore and yokai monsters, though this book is more autobiographical in nature in that it deals with his relationship with his grandmother and how she instilled in him an interest in the spirit world. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this release.
My splurge for the week would likely be one of two books from First Second: Either Baby’s in Black, Arne Bellstorf’s fictionalized tale of the sadly doomed Beatle, Stuart Sutcliffe, or Mastering Comics, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden’s follow-up to their previous how-to textbook, Drawing Words, Writing Pictures.
Drawn and Quarterly publishes what I think of as “hipster manga” — artsy, bleak, literary titles that are as far as you can get from the boobs-and-battles genre titles that have teenagers clogging the aisles of bookstores — and they have two important manga releases scheduled for next spring.
The first is yet another Yoshihiro Tatsumi title, Fallen Words. Tatsumi’s work, which is in the gekiga (underground) tradition, is relentlessly bleak, and the publisher’s description makes it clear that this book won’t be any exception, despite the promise that it will be “whimsical.” The stories are based on the Japanese tradition of rakugo, a comical form of storytelling that uses lots of wordplay. Despite their wit, the stories seem rather dark:
In one, a father finds his son too bookish and arranges for two workers to take the young man to a brothel on the pretext of visiting a new shrine. In another particularly beloved rakugo tale, a married man falls in love with a prostitute. When his wife finds out, she is enraged and sets a curse on the other woman. The prostitute responds by cursing the wife, and the two escalate in a spiral of voodoo doll cursing. Soon both are dead, but even death can’t extinguish their jealousy.
Sounds like a regular riot. A little Tatsumi goes a long way, in my opinion. But I’m more excited about the other title, Shigeru Mizuki’s NonNonBa, a memoir of growing up with his grandmother in a world inhabited by yokai (spirits). This book won the top prize at Angouleme a couple of years ago — not the top manga prize, the top prize — and I have been hoping someone would bring it over here. This year, D+Q published Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, a relentless depiction of the lives of soldiers in a doomed unit in the last days of World War II; despite the depressing subject matter, it was a great read, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Mizuki can do with something a bit lighter.