Ran out of time to finish yesterday's Online Commentary & Diversions so here's a two-fer:
• Review: "With skill, restraint and a deep sensitivity to the roiling emotions involved, Shimura relates the tale of fifth-grade boy Shuichi, who wants to be a girl, and his classmate Yoshino, a girl who wants to be a boy. This is the first volume of the Japanese saga [Wandering Son] to be published in English, and translator Thorn does great work parsing the complex gender honorifics of the Japanese language. We only just begin to get to know our two leads, but Shimura's approach allows us to feel their confusion, their heartache and — when a perceptive mutual friend orchestrates a plan that starts them down the road to self-acceptance — their quiet, nervous joy." – Glen Weldon, NPR - Monkey See
• Review: "Gender roles and cross-dressing are often fodder for laughs in anime and manga, but this is the most serious and thoughtful take I've seen on the subject. And I love how Shimura doesn't make things too angsty for the characters. Maybe that will come later, but for now it's more of a quiet discomfort -- the reader is finding out at the same time as the characters, and it's quite touching. ...Wandering Son is a tender take on a taboo subject. I wish it success in the American market." – Eric Henrickson, The Detroit News - Geek Watch
• Review: "Wandering Son by Shimura Takako is a heartfelt story of two people who I desperately feel for and for their families and friends.... The main thing that drew me to this book was the fact that unlike a lot of western media that plays off the fact that a transgender teenager would have to deal with their friends and peers ostracising or bullying them for being different, Wandering Son goes straight for the heart, tackling the more important idea of how the person in the story feels. Reading the first volume, I can feel their awkwardness at them coming to the decision that they are different from other people and that they need to do something about it.... I want to be alongside these characters as they discover who and how they are. I want to see them triumph in ways that many of us never get to. Most of all, I want to be there at the end even if it ends in failure." – Eeeper's Choice
• Review (Audio): Phillip of Eeper's Choice, Erica Friedman, and David Welsh (The Manga Curmudgeon) discuss Wandering Son Vol. 1 with hosts Ed Sizemore and Johanna Draper Carlson on the Manga Out Loud podcast. At Manga Worth Reading, Carlson notes "We talk about the value of translation/cultural end notes (which inspired a followup post by David) and the pacing of the series in light of Takako Shimura’s career. It’s a wonderful read that we all enjoyed and recommend."
• Review: "Collected in oversize hardbacks that present the pages at their original size, these beautiful books restore one of the original adventure heroes of the strips -- the affable (albeit two-fisted) mercenary who was much more interested in excitement than money or women, which is what he was supposedly after. [Captain] Easy moved through a more innocent — and largely unexplored — world, and there's no better word for this adventure strip than 'charming.'" – Andrew A. Smith, Scripps Howard News
• Review: "...Leslie Stein is a young lady out of Brooklyn, NY who has been crafting literary/illustrative dub versions of her tastes and trials and laying them out in meticulously crafted yet still oodles-of-eye-fun anecdotes and tall tales. Fanta has collected them all into Eye of the Majestic Creature, a big-sized anthology of her work, with color covers and B&W insides and a whole lot of heart reproduced superbly for proper long-term keeping.... Stein's easy-on-the-eyes drawing style shows an affinity for the same greatly defined, goofy universe Pete Bagge's youthful wanderers once trolled though Seattle in... I found it irresistible, and will come back to its gentle humor and delightful glimpses into woozy alt-country gal delights again and again." – Chris Estey, Three Imaginary Girls
• Review: "Growing up to this era of punk rock, I feel an initial offense taken to McMurray’s collection of punk rock relics. It seems strange and kitschy to run across a book like Taking Punk to the Masseswhen you lived it. My first reaction was that we are not a novelty, punk was defined from a purpose and we are that purpose, not an exploitation. But the curious person that I am, I skimmed through it. Then I skimmed through it again. Then I read it. And then I fell in love with it." – Andrew Duncan, ZapTown
• Commentary: At Robot 6, Sean T. Collins comments on the Jim Woodring letter to Hans Rickheit we shared here yesterday: "Woodring, an intrepid chronicler of the underbrain in his own right, clearly recognized a kindred spirit in Rickheit when the younger cartoonist sent him a copy of his elaborate and powerful Fantagraphics graphic novel The Squirrel Machine."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Mome editor Eric Reynolds: "My two passions in comics are old strips like Popeyeand the great cartoonists that I came of age reading, like Clowes and Charles Burns and the Hernandez Brothers. But, as much as that’s the stuff I dearly love, it’s the new stuff we’re publishing, the new artists, the sort of unexpected things that, on a day to day basis, keep me motivated and keep my interest in publishing, from day to day."
• Review: "Though he was one of the genre’s pioneers, Roy Crane’sCaptain Easy is arguably the most idiosyncratic of all the adventure strips. But it’s this blend of loud slapstick, young-boys-styled adventure and blatant sex appeal that make Captain Easy such a winning, fun strip to read." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "From any other culture this type of story would be crammed with angst and agony: gratuitously filled with cruel moments and shame-filled subtext, but Takako Shimura’s genteel and winningly underplayed first volume in this enchanting school saga [Wandering Son]... is resplendent with refined contentment, presenting the history in an open-minded spirit of childlike inquiry and accepting optimism that turns this book into a genuine feel-good experience." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• List:School Library Journal names Linda Medley's Castle Waiting Vol. 2 one of "39 Graphic Novels That Kids Can't Resist": "Both volumes of Castle Waiting are vivid and enchanting, as any good fairy tale should be. Handsomely bound and printed on rich, creamy paper, the most important element — the story — is charming, filled with slowly building plots and compelling characters, and the slow pace means readers can spend the summer hours with some good company.... With clean black-and-white art and impeccable pacing, Castle Waiting remains a favorite for older kids and younger teens."
• List: Rick Klaw's "Top Ten of the Half Year '11" at The Geek Curmudgeon includes Joe Daly's Dungeon Quest at #9 ("Littered with violence, inappropriate sexual innuendos, misguided bravado and infused with hilarity, Dungeon Quest... promises a uniquely entertaining graphic novel experience.") and 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago at #3 ("In this emotionally moving biography, the Puerto Rican Wilfred Santiago magnificently chronicles the often tragic life of this icon.... Santiago expertly traverses Clemente's tribulations, losses, and success with ease and skill. His portrayal of the baseball games rank among the finest ever attempted in this medium. Under the masterful hands of Santiago, 21 evolves into far more than just a biography of a sports figure. It showcases a life worth emulating.")
• Profile: "...21: The Story of Roberto Clemente... is drawn with a jagged whimsy that gets at the sudden sharpness of a baseball game's action, the frenzy that comes from out of nowhere to temporarily replace the long, slow stretches of waiting, scratching, spitting and eyeballing opponents that are endemic to the sport. The result is a captivating work that reflects the complexity of Clemente (1934-1972), a dedicated humanitarian as well as an uncommonly gifted athlete.... 'I knew the culture he came from, because I came from the same place,' [Wilfred] Santiago says. 'And there was a mythic aspect to him that was part of the story I wanted to tell. Comic books bring a different kind of narrative that's not possible in any other medium — not books, not movies.'" – Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
• Review: "A little boy is mistaken for his older sister and is bewildered by the feeling that this stirs in him. Thus begins the story of the Wandering Son, a daring fairy-tale about two unusual children in the time before the riot of puberty and their struggles with who they are and who they want to be.... The artwork in Wandering Son is appealing and sensitive.... Wandering Son mercifully isn’t a political screed and its characters, equally mercifully, are not pressured into making political points out of their inner lives.... They are allowed under that protective charm 'kawaii' to explore their feelings and identity and are treated with the utmost compassion and dignity by their author. That makes Wandering Son a most compelling fantasy... Wandering Son chooses for the most part to dwell on the possibility of choice, of self-knowledge and the love of a friend who knows your secret." – Michael Arthur, The Hooded Utilitarian
• Review: At his High-Low blog, Rob Clough re-posts his Sequart review of the first 5 volumes of Mome: "I can't help thinking of Mome as the comics equivalent of a baseball farm league club. You know you're good if you're invited by the major league club to come on, but there's an expectation of getting better, of being productive, of working hard in order to become great. And the creators in this book seem to range across a wide variety of ages and levels of experience, much like a minor league baseball team. Some are raw rookies, others have been laboring in obscurity for years and are just now getting an opportunity at the big time."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater continues his conversation with Mome editor Eric Reynolds: "I don’t know if there’s an official reason. I just felt like the time had come. It had been over five years. I’m really happy with it. I’m proud of what we did. But at the same time, there are always compromises you make along the way. I felt I’d already run my course with it. I could have kept it going. I sort of set myself up with a template that was fairly easy to do, three or four times a year."
• Review: "Excellent quality reproduction of the cartoons, interesting texts...; a supreme book treatment by a 'bibliophile publisher': something that convinces even the most recalcitrant Disney collectors to buy something that they might already have seen and have read the contents of the first volume in multiple dressings and in multiple languages, and possess it in different forms." – Luca Boschi, Il Sole 24 Ore (translated from Italian)
• Plug: "Mickey Mouse 'Race to Death Valley' has the first MM strips from 1930-32 by Floyd Gottfredson, considered the finest of all the MM artists and much collected. Several complete episodes and a wonderful 68-page section devoted to essays, early Mickey artwork and special features. I'm eager to sit down and digest it all myself." – Bud Plant
• Review: "Schulz's jokes are fine; his characters are likable and instantly recognizable; and Peanuts is never dull. But, in these years, it settled for being a consistently entertaining standard comic strip rather than digging any more deeply than that into the sources of human sadness and discomfort." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plugs: The latest "Comics College" reader's guide from Chris Mautner at Robot 6 delves into George Herriman and Krazy Kat: "If you... want to dig deeper, the next logical choice is Fantagraphics’ lovely collection of Sunday strips, dubbed Krazy & Ignatz.... If all those books seem like too much shopping for you, Fantagraphics has collected much of the same material in two hardcovervolumes, with a presumed third one coming along the way sometime in the near future.... Fantagraphics has announced their intention to collect the daily Krazy Kat strips as well, but that’s down the line a bit. In the meantime, there are really only two ways to get a solid sampling of the daily strip, one of which is The Kat Who Walked in Beauty, an oversize tome that pairs together strips from the 1910s and 1920s, as well as some other Krazy-related ephemera."
• Plug: "Fantagraphics Books publishes one of my all-time favorites; Jason, short for John Arne Saerterøy. Jason’s animal people inhabit satirical but celebratory genre pieces. In about 50 pages, Jason’s The Last Musketeer tells the story of Athos, the last depressed musketeer in the 21st century. A meteor hits Paris, and Martians start invading. Before too long, Athos stows away to Mars to save the Martian princess in order to save Earth from total annihilation." – Victoria Elliott, The Daily Texan
The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Volume one introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own. Yoshino is rudely reminded of her sex by immature boys whose budding interest in girls takes clumsily cruel forms. Shuichi’s secret is discovered by Saori, a perceptive and eccentric classmate. And it is Saori who suggests that the fifth graders put on a production of The Rose of Versailles for the farewell ceremony for the sixth graders — with boys playing the roles of women, and girls playing the roles of men.
Wandering Son is a sophisticated work of literary manga translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn.
• Review: "...[Wandering Son] is absolutely fantastic and deserves every one of the awards it will doubtless win. ...[I]t’s an honest look at what Shu and Yoshino are going through. There’s no magic pool, no funny crossdressing, no easy solution to the dilemma that these two face. What I also like about the series is that its secondary characters are often just as interesting as the main pair: they’re all in fifth grade, after all, when everyone is struggling with their identities and the consequences thereof. Shu and Yoshino just get the worst of it." – Ted Anderson, The Hub (YALSA)
• Review: "Woodring’s someone whose work demands repeated reads. For longtime fans, Congress of the Animals is another puzzle piece in Woodring’s complicated world of art. For newcomers, it’s likely going to be the first enjoyable step of discovering that world and Woodring’s back catalogue." – Nick Dean, Skyscraper Magazine
• Review: "In this selection [Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune Vol. 2] Roy Crane’s irrepressible humour comes perfectly into focus and this enchanting serial abounds with breezy light-hearted banter, hilarious situations and outright farce... This superb hardback and colossal second collection is the perfect means of discovering or rediscovering Crane’s rip-snorting, pulse-pounding, exotically racy adventure trailblazer. The huge pages in this volume... provide the perfect stage to absorb and enjoy the classic tale-telling of a master raconteur. This is storytelling of impeccable quality: unforgettable, spectacular and utterly irresistible. These tales rank alongside the best of Hergé, Tezuka, Toth and Kirby and unarguably fed the imaginations of them all as he still does for today’s comics creators." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Interview: At New York magazine's Vulture blog, Jennifer Vineyard talks to Lou Reed about adapting Edgar Allen Poe for The Raven (among other topics): "Do you know what it’s like to try to rewrite one of the most famous poems in the history of the world? It’s a can’t-win situation. No one is ever going to say that the rewrite is better than the original. That’s not going to happen."
• Interview: At the Suicide Girls website, Alex Dueben talks to Dave McKean about his new book Celluloid: "It’s always a bit strange doing something that is exclusively about sex and putting it out for people to look at. There are people who are bound to draw some sort of parallel between you as an individual and the stuff you’re putting in the book, which is not necessarily there to be drawn, but people do. So I tried to keep my identity out of it as much as possible."
• Profile:Time Out Chicago's Jonathan Kinkley profiles local boy Wilfred Santiago: "21: The Story of Roberto Clemente is a lovingly written and superbly illustrated biography of the baseball legend.... Stylistically, he considers himself something of a chameleon, tackling each challenge with a new visual approach. 'Actors change accents to play different characters,' says the artist, 'and I have the same graphic flexibility to interpret different kinds of stories.'"
• Review: "Gender-bending is nothing new in manga, but it's rare to see the transgender sexual identity issues depicted in a realistic way, rather just as a plot gimmick. With her spare, elegant art and slice-of-life storytelling, Shimura resists the urge to use sensationalism, to tell her sweet and sensitive, albeit unusual, coming-of-age tale.... Just as Shimura treats her two tween characters with respect, so does Fantagraphics' hardcover edition of this story. By presenting Shimura's simple, yet elegant artwork in a larger page format and reproducing her lovely color pages on thick, creamy paper, Fantagraphics has showcased this story in a very special way. The translation is also worth noting, for finding a happy medium between conversational English and maintaining the Japanese setting of this story. Wandering Son is a refreshing example of a graphic novel that gives readers a glimpse of a life rarely seen and a story rarely told. Worth a read, and worth sharing." – Deb Aoki, About.com — Manga
• Review: "In Like a Sniper Lining Up His ShotJean-Patrick Manchette and Jacques Tardi present an unrelenting and unforgiving French noir graphic novel by two masters of the genre. As straight as a shotgun’s barrel and as tight as a bullet, the story bulldozes over people and ethics to an ending that is as merciless as the protagonists themselves. Highly recommended." – Bart Croonenborghs, Broken Frontier
• Review: "If you’re not familiar with Trondheim’s cartooning (and hoo-boy, you should be), he blends funny-animal body-types with breezily convincing cityscapes to create an imminently readable and visually gorgeous narrative. Trondheim is one of the easiest cartoonists to read, and one of the most satisfying to experience. Approximate Continuum Comics wanders far and wide among topics and settings, but the whole book also tells one long tale about a period in its creator’s life, and by the time you’re done with it you feel you’ve spent some very worthwhile time with a great storyteller. Because you have." – Alan David Doane, Trouble with Comics
• Review: "In their graphic novel Stigmata, Lorenzo Mattotti and Claudio Piersanti have created an exceptional example of a successful collaboration of art and text. Stigmata, which tells the story of a man suddenly afflicted with the eponymous phenomenon, is rendered entirely in astonishingly frenetic, swirling line work. Mattotti has hidden a world of grotesqueries under a smokescreen of pen and ink, and through his perfectly restrained, gritty parable, Piersanti shapes that world into a contemplative and captivating read." – Jeff Alford, About.com
• Review: "For a reader who knows little or nothing about religious tradition outside the caricatures created through self-promoters of the strident and extreme, by those who abuse their faith and others under the cloak of religion, or by the media this story [Stigmata] may very well intrigue, horrify, and maybe even move. It is not a doctrinaire work; it is a human one." – Grant Barber, Three Percent (University of Rochester)
• Interview: At The Comics Journal, Nicole Rudick talks to Jim Woodring: "I had the story before I knew I was going to do it as a hundred-page comic, and those Frank stories kind of write themselves. I set out to gather material for them and when I have enough of it, and it’s the right kind of stuff that fits together in such a way, it makes a whole that works. So I didn’t really set out to write Congress of the Animals as a personal story, but once I had the story in hand and I realized that it was that personal — I had that in mind all the time I was drawing it and that influenced some of the visuals, the factory, for example, and the faceless men."
• Commentary: This week's guest contributor to Robot 6's "What Are You Reading?" feature is Oil & Water artist Shannon Wheeler
• List:Castle Waiting Vols. 1 & 2 take two spots on Nancy Pearl's "10 Terrific Summer Reads" list at NPR.org: "The black-and-white drawings are precisely crafted, with small, endearing touches that render each character entirely unique. The dialogue is clever and filled with subtle grace notes of drollness and humor. The set will be especially appealing to readers of all ages who enjoy seeing and reading traditional fairy tale tropes teased and played with, all with a sense of good-humored fun."
• Review: "...Congress of the Animals finds twisted fabulist Woodring at the top of his darkly delightful game: Open the book at random and the odds are very good that your gaze will alight upon something that stings, bites, drips, oozes or squelches. Tentacled plant-beasts threaten the unwary, factories powered by crushed blackbirds produce who-knows-what, slimy amphibians enact bizarre rituals and a tribe of naked, faceless men whom the jacket copy refers to as "blind gut-worshippers" — easily the most potent nightmare fuel Woodring has ever produced — drug passersby for mysterious purposes of their own. You certainly won't want to live inside the covers of Congress of the Animals, but it's a fascinating and thrilling feat of imagination, and one hell of a place to visit." – Glen Weldon, NPR.org
• Review: "This book does something I love. It takes me inside a world I’ve never known.... Shimura’s writing does a good job of exposing the readers to the realities of being transgender. Wandering Son ignited my imagination and got me trying to relate to and understand these characters as deeply as possible.... Shimura has crafted an excellent opening volume.... The quiet pace and subject matter make this series a perfect read for the alternative comics crowd. Fans of shoujo and josei manga will enjoy it too. I’d love for everyone to at least give the first volume of Wandering Son a try. It’s a rare gem of emotional honesty and complexity that rewards those willing to take the risk and move outside their typical reading habits." – Ed Sizemore, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "Monologues for Calculating the Density of Black Holes by Anders Nilsen... touched a special spot that I strive towards in my reading; it created atmosphere. There’s a weight to the unhinged timeline and nonsensical dialogue. It feels calculated, even as it touches on topics such as 'Godzilla vs. Richard Simmons.' The drawings are simple, yet they effortlessly convey time and feel appropriate for the content. It was a quick read, but one that I’ll be revisiting. Check it out." – Au Yeah!
• Interview:Newsarama's Michael Lorah talks to Wilfred Santiago about the creation of 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente: "A baseball sequence is all about interpretation; there are cold, unchangeable facts. If the batter hits a home run to left field in the second inning, etc., then those are unchangeable facts about that scene. So it’s about the reading of the particulars. I mean, if you are saying sad things while laughing maniacally, it’s different than if you are saying them while sobbing and in tears. Therefore, it’s all about what role that particular game sequence plays in the story as a whole. It’s not a book about baseball, even though there’s baseball in it."
• Interview (Audio):Inkstuds host Robin McConnell rang up Dave McKean (on Skype presumably) for a conversation about his latest book: "Celluloid, fresh out from Fantagraphics, is a remarkable work exploring pornography through a very particular lens. Needless to say, it is fantastic."
Wandering Son creator Shimura Takako has just begun a new series titled Awajima Hyakkei (One Hundred Views of Awajima), serialized at the web manga site Pocopoco. I can't read it but it sure looks pretty! Wandering Son translator and editor of our manga line Matt Thorn introduces the series and provides some context and outspoken commentary that you won't want to miss on his blog.
• Review: "The creator [of Wandering Son], Shimura Takako, is a well-established manga artist recognized for her LBGT focus, certainly not your usual manga fare. In the series’ debut-in-English, Shimura treats both protagonists’ journeys of self-discovery with gentle honesty; her characters are wide-eyed and adorable, uncertain and searching." – Terry Hong, BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
• Review: "...I was pretty intrigued to see how Jason’s illustration would work with someone else’s writing. The short answer is that it works amazingly well.... The Isle of 100,000 Graves is an inventive and original tale, filled to the brim with absurd and hilarious dialogue, delivered with impeccable timing by Fabien Vehlmann. The story is brought to life with wonderful artwork by Jason, and eye popping colours by Hubert. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, I don’t think I’ve laughed this much at a comic in years!" – Edward Kaye, Hypergeek
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