• Review: "The... leaps in chronology and POV can be jarring for those not familiar with Hernandez's episodic style..., but [High Soft Lisp's] offbeat humor and manic sexual energy make the adjustment more than worthwhile. Fritz's hypersexuality, bizarre fetishes, rampant vanity, and burgeoning alcoholism provide many of the volume's finest comic moments, but the ample sex on view is rarely sexy. Rather, the characters' libidinous pursuits are tied into an affecting strain of loneliness and regret that pervades even the most outlandish panels. Add to that Hernandez's characteristically thick, expressive line and character design that owes an acknowledged debt to Archie comics, and the result is a charmingly incongruous, occasionally titillating collision of poignancy and pulp." – Publishers Weekly
• Interview:Publishers Weekly manga editor Kai Ming Cha talks to our new manga editor, Matt Thorn, about our new manga line and manga publishing in general: "I love manga, but I know the sales in the first years of the century were fueled to a large extent by fad and the whole 'Cool Japan' thing. Fads are nothing to build a real industry on. Just look at the comics bubble of the late eighties and early nineties. People have told me I'm jumping on the bandwagon too late. On the contrary, I think the time is ripe to build a new, reliable market that doesn't depend on trends."
• Interview: At The Daily Cross Hatch, the second half of Brian Heater's conversation with Newave! editor Michael Dowers touches on webcomics, Factsheet Five, the Seattle Star, and the joy of getting envelopes with $150 cash in the mail
• List:Booklist's Ray Olson names the Top 10 Graphic Novels of the past 12 months, including You'll Never Know, Book 1: A Good and Decent Man by C. Tyler ("Alt-comics veteran Tyler fully demonstrates her artistry in a book about her father’s WWII experiences, her childhood and present struggles raising her daughter, and her growing realization of war’s long-term effects on soldiers and their families.") and A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross ("With washed and faded and wildly varied artwork and writing that sounds utterly like a teen’s voice, Lasko-Gross makes high-schooler Melissa’s late-teen experience real enough to nip incipient nostalgia in the bud.")
• Review: "This charming collection of stories from the long-running and much acclaimed Love and Rockets explores friendship and romance through the interconnected experiences of several characters over many years. ... What's impressive about Hernandez's work isn't so much each story on its own as it is how all the pieces fit together into a whole world that's almost but not quite like our own. ... Hernandez's gorgeous art is both expressive and simple... It all comes together to construct a world and people easy to relate to." – Publishers Weekly
• Review: "Tardi's work which is distinguished by an unstinting attention to locale and detail, captures the true horror of war in a way that no other artist has been quite able to achieve. ... [It Was the War of the Trenches] is the story of man against the system, with the system as the ultimate winner. This is a story for our times." – Peter Richardson (via ¡Journalista!)
• Profile: Benjamin Ivry of Forward looks at the career of Jules Feiffer, who says "From my earliest cartoons, I’ve tried to work in front of audiences who may not be happy with what I’m saying. In the then left-wing Village Voice, I criticized the student left and they weren’t happy. I don’t find it fun to work before audiences who would agree with me; I prefer to challenge their preconceptions. My role is to push and prod and challenge, and I try to do it pleasantly rather than otherwise."
• Interview:Robot 6's Chris Mautner talks to Matt Thorn about editing our upcoming manga line: "My goal is to make a line that will appeal to the twenty-something Sailor Moon/Pokémon generation that feel they've outgrown the bulk of what is currently available, and that will also appeal to intelligent grown-ups who just enjoy a good read, but have never seen themselves as readers of manga, or even comics. I'd like to provide these people with smart, high-quality, accessible manga."
"That doesn’t mean you should ignore the intermittently excellent Mome Vol. 17. [Paul] Hornschmeier’s understated character piece resembles a less deadpan Dan Clowes. It might confuse first-timers, but it’ll also probably make them want to pick up the previous installments. The beautiful 'Congo Chromo,' Olivier Schrauwen’s surreal goof on European colonialism, is like a Thomas Nast cartoon remade by Andre Breton."
"Hotwire is an anarchic blitz of inspired absurdity that somehow avoids collapsing into nonsense. It preserves the spirit of such earlier underground comic anthologies as Zap and Raw... Hotwire can be crude, even offensive, but it’s almost always fun. It also features some amazing artwork blown up to an impressive 12 by 9 inches. ...Hotwire Comics Vol. 3 is about as entertaining as comics get. It also might provoke a thought or three."
"Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980s... celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit and youthful energy of the early days of self-publishing. These obscure creators mostly eschew a linear narrative in favor of artistic exploration and freeform expression. ... Newave is a valuable overview of an overlooked era."
• Feature:Publishers Weekly manga editor Kai Ming Cha covers our recent manga publishing news and talks to editor/translator Matt Thorn about the line: "'My approach is to publish smart, artistic, but accessible work that is well translated and has high production values,' Thorn said. Thorn said he has grown weary of manga's current place in the U.S. market as disposable entertainment. The manga line will follow in Fantagraphics's tradition of publishing comics with literary merit."
• History: At Comics Comics, Jeet Heer gives a brief overview and critical commentary on Fantagraphics anthologies throughout the years: "Any complete history of Fantagraphics will have to tell the story of how they slowly learned to put together interesting anthologies."
Yes, Gary Groth talks Manga! What's next, Jim Shooter talking Fort Thunder?! Deb Aoki conducts the interview for about.com, further fleshing out the story of our forthcoming initiative to bring Moto Hagio and Shimura Takako to American readers. Choice quote: "Due to my almost complete ignorance of the manga publishing industry and the editorial strictures that guide it, and my pitiful lack of guile in these matters, I was insufficiently aware of how timid and craven our editorial choices should've been."
A healthy helping of Online Commentary & Diversions:
• List: At The Manga Curmudgeon, David Welsh writes "So you’re among the legion of people who are grateful to Fantagraphics for their recently announced manga initiative, to be curated by Matt Thorn. Who isn’t? I know I am. And you may want to express that gratitude by buying something that Fantagraphics has published. If your comics interests rest primarily in titles from Japan, you may not have sampled other works published by Fantagraphics, so here are some books for your consideration."
• Review: "Amazingly, I was sucked in by the whole enterprise, laughing and groaning and shaking my head. ... It’s scarcely what I would call 'elegant in its simplicity' but with subject matter like this photo-realistic art and emotional weight aren’t called for. These are ugly characters in a gross situation, and Prison Pit treats them with all the indulgence and nastiness needed." – Mark Hale, The Bureau Chiefs
• Review: "Taken as a whole, Newave presents a portrait of an era that might otherwise be overlooked as a vital link between, say, Zap and Eightball. ... [T]he book is a veritable treasure trove of material that would otherwise have been lost to the ages. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s a hell of fun read." – Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Pre-review: At Trouble with Comics, Alan David Doane takes a look at our preview sampler galley of the forthcoming Stephen Dixon story collection: "What Is All This, based on my reading of this short and enticing preview, looks to be one of the most exciting and intriguing fiction releases of the decade. That I’ve only had a chance to read less than a quarter of its 450 pages is maddening, and thrilling. I can’t wait to read the rest of what Dixon has in store."
• Opinion: At The Comics Journal, Shaenon Garrity's reaction to our manga publishing news and appreciation of Moto Hagio is a must-read: "Is there an animated gif of a unicorn with the head of Jason Shiga devouring the universe and exploding? Because that might just about express the awesomeness of this development."
• Staff: Selections from the forthcoming anthology The Last Vispo, co-edited by our own Nico Vassilakis, will be on exhibit at the Common Ground Art Gallery in Windsor, Ontario, opening this Saturday, March 13 — more info from Crg Hill or on the Facebook event invitation (above example by Dirk Krecker)
Series editor/curator/translator Matt Thorn speaks out on his blog, providing a bit of background and a few more details about the two inaugural releases, Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream and Other Stories and Shimura Takako's Wandering Son Vol. 1. Be sure to bookmark Thorn's blog for ongoing updates on the project. Meanwhile, The Comics Journal's Dirk Deppey, who was instrumental in bringing the project to fruition, uses his ¡Journalista! pulpit to reveal much more information and background about the line. Both links are must-reads for anyone interested in this project.
We also want to point out that the cover images that we've posted and sent out, as lovely as they are, are still works in progress by Fantagraphics art director Adam Grano and will likely be revised before the final releases.
Various other blogospheric reaction and commentary:
• Icarus Publishing honcho Simon Jones has some great commentary, including: "Fantagraphics’ taste for artistic, compelling, quality comics, and the expertise of Thorn makes for an inspiring combination; Fantagraphics is a risk taker, with faith in art and willingness to see difficult projects through, while Thorn has the knowledge necessary to comb through and make sense of Shogakukan’s immense catalog."
After years of development, Fantagraphics is unveiling a new line of manga. Kicking things off in September 2010 is a collection of short stories from the mother of shōjo (young girl) manga, Moto Hagio. Next, is a multi-volume series from the GLBT manga-ka Shimura Takako. Each book will be released in hardcover form, keeping the original "right to left" manga style for a deluxe, yet authentic reading experience.
The first book, entitled A Drunken Dream, is a collection of literary short stories by Hagio falling into multiple genres, created between 1971-2007. This tome travels through several of Hagio's most revolutionary and poignant tales that span over the years of her lush career.
In December 2010 comes one of the defining transgendered-centric manga, Wandering Son. Shimura Takako's ongoing series follows two young friends, Shuichi and Yoshino. These 5th graders struggle not only with puberty, but also severe identity issues; Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. The two find solace in their mutual confusion and help each other cope with their gender frustration while embarking on the complicated journey of growing up.
To celebrate the launch of the new Fantagraphics manga, Moto Hagio is making her first ever visit to The United States to attend Comic-Con International 2010 as a special guest. More details on a speaking event and panel at the con will be available soon.
Moto Hagio spearheaded the rebellious shōjo movement in the 1970s. She, along with a few other women, formed an artist collective called the "Magnificent 24." Influenced by radical youth culture of the '60s, American and British rock ‘n' roll, and European cinema, these women pioneered the shōjo genre and helped develop the artistic style that so many manga-ka emulate today. Winner of the Shogakukan Manga Award, Seiun Award, Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize, Nihon SF Taisho Award and many others, Hagio has earned respect as a Japanese artist superstar and won the hearts of manga fans for the last 40 years.
Shimura Takako is a female manga creator living in Tokyo. Her focus on LGBT issues places her work in a space that's rocked out by The Gossip and on par with Alison Bechdel. Several of Takako's books have been honored with recommendations from the prestigious Japan Media Arts Festival.