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Strip 464, Volume 3, Page 129

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< Piro >

Nightmares and Fairy Tales...

"Alternative Readings, part 2"

Wednesday - September 17, 2003

[Piro] - 15:04:00 - [link here]

For years I've read and collected quite a bit of manga, both English translations and original Japanese. The selection of stuff available for the Japanese deficient (including myself - people seem to think I am proficient in Japanese like comic-piro, but the truth is, I am not.) is remarkable these days. It's even getting to the point that we are seeing 'just ok' titles showing up instead of 'only the best stuff'. I think this is a good thing - it might help dispel the idea that all manga is good. :P

I think that there is this misconception that all Japanese comics are good and American comics suck. That's unfair, really - both have examples of excellence and excrement. I think that people feel that the Japanese stuff is great because the material meets their expectations more than the American counterparts typically do. I don't think this is because manga/anime 'style' is inherently 'better', its just that in the mass of work it's easier to find the stuff that appeals to our emotional needs. it doesn't mean it's not there. It's easy these days to stay safely in the bounds of 'japanese' titles, but I think that over time there are a lot of things you will miss by doing this. You really need to be daring and take a look around, there's some really good stuff out there.

Since I've sort of backed my way into the comics industry here in the states, Seraphim and I wanted to spend some finding out more about what is current and going on in the industry. It's been kind of fun, really. Anyways, let me run down some things that I enjoyed reading or thought looked interesting. Some I picked up at SPX, others I've found in my travels in recent months.

I came across the work of Arthur Dela Cruz several times while browsing the comics shop, and was surprise to recognize it in last year's SPX annual. I hadn't picked any of his comics, but I did like his art style. I was surprised at CN Anime when I saw some of his work at an artist's alley table - and Arthur himself sitting behind the table ^^;; Arthur's pencil work is wonderful - much like myself he works in a sketchy, loose but solid style, with the added plus of knowledge of anatomy and proportions :P I picked up his "Kissing Chaos" book (available from Oni Press) and was finally able to read it. There's some scariness to the story, and the way it's told is beautifully done. Sometimes, the art seems sparse (like I don't do that myself) and the nior style can really be intense, but it's something I'd definitely recommend.

Another comic I picked up at SPX that I really liked was The Adventures of Mia. I could do it a disservice by comparing it to Porcco Rosso (because it has much the same feel), but there's something delightful about Enrico Casarosa's drawings. The characters are very expressive, and the personalities come thru very clearly, and there is just a pleasant, nice feel to the work. I'm looking forward to picking up more of these as they come out. Mia is published by Monkeysuit Press - I also picked up 'the art of Mia', a very nice little companion sketchbook.

As I mentioned in my last rant, there were a few webcomics represented at SPX. The first I came across was Corey Marie Kitley's 'Life So Rad', and I picked up a few of her 'zines' (yeah, Kinko's really did mess up the freebies ^^;;) which were fun. The next one I came across was Gods & Undergrads by Monica Gallagher. She wasn't at the table at the time, but I flipped thru the printouts of the online work, and it definitely is worth checking out.

Then I came across a bit of crazyness where R. Stevens and Jonathan Rosenberg were sharing a booth hawkin stuff for their comics, Goats and Diesel Sweeties. Jonathan has several 'Goats' collections out, and he did it the smart way - he started backwards, printing collections of the more recent comics first... so I picked up Volume IV first. ^_^ (Goats is amusing, go read it if you don't already). I also picked up a copy of Volume One of Diesel Sweeties 'Pocket Sweeties'... y'know, there is just something -disturbing- about Diesel Sweeties. ^^;; But that's kind of the point, I think. Richard also gave us some bumper stickers, and I plan to put a 'It's Fun to use learning for Evil' sticker on either my car or my neighbor's car.

I think that was most of the webcomic folks (if I missed you, gomen! let me know).

Some of the more indie stuff was interesting too. Eric Kim and Miguel Sternberg gave me copies of their SAS comic at CN Anime, and it was quite amusing to come across their table at SPX. I really liked these little books, actually. They both have nice, exrpressive, manga-inspired styles that retain a unique character. Thanks for the books, guys.

I've been familiar with the work of Lea Hernandez for quite a while - I know she's been doing anime-style artwork longer than I have. :) I picked up volume 2 of her Texas Steampunk series 'Clockwork Angels', and found it quite enjoyable. Interesting twists, and I really enjoyed some of the subtlety in Amelia's expressions - that and the fact that characters like that amuse the hell out of me :)

I picked up an anthology collection called Fractured Kisses from Moonation Comics as well. Including the work of several different female artists and writers, both collections were interesting reads, drawing very heavily from various shoujo styles.

Some of my favorite comics that I picked up came from Slave Labor Graphics (yeah, these guys rule - a friend hooked me on Lenore months ago). If you get a chance, be sure to read GloomCookie by Serena Valentino and Ted Naifeh. Wonderfully gothic, I think my favorite chapter has to be the Girl Talk one. It just amused me to no end. There is an unsettling balance between the surreal and unearthly and the 'yeah, some of my gothy friends are like this' to the book.

The most inspiring for me, artistically, were the Nightmares and Fairy Tales books. These delightfully disturbing and unsettling stories (also by Serena Valentino) flow with this wonderful artwork by Foo Swee Chin (FSc) and... well, it makes me want to experiment with abstracting my own work a little. #4, the retelling of the snow white story, still spooks me.

There's more, of course, and I'll try to point out more stuff in the future, because of course I haven't even begun to scratch the surface. I've been reading manga titles too - most notably Tuxedo Gin... I don't know why, but I love this dumb little story, it's adorable. :) Sitting here is also .hack // Legend of the Twilight, and Hanaukyo Maid Tai, Kare Kano, Azumanga Daioh...

Ok, few other quick links and notes, while I am at it, having nothing to do with comics to read :P

If you are going to Nan Desu Kan in Denver, Colorodo, Megatokyo merchandise and stuff will be available at the Wizzywig booth. The Wizzywig folks have been doing a great job of making MT merchandise available for people to purchase at cons all across the country, including cons that I am not able to make it to, so be sure to stop and see what they have :)

A few MT related links to post. There is an interview I did with Applelinks that went up yesterday - its amazing, I actually sound coherent and non-stressed. Talks a bit about my leap into the mac world and other MT related stuffs.

Over at Anime Tourist, long time ago they posted a transcript of the SDCC panel we did with Greg Dean of Real Life Comics. Click here to give it a read :)

Megatokyo was mentioned in an article in the Japan Times recently. That was kinda creepy to read ^^;;

And finally... it's official, Megatokyo has been listed as being partially responsible for the degradation of the English language according to the BBC. I have to say, in my defense, its not my fault. It's Largo's fault. :P

-----

- megatokyo merchandise -

Megatokyo t-shirts, posters and other merchandise can either be purchased online at the Megatokyo / ThinkGeek store, or from Wizzywig at various anime conventions around the country, even conventions that I will not be at. Below is a list of upcoming conventions where Wizzywig will be at:

  • September 26-28 Anime Weekend Atlanta (Atlanta GA)
  • October 3-5 C-Kon (South Bend IN)
  • October 18 Motor City Comic Con (Detroit, MI)
  • November 7-9 - Neko Con (Virginia Beach, VA)
  • November 21-23 - Sugoi Con (Cincinnati OH)
Just for reference, here is Piro and Seraphim's con schedule for the rest of the year:

< Seraphim >

banned books, grrrr!!!

"Read Free or Die!"

Monday - September 22, 2003

[Seraphim] - 03:50:00 - [link here]

September 20th was the start of Banned Book Week 2003. Yes, most of us know Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned years and years ago but censorship is alive and well and there are people out there battling it on the front lines today. One case is taking place in Montgomery County, Texas. A member of a local group called the Citizens Task Force for Family-Friendly Libraries (but not First Amendment friendly) wrote a secretive letter outlining their plans to rewrite the county library system's collection policies which would turnover the power of determining what is fit for the library collection to a local elected judge and the cronies he appoints. In rewriting the policy the library's Freedom to Read and Freedom to View Statements were deleted. These policies were replaced with the Freedom to Exercise Good Judgment Statement. This statement starts off by declaring that the First Amendment doesn't really guarantee our right to free speech at all and we have no individual freedoms to read or view. It is terrifying to read. Citizens have the freedom to exercise good judgment but only in so far as we can choose among titles, materials, and information that they feel is acceptable. Obviously because we are born idiots and can only function with their guidance. So far the effort has been voted down and the district attorney is looking into whether the Texas open meetings laws were broken. Breaking laws is some mighty fine family values. I really want them determining what I can read.

In the CBLDF's news magazine, Busted, there is an article about a group in Michigan who opposes the Motor City Comic Convention, ironically, Piro and I will be in attendance next month at the WizzyWig booth. This group is terrified because comics are marketed towards children and the conventions are crawling with porn stars and adult male porn users. You may think censorship doesn't or won't affect you personally but how long until these people discover anime and manga such as Love Hina or Battle Royale and decide it doesn't fit with their family values. Graphic novels of any genre can't stay out of the fray for long.

In preparation for Banned Book Week I read one of the most frequently challenged books of 2002. It was challenged for the reasons of insensitivity and being unsuited to age group, as well as encouraging children to disobey authority. I was intrigued by the last reason thinking the book really had to be subversive. It must be a juvenile version of the anarchists handbook or something. I was ready for a titillating read! The book was The Adventure of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. I was kind of appalled but only by the fact it was written for 10 year olds and that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Essentially it is about two pranksters (who write their own comic book btw - how cute) that get in trouble at school and end up hypnotizing their principal which leads to madcap adventures. I can see why principals would think it was insensitive but I hardly think there are enough of them in the world to make it one of the most frequently challenged titles.

In my research I also found a Sendak title that stirred up quite the controversy and features, gasp, nudity. I don't care much for Sendak and his whole Where the Wild Things Are so I had never heard of In the Night Kitchen but it is on the list of 100 most frequently challenged books of the 1990's. It depicts a toddler boy - anatomically correct. There was an uproar and teachers, parents, and even librarians were inking out the offending images. I checked my two local libraries to see if they even carried this porno title. The Ann Arbor Library didn't have it in the catalog but the Ypsilanti Library did and I was glad it hadn't been defaced back in the day. Yeah, the images are about as offensive as Michelangelo's David. Is that all there is? It is almost incomprehensible what people freak out about.

I would never take away anyone else's freedom to not read or to view something by creating a MUST READ policy. Everyone would have to read what they disapprove of just because I say so. Yet censors are perfectly happy to create MUST NOT READ policies or try to ban books from libraries or comic shops from towns. Freedom to Read and View statements protect the right to choose for everyone. If a classic version of Red Riding Hood could be banned because Red was taking wine to granny - is it such a stretch to envision someone coming after Megatokyo - Teh L33t B33R comic. Maybe we should ask Dav Pilkey or J.K. Rowling what the odds are? To quote Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, "Movies, books, tv, music - they are just entertainment, not guidebooks for damning yourself."

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