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Giant Spider & Me – Review

23 May

Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale

Paperback -180 pages.  Publisher: Seven Seas

The opening of Giant Spider & Me by Kikori Morino is quiet and simple; the lead character, Nagi wakes up to the warm sun streaming through a window and makes a breakfast of eggs, bacon, rice and miso soup. We see her memory of the one person missing from her home. On a close view, we can see that she has set two places at the table, indicating for later the fact that she clearly misses having someone to cook for.

Soon she leaves her tidy, well-appointed cabin to do some weeding and harvesting in the woods. After finding a hefty pumpkin, she is startled by the Giant Spider of the title, the oddly cute bug-eyed beast that she will soon name Asa. Asa follows her home and becomes her companion. Perhaps because of her solitude, Nagi tends to treat Asa as human, before realizing Asa is more like having a cat or a dog in the house. A very large leaf covered dog.

The stories in the book are light and free of agitation; each chapter features a recipe and shows Nagi’s cooking a treat and Asa’s reaction. Recipes are presented in a way that doesn’t interrupt the story- instructions are given simply, and the measurements are only shown on the last page nin a large panel showing the finished dish. The dishes presented are pumpkin dumplings, Japanese style miso ratatouille, Espresso, and Warm Turnip soup. I’ve read a few cooking/food manga, such as Toriko, Food Wars, and one other I can’t recall the title of. Giant Spider & Me stands apart through its focus on home cooking, feminine mood, and lack of over-heated drama. Only at the end of the book is there any real dose of peril. The subtitle of the series is “A Post-Apocalyptic Tale” but the disaster that obliterated scores and flooded the cities happened before Nagi was born, so it doesn’t disrupt the pastoral mood. This aspect of the story was a breath of fresh air and makes it all the more intriguing.

The art in the story is charming and well-rendered, though Morino lacks any stylistic flourishes that would render her visuals distinct from other skilled shoujo artists. But the unobtrusive style and clear storytelling do fit the tranquil mood of the comic. One thing I noticed was the tone of the comic: there’s not a lot of solid blacks in the book, instead there’s a lot of open linework and light grey tones. The interior of her cozy domicile and the nature backgrounds are rendered with a commendable thoroughness, yet never pile on the details or the lines in an attempt to show off. Though the boudaries of her world are small, these environments create a convincing sense of a world. The pages pass quickly as a cheerful, pleasant diversion.
Recommended.

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Typesetting Manga

15 Jun

How is typesetting manga different from typesetting American comics?

US comics tend to use speech balloons with a horizontal format, whereas Japanese comics use speech balloons with a vertical format (because of vertical writing). Manga balloons, in Japanese form, and in well-lettered English translations – use a LOT more white space within the speech balloon. A ‘typical’ US comic will use horizontal white space equal to one or 2 characters. A ‘typical’ manga will use horizontal white space equal to the longest line of text. Shoujo manga will sometimes have a little more white space, and Shonen manga will sometimes have a little less, but they will generally have more than US comics.

US comics tend to rely on the order of panels to guide the reader through the page and through the story. Manga is much more likely to use the word balloons to guide you through the page and the story, which means the speech balloons are more likely to cross the panel borders.

Comics I bought at C2E2 2011

28 Mar

Here are pictures of everything I bought at C2E2 -minus the 2 pages of original comics art, and the 1 commissioned sketch that I purchased.

a pile of comics

a pile of comics and graphic novels

So far, I’ve read vol 14 of Blade of the Immortal, the Donald Duck comic, some of the Archie Comics, City of Glass, Haunted, and North World: Other Tales.  So, 6 out of 18 items.  Hopefully, I’ll have reviews of these comics on the site in a few days, If I don’t get too busy (or too lazy…) .

Comics Links for February

22 Feb

the inside of comix experience

So today, I thought I’d share some interesting links of things I’ve found around the comics blogosphere.

Over At Savage Critics, Comics retailer has a series of excellent posts from the ComicsPro retailer summit.  Here’s a quote I thought was especially good.

“A store needs to carry what their customers want, not what the internet intelligentsia says they “should”. This store, it seemed to me, was really really good at serving their Marvel and DC and gaming customers. The staff CLEARLY cared about what they were doing, and the store was a great example of how you do gaming and mainstream comics and MAKE CUSTOMERS HAPPY. Who cares what “artsnob967″ says on the internet? Who cares that <<booming voice>> BRIAN HIBBS wouldn’t find a lot of interest — you’re there to service the customers that come in, not the ones that don’t.”

That really served as a corrective to a lot of my thinking.  A lot of time, I judge a comics store by the selection of indie books they have, and by the logic and thinking that are revealed (or assumed by me) by the store’s layout and organization.  But it’s true: a store is there to serve the customers that come in, not the ones that don’t.  And its more important to serve the customers that are there, not the ones who might…  A business has to stay in business.  But maybe that’s why Borders really fueled the manga explosion back when Mixx Zine turned into Tokyopop, and it wasn’t the Direct Market that did it.   (Though to be fair, the Direct Market was there to support and service a much smaller version of anime and manga fandom in the years that preceded the “100% Authentic” $9.99 tankubon innovation)

http://www.savagecritic.com/brian/comicspro-11-cps-bus-ride-of-doom/

At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper-Carlson has a really interesting book of Bakuman, the story of 2 young friends trying to break into the manga industry.  (Bakuman is by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, the creators of Death Note.) She makes a point about this story being strikingly different than American comics about aspiring comics artists.  The main characters are focused on analyzing manga to see what sells, and do figure out what fans want to read about.  She contrasts this versus American comics about artist-characters drawing comics for the sheer love of it, and because the comic artist is dying to tell their story.  I think this is true, for the most point, though it is interesting to compare the subject matter of Bakuman (which I haven’t read, but would like to) to A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, which focuses mainly on manga-ka that do consider themselves “Artists with a capital A” and do have a very personal stake not only in their careers but in the stories they tell.  Of course, A Drifting Life is a less fictionalized memoir from a very different time in the world of manga.  (As a side-note, what are the key stories in the American aspiring-comic-creator genre?  Copybook Tales by J. Torres?  Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks? It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken by Seth?  Dan Pussey by Dan Clowes?  umm… Chasing Amy?)

http://comicsworthreading.com/2011/02/08/bakuman-book-3/

Finally, I though this interview with the talent behind the webcomic “Bucko” was very entertaining.  I remember reading a lot of interviews like this during the early days of my exposure to online comics fandom.

http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2011/02/talking-comics-with-tim-jeff-parker-erika-moen/

(The picture at the top is the Inside of Comix Experience, the store that Brian Hibbs runs, not the one he visits during the ComicsPro retreat.)