Friday, June 15, 2012
MANGA AND MONSTERS
Viz Media is known for bringing some of the best anime and manga to
the United States and, indeed, the world. By way of example, I’m
currently reading and thoroughly captivated by Slam Dunk, Takehiko
Inoue’s series about a high school basketball team. I finished
Vol. 15 [$9.99] just prior to writing this month’s column and was
on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Inoue will sometimes
devote an entire chapter to a minute or less of a tournament game
and the excitement never wanes. One of my favorite comics series,
Slam Dunk has no equal in the tragically limited field of American
Viz also publishes the occasional prose novel. Hiroshi Yamamoto’s
MM9 [$14.99] is made for a kaiju-loving fan like me. Translated by
Nathan Collins, this anthology-slash-novel features interconnected
stories of Japan’s Meteorological Agency Monsterological Measures
Department, government workers changed with protecting Japan from
“natural disasters” of monstrous mein. The Agency investigates all
monster reports, studies the creatures, rates the danger they pose,
and advises the military on how to deal with them. On a scale of
1 to Ieyeeee!, MM9 is way up there. With likeable heroes, scary
kaiju, and amusing nods to the giant monsters of the movies, MM9 is
great fun. As pastor of the First Church of Godzilla (Reform), I
recommend this book to all my readers...and if you wondering about
my recently-formed religion:
We believe and trust in the Great Scaly One who will always protect
us with his fiery atomic love. It can be a tough love at times -
what with the folly of man often making us our own worst enemies -
but it is a fair love that embraces all mankind. Because, when you
get right down to it, Republicans and Democrats, blacks and whites,
Arabs and Jews, all scream pretty much the same as they are being
squished beneath the feet of Lord Godzilla. He is a true unite-er.
Well, maybe not so much a unite-er as a mashing us together kind of
deity, but the dues are cheaper than Scientology.
If you’re planning a pilgrimage, I mean, a vacation to the Land of
Giant Monsters, you should first score a copy of The Monster Movie
Fan’s Guide to Japan by Armand Vaquer [$15]. My buddy Armand is as
knowledgeable about that country as he is about Godzilla and other
Japanese kaiju. In this self-published guide, he gives you all the
basic information you need for a Japanese trip and also takes you,
figuratively speaking, to the locations of destruction and mayhem
from Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe, King
Kong Escapes, and many other films. Side effects of reading this
guide will almost certainly include a desperate longing to travel
to Japan. Maybe someday.
For ordering information, e-mail Vaquer at:
One more review for today:
Black Images in the Comics: A Visual History by Fredrik Stromberg
[Fantagraphics; $19.99] was released in hardcover in 2003 and will
be released in a paperback edition this July. It’s a thoughtful,
often disturbing examination of how blacks were portrayed in comics
from the beginning of the 19th century to 2003, which is when the
hardcover was published.
An editor of Bild & Bubbla, Scandinavia’s oldest magazine about
comics and Chairman of the Swedish Comics Association. Stromberg’s
perceptions are decidedly European. In one of my few quibbles with
this book, he credits Swedish-produced Phantom comic books for the
more positive and realistic treatment of blacks in the comic strip.
However, this change for the better was born in stories written by
Phantom creator Lee Falk with the Swedes merely following his lead.
Point to the very American Falk.
Whatever my minor disagreements with Stromberg over his choices of
images and comments thereof - Is it some sort of unwritten law that
Will Eisner almost always gets a pass for how he portrayed Ebony in
the Spirit? Eisner’s claim that there was no other way he could’ve
portrayed a black boy in the 1940s is disproved by the black kids
who were fully equal partners in the Our Gang adventures written
and drawn by Walt Kelly for Dell Comics - Black Images demands to
be considered and studied seriously for insights of value to anyone
writing or drawing comics today. I may have read a library copy of
the hardcover, but I ordered the paperback to have the book close
at hand in the future.
Black Images in the Comics is a must-have for serious students of
the art form. I recommend it highly.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2012 Tony Isabella