Saturday, March 27, 2010


Long before Boom! Studios licensed their property on the Muppets, I was already vaguely aware of them via their short-lived comic strip, written and drawn by brothers Guy and Brad Gilchrist.

There’s not much I can’t say that’s already said in this wiki, but there’s a few notes I’ll point out for those of you too lazy to click on the link:

- It was the first comic strip to be syndicated in worldwide from the first day of publication.
- Because of that, jokes had to be universal, and puns couldn’t be used.
- As a result, the creators had to work twice as hard to make sure their material could be used and translated everywhere.

When it started out, it was very similar to the Muppet format, only showing the characters from the waist up...

But in future strips, they showed them in full profile from the waist down. (No naughty parts there)

Of course, this would be up to par Jim Henson’s workaholic tendency to ensure perfectionism from his beloved creations. It was this dedication that drove him to an early grave. While Tezuka was still striving to create more Mangas on his deathbed, Jim Henson drove himself into exhaustion from an infection that should never become that serious if he’d paid more attention to his health. In that sense, the two men aren’t that dissimilar. Both took a childish display and created it into something far beyond their original intentions.

Below are the first two comics in my collection, dating from April 25, 1982 and May 22, 1982, both concentrating on a certain theme. I have no idea if Gonzo tended to give predictions that drove Miss Piggy crazy in the daily strips, but it'd be fun if he did. They're the earliest comics I have, so asking me for anything before then is pointless. More on why later.

Since Boom! Studios seems to be doing well with their Muppet comics, it’s curious why they haven’t bothered to reprint these as well. Chalk this up as one of the more puzzling refusals of licenses to print money. It can't be a dignity thing - I'm banking on complete ignorance, since this ran from 1981-1986, and hardly anybody knows anything about this.

However, if asked about a Muppet comic that I fondly remember, I wouldn’t think of this comic strip. That honour goes to the Children’s book Muppets at Sea.

One of the Grade schools I stayed at had this book in a cupboard in their lunchroom, along with other books such as Johnny Crow's Garden, Snow White & Rose Red, a crazy French comic with Speed Racer overtones, and several Sunday comics that predated when I was born.

When I was transfered, I didn’t take those books with me, feeling that other students should have the chance to read them rather than selfishly steal them for myself. Now, having never seen those items again, I’m left with lingering regrets. I wouldn’t have taken the books, but I wish I’d taken the Sunday comics.

Even now, I have dreams where I go into dusky basements or Garage sales, and find stacks of old Sunday comics for my purchasing pleasure. And I'm always disappointed when I wake up.

As a parting shot, Fonzie gives an obvious answer to that eternal question: "Where do you get your ideas from?"

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Eleven Sequel

In liu of appreciation of Fantagraphics announcing their plans to publish Moto Hagio Manga, I thought I should show a few pages from the They Were Eleven sequel. I saved these images from the old Scans-Daily site before it was taken down.

For those of you who haven’t read the Manga, a good summary of the story (minus any obvious spoilers) can be found here:

There is however, one passage I disagree with:

Two of the characters in the story are species whose gender is not determined until adulthood. One of these, Frol, who is decidedly feminine in appearance (...), is taking the test because she will be allowed to become male if she passes, a privilege otherwise only granted to a family's oldest child. On Frol's planet, "men govern and women work," and becoming a woman would mean relinquishing all autonomy and joining the harem of the neighboring lord (eighteen years her senior), so it is understandable why she would want to instead take advantage of her society's male privilege and collect a harem of her own. (Emphasis mine)

Apart from the benefits that becoming a male would entitle, nowhere in the story does Frol ever display any enthusiasm for acquiring a harem of her own. That’s simply implying intent where there is none. What Frol really wants is the power to make her own choices, rather than have her choices made for her. And if she passes the test, that’ll give her legitimate claim to follow her own path. (However dubious that path turns out to be) If Frol seems “simple” as Melinda Beasi claims, then it’s more in part of her boisterous attitude during the introductions than anything else.

It’s also an apt metaphor for the misogynist attitude in Japan which tends to favor the male hierarchy. To be fair, the U.S. is hardly alone in this worldview. Hence the enduring popularity of gender-bender series such as Ranma ½, Your & My Secret, W Juliet, among many others too numerous to name.

I have no idea who scanned or translated this piece of comedic material, but my thanks go out to this anonymous contributor.

This may also be the only piece of scanlated Moto Hagio Manga out there, which is kind of sad if you think about it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Newspaper & Magazine Sentence Bre


Lately, there have been reports on the decline of Newspaper and Magazine sales. This is partly understandable since the internet has offered news content for free. But there might be another more subtle reason. Something I’ve often noticed in Continued on page A3

A2 Very often, this results in a rather jarring reading experience, where you have to continually skip past other irrelevent articles to get to the next sentence. Usually, you’ll have to keep the first few letters of the last paragraph in mind while trying to find the next section. And chances are, that the other articles are more likely to get your attention than the ne- Continued on page A5

A3 newspapers is the rather annoying trend of cutting off a sentence midway.

A4 SEX! Now that I’ve got your attention, see this ad for a sports car!

A5 -xt part of the paragraph. Even more annoying if it started a new sentence with a name of a person or country, requiring more work from the reader to put the pieces together. The news are complex enough as they are – what’s the point in making it even more complicated?

A9 I’ve noticed that it’s only American newspapers that have this annoying feature. In Canadian newspapers such as the Montreal Gazette, National Post and Globe & Mail, they have a much more sophisicated way of page breaks. Continued on page A12

A11 In magazines, it can be even worse. They’ll have the cover topic buried somewhere in the folds of the pages of the magazine. And chances are it’ll be only a few pages long before it continues onto another page further Continued on page A20

A12 They have their breaks with a completed sentence, and a page number for the next part. This allows better reading comprehension as well as letting the eye and mind wander through other articles that might seem interesting. And you can read the rest of the article without having to backtrack where the previous sentences Continued on page A22

A15 It’s not surprising that people are graviating towards internet articles, where even lengthy topics can be posted on a single page. Any annoying back & forth is diminished since they don’t have to end mid-sentence. Even if the article continues on another link, it’s easy to continue your train of thought as long as you avoid being distracted by other ads & news on the webpage.

A16 If worse comes to worse, you can just copy & paste the entire article onto a word document. (For those of you annoyed with the little inconsistencies in underlined links & text sizes, I reccomend pasting onto a wordpad, then copying the whole thing again. The only minus is any bolded or underlined words are normalized) That way, the amount of attention you need to focus is limited to just Continued on page A23

A20 within the magazine. And then it’ll continue on for another few paragraphs before it’ll be cut off a few sentences shy Continued on page A21

A21 of completion, and is grouped around one single page with other articles that

A22 were stopped short.

A23 one.

A24 page.

A25 What’s more perplexing are those articles that require you to turn back a Continued on page A24

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You beat me! Now let’s be friends!

It’s a common staple of fighting Mangas - the hero fights an intense battle against a powerful enemy over several issues. After the fight is won, the enemy may see the error of their ways, even going so far to join the hero’s cause. This might be because the former rival was very impressed with the hero, and the two of them become close friends.

This is something that happens more often in Manga than in American comics. Usually, Superhero villains remain villains for the sole purpose of having eternal arch rivals that can be marketed endlessly. The only exceptions I can think of are Piper and the Trickster from The Flash, Emma Frost from X-men, and to a lesser extent, Magneto. (Even though Magneto tended to switch sides more often than not, it was always more interesting when he was willing to push his values aside to assist the greater good)

As Jason Thompson put it in this essay, "Superheroes are descended from crime comics and battle manga are descended from sports." To push the analogy even further, S-hero comics are descended from Pulps, which could explain their recent descent into decadence. They’re just returning to their roots. But with sports, it’s different. Teamwork wins the day more than a lone star doing all the hard work himself. Unless a team which would normally fight together stands by the sidelines to stay out of a one-on-one fight because “That’s what a real man does!” More likely, it’s just easier to draw two people slugging it out than a full on melee.

The best exception I can think of is the StrawHat crew fighting against Oz in the Thriller Bark Saga. (Chapter 480) Likewise, the latest One Piece chapters have the kind of epic Avatar-like battles that would rival a multi-event comic in terms of how many things are going on.

Getting back to the mindset of Defeat means Friendship, it’s something that’s been part of Japan’s subconscious since the end of the war.

In the Ender’s Game series, it’s often mentioned that the point of war isn’t merely to defeat your enemies - its to completely destroy their ability to fight back. And that’s what happened to Japan at the end of World War 2. They were hit with the one-two punch of a Nuclear blast and then had an occupation force that forced democracy down their throats. This was also after they spent the last few centuries resisting outside Western influences. Now, faced with a crippling defeat, they had no choice but to embrace those values they once scorned.

It must have been schizophrenic rebuilding their country using their enemies’ nation as a skeleton template. It’s not surprising that they would feel some resentment towards their liberators as well as being in awe of them right down to imitating them. The most popular visuals from American action movies were skillfully integrated into their Manga pages to the point that they actually surpassed the originals.

They even went so far as to have nuclear blasts in the pages of their Mangas as a form of release. In Gerard Jones’ book Killing Monsters, children who go through a traumatic experience will often draw that disturbing scene multiple times. It’s a form of catharsis that’s easily misunderstood as being attracted to violence, when in fact, they’re trying to understand it better.

Just wait - in a decade or two, U.S. action movies will be able to handle the cool effect of planes crashing into buildings again.

I realize that this is an incredibly simplistic worldview of a foreign mindset of a country I’ve only glimpsed at in popular culture, but it was something I thought needed to be said. If anyone wants to post a rebuttal, be my guest.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Orson & Friends

Orson’s Place, also known as Orson’s Farm, better known as U.S. Acres. Has there ever been another comic strip that’s been renamed as often in its short shelf-life span?

Everybody knows about Garfield, the fat cat who’s second only to Peanuts in terms of licensing popularity. But not many know about the origins of the Pig who filled out the middle part of the popular Garfield & Friends cartoon.

I was probably one of a handful who knew beforehand where the mysterious farm critters came from. When the strip was originally being published, I was amazed when my Mom told me that it was done by the same artist as Garfield. In my mind, I was awestruck that such a popular cartoonist could afford the time and energy to do two comics at once and not suffer any quality in both. (I was very naive at the time, don’t hold it against me)

Bakuman it ain’t.

So I was completely flummoxified over who could possibly be Garfield’s friends, until it was revealed during the theme opening. I instantly recognized the Pig from that comic strip, and realized it was the perfect counterweight to Garfield, allowing the show to have more variety. It didn’t occur to me that the only reason Jim Davis created the strip was for merchandising reasons. (I was also less cynical back then too)

What a lot of people don’t remember was that Orson’s brothers were of varying colours. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the Sunday strip with Orson’s plaid pattern, as seen here. That’s the folly of casually keeping comics - you always think you’ll be able to remember what you’ve read long after it’s gone, only to realize that when you want to reread it, it’s no longer around. That’s probably what makes comic reprints so popular.

Likewise, this is the only colour version of the farmer girl who finds Orson. I always thought of her as being black, even when in the collected versions, there was no possible hint of her being so. Ah, the magic of colour-free bias.

Charlotte’s Web this ain’t.

This was also around the time I found out about the daily strips as well. I was introduced to them by my Mother who showed me the little tease of Orson feeling sorry for himself, wondering who’d rub his tummy, when he heard an off-screen voice saying (s)he’d rub his tummy. At the time, I was both euphoric and dismayed that there were more comics for my reading pleasure, and that I’d never known until now. Because this discovery came too late in my life, and there were other strips whose beginnings I’d similarly missed, I didn’t opt to save the dailies in the same way I saved the Sundays. At times, I kind of regret it now. But then I look at what the comics page has recently evolved into, and I don’t regret it as much as I thought I would.

The only strip collection I ever saw in person was the 3rd book, and that was at an airport bookstore. But I didn’t purchase it for two reasons - 1. The other books weren’t available, and 2. The Sunday comics weren’t complete with the throwaway panels, which I greatly enjoyed. Lack of coin in my pocket was also a contributing 3rd reason, as well as lack of time if you want to get technical about it.

Unlike the Heathcliff, Marmaduke and Orbit strips which put little factoids at the end of their strips, Orson’s Place put these anecdotes right after the title panel.

Although finding the strip collections was an ordeal, smaller book collections of the strips were easier to find, as well as large self-contained stories published by Bantam Books. You were more likely to encounter the elusive Cody & Blue in the larger books. When I first saw them, I had no idea where they’d come from until I saw a reprint of their introduction. I’m only just beginning to regret giving away the strip collections after I no longer wanted to read them again. The only title I can remember was, “I Wasn't Hatched Yesterday”.

One detail I always liked about Wade was that his inner tube had the same facial expression as his face. A minor detail that was left out of the cartoon - the tube would have the same expression, but wouldn’t open its mouth. It annoyed me a little, but I can kind of understand the reasons for doing that - less work for the animators to synchronize twin ducks, one smaller than the other.

Fun but useless Fact: when I first saw Wade’s explaination for his inner tube, I mistakenly read it as “Because you’ll never know.” I took Orson's response as a suspenseful mystery that would never get solved. It drove me nuts not knowing why, and was one of the reasons I kept reading the strip in hopes for an explaination that never came. When I finally reread the strip in question, it was something of a letdown.

Around the time I was reading the dailies, I came upon this strip where Wade approached a mysterious creature in a tree stump. With my past experience of comics, I thought the secret would be revealed the very next day. So upon reading the Sunday comic, I immediately thought the thing in the tree was the cow in the Fun Farm Facts panel. Even easier to mistake for, since the pig there looked exactly like Orson. (Sorry for the bad colouring job - blame the Gazette for that) Though because of the lousy colours, I thought the cow was taking up the whole background in that panel. If the reality is different, I’m not sure I really want to know. (I also thought the motor near the hay machine was a tiny man, but that’s neither here nor there)

Near the end of the strip’s run, the number of Fun Farm Facts (would’ve been named Faqs today) had reached 161. If we include the remaining 8 Sundays, the total comes out to 169 weeks. That comes out to just a little over three years of strips, even without the last four weeks of dailies.

So what’s stopping Jim Davis from putting out an omnibus collection of all the U.S. Acres strips? It’s not like he’d be losing any money over that would he?

Well, it might be a little more complicated than that. Near the end of its run, it was obvious that it was being ghost-drawn by another artist, given how cartoony the characters looked, and the extra name at the bottom. Giving the rights of a licensing fee to everyone involved, as well as making sure the wages were fairly distributed (and we all know how fair the world of comics publishing is) there’s a large chance that Jim Davis is just waiting for his assistant, Brett Koth to die off so he won’t have to share any of his hard-earned money.

Well, that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

Of course, the more plausible explanation is that despite its appearance opposite Garfield, it was never that popular to begin with. Bill Watterson even said that it was an abomination to intelligence. Oh well, different strokes for different folks.

For more comics not seen here, go to this site for more. There's also some 35 books left on sale for anyone interested enough to splurge their money on. Of course, they'll still be the Black & White versions of the Sundays. Caveat Emptor.

If there are any among you willing to make a stink for colour versions of the Sundays, now's the time. I think Jim Davis' e-mail address is lying around somewhere.

This is the closest Jim Davis came to showing he was the same artist on Garfield, and this was almost a year in the strip’s run. The boy’s mother looks suspiciously like Liz, Jon’s favorite vet. However, the lousy colouring job makes her look more like an extra from The Simpsons. Of course, since this was published before the TV show aired, and only appeared in one solitary panel, there’s little to no chance of plagiarization here. Though it would be interesting to see a Simpsons’ version of Garfield, and vice-versa. (Back when they were at their creative peaks I mean) After all, they both have the same kind of bug-eyes, only Garfield keeps his half-closed. (more like 9/10ths closed considering how large his eyes are)

Something else I just realized - although the main strip featured farm animals, the Farm Facts panel was the only place where you could regularly see humans, even though they dropped out of existence once the girl brought the pig home. And a lot of them were very different from stock Garfield characters.

There's a bunch of other Sundays I haven't put up here. I just posted what I thought were the funniest or interesting ones. It'd be unfair of me to show favoritism towards a single strip when there are plenty of obscure ones starving for attention. You want more? Go bug Jim Davis. Make him realize there's an untapped audience out there.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Moto Hagio... FINALLY

Earlier this week, Fantagraphics had been secretly gathering material for their planned Manga line, when their earlier ventures into Japanese comics were generally regulated to Independent & Porn comics. (Fun fact - their Eros line was their most profitable line of publishing that kept them afloat before the Peanuts reprints put them in the black indefinitely) The annoucnement was originally going to be shown on AnimeNewsNetwork earlier this week, before Amazon revealed their intentions one day early.

The overall response was such that the moderator Dirk Deppey declined going to the hospital in order to give enough feedback on his most heavily guarded secret project. After all, as he said, “Four years is a hell of a long time to keep a secret.”

This is the kind of news I’ve been going to Manga news sites for years in anticipation for. In addition to being one of the founders of Shojo Manga, Hagio is also an accomplished Sci-Fi writer. I’ve been curious about seeing more of Moto Hagio’s works ever since I read A,A’ Prime years ago. A,A’ Prime is a collection of three short stories about a genetically created race of “Unicorns” with Spock-like Aspergian traits. The difference is, emotion plays a higher role with these Unicorns, even with the abscence of emotion. The ways the Unicorns display their feelings tend to be disproportionate to the people around them.

The only other story of hers I read was her classic space mystery, They Were Eleven. I first found it when I was trying fuel my Manga cravings in the late 90s, and found the first three issues in a comic bargain bin - cheap. It was made even more effective, since the 3rd issue ended on an awful cliffhanger. But it gave me the chance to reread the story, and try to figure out who the "11'th" was. After I was done, I'd limited the suspects to two people, and was pleasantly surprised when upon finding the elusive 4th issue, that my deductions were spot on.

I was greatly disappointed when Vertical made their foray into old-school Shojo with their subpar Toward the Terra, which I found difficult to warm up to, despite this awesome preview of the series. It might have been the lukewarm reaction that made Vertical reluctant to continue pushing Keiko Takemiya Mangas. On the plus side, we got Seinin Mangas from Tezuka, including the inimitable Black Jack, so it’s not all bad news there. Just general disappointment.

As enthusiastic as I am about Fantagraphics Manga lineup, I think they’ve miscalculated the length of the book. Their total comes to 228 pages, and mine come out to 249 pages. Unless one of those stories is going to be left out, they should issue a correction soon.

In the words of Frederik L. Schodt in the introduction to Tezuka’s Adolf (the first translated Tezuka Manga), it’s about time. Although Tezuka eventually got some recognization, Moto Hagio always seemed to be the forgotten sister to Tezuka's star - a sun that shone so brightly that it blinded other sources of light. Rather fitting that her first foray in the Comics Journal 269 was the ambitious Hanshin. In that short story, she covers conjoined twins, favoritism, and survivor’s guilt - all in the span of a mere 16 pages.

For those curious, you can read the whole story here:

If she can manage that kind of emotional punch with such a small frame, then her larger works must surely be major masterpieces. And then, maybe finally I’ll be able to see what the big fuss is about the Song of Wind & Trees. Myself, I'm more curious about The Poe Family, about a family of eternally young vampires. Unlike the popular image of highly-sexualized versions of vampires, the Poe Clan focuses on a hundreds-year old prepubescent boy who can never be an adult, and thus, has no concept of sex, since he's unable to experience puberty.

I'm not alone in this. David Welsh is at a loss of choice in deciding which Haigo titles he'd want to pick up. Given the chance, I'd just as easily snatch all of them up, given than apart from Candy Candy, Rose of Versailes and The Glass Mask, old-school Mangas aren't scanlated as much as the later stuff. Hopefully, with Moto Haigo's work, that might change...

Thursday, March 4, 2010


In my last Sunday comic post, I mentioned that Bruce Hammond went on to create a Sci-if comic strip. That strip was Orbit.

The cast is generally made up of the titular Orbit, a shoeshiner, the German Scientist Dr. Valvelock and their dog Tyrone, whose facial expressions are very close to a certain harried office worker. It’s no great exaggeration to say that Tyrone is basically Duffy's face in a dog suit.

I always enjoyed reading Dr. Valvelock’s mangled english.

It didn’t take long before Bruce Hammond took a little well-known “shortcut” in his Sunday strips. In strips such as Heathcliff or Marmaduke, the place where the last panel would normally be would be filled with funny pet stories about someone’s cat or dog. (No points for guessing which strip have which animals) In the case of Orbit, the last panel would have coded messages unlockable only with an “Orbiteer Galactic Decoder”, available for only $1.50. Or alternately, a good cryptographer, since the cipher’s not that complex. It’s just one letter numerically removed from the alphabet. I was able to solve it some years ago, but I won’t deprive you of the fun of trying to figure it out for yourselves.

Like any typical Sci-if story, their adventures took them to various planets with a certain theme. They would stay there for several weeks before moving on to their next destination, while cracking childish jokes. As you might’ve guessed, this is much lighter fare than Duffy. Still, I enjoyed it as a kid, and there are some people out there who have fond memories of this comic.

The strip must've either been picking up popularity or in big trouble since only a few months after its debut, there were commissions for a club membership. This would come in handy for the later days of the strip. More on this later.

So, given that it was a childish comic with awful jokes, why do I like it so much? Probably because of the fantastic drawings of aliens & space. Not to mention the character design of Orbit was very appealing. It’s like an early version of Bone on the comics page, only with a smaller nose. That, and the storylines that would continue on for weeks. The most popular kind of comic stories are those that are serial in nature, and Orbit had this in spades. Before Bill Watterson revealed that synchronizing the Dailies and Sundays was an elaborate task, I thought it was perfectly natural, since it happened in Garfield, Bloom County and Orson’s Place.

Truely, the 80s were a golden age revival of Newspaper comics.

A general rule of thumb for a love interest is that the girl is basically the boy dressed in drag with feminine attributes. (Seriously, Minnie Mouse is just Mickey with lipstick & a dress)

Likewise, it’s not unusual for the love interest to be of the same species as the hero. Think StarFox & Krysta, Bernard & Mrs. Bianca... Disney’s Robin Hood... hell, any Disney Movie with animals in it will do. In fact, the only normal inter-species romance I can think of is Kermit & Miss Piggy. And even that’s pushing it, since the love seems to be rather one-sided.

There's not much I know about Apogee from her brief appearances other than that she and Orbit get along well, and they make a cute couple. For the less verbose among you (myself included) an Apogee is the point at which a satellite in an elliptical orbit is furthest from the Earth. At its apogee, the satellite travels slower than at any other point in its orbit.

If a rival were ever to appear, his name would probably be Perigee.

I’m really sorry that I didn’t get to save the daily comics when I had the chance. If I had known there were more comics in the newspaper other than the ones in colour, I might’ve saved those, and been able to fill in the blanks of what happened.

Or maybe not. There’s no way to tell.

This would rank up with one of the most humilating defeats in comics, second only to Gorilla Grodd being defeated by the mere mention of cupcakes.

At the end of the storyline, we see the obvious fallacy of obvious pairings. Poor Tyrone is left with his mirror image all decked out in heavy makeup and absolutely no sex appeal. Given his self-image, is it any wonder he felt no affection for his Rule 63 version of himself?

This marked the end of the high point for Orbit. After that, it seemed like all the ambition fell away, since future Sunday strips were regulated to solitary one-panel jokes that lacked the punch of the earlier strips. Not to mention that there were Sundays where there were only children’s art of various aliens sent from the fan club. Unsurprisingly enough, Orbit faded from the newspaper leaving only a nostalgic memory on the people who read it.

It probably says something that the series started to suffer when Apogee no longer appeared after this storyline.

Making sense of This & That

In my last post, I talked about taking That and That and That and... you get the point. I’d like to talk about the very first time I saw that reference. It’s what I think of everytime I read it.

Like most children who first read comics, I paid attention to the pictures rather than the words. In this instance, I was stumped as to why the scale went from being broken to suddenly fixed again. In my mind, I interpreted this as the fat woman (Blanche) doing her best to break the scale, then looking shocked at it suddenly returning to normal. This led her to do some rigorous dancing with torturous music. When that didn’t work, she then wrote a polite letter declining her ability to break the machine properly.

If you only read comics for the pictures, this is the kind of inventive thinking that goes on in your head to try to interpret what’s going on. I had no concept of the throw-away panels at the time.

When Blanche was doing her split, what I thought the lyrics to the music was saying was “And do it all over the world.” Even now that I know what it really says, I still think of that panel with those lines.

Ironically enough, when I read an Archie comic that was naturally silent, I implanted conversations the characters had just by their body language alone. When I was able to read and went back to that comic, I was surprised to find out that there were no words there at all.

There’s a common misconception that teachers of Deaf students have - they believe that Deaf children should learn how to talk before they can read. This is completely backwards for someone who can’t hear. Yes, language is an essential part of growing up, but it has to be in a form that the child can understand. It’s an easy misconception, since hearing people are so ingrained in their usual habits that they can’t possibly conceive an alternate way of communication. For me, I practically grew up reading comics. If I was shown a nice shiny apple, I would pay no attention to it. But if I was shown a grocery ad about apples, I would get all excited about them.

There’s a woman in Alan Moore’s Top Ten series I’d like to talk about briefly. In the world of Top Ten, everyone in the world has a Super Power, and it focuses on a police team who monitor the going-ons in the world and try to keep the general populace safe. One of the members, Wanda Jackson is synaesthetic. In her case, her ability allows her to convert smells to music.

This was a concept I identified with since whenever I read comics, I always converted the words to pictures, and the pictures to sound. For a long time, I thought everyone else was able to do this naturally. It wasn’t until I read a book that dealt with conflicting personal realities that not everyone else might think the same way I do. I asked around, and apparently, I’m unique in this regard.

It’s why I have such a hard time reading old American Superhero comics. When I distill their images to pure sound, it’s a constant PMM tt tt PMM tt tt PMM tt tt PMM. Each PMM is the action scene, and the tt’s are the intervals in between. It might work well in the short form, but when a lot of these old-school comics are collected, it comes out as repetitive noise. For people who thrive on consistency, Superhero comics are a form of comfort food. But I can’t live on one unvarying tone forever. I need other sounds to keep me interested.

It would be too complicated to accurately describe the sense I get when I read certain comics, so I’ll generalize. Newspaper comics are catchy jingles. European comics are concerts. British comics are Jazz. Shojo Mangas are Lullabies. Shonen Mangas are Punk Rock. Josei Mangas are the Blues. Seinin Mangas are Gritty. (I couldn't find a general noise that could be described as Noir - Gritty is the closest I can get)

What kind of music do you feel when you read comics? I'm not asking what music you like to play in the background, but when you look at the pictures, what sounds do they convey to you?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Take That and That and That and That and...

You know how in DragonBall, the fighters would fire multiple energy shots at the enemy, only when after the dust clears, the opponent would be shown to be totally unaffected? It’s become a common staple in Shonen Manga / Anime to give a sense of how powerful the enemy was. John Byrne referred to this kind of thing as showing the power difference during his She-Hulk run. That’s where a usually strong hero gets pounded down when first meeting a new enemy to get a sense of how outmatched they are, before the hero finally bounces back and succeeds at defeating the enemy. To be fair, this happens to Spider-Man a lot too.

Well, a more interesting inversion of this would be someone who has dozens of energy shots fired at someone, only for that person to dodge them all? That’s the definition of shooter games where you generally have to avoid multiple bullets from the enemy ships, as well as dodging gunships, honking big laser beams and the boss transforming into something with more gun turrets that it was hiding just in case a tiny airplane with no means of refuelling its unlimited ammunition just happened to be pounding away at its defenses.

Of course, this would regulate the opponent as being a boring unhittable villain, or a One-hit point wonder. Of course, since this would be a Shonen trope anyways, they would still be able to stand up even if every bone in their body was shattered to dust and their heart was pumping pure acid. Just so long as they still have the desire to continue to fight for their lovers, friends and the will to live, despite all medical evidence that they should’ve died, oh say, 5 minutes ago. It certainly would’ve saved them from the pain of desperately flinging that last desperate punch that will surely(?) bring peace to the world for centuries to come. (Or at least until the next unstoppable force comes along to threaten everything again)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Here, Catch!

In McCloud's book, Reinventing comics, he talks about how people in one genre, say Superheros take elements they've used often in other comics - even if those scenes don't quite make sense.

There's a common scenario in Manga, where someone throws something, say a can of juice at his friend, and the other guy catches it.

I thought of this when I read Jiro Taniguchi’s Summit of the Gods book. For the uninitiated, Jiro Taniguchi is a master of realistic (if slightly stiff) Manga characters & backgrounds. Early on, there's a scene where someone throws a pickaxe at his friend, and his friend catches it.

It's a quick scene, and helps move the action along. But logically, it makes no sense. Obviously if you throw something that dangerous at someone, they'll likely be injured or die. That's why I read so many comics, including the bad ones - I try to take what works, and what doesn't.