Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ottawa's First ComicCon

I can finally say that I've been to a Comic Con. It was one of those things on my bucket list, that I didn't see happening any time soon. Planning and travel is hard to do with children. Then the impossible happened: Comic Con came to me! Wow, what an unexpected surprise. It's all thanks to the new CE Center that opened in January; finally the city has a venue that can handle large scale events (though some are already saying it still isn't big enough). 

Ottawa scored some big names at its Comic Con debut: William Shatner, Brent Spiner, John De Lancie, and Marina Sirtis.What more could a Trekkie ask for? (yes well, we did have Patrick Stewart but he had to pull out last minute). For the anime fans there was Vic Mignogna, the voice actor for Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist, as well as a few panel discussions about new anime this season and manga but they were held en franรงais. Like TCAF there were lots of things to explore. I spent most of my time in artist alley. It was a great opportunity to meet and see local creators. It made me very happy to see that there were so many. I'm going to be busy checking out their work.

By most accounts, Ottawa’s first ever Comic Con was a success with sell out attendance. The line ups were loooong but the crowd was happy. It felt really great to be among people who shared a common interest. Here are some attendee pictures:

The Incredibly Long Line-up to get in. 
He caught his bounty!
Call Naruto, the Akatsuki is here!

Boba Fett vs a Stormtrooper, and a guy from the Enterprise!

Hmm, I spy Luigi, a Star Wars girl, FMA's Mustang and Darthmau5?!

Ahh, Darthmau5 has a cute family, just look at Princess Leia

Scott Pilgrim's Ramona!

The ordered chaos inside.
A random famous car... just kidding. I always loved the
Starsky & Hutch Ford Gran Torino.

Monday, May 14, 2012

TCAF and Swag

Hah, I bet you thought I had abandoned this blog! That’s not exactly what happened. It turns out that I can only concentrate on a few things at once so unfortunately this got put on the back burner, although the reading never stopped. Compounding the problem was the demise of my computer,which made long-form typing next to impossible. Now that it’s all rectified, I thought I’d share with you my experiences at a couple of events I was lucky enough to attend for the first time.

First up was TCAF (Toronto Comics Art Festival), presented by the Toronto Public Library.  This is a huge event that attracts hundreds of creators from all over the world.  This was a particularly exciting event for me, because the creators of many of the books that adorn my shelves were in attendance. I had never seen an event like this before so I wasn’t sure what to expect.I really wanted to take in everything but that wasn’t possible, so I had to pick and choose what I saw.

Comic and Music with Kid Koala, Bryan Lee O'Malley and Arne Bellstorf
There were so many interesting panel discussions being held at TCAF, choosing was a difficult.  Here’s what I decided on: Behind the Scenes at a NYC Publisher, Comics & Music, Making Manga in North America and Younen Manga- Japanese 
Comics for Kids with Konami Kanata.  The panels were very interesting.I love hearing about people’s creative process as well as how they successfully found publishers. If time permits I may post a more detailed account of the panels in a future blog post.

The majority of my time a TCAF was spent in the exhibition hall being a bit of a ‘fan girl’.  I went around trying to get a glimpse of my favourite creators. I did so successfully with only a couple of misses. Most notable was Svetlana Chmakova (Night School), who I couldn’t find although I know she was there.Oh well, next time. 

Some of the highlights for me:  watching Faith Erin Hicks do a little sketch and inking in her “Just the Usual Superpowers” book, talking to Angela Melick about the tools she uses to make her “Wasted Talent” webcomic, and 

meeting RainaTelgemeiercreator of “Smile” and buying a piece of original line art from her. I was super excited to meet Kazu Kibuishi,the creator of the “Amulet” series (my go to books series for kids).  I also got to see Bryan Lee O’Malley  ofthe“Scott Pligrim” series on a couple of panel discussions,but I didn’t get his autograph.
 Lastly, both my kids and I were very happy to meet Konami Kanata of “Chi’s Sweet Home”. I was especially proud of my daughter who presented a picture she drew to Konami Kanata.

For me TCAF was dazzling. I’m glad I went and I hope to go again next year and take in more panel discussions.

Next time I’ll talk about Ottawa’s first ever Comic Con.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Plucked From The Pile: La Quinta Camera, Twin Spica and A Drifting Life

La Quinta Camera: The Fifth RoomLa Quinta Camera: The Fifth Room by Natsume Ono: This is another appealing story by the author of Not Simple and House of Five Leaves. This stand alone volume follows the experience of a student, Charlotte, from Denmark, who comes to Italy to study at a language school. Charlotte’s arrival in Italy gets off to a disastrous start after she leaves her bag the truck she hitches a ride in. After finding no help at the police station and running into some unfriendly locals, she was left feeling really down. A street performer helps her out of her doldrums by making her sing with him in order to make some money and then introduces her to a friendly restaurant. 
Charlotte’s bad luck continues when she finds out that the language school mixed-up her accommodations and had her staying at an apartment with four middle-aged men.  When things couldn’t have gotten worse her luck starts to turn around. Also residing at the apartment is the street performer former and the restaurant owner, as well as the unfriendly man she ran into earlier (who turns out not to be so bad), and the truck driver who still had her bag. This is the beginning of the friendship between Charlotte and these four very interesting characters.
I always enjoy Natsume Ono’s work; the stories are never predictable and include interesting international backdrops along with her very unique artwork.
La Quinta Camera by Natsume Ono is published by Viz Signature under Ikki Comix.

Twin Spica, Volume: 01Twin Spica Vol. 1&2 by Kou Yaginamai: This is one of those series where many people raved about it, but I found it surprisingly difficult to get my hands on it.  Anyway I finally found the first two volumes.
Emotions run deep in this series. On the surface this story is about thirteen year old Asumi Kamogawa, who has a lifelong dream to be an astronaut. She moves closer to her dreams when she is accepted by the Tokyo Space School. However, the backdrop of the story is one of tragedy. Twelve years earlier there was a mishap that sends the first Japanese-made spacecraft, the Lion, crashing down in the middle of a city, killing and injuring many civilians. Asumi, being one year old at the time, has no direct recollection of the accident that took her mother’s life and father’s career, but on a subconscious level it has had a profound effect. She “sees” a ghost, Mr. Lion, who becomes a sort of imaginary friend and confidant.  
Twin Spica, Volume: 02The story flips between the present and the past as Asumi starts to piece together what has happened in her past and what her true motivation for wanting to be close to the stars may be.There are many obstacles in her way of achieving her goal as well as many people who are still healing from that terrible day.
It is also important to note that this story is told as a “future history” as it takes place in 2023. I will hopefully have the opportunity to read more of this series.
So far nine volumes have been released with volume 10 coming out in November.
Twin Spica is by Kou Yaginuma and is published by Vertical.

A Drifting LifeYoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life: This whopping 834-page book I came across at the book store for the bargain price of $8.00, a deal I just couldn’t pass up. This book turned out to be a fascinating look at the history of Manga as it developed in the 1940 and 50’s. Despite the author changing the name of the main character in the story, this is an autobiographical account of Tatsumi’s  life as a manga artist. The book reveals  a little of the history of manga from its four-panel cousin that featured in magazines which allowed submissions from the public to the longer form books. He talked about the popularity of Manga rental shops where you would pay a flat fee to read any three books (reminds me of some of the digital publishing concepts now being used by organizations like JManga).
I learned about the influence of American books and Movies and the power of Osamu Tezuka had on the Mangaka of the time. A Drifting Life also gives a glimpse into the manga making process and the ever changing Japanese publishing industry.  
All in all an interesting read that gave me some historical perspective on what manga is to Japan.
A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi is published by Drawn and Quarterly.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Plucked From The Pile: Sailor Moon, Fullmetal Alchemist, Vampire Knight, Bakuman and Emma

I missed posting last couple of weeks. Being busy left me little time for blogging. I am also still being plagued by computer problems. All excuses, I know. 
On a different note I recently took part in a full day workshop on how to use Copic markers, the marker used by many Mangaka. It was pretty eye-opening and I now look at the cover art of my manga with a new perspective. I can also proudly say that I am now Copic Certified and can display the logo on my blog. Perhaps I can find a way to incorporate that knowledge into my blog. We shall see. 
Anyway, enough about me, on with the books:

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 1
Sailor Moon: Pretty Guardian Vol. 1:  It may be hard to believe, but until now I have never read or watched Sailor Moon. Oh sure, I was well aware of the Sailor Moon craze in the nineties but I was more into music than reading or watching cartoons. Several people have told me that the cat I draw, Muss, reminded them of Luna, a character from SM. When it was announced that Kodansha Comics was going to re-release this series, I had to check it out. 
Reading this first volume really cleared up a lot of things for me as far as what was SM was all about. I can see why this one was chosen to bring to North America as it kind of  has a super hero quality, with Sailor Moon and her team going up against adversaries in a quest to find the grey crystal and save the princess and, I am guessing, the world. There is much I could say about this book, but suffice to say I am glad to have the mystery of what Sailor Moon is resolved. I’m not yet sure if I’ll read more of it.
Sailor Moon: Pretty Guardian Vol. 1 is by Naoko Takeuchi and is published by Kondansha Comics

Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 26 (Fullmetal Alchemist, #26)Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 26: Only one more volume left! I’m sad to see it end.  Fullmetal did for me what Sailor Moon did for others; it introduced me to the whole genre of Manga and Anime.

In this volume we see the final plan of the one referred to as “father” come to fruition. A scary moment comes to pass when all the people of Amestris , including Winery are turned into philosophers stones. If you are following this series, I don’t want to give too much away by going into details but this is a definitely a series to be reading. Sadly the last volume is out in December.
Fullmetal Alchemist is by Hiromu Arakawa and is published by Viz Media
Vampire Knight 13Vampire Knight Vol. 13: This series was feeling a little lost after the major story arc ended in Vol. 10. Volume Thirteen finally establishes the new storyline. It includes a surprising revelation which actually makes me feel a bit better about the relationship between Kaname and Yuki. Now that the story has taken an interesting new direction I can continue following the series.
One of the things I have always enjoyed about Vampire Knight is the interesting way that Matsuri Hino constructs her panels.  They are always on angles and often look like shattered glass, which really helps create a dream-like atmosphere.
Vampire Knight is by Matsuri Hino and is published by Viz Media under Shojo Beat.
Bakuman., Vol. 7Bakuman₀ 7: This volume sees Mashiro and Takagi struggling to come up with new stories after the popularity of their series Trap plummets in the ratings following a hiatus. This was another fun volume. I always enjoy the way the characters strategise to come up with the best story to succeed in Jump. I admit that this is a less romantic notion of story writing. Instead of stories being created by some sort of divine inspiration it is made to look more like it is carefully crafted to be successful and appeal to a particular audience. I have a feeling that there is much truth in this writing process. It would certainly explain why there are so many formulaic stories and movies on the market. I really like this slice of life style genre of manga. I would like to read more of them and would appreciate some suggestions. The only other one I read is Bunny Drop.
Bakuman₀ story is written by Tsugumi Ohba and art is by Takeshi Obata. It is published by Viz Media under Shonen Jump.

Emma, Volume 3 Emma Vol. 3 & 4: I said I wasn’t going to continue reading this series because it is no longer in print and the library’s collection is incomplete but I just couldn’t resist. Volume 2 ended on such a sad note after Emma, a maid, is forced to return to her home town after the Lady she was working for passes away and William tries desperately to find her to no avail. This left me feeling unsatisfied, with too many unanswered questions, so I borrowed the next two volumes. Volume 3 has both Emma and William getting on with their lives apart. Emma finds a job working for a German family as part of a large staff.  William on the other hand, starts to take the family business seriously by meeting with his father’s expectations.
Emma, Volume 4It isn’t until the very end of Volume 4 when a series of coincidents bring William and Emma back together. I may never know what happens from here, but I am satisfied that volume 4 ends at a point where I can imagine that they live happily ever after.
I am looking forward to reading the next volume of Kaoru Mori’s A Bride’s Story that comes out this month.
Emma by Kaoru Mori is published by CMX

These are just some of the things I read this past two weeks. October is another heavy month for new releases, making a potentially expensive month. As a result I am going to have to choose carefully and wait patiently for others.
Which Manga releases are you hoping to buy this month?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Series Review: Genkaku Picasso by Usamaru Furuya

Genkaku Picasso, Vol. 1Genkaku  Picasso by Usamaru Furuya is a fascinating and often creepy tale of a young boy named Hikaru Hamura, nicknamed Picasso, who after being involved in a horrific accident gained the ability to draw what lies in people’s heart. The plot may sound simple, but it is quite the psychological journey. What lies in the hearts of  Hikaru’s classmates are some pretty complex issues such as food phobias, gender identity, sibling rivalry, self identity, suicide attempts, obsession, dysfunctional family life and more. Hikaru is compelled to help his classmates by a dead friend turned angel in order to prevent himself from rotting away. Not easy for Hikaru as he is very much a loner, who prefers to spend his time drawing. However, each time he helps a student, he gains a friend. This becomes important as the series moves forward and we discover it’s really Hikaru himself who needs to be saved.
Genkaku Picasso, Vol. 2The artwork in this series stands apart from other manga. Furuya’s style of shiny black blazers and tinted lips are present in this series as it is in Lychee Light Club (who make a cameo) but this series showcases some incredibly detailed pencil drawings. These drawings represent Picasso’s sketchbook as he draws people ‘hearts’. The images are surreal, representing a puzzle that needs to be solved in order to help the person whose insight is being depicted.
Genkaku Picasso, Vol. 3There is so much I could say about this series, but suffice to say that Furuya’s not afraid to look at the dark places of the human psyche. As disturbing it can be at times, results is a story with substance that will stay with you long after you finish reading it.
Genkaku Picasso by Usamaru Furuya is published by Viz Media under Shonen Jump. This three volume series is rated for older teens. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Plucked From The Pile: Emma, House of Five Leaves and Soul Eater

Emma, Vol. 1Emma Vol. 1 & 2 by Kaoru Mori: After reading A Bride’s Story and being blown away with Kaoru Mori’s artwork, several fellow bloggers made references to  her previous work, Emma. It is published under the now defunct DC Comics imprint CMX, but happily I was able to find some of the series at the library. Mori’s artwork is as meticulous as ever as she brings to life Victorian England.
Emma: Vol. 2Emma is a story about a young girl who grew-up on the streets and now works as a maid. She meets the son of a wealthy family, William, and as all these type of stories go, the relationship is forbidden due to their differences in class. It's a simple and common plot line but the characters are interesting and by the end of Vol. 2 it’s uncertain where the story will go. I would love to get into this series but as it’s out of print I’m afraid of never being able to find out how it ends.
Emma by Kaoru Mori was published by CMX but is now out of print. There are ten volumes in all.

House of Five Leaves, Vol. 3House of Five Leaves Vol. 3 by Natsume Ono:  I found myself a little confused in the beginning of this book, perhaps because too much time passed since I read the previous volume, or maybe because I have been watching the anime version, which is similar but not quite the same as the books.
When fellow Leaves member, Matsu, is kidnapped, Masa goes undercover to help free him. Masa finds himself to be an integral member of the House of Five Leaves, whether he wanted to or not.  It also appears that his new acquaintance, Yagi, is a police officer and he must operate carefully to protect the other members. Masa’s sister also pays a an unexpected visit.
House of Five Leaves by Natsume Ono is published by Viz Signature under IKKI Comix. Vol. 4 is set to be released later this month.

Soul Eater, Vol. 6 (Soul Eater, #6)Soul Eater Vol. 6 by Atsushi Ohkubo: This volume is all action as the story reaches its pinnacle with a showdown between Medusa and the DWMA, as she tries to execute her nefarious plan to use the black blood to revive the Kishin that lies beneath the DWMA. Each DWMA team has an adversary to defeat as they race through the underground maze that lead to the Kishin’s Shrine. What will happen now that the madness has been released? Interesting scenarios, likable characters and lots of humour make this series work.
Soul Eater by Atushi Ohkubo is published by Yen Press. Next volume released in October.
That’s last week’s pile. What did you read this week?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

More From the Pile: Black Butler, Blue Exorcist, Nura and Bakuman

I finally made a dent in my “to read” pile. Things are looking a lot more reasonable now.  I ran into a computer glitch last week, and while it appears to be resolved for now, somehow I think the inevitable will happen soon and I’ll have to replace my computer. So while things are running this is what I plucked from the pile this week:

Black Butler, Vol. 6Black Butler Vol. 6: Thankfully it’s at the start of a new story arc and I was glad to have the story back on track. In this volume Ciel is sent to investigate the disappearance of several children. None of the children have come up dead so the focus turns to a circus that happens to be in town. Naturally Ciel and  his butler, Sebastian, must join the circus to investigate. They soon find out that they are not the only ones searching for answers as they meet up with the Grim Reaper. Readers find out a little more about the Reaper’s role as well a few hints of Sebastian’s devilish intentions.
Black Butler Vol. 6 by Yana Toboso is published by Yen Press, and the next volume is set to be released late October.

Blue Exorcist, Volume 3Blue Exorcist 3: The first part of this volume is the story about Father Fujimoto’s familiar demon cat named Kuro. Learning of Fujimoto’s death leads Kuro to turn wild. Rin and Yukio, armed with a special weapon left to Yukio by the Father, arrive to diffuse the situation. For the first time we see that Rin has the ability to hear and communicate with demons.
In the rest of this volume we learn a little more about Amaimon , the King of Earth, when he tests Rin’s abilities by stealing the Koma sword. There is some kind of plan between Amaimon and Mephisto Pheles but we don’t know if it is for good or evil. 
A new character, Shura Kirigakur, is introduced. She is a Knight and a senior exorcist first class who seems to be against wearing clothes. Shura had been working undercover at the school, keeping her eye on Rin, but revealed her presence after Amaimon’s attack on Rin.  She had been asked by Father Fugimoto to teach Rin how to use his Koma Sword in order to control his powers.
This series is still a lot of fun to follow although I’m not too fond of the new character. There is still enough intrigue to keep me interested.
Blue Exorcist by Kazue Kato is published by Viz Media, and Volume 4 will be available early October.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Volume 4Nura Rise of the Yokai Clan 4: The Nura lands are being invaded by yokai from Shikoku. Rikuo’s grandfather, the current Nura Overlord, has disappeared. In an effort maintain order within the clan and to deal with the invaders, Rikuo is forced to assume command. The trouble is that during the daytime Rikuo must assume human form and is therefore vulnerable. The Nura clan rally around him to keep him safe. Rikou’s school is been infiltrated by a powerful yokai, Inugami. Fearing for the safety of the other students at the school, Rikuo must find a way to defeat him even though he is still in his human form.
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my favorite thing about this series is the artwork. The inking is done by brush, which gives a fluid look that I find refreshing.
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan by Hiroshi Shiibashi  is published by Vis Medai.  Volume 5 is to be released in October.

Bakuman, Volume 6Bakuman₀ Volume 6:   Well, Mashiro and Takagi are finally where they want to be. They are serialized in Shonen Jump with “Detective Trap” and have just scored the opportunity to  have color pages run for Chapter 19, along with the release of the fist graphic novel. Just when they  are ready to enjoy their success, disaster strikes. Exhausted from overwork and poor eating, Mashiro’s bad habits catch up with him and he ends up in hospital suffering from malnourishment and a liver condition that requires surgery. Alarmed by this turn of events, the magazine’s editor in chief, Sasaki, wants to put Detective Trap on hiatus until the boys graduate High School. Unhappy with the editor’s decision, Mashiro and Takagi do everything in their power to convince him otherwise. 
I found this volume a little difficult to accept because of the decision to keep working despite illness. The urgency with which to boys continue seems a bit over the top. Where are the boy’s parents? I find it difficult to think that they would let the boys, who are only 15-16 years old, make decisions that lead to them working themselves to death.
Credibility aside, there is still and infectious quality to this story. The way all the mangaka band together to convince the editor to let the series continue is energizing. I enjoyed the part where Mashiro insists on coloring in the hospital with a pile of Copic markers, which are my current obsession.
Bakuman by Tsugumi Ohba andTakeshi Obata is published by Viz Media . Volume 7 comes out in October.
There is still more on my pile, and I am happily working my way through it. How big is your too read pile? What titles do have waiting to be read?