Wait, What? Ep. 134: Putting the "Me! Me!" back into "Meme"

 photo cbfadecf-4b1c-4f4e-8e2e-7333cb6195f0_zps8a04cae8.jpgFrom the easy-to-love but difficult-to-defend (at least when you're talking to Graeme McMillan) Yakitate!! Japan by Takashi Hashiguchi

Hello, how are you? Is that a new shirt? Oh, really? Huh. Well, you look good in it anyway.

Me? Oh, I'm mostly okay.  Ate something a few days that didn't agree with me so my stomach is upset which kinda saps me of my ability to get things done?  I mostly want to just lie around and watch movies on Netflix where things explode and take my mind off my stomach...

What's that?  Does that mean I'm going to present you with a more truncated set of show notes to go with this episode?  Uh... let's step behind the jump and talk about it, okay?

Well, yes.  Yes, it probably does. There are a few points where I should've really uploaded the images to save you the hassle of googling "Alex Ross Bionic Bigfoot cover" but I didn't.

But...the show itself is quite good and still over two hours!  My stomach wasn't involved in the making of it at all!

Oh, and we don't mention it on-air but next week is skip week because I've got this family function thing going on. Sorry about that!

Anyway, as for those show notes I was talking about:

0:00-5:31: Greetings! Our only bitching about tech trouble in the entire podcast!  Jeff, for a change, is the one who actually talks about a bit of tech news that Graeme doesn't know.  Other topics briefly covered and then dismissed: burping, and announcing our podcast episode in advance. 5:31-9:48: This was recorded the day after the Comics Internet blew up about J.H. Williams III's announcement of leaving Batwoman (and, more crucially, why).  It's a surprisingly brief talk about that, as well as about the Dickwolves PAX controversy but, hey, I guess we were just warming up or something? 9:48-15:46: And what is Jeff upset about this week?  Forever Evil #1!  And I guess I lied when I said there was tech trouble, but that's because the few seconds around 10:38 where Graeme turns into Max Headroom isn't a bug, it's a feature. We literally just talk out the tech problem with Jeff making an outrageous suggestion to Graeme around the 12:45 mark that somehow works. 15:46-28:17: So let's try that again: And what is Jeff upset about this week?  Forever Evil #1! Geoff Johns off his game? His very specific game that more or less has the name "Geoff Johns" carved into the side?  Is that possible?  Also discussed: Silver Age stories, the difficulty of working in the swerve, and more. 28:17-41:42: Jeff has also read The Star Wars #1 by J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew. This is probably one of those cases where my expectations are off, so there's a good opportunity to talk about that as well. 41:42-59:06: Then again, did you ever have one of those weeks where you're just not having a good time with comics? Maybe that's what is happening here, as Jeff was also underwhelmed by August's Megazine (#339) and 2000 A.D. (Prog #1848).  Worth listening to just for having Graeme summarize Third World War by Pat Mills and Carlos Ezquerra. It may or may not lead to a new regular segment on this program: "Graeme Reads Wikipedia Entries." 59:06-1:34:15: One of the few things Jeff has been enjoying -- quite a bit, actually -- is Yakitate!! Japan but Graeme gets skewed out by the cover so please give a warm welcome the return of our long-time recurring feature:  "Jeff has to defend something he likes."  And also: "Jeff explains manga to Graeme," which has proven popular in the past.  Sadly, I was not on my game enough to point out to Graeme -- who is curious why T&A goes unchallenged in manga but is frequently the source of concern and criticism in American comics -- that part of the reason why it can get a pass in manga is that there is manga for girls and manga for women, but the American comics industry has, basically, just one big pool that is constantly adjusting itself to the comfort level of white males, and the rest of us just have to deal with it.  Also mentioned:  Bakuman, Death Note, R. Crumb, the Fukitor controversy over at TCJ, other things, probably. 1:34:15-1:46:17: And also in the realm of stuff "Jeff likes to be candid, probably to everyone's regret," here we are talking about the listener feedbacks to my Marvel boycott and my pinko leftiness.  I was sure this segment was going to be totally terrible but, while re-listening to it, thought it could've been much worse. 1:46:17-end: By contrast, Graeme gets to talk about what he bought at the half-price sale for Excalibur Comics.  Jeff listens in with envy.  Books discussed Captain Victory #1; ROM Annual #1; Steve Englehart issues of Justice League of America (#140 and #141, plus more); "valuable" books that can be found everywhere, and "worthless" books that are scarce; Alex Ross covers; interior art and right to our very brief closing comments, just a bit a minute or two past the two hour mark.

Next week: skip week!  Two weeks from now: Another episode! (We think; it's not like we plan this stuff out very far in advance at all.)

The episode is probably on iTunes by now (or will be shortly--there is occasionally a lag though nobody's complained in a while).  It is also below!  For your viewing pleasure!

Wait, What? Ep. 134: Putting the "Me! Me!" back into "Meme!"

Hope you are well, hope you enjoy, and -- damn it -- I hope my stomach soon stops feeling like I've been poking it with sticks!  

Around the Store in 31 Days: Day Three

I'm not the biggest fan of most Japanese manga; largely this is down to the common tropes that comprise the majority of what's been brought over -- the big round eyes and so on.

But there's a handful of pieces of manga work that I think are utterly terrific.

My number one favorite series is after the jump!

I love me some DEATH NOTE.

Part of it is that it is largely unlike any other manga that I've ever read, the other part is is it unlike any Western comics that I have ever read, either.

First of all: there's very little action of any kind. There's plenty of suspense, and plenty of twists and turns, but almost none of it is resolved with "action" -- you're not going to find a lot of car chases or shoot outs or fighting or any of the things that most comics tend to revolve around.

Second: there's a whole lot of interior dialog. I haven't counted or anything, but there are certainly entire chapters which are exclusively, or almost exclusively, told in thought balloons; and, at a guess, nearly half of the comic is just people thinking stuff.

Because DEATH NOTE is about mind games... it is about trying to out-think your opposite number, like a delicate dance on a chessboard, trying to stay three and five moves ahead. There are rules. Lots and lots and lots of rules, and new ones get added each chapter, but never in a way that invalidates the previous ones. Instead they build and spread and grow with the story.

DEATH NOTE is an incredibly tight, thoughtful and suspenseful piece of comics work, and is very much like a bag of potato chips: once you start, you don't want to stop, you want to keep eating and eating and eating, seeing what new twist and turn is coming up next.

Western comics have larger eschewed the notion of thought balloons over the last decade or so (here is an excellent essay by Steven Grant from a few weeks ago [Edit: heh, no that one was from 2005, THIS ONE is from a few weeks ago that I was thinking of. Read both!] on the subject) There's been some small movement to retake the tool, lately, probably most notably Bendis' somewhat strange usage in MIGHTY AVENGERS, so to see a work not only use them extensively, but to utterly rely on them to move the narrative forward is an utter treat.

Above all else DEATH NOTE is smart and clever, and Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata really do an amazing job of keeping both the characters as well as the audience on it's toes. What's nice is that, even though the book is really about murder and death, there's really very little violence and gore to it. While the books are rated 16+, almost every bit of that is for thoughtcrime (as it were)

There's bits of it which are better and worse than others: the first three volumes are pure comics wonderfulness, it lags out a bit in 4 and 5 (that's the section with the evil corporation, right? I didn't like those parts), and roars back in six, but, even at its worst, the mind games on display are intelligent and utterly clever.

Just because I've wanted to say something about it for weeks, and haven't found a space, let me briefly mention the anime of the same that's airing on Cartoon Network. Do you remember those old Marvel cartoons from the late 60s which were like straight swipes out of Kirby Komics, but they'd animate one arm, or a mouth talking. The DEATH NOTE anime is very much like that -- it's only slightly animated, but it is always moving because they've got the camera moving around the drawing (and it is much better scored) The anime does a reasonably good job of adaptation, but if you've only seen the cartoon, and not read the books, the comparison might be LEAGUE OF EXTRA-ORDINARY GENTLEMEN versus, um, LXG (or as the ads called it: ELL! ECHS! GEE!) -- they're just not the same thing at all.

Anyway, even if you "don't like manga", this might be a series for you -- it is smarter in plot and scope than virtually anything else on the stands.