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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
27th-Sep-2007 09:27 am
Yes, cocoa is going to make this all better.


And don't miss this week's Chronicles of William Bazillion! William Sicilian. Yes. William Sicilian.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a guest at the Stumptown Comics Festival in Portland this weekend. I even drew a comic strip for the Portland Mercury's special one-shot alternative comics page, right alongside a bunch of much better cartoonists. Have a look!

Also, you hell of want to preorder this year's Marvel Holiday Special, featuring a story by Andrew and me. It'll be out this December, and it will include Spider-Man, Wolverine, and cake. Come on, cake!

What else? Oh, right. Overlooked Manga Festival!

At this point in the storied history of manga in English, there are some titles--mostly from Viz and Dark Horse--that have been around long enough that everyone takes them for granted and forgets that they're awesome. This is wrong, and it's time the Overlooked Manga Festival put a stop to it.

Makoto Kobayashi is one of my favorite manga artists, in part because his work doesn't look much like manga. He draws funny: big rubbery faces, goofy expressions, extreme (but meticulously observed) body language. And he can draw the hell out of anything. Since the dawn of time, Dark Horse has been publishing, in various formats and venues, two great Kobayashi comics that don't get nearly enough attention: Club 9, about an irresistable big-boned farmgirl who moves to Tokyo and becomes a bar hostess, and this manga, which is about cats.

What's Michael? doesn't have much of a continuing storyline, just a set of running gags, so you can start reading at any volume. Each chapter is a short, self-contained vignette, usually a breezy six pages long. Very roughly, it's the story of Michael, a typical orange tabby cat, and his typical middle-class family. But Kobayashi frequently breaks from even this vague premise, giving Michael different owners, transporting the cast to more exotic settings (a cop show, a samurai drama, a running parody of "The Fugitive" featuring a veterinarian on the run), writing himself into the story (something he also does in Club 9, where he frequently pops up as a lecherous bar patron), or envisioning a world of anthropomorphic cats and dogs.

At its heart, What's Michael? is about the relationship between people and their pets. It's a pretty strange relationship, when you think about it, and Kobayashi is good at capturing the absurdity of the way we deal with the animals we let into our lives and homes. Which, I guess, is basically a fancy way of saying that it's kind of like if "Garfield" was good.

And, frankly, a lot of the comic is clearly just an excuse for Kobayashi to draw stuff he really enjoys drawing. Many chapters are purely visual, giving us perfectly-drawn, perfectly-paced snippets of cat behavior, human foibles, or (a recurring favorite) cats dancing. Kobayashi loves to draw cats dancing.

Eventually he also introduces a baby into the regular cast, a shameless but devastatingly effective move. What's cuter than cats and babies? Nothing. Nothing is cuter than cats and babies.

Dark Horse has done a great job with What's Michael? over the years. I'd better give a shout-out here to Lea Hernandez, Toren Smith, and Dana Lewis, who provide the series with its graceful and witty English translation. If you've read manga from pretty much any other publisher, you can appreciate what a great job Dark Horse does with most of its manga titles. Over at Viz, we do our best, but Dark Horse has some good folks on the rewrites.

As I'm writing this, I've come to realize that one reason What's Michael? doesn't get more press may be that there's only so much a critic can say about it. It's not a deep exploration or a searing expose of anything. It's just the best damn cat comic in the world. What more do you humans want?

Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Dr. Slump
Your and My Secret
Wild Act
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
Banana Fish
Skip Beat
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Cyborg 009
Anywhere But Here
To Terra
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
Doing Time
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Mariko Parade
Golgo 13
Ricca 'tte Kanji!?
Pure Trance
OMF Special Event: My Legacy
OMF Special Event: An All-Star Tribute to Carl Gustav Horn
Guest OMF by Jason Thompson: 888
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Tekkon Kinkreet
Yakitate! Japan
Flower of Life
OMF Special Event: Top Ten Lines from the Excel Saga manga

27th-Sep-2007 05:46 pm (UTC)
I love What's Michael!!
27th-Sep-2007 05:50 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, I distinctly remember that one with the baby - when that baby crinkled up its face and made that horrible expression, it stuck with me throughout all the rest of my artistic life.
9th-Oct-2008 02:43 pm (UTC)
Last year when I broke up with my fiance all my friends were tired of hearing me complain about my broken heart, but not this guy.
27th-Sep-2007 06:18 pm (UTC)
I read via Butcher's blog that there's talk about a big ol' What's Michael? omnibus from Dark Horse. That would make me happy, especially since the first three volumes have been out of print for so long that I've given up all hope of ever seeing them...
30th-Sep-2007 05:18 am (UTC)
Oh! That would be awesome!
16th-Jul-2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
99 Kurt: I guess Marvel is reissuing all of these omnibus volumes that were supposedly out of print.
9th-Oct-2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
99 Kurt: I guess Marvel is reissuing all of these omnibus volumes that were supposedly out of print.
27th-Sep-2007 06:18 pm (UTC)
CATS DANCING. That, by itself, makes me want to go buy this.

I've seen issues of What's Michael here and there for ages, but I never knew anything about it, so I never felt compelled to check it out. Thanks for the OMF on it, I'll try to get my hands on some now!
(Deleted comment)
27th-Sep-2007 06:50 pm (UTC)

Oh, excellent! Thank you so much!
9th-Oct-2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
I say thank You so much. I say thank You so much for Your love. Oh. Yisuah Amaziah. Oh. Yisuah Amaziah.
27th-Sep-2007 08:54 pm (UTC) - Smithson
"it's terrific"

Yes, it is.

27th-Sep-2007 08:55 pm (UTC) - Smithson
"it's terrific"

Yes, it is.

9th-Oct-2008 03:06 pm (UTC)
And I love it that I feel Filipino. I feel like I finally figured out what I was all this time. Because I’m like, always trying to fit in.
17th-Oct-2008 12:58 am (UTC)
But yet, here she is making me feel like I'm beneath her because I can't go out as much as her. Well, I certainly would if my husband was the primary bread winner like hers and pampered me to death like hers does.
17th-Oct-2008 12:55 am (UTC)
Well, okay, he actually said, "We would love you all to be a part of tonight's show," but we could all read between the lines -- especially when he asked us to clap only with our hands above our heads "because it gives a much better image.
17th-Oct-2008 01:37 am (UTC)
"I still love you, though," she tells Simon. He gives her a hug, then sends her on her way. Who are the relatives and "friends" who tell these people they can sing.
27th-Sep-2007 09:23 pm (UTC)
I see those baby expressions a lot, even without having a cat.

You know something awesome about What's Michael? When Michael goes to the vet, the address is that of San Francisco's wonderful Irving Street Veterinary Clinic. I saw a Christmas card with some Dark Horse characters on the door-of-holiday-cards once.
27th-Sep-2007 10:03 pm (UTC)
That page with the dancing cats is so Achewood. That serious, detailed, methodical matter-of-fact presentation of something so downright absurd. I adore it.
27th-Sep-2007 11:28 pm (UTC) - in re: Smithson...
...my, this has been a week full of disillusionment for our principals, hasn't it.
28th-Sep-2007 05:05 am (UTC)
Yay for cute comics!! Now I know what to get when I'm done with Yotsuba.
28th-Sep-2007 01:08 pm (UTC)
Very cute! I'm gonna stick to my guns and maintain that B. Kliban drew the best damn cat comics, but these are darn good. I'll have to pick up a volume.
28th-Sep-2007 07:35 pm (UTC)
Yay for What's Michael?!

I'm a huge fan of Kobayashi's expressions. I've seen some folks complain about how "ugly" his characters are, but I don't think they quite see the nuance and moods that he captures.

I'm also a fan of Toren and Dana and Lea's scripts. But I'm a bit biased. It's nice seeing an old SP title being dusted off and appreciated.

Now I gotta go dig up my copies to share.
28th-Sep-2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the props, Shaenon! I worked very hard on WM! (and everything I did for SP/Dark Horse).

Dana gave me fantastic translations to start with, too. She does a lot of research in her translations: explaining in-jokes, local culture, why not being able to use paper passes at a toll booth is a big deal, and so on.

Having been both a cat-free and cat-bombarded person during the time I worked on WM!, I can say with authority that WM! will appeal to people who love and hate cats. It reinforces both pro- and anti-cat sides.

My personal favorite story is the kitten cafe.
29th-Sep-2007 05:48 am (UTC)
A What's Michael? omnibus is in consideration by Dark Horse. I don't believe it's any more than a vague possibility as of now unfortunately. I talked with Carl Horn personally at the Tezuka panel about this.
30th-Sep-2007 03:47 pm (UTC)
What's Michael is one of my favorite comics. I think Dark Horse isn't doing the book collections any more.
1st-Apr-2009 01:01 am (UTC)
one of my fav comics


pdf search
25th-May-2009 05:33 pm (UTC) - Comics
Thank you very much for sharing
8th-Jun-2010 04:44 am (UTC)
What's Michael? manga make me remember about Garfield, Heathcliff, and Krazy Kat

You can but What's Michael? at manga comic

Andy Landers


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