Chuck's T-shirt is actually a superhero logo shirt, but for a comic book that only exists in his world. It'll probably come up again; I'd like to include more fictional comics in Smithson from time to time.
And there's always new stuff going up on the Art of Smithson site. Lately, Brian's been posting lots of my early Smithson artwork, which serves mainly to illustrate why I have other people draw the comic for me. Also, I've got to update the cast page images. The Nerd Rock Mix will soon be replaced with the Street Mix, which I've drawn but still have to color.
Okay, time for Part Two of the first Overlooked Manga Festival Special Event!
In the last thrilling Overlooked Manga Festival, I asked some American manga editors for their manga recommendations. This week, I've got a few more lists to round out the survey.
Pancha Diaz is an editor at Viz whose credits include Death Note and Nana.
Nausicaa, by Hayao Miyazaki. My favorite manga, ever.
Skip Beat. Makes me laugh every time I edit the script, and then again when I edit the lettered pages.
Blade of the Immortal. I love the art in this, and haven't read as much as I should have.
Red River. Time travel adventure romance? I'm there.
Nana. It does start out slow, but I've gotten ahead to the good stuff. Super drama.
Gokusen. Pure awesome, but not available in English yet (legally, anyway).
Naruto. Hot ninja action. Oh yeah!
Shaman King. I know the ending is shit, but I love the comparative religion stuff. Also, rocking pompador, Ryu.
Planetes. A really engaging story, unlike most of the other manga I have read. It seemed like a sci-fi story that just happened to be in comic form.
Yakitate! Japan. Totally wicked bread action.
Finally, I obviously can't restrain myself from weighing in. Here are my personal Top Ten Manga Published in English, Ever.
1. Phoenix, by Osamu Tezuka
Like you can beat Phoenix. This three-decade roller-coaster ride from the God of Manga has everything: sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction, and an endless parade of patented Tezuka what-the-fuck moments. And, of course, of all of Tezuka's work, only Phoenix has scored its own Overlooked Manga Festival entry!
2. Black Jack, by Osamu Tezuka
Sorry, but there's no way I can choose just one Tezuka manga. Viz published two volumes of this crazed two-fisted medical drama, and I just wish there were more. And that those two volumes weren't long out of print. Bah.
3. A, A', by Moto Hagio
In the annals of manga, Moto Hagio is often considered second only to Tezuka. But only a smattering of her work has been published in English: the short sci-fi story "They Were Eleven" (published in the out-of-print collection Four Shojo Stories), the very short but stunning "Hanshin" (published in last year's all-shojo issue of The Comics Journal), and this anthology of three linked sci-fi stories. This was one of the first manga I ever read (thanks, Mee-Lise!), and it's still one of my favorites. Somebody publish more Hagio, please!
4. Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, by Hayao Miyazaki
Come on, you can't call yourself a nerd and not be a giant Nausicaa fan. The only lengthy manga by animation genius Miyazaki, this postapocalyptic fantasy is a very un-manga-like manga, taking its visual cues from European cartoonists, especially Miyazaki's pal Moebius. If you've only seen the anime, you have to check out the manga, which goes much further and takes the story down unexpected paths. Go for the most recent Viz edition, which replicates the oversized format and sepia ink of the Japanese original.
5. Swan, by Kyoko Ariyoshi
This one's getting the Overlooked Manga treatment somewhere down the line. Until then, if you want my thoughts on it, you can check out my review in the aforementioned all-shojo Comics Journal. It's about ballet, it's unabashedly girly, and it's one of the most gorgeous comics I've ever seen. Every page blows my mind with incredible collage layouts and gallons of soul. The story's good, too. CMX deserves some kind of humanitarian medal for putting this out despite the extremely low probability that American audiences are ready for totally brilliant ballet manga.
6. Maison Ikkoku, by Rumiko Takahashi
The best Rumiko Takahashi manga, and I love me some Takahashi. This is just a rock-solid romantic comedy; it drags a little around the two-thirds mark but rallies for a perfect ending. I cry throughout the entire final volume. You know the page from Maison Ikkoku I posted last week? "The woman I love, Kozue..."? I got choked up scanning it, and then again typing in the HTML. I'm a big soppy wreck. It's pathetic.
7. The Drifting Classroom, by Kazuo Umezu
Here I try to salvage my tough-guy image by giving the thumbs-up to eleven volumes of graphically-rendered child endangerment, torture, and murder. I'm pleased as punch that Umezu's work is finally getting published in English, and Drifting Classroom is an unforgettable horror classic. Why, it even has an Overlooked Manga Festival entry!
8. From Eroica with Love, by Yasuko Aoike
Another Overlooked Manga pick, not to mention another awesome 1970s shojo manga from CMX. This one has been getting more and more entertaining as it goes along; I'm sure eventually it'll run out of steam or jump the shark or whatever, but, as of Volume 7, Aoike is still clearly having no end of campy fun with it.
9. Domu, by Katsuhiro Otomo
Okay, okay, Akira is Otomo's magnum opus, but I want to call attention to this strong early work, which packs the sum totality of its psychic powers into a single explosionational volume. The final scene should be studied intently by all students of graphic storytelling.
10. The Push Man, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Short stories by the pioneer of gekiga, manga for grownups. Tatsumi is kind of the Will Eisner of Japan, pushing the comics medium forward with literary-minded stories that mostly involve people enduring horrible fates in oppressive midcentury urban jungles. Crude but powerful.
Originally, I didn't think I could come up with a list of my top untranslated manga, since I mostly just read the stuff that comes out in official English translation. But when I gave it some thought, I had no trouble coming up with a long list of manga I'd like to see on this side of the Pacific (mostly, I admit, old shojo manga). My top ten:
1. Everything by Moto Hagio
I'd kill to edit her recent series Otherworld Barbara, which looks and sounds amazing, and I'd also love to see her older stuff translated. Can't someone at least do The Poe Family? It's about vampires! And they angst around a lot! It's money in the bank!
2. The Rose of Versailles, by Ryoko Ikeda
Like Jason Thompson said last week, one volume was translated into English in the 1980s, for students learning English in Japan. It's never really been available in America, and it's great.
3. Song of the Wind and Trees, by Keiko Takemiya
Along with Hagio's "Heart of Thomas," this is one of the stories that pioneered the "boys' love" genre. Some enterprising publisher should do a high-end "Yaoi Classics" series reprinting all this stuff.
4. Doraemon, by Fujiko Fujio
This extremely popular kiddie manga made both of the Japanese top-ten lists I posted last week, and now I'm curious about it. It's actually got a hilarious premise: schoolboy Nobita is destined to grow up to be such a phenomenal loser that he destroys his family for generations to come, so his descendents send him a time-traveling robot cat to help him. Unfortunately, the cat, Doraemon, is almost as big a screwup as his master. In addition to being funny, this seems like such a quintessentially Japanese concept: "You have brought shame upon your family! Have a happy robot cat!" But I kid Japan.
5. Nasu (Eggplant), by Iou Kuroda
A series of short stories connected only by the fact that they all involve eggplants in some way. Viz published one of Kuroda's other manga, Sexy Voice and Robo, which is probably due for an Overlooked Manga.
6. Galaxy Express 999, by Leiji Matsumoto
The original series, not the 1980s relaunch published by Viz way back when. I just like Matsumoto's sketchy, loopy art.
7. Tomorrow's Joe, by Tetsuya Chiba
Another genre I'd like to see in English: old-school sports manga! Tomorrow's Joe sounds a little darker and meatier than some of the other beloved sagas in which earnest young men with bushy eyebrows are tortured in the name of athletic greatness, so it goes on the list.
8. Candy Candy, by Yumiko Igarashi
This coming-of-age shojo soap opera is another oldie but goodie. It's been a hit all over Asia and in the better parts of Europe, so why not here?
9. Banana Bread Pudding, by Yumiko Oshima
Shojo scholar Matt Thorn calls this oddball short story his favorite manga, so of course I want to read it.
10. Pluto, by Naoki Urusawa
I'm pretty confident we'll be getting this one in official English translation one of these days. Urusawa has requested that his manga be published in a certain order, so Viz has to put out Monster and Twentieth Century Boys (both of which are awesome) first. But soon, I hope, the time will come for Pluto, the Watchmen of Astro Boy stories (seriously). I'd also like to see some of Urusawa's early hits, especially Master Keaton.
And there you have it. If that's not enough manga to keep you busy for a while, I give up.