Also, I hope you caught last week's installment of The Chronicles of William Bazillion:
And a belated Smithson update means a belated Overlooked Manga Festival!
Normally, I don't exhort readers to run right out and buy the manga featured in the Overlooked Manga Festival. This installment is an exception. Venerable alterna-comics publisher Fantagraphics is currently embroiled in a bullshit nuisance lawsuit launched by former sci-fi writer and current professional boob-grabbing asshole Harlan Ellison, and it desperately needs money to help cover legal fees. If this week's manga catches your fancy, you can order a copy directly from the Fantagraphics website. Or, alternately, purchase any of the other fine comics available from Fantagraphics, from Usagi Yojimbo to Castle Waiting to Fred the Clown to Ghost World to The Complete Peanuts. (Just this past weekend I finally got around to picking up Ellen Forney's collection I Love Led Zeppelin, which is excellent, as is her previous book Monkey Food: I Was Seven in '75.)
Anyway, that's your public service message for the week (and it'll probably get me sued by Harlan Ellison). On to the manga!
Yes! The one manga from Fantagraphics that's NOT porn!
I think it's safe to say that Anywhere But Here does not resemble any other manga published in English. For one thing, it's a comic strip, and not too many manga strips have made it to these shores. For another thing, it's a really weird comic strip.
The Fantagraphics site compares it to The Far Side, and it's similarly surreal, but the humor is more cerebral and deadpan, and frequently more bizarre. Each strip finds the stolid protagonist making his way resolutely through another strange, silent scenario. Some are based on ingenious visual gags.
Some comment whimsically or cryptically on human nature.
Some seem to be just odd little exercises in surrealism.
And many require careful reading to get the joke, if any (I freely admit to not understanding a number of Anywhere But Here strips).
I think I like the above strip because it reminds me of The Greatest Batman Joke of All Time, from Evan Dorkin's Dork #9:
Evan Dorkin, you magnificent bastard.
(Dork #9 is not available through the Fantagraphics website, but other back issues are.)
In Japan, Anywhere But Here runs in TV Bros, "a respected magazine of television and media criticism," according to the back cover of the book. This sounds remarkably like The Journal of Television Studies, a magazine my husband keeps saying he wants to start because he can't find any really serious critical examinations of "Charles in Charge." I only hope that, when it launches, the JTS includes comic strips as brilliant and baffling as this one.
It's a real shame that Anywhere But Here fell through the cracks of American comics fandom. It's a familiar story: manga fans ignore it because it doesn't look like manga (i.e., no ninjas, panties, or rape fantasies), and fans of alternative comics ignore it because it's manga and everyone knows that manga is all panty-ninja rape fantasies. But if you're in the market for a smart, one-of-a-kind manga experience, you can do worse than this slim volume of twisty gag manga.
Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Your and My Secret
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
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History