Graphic Novels Prepub Alert: Orson Scott Card, Osamu Dazai & Health Care Reform

By Martha Cornog

Since 2005, the Louvre has commissioned five provocative graphic novels featuring the museum in the plots, and four are available from English from NBM. (See Karen Green’s recent column.) Now the British Museum has jumped on the same train‚ its manga, Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure, comes out this month in the UK. Some of the in-progress drawings made up part of a museum exhibition in 2009. Munakata’s adventures seem to be skewed a little younger than the Louvre series, probably to tweens and up. This should appeal to the younger Holmes and Indiana Jones fans.

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Arad, Avi & Junichi Fujisaku (text) & YaSung Ko (illus.). The Innocent. Yen Pr. Nov. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780316201032. pap. $11.99. F
Interesting team at work here: Arad is a former Marvel officer and now chair of Production I.G. USA, Fujisaku the director of the Blood+ anime, and YaSung Ko a Korean manhwa/manga artist. The series ran in a Japanese manga magazine beginning in 2010, and the English version has just started in Yen Plus magazine. The plot concerns a detective who was wrongly executed for a crime he didn’t commit and is returned to earth with superpowers and a mission to prevent the death of other innocent people accused of crimes.

Card, Orson Scott & Emily Janice Card (text) & Honoel A. Ibardolaza (illus.). Laddertop. Vol. 1. Tor/Seven Seas. Sept. 2011. 192p. ISBN 9780765324603. pap. $10.99. F
SF megastar Card teamed up with his daughter to write this two-volume “manga comic,” which stars a pair of tween girls who train to enter Laddertop Academy. Aliens have given humans four giant towers known as Ladders, topping out in space stations that power the planet. But because of quirks built in by the aliens, only a skilled crew of children can keep the stations in operation. See an excerpt here. Girl action heroes: check. Future of the planet at stake: check. A non-Japanese artist who can actually use gray scales well: check!

Dazai, Osamu (text) & Usamaru Furuya (illus. & adapt.). No Longer Human. Pt. 2. Vertical. Nov. 2011. ISBN 9781935654223. pap. $10.95. F
Considered semi-autobiographical, Dazai’s original novel concerns a young man abused as a child who is unable to relate to other people, and he becomes increasingly alienated and self-destructive even though he plays the comedian and acts cheerful. Dazai himself committed suicide in 1948, just as the final installment of the story was published. One reader commenting on Amazon noted that No Longer Human makes Camus’s The Stranger seem cheerful by comparison; nonetheless, the novel has been a top seller in Japan. This manga adaptation is set in modern-day Tokyo and appeared in 2009, the 100th anniversary of Dazai’s birth. Part 1 will appear in September, and Part 3 (the final installment) next January. Furuya drew Lychee Light Club, also from Vertical, and Genkaku Picasso, licensed by VIZ.

Dye, Dale & Julia Dye (text) & Gerry Kissell & Amin Amat (illus.). Code Word: Geronimo. IDW Pub. Sept. 2011. 88p. ISBN 9781613770979. $15.99. CURRENT AFFAIRS
Two artists working in parallel helped IDW pull off this graphic novel in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 and only a few months after the game-changing SEAL team raid to get Osama bin Laden. Capt. Dale Dye, a retired marine, is reputed to be THE military advisor to Hollywood and has written a number of books, while Julia Dye (a Ph.D. and the spouse of Dale) is a military historian and consultant to the media. The full-color realistic portrayal takes “some creative license” owing to security issues but meshes with what’s been reported already. IDW will donate a portion of the proceeds to the American Veterans Center, a charity supporting military veterans. Appropriate for both teens and adults, this one will be big. The artists have reported that the book is drawn without “gratuitous violence or gore,” but expect combat, of course, and salty language. Back matter will include a glossary of the military slang appearing in the dialog.

Government Issue: Comics for the People, 1940s‚ 2000s. Abrams ComicArts. Nov. 2011. ed. by Richard Graham. 304p. ISBN 9781419700781. pap. $29.95. GRAPHIC ARTS
The U.S. government in all its branches has published hundreds of comics over the years to communicate information to the public. Many comics legends like Will Eisner, Al Capp, and Walt Kelly participated: Li’l Abner joined the Navy, Pogo told parents how much TV their kids should watch, and even Dennis the Menace warned about accidental childhood poisonings. This collection from an academic media services librarian promises “earnest, informational, and kitschy” selections ranging from psychological warfare to the sardine industry. Sex and drugs, too. With a foreword by octogenarian Sid Jacobson (The 9-11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation; Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Graphic Biography).

Gruber, Jonathan (text) & Nathan Schreiber (illus.). Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works. Hill & Wang: Farrar. Nov. 2011. Page count UK. ISBN 9780809094622. $30; pap. ISBN 9780809053971. $13.95. HEALTH
Since the original health-care reform law runs to thousands of pages, this welcome nonfiction tutorial is designed to explain its complexities in a more understandable format. Gruber (economics, MIT) helped plan the Massachusetts health-care reform effort, and the Washington Post has called him “possibly the [Democratic] party’s most influential health-care expert.”

Kinutani, Yu. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Vol. 2. Kodansha. Nov. 2011. c.250p. ISBN 9781935429869. pap. $10.99. F
The original Ghost in the Shell manga from the 1990s introduced Section 9, a counterterrorist squad protecting the fictional New Port City in the year 2030. Headed by crusty “monkey-face” Aramaki, Section 9 operatives include the gorgeous cyberwarrior Major Motoko Kusanagi and her sidekicks, mostly-cyber Batou and all-human Togusa, plus a laconic and highly competent backup team aided by the loquacious and childlike vehicle robots, the tachikoma. The Ghost in the Shell cyberpunk universe has since spawned animated films, spin-off novels, videogames, and a TV anime titled Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Together with the anime Akira, the first Ghost in the Shell film turned into one of the key gateways for Americans new to Japanese cartooning and influenced, among others, the makers of The Matrix film trilogy. This beautifully drawn manga series retells stories from the TV anime: individual Section 9 cases together with a through-put plot about a criminal known only as “The Laughing Man.” A best bet for adult manga collections.

Lyga, Barry (text) & Colleen Doran (illus.). Mangaman. Houghton Mifflin. Nov. 2011. 144p. ISBN 9780547423159. $19.99. F
At ALA 2010, Doran showed some of the art for this graphic novel, but maddeningly she and Lyga refused to divulge the title or any of the plot. A seriously bishonen (beautiful young man) teen manga character accidentally lands in a “real world” high school, where he falls for the most beautiful girl in the school. Culture clash and metafictive comedy ensue. Check out Doran’s website and scroll down for a preview slide show. This could be a hot one, and it’s already been nominated for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens.

Matoh, Sanami. @Full Moon. Vol. 1. Kodansha. Nov. 2011. ISBN 9781935429203. pap. $10.99. F
In Until the Full Moon, one of the more original gender mashup manga, Matoh introduced Marlo, a half-werewolf, half-vampire fellow with the interesting distinction of turning into a girl when the moon is full. Fortunately, he eventually settles into a love relationship (and engagement for marriage) with vampire playboy David, who’s quite taken by Marlo as a girl. The defunct Broccoli Books published the two-volume series, and Kodansha is rereleasing it this August and September. @Full Moon continues the story of Marlo and David for two more volumes.

Moore, Alan (text) & various artists. The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks. 2000 AD. Nov. 2011. ISBN 9781907992520. pap. $19.99. F
This is a collection of short stories with twist endings that Moore wrote for the British comics magazine 2000 AD in the 1980s. The “Future Shocks” stories from Moore and other writers took the name from Alvin Toffler’s book about the accelerated and overwhelming rate of technological and social change associated with transition to a super-industrial society. Earlier collections have been published but none widely distributed in the United States. Mostly black-and-white art.

Murakami, Takeshi. Stargazing Dog. NBM. Nov. 2011. 128p. ISBN 9781561636129. pap. $11.99. F
A 2009 best seller in Japan, this story has spun off a Japanese live-action film that came out just last month. While cartoonist Murakami‚ not to be confused with the Japanese artist of the same name‚ is known for humor manga, this tale is more of a three-hanky heartwarmer. Happie, a young Akita, is adopted by Oto-san and his family. And when Oto-san finds himself abandoned by everyone, only the dog sticks with him until the end. In Japan, Akita dogs are legendary for their loyalty, and everyone knows about Hachiko, an Akita who came to wait every day for his master at the Shibuya train station and still came every day for nine years after his master’s death. A statue in Hachiko’s likeness stands at the Shibuya station to commemorate the faithful animal.

Noomin, Diane. Glitz-2-Go. Fantagraphics. Nov. 2011. 144p. ISBN 9781606994818. pap. $19.99. F
Retro-glamgirl DiDi Glitz, Noomin’s signature character, originally appeared in the women’s comics anthology Twisted Sisters and other collections. Hypno Magazine described her as a “shamelessly campy, mai-tai-swilling swinger with a voracious appetite for polyester, poodles, and doomed relationships.” Also, “hysterically funny.” This volume collects nearly 40 years of Noomin comics. Catch this transcript of a Noomin presentation about her work, with sample strips, some NSFW.

1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die: The Ultimate Guide to Comic Books, Graphic Novels and Manga. Rizzoli: Universe. Oct. 2011. 960p. ed. by Paul Gravett. illus. ISBN 9780789322715. $36.95. GRAPHIC ARTS
Based in London, comics historian Gravett is known for two gorgeous, copiously illustrated overviews: Manga!: 60 Years of Japanese Comics (2004) and Graphic Novels: Everything You Need To Know (2005). This one presents a critical history through assessing the “very best works of sequential art,” spanning countries and genres and including strips and webcomics.

Ono, Natsume. Tesoro (Tesoro: Ono Natsume Shoki Tanpenshuu 1998‚ 2008). VIZ. Nov. 2011. 248p. ISBN 9781421532233. pap. $12.99. F
Ono’s House of Five Leaves, Not Simple, Ristorante Paradiso, and Gente have picked up commendations for psychologically subtle plotting and quirky humor. Tesoro collects 14 stories about “family, friends, couples, and unexpected bonds” from her early work, some previously unpublished.

Perper, Timothy & Martha Cornog. Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World. Libraries Unlimited. Nov. 2011. 275p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781591589082. pap. $50. GRAPHIC ARTS
An anthology of varied, sophisticated essays about manga and anime from scholarly and professional contributors from several countries, including Kinko Ito on Japanese “ladies comics,” librarians Robin Brenner and Snow Wildsmith on yaoi, Frenchy Lunning on cosplay, Matthew Penney on right-wing manga, Thomas LaMarre on Barefoot Gen and Hiroshima, and Marco Pellitteri on European perspectives. Full disclosure: Timothy Perper is my husband.

Rodda, Emily (text) & Makoto Niwano (illus.). Deltora Quest. Vol. 3. Kodansha. Nov. 2011. ISBN 9781935429302. pap. $10.99. F
A throne in danger! Royal murders! A magic belt with missing gems! A mysterious Shadow Lord preparing to invade! Australian author Rodda’s popular 15-book YA novel series has been coming out as manga in Japan, and there’s an anime and a Nintendo RPG, too. Volume 1 comes out in the United States this month.

The Someday Funnies. Abrams ComicArts. Nov. 2011. 216p. ed. by Michel Choquette. ISBN 9780810996182. $55. F
For Rolling Stone magazine, National Lampoon editor Choquette collected all-new comics by well-known artists and writers to publish a visual chronicle of the 1960s. He ended up with 169 contributors and 129 selections. But the magazine backed out of the project, which in the 1970s‚ as “a weird mixture of all these people from this many countries”‚ created marketing problems. “All these people” just happened to include Harvey Kurtzman, Art Spiegelman, Gahan Wilson, René Goscinny (Asterix), Moebius, Frank Zappa, William Burroughs, and Tom Wolfe. Forty years later, this eclectic range of contributors only heightens the charm. See ICv2’s interview for the whole tortured history of Choquette’s baby, plus sample art.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Chronicles. Vol. 1. DC. Nov. 2011. 248p. ISBN 9781401232900. pap. $29.99. F
In Tower Comics’s 1965 series, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) was a team of heroes who battled megaspies and Commies but without superpowers. Team members did rely on techno-extremo gadgets, though, like super-strong robot bodies and a powerful belt. License for reprinting moved along through several publishers, ending up with DC‚ which is simultaneously starting a new series with the same name, as noted below. (The T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents Archives series, its seventh volume just released, is an earlier hardcover collection of this older series, plus a revival series in the 1980s.)

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Vol. 1. DC. Nov. 2011. 160p. ISBN 9781401232542. pap. $24.99. F
DC reinvents the 1960s series, with the added premise that the new recruits for this team of heroes, all ordinary people at the end of their rope for sundry reasons, are offered powers that will ultimately kill them even as they deal with terrible global threats.

Wallace, Daniel. The Joker: A Visual History of the Clown Prince of Crime. Rizzoli: Universe. Oct. 2011. 208p. illus. ISBN 9780789322647. $50. GRAPHIC ARTS
Here we have a visual retrospective of the Biggest Baddie in the DC Universe and one of the most famous villains in all of comics for over 70 years. Wallace, a comics and pop culture historian noted for his Star Wars acumen, has selected from among hundreds of comic book images plus film, TV, animation, and videogame incarnations. With an introduction by comics fan Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill, the voice for the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series.

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Martha Cornog About Martha Cornog

Martha Cornog is a longtime reviewer for LJ and, with Timothy Perper, edited Graphic Novels Beyond the Basics: Insights and Issues for Libraries (Libraries Unlimited, 2009).