Archives for February 2010

The Nick Simmons Internet Beatdown continues



The tsunami that is the Nick Simmons affair is beginning to crest; ever since fans noticed, a couple of days ago, that some panels of his comic Incarnate bore a suspiciously strong resemblance to Bleach (and Bleach fanart!), the internet has been swelling up in outrage. If you’re coming late to the party, or just need a good laugh, check out Rob Bricken’s beatdown at Topless Robot, which hilariously sums the whole thing up and includes the news that (of course) there is a Facebook group about it and a fake Nick Simmons joined it just to denounce and threaten his detractors. Johanna Draper Carlson takes a more serious tack at Comics Worth Reading, with a discussion of swiping, plagiarism, and piracy. Deb Aoki has been asking tough questions and tracking the controversy on Twitter, and Christopher Butcher sums some of that up with a stern admonition to fan artists at

Here’s the thing: I’ve got infinitely more respect for obvious thief Nick Simmons than I do for the legions of artist-alley dwellers selling mass-produced copies of their fanart for characters. Nick Simmons is (badly) taking his influences and turning them into something (horribly derivative but at least nominally) “new”. It’s not original, it may not even be good, but every artist or writer is comprised mainly of the sum of their influences and experiences. But at least Simmons on his first shot out of the gate managed to synthesize all that shit into something other than “Here is a terribly drawn portrait of two BLEACH characters making out, in tribute to an author who clearly never wanted this to happen or he’d have done it himself. I am charging $10 for this colour photocopy.”

As usual, Butcher takes no prisoners, although he makes it clear that he supports fanart but draws the line at selling it. Simon Jones adds his own thoughts on doujinshi vs. fanart at the Icarus blog.

Paul Gravett writes about some spring books he’s looking forward to, including quite a few manga.

David Welsh’s license request for this week: Freesia, by Jiro Matsumoto.

Looking for a job in the manga biz? Viz is hiring a Purchasing & Logistics Coordinator.

News from Japan: ANN has news of a few new series, including one by the creator of Boys Be…


Leroy Douresseaux on Croquis (I Reads You)
Kate Dacey on Devil, No. 1 (The Manga Critic)
Saranga on The Moon and Sandals (New readers…start here!)
Melinda Beasi on vol. 1 of One Fine Day (Manga Bookshelf)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 32 of One Piece (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Connie on vol. 22 of Yakitate!! Japan (Slightly Biased Manga)

Bleach swipes, Mangastuds, and Handley stick men

Here is your scandal du jour: In this long (warning: image-heavy) LJ thread, the poster raises the question of whether Nick Simmons (son of KISS member Gene Simmons) is tracing from Bleach when drawing his comic Incarnate. The latest word is that publisher Radical is putting the comic on hold while they investigate. Gia has more at Anime Vice.

Super manga blogger Deb Aoki is the guest host on the latest Inkstuds podcast, where she, Chris Butcher, David Welsh, and Ryan Sands discuss alternative manga that may appeal to indy comics fans. Deb also revisits some interviews with Chinese creator Benjamin at her own blog.

ANN rounds up the latest commentary on the Christopher Handley case. And in this helpful video, Gia uses stick figures to explain why Handley should never have been prosecuted in the first place.

Hige provides a handy guide to the series on the online manga site.

The Udon folks have a nice preview up of vol. 1 of Megamix.

Thinking ahead? MangaCast posts the manga listings from the March Previews.

Lives of the saints, manga style. Because why should Giotto and the Old Masters have all the fun?

News from Japan: For those who keep track of such things, Canned Dogs has the latest title and price data on eromanga and ANN has the latest Japanese comics rankings.

Reviews:John Thomas discusses King of RPGs on the latest Sci-Guys podcast.

Julie on vol. 1 of The Big Adventures of Majoko (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Connie on vol. 4 of Blade of the Immortal (Slightly Biased Manga)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 3 of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Rob on vols. 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Cantarella (Panel Patter)
Rob on vol. 1 of Children of the Sea (Panel Patter)
Shannon Fay on Ciao Ciao Bambino (Kuriousity)
Todd on vol. 1 of Deadman Wonderland (Anime Maki)
Todd on vol. 1 of Hanako and the Terror of Allegory (Anime Maki)
Connie on vol. 4 of Hayate x Blade (Slightly Biased Manga)
Lorena Nava Ruggero on vol. 1 of King of RPGs (MangaCast)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 31 of One Piece (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Sakura Eries on vol. 13 of School Rumble (
Connie on vol. 20 of Skip Beat (Slightly Biased Manga)
Carlo Santos on vol. 8 of Slam Dunk (ANN)
Billy Aguiar on vol. 1 of Stolen Hearts (Prospero’s Manga)
David Welsh on vol. 1 of Ultimo (The Manga Curmudgeon)
Scott Green on Ultimo, Deadman Wonderland, and Black Jack (Ain’t It Cool News)

New comics day, plus a possible new license

David Welsh, Brad Rice, Gia Manry, and Kate Dacey look at this week’s most promising new manga.

Lori Henderson adds Kaori Yuki’s Blood Hound to her licensing wish list.

Will Viz be publishing The Story of Saiunkoku? According to ANN, their distributor thinks so?

If you want to take part in the next Manga Moveable Feast, the topic is Emma, and Matt Blind is hosting. He’s also entertaining suggestions for the next round.

It’s shoujo-sunjeong alphabet time at The Manga Curmudgeon, and this week covers the letter S.

Translators Alethea and Athena Nibley write about English adaptation of manga in their latest column at Manga Life.

Taiwan’s National Central Library has opened up a reading room for manga, but you have to be 18 or older to use it. 90% are Japanese, which seems to be causing some resentment, but Moebus is also in the mix, along with some Chinese comics.

Reviews: The Nana Project continues, with Danielle Leigh, Melinda Beasi, and Michelle Smith putting vol. 5 of Nana under the microscope at Comics Should Be Good! At The Manga Critic, guest reviewer Martin Gray brings a Marvel Fan’s perspective to his review of vol. 1 of Ultimo.

Michael Huang on vol. 1 of Alien Nine (Anime Diet)
Tim Maughan on vols. 7-9 of Black Jack (tim maughan books)
Snow Wildsmith on Cause of My Teacher and vol. 1 of The Loudest Whisper (Fujoshi Librarian)
Connie on vol. 2 of Children of the Sea (Slightly Biased Manga)
Todd on vol. 1 of Deadman Wonderland (Anime Maki)
Snow Wildsmith on Electric Hands (Fujoshi Librarian)
Bill Sherman on vol. 1 of Hanako and the Terror of Allegory (Pop Culture Gadabout)
Kate O’Neil on vol. 1 of Happy Cafe (
Lissa Pattillo on How to Capture a Martini (Kuriousity)
Chris Mautner on vol. 1 of King of RPGs (Robot 6)
Kristin on Jack and the Princess and One Summer in Italy (Comic Attack)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of My Darling! Miss Bancho (Comics Worth Reading)
Sarah Sammis on vol. 3 of Nana (Puss Reboots)
Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane on vol. 1 of Natsume’s Book of Friends (Manga Life)
Emily on Only By Chance (Emily’s Random Shoujo Manga Page)
Zack Davisson on vol. 1 of Portrait of M&N (Manga Life)
Michael Huang on vol. 1 of Rozen Maiden (Anime Diet)
Tiamat’s Disciple on vol. 1 of Taimashin: The Red Spider Exorcist (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews)
Park Cooper on vols. 25-30 of Vagabond (Manga Life)
Michael Huang on vols. 5 and 6 of Welcome to the NHK (Anime Diet)
Faith McAdams on vol. 1 of What a Wonderful Word (Animanga Nation)
Bill Sherman on The World I Create (Blogcritics)
Michelle Smith on vol. 1 of Yotsuba&! (Soliloquy in Blue)

Japan Expo awards up; Aurora speculation

vinlandsaga1The nominees for the Japan Expo awards are out, and they include some interesting titles. Japan Expo is a European event so all these manga are licensed over there; in some cases, they have different titles than the American editions. Here is a nice page from the Expo site with the covers of all the nominees. (Image of Vinland Saga lifted from Manga Curmudgeon, where it was a featured license request a while ago.)

In other awards news, the L.A. Times Book Prizes have added a graphic novel category, and GoGo Monster is among the nominees.

Simon Jones speculates on what is going on with Aurora.

Kris posts her wish list for 2010 at Manic About Manga.


Jared Gardner on vol. 7 of 20th Century Boys (Guttergeek)
Todd on vol. 1 of Alice in the Country of Hearts (Anime Maki)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 2 of Beast Master (The Comic Book Bin)
Dave Ferraro on vol. 1 of Black Butler (Comics-and-More)
Kristin on vol. 1 of Black Butler (Comic Attack)
Tangognat on vol. 30 of Bleach (Tangognat)
Danielle Leigh on vols. 3 and 4 of Detroit Metal City (Comics Should Be Good!)
Sesho on vol. 1 of Hero Tales (Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews)
Connie on vols. 1 and 2 of Jihai (Slightly Biased Manga)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vols. 1-5 of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Comics Worth Reading)
Kris on vol. 4 of Kyo Kara MAOH! (Manic About Manga)
Tiamat’s Disciple on vol. 1 of One Fine Day (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 30 of One Piece (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Julie on vol. 9 of Shaman Warrior (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Sophie Stevens on vol. 1 of Stolen Hearts (Animanga Nation)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 9 of Vampire Knight (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Connie on vol. 9 of Wild Ones (Slightly Biased Manga)

Global manga, Firefighter Daigo marathon, and chibis

Kate Dacey looks at ten global manga that are well worth reading, and then she adds a handful of honorable mentions for good measure. Kate also asks her readers which Vertical manga they are most looking forward to. And Joy Kim lists ten titles she is looking forward to in 2010 at her blog.

The Manga Village team make their picks from the past week’s new manga.

It’s another Manhwa Monday for Melinda Beasi at Manga Bookshelf.

Aurora is having a big sale, but Deb Aoki wonders if this is a sign of hard times for the publisher. The Yaoi Review has more.

Lori Henderson rounds up the latest manga news at Manga Xanadu, and Erica Friedman has everything you need to know about yuri in her Yuri Network News post.

Electric Playground has a video interview with manga editor Kit Fox, who discusses Detroit Metal City. (Via ANN.)

At Anime Vice, blogger Boddington argues that the manga in the Christopher Handley case should be illegal and invites comments from readers.

Akemi of Myth and Manga has an interesting conversation with Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, the creator of Red: A Haida Manga.

Pam Bliss explains how to make chibis at Sequential Tart.

Dear publishers: Please cheer David Welsh up and license Mint na Bokura.

News from Japan: According to ANN, Kodansha is dropping some strong hints that it will launch five manga based on the Love Plus “virtual girlfriends” for the DS console.

Reviews: David Welsh is bothered by the lettering in Crown of Love at Manga Curmudgeon. Cathy reads vols. 1-9 of Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M in a single sitting, and she has some good responses at it can’t all be about manga… EvilOmar posts a batch of brief manga reviews at About Heroes, and the Manga Recon team has some fresh Manga Minis up.

InfiniteSpeech on vols. 1 and 2 of Afro Samurai (Comic Attack)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 1 of Alice in the Country of Hearts (Sequential Tart)
Diana Dang on vol. 2 of Black Bird (Stop, Drop, and Read!)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 3 of Black Bird (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Tiamat’s Disciple on vol. 1 of Black Butler (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews)
Rob on vol. 3 of Black Cat (Panel Patter)
Johanna Draper Carlson on Blood Honey and How to Seduce a Vampire (Comics Worth Reading)
Karen Maeda on Croquis (Sequential Tart)
John on vol. 1 of Deadman Wonderland (Anime Vice)
Erica Freidman on vol. 2 of Dragon Sister! (Okazu)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 4 of Fruits Basket: Ultimate Edition (Sequential Tart)
Erica Friedman on vol. 1 of Gakkou no Sensei (Okazu)
Melinda Beasi on vol. 8 of Goong (Manga Bookshelf)
Tangognat on Haru Hana (Tangognat)
Michelle Smith on vols. 13-17 of Hikaru no Go (Soliloquy in Blue)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 2 of I Hate You More Than Anyone! (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Paige McKee on vol. 4 of Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit (Sequential Tart)
Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 2 of Karakuri Odette (Comics Worth Reading)
Karen Maeda on vol. 2 of Karakuri Odette (Sequential Tart)
Rob on vol. 3 of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Panel Patter)
Rob on vol. 1 of The Law of Ueki (Panel Patter)
Rob on vol. 5 of Marmalade Boy (Panel Patter)
Rob on vol. 1 of My Heavenly Hockey Club (Panel Patter)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 29 of One Piece (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Holly Von Winckel on vol. 31 of One Piece (Sequential Tart)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 32 of One Piece (The Comic Book Bin)
Patti Martinson on vol. 32 of One Piece (Sequential Tart)
Michelle Smith on vol. 1 of Pandora Hearts (Soliloquy in Blue)
Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 1 of Panic x Panic (The Comic Book Bin)
Julie on vol. 1 of Panic x Panic (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Sheena McNeil on vol. 9 of Rosario + Vampire (Sequential Tart)
Julie on vol. 1 of A Royal Proposition (Manga Maniac Cafe)
Tiamat’s Disciple on vol. 1 of The Sheikh’s Reluctant Bride (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews)
Shaenon Garrity on vols. 1 and 2 of Soul Eater (
Tiamat’s Disciple on vols. 9 and 10 of Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning (Tiamat’s Manga Reviews)
Ken Haley on vol. 1 of Starcraft: Ghost Academy (Manga Recon)
Rob on vol. 7 of Tarot Cafe (Panel Patter)
Michael C. Lorah on vols. 6 and 7 of Yotsuba&! (Blog@Newsarama)
Erica Friedman on vol. 5 of Your and My Secret (Okazu)

Review: Black Butler, vol. 1

BLACKBUTLER_1-199x300Black Butler, vol. 1
By Yana Toboso
Rated OT, Older Teen
Yen Press, $10.99

Black Butler is set in Victorian, or maybe Edwardian, England, but anyone who is looking for a male version of Emma will be sorely disappointed. This is really an action story, and by the second half of the book—when the car chases begin and the characters all whip out their cell phones—all pretense of period elegance is gone.

The problem is that there is no action in the first half of the book. It’s all about Sebastian, the perfect butler, pleasing his 12-year-old boss, Ciel Phantomhive, with his superhuman butlering skills. This is made difficult by the fact that the rest of the household staff is bumbling idiots, a setup that the creator is desperately trying to play for laughs. It doesn’t work; the staff are too exaggerated and shrieky, and the pratfalls quickly become monotonous.

Ciel is apparently the last remaining member of the Phantomhive toymaking dynasty. He lives alone, except for his household staff, in his enormous, luxuriously appointed mansion, and he alternates between whining and lounging around looking bored. He’s your basic affectless manga guy, and he is the least interesting character in the first half of the book. You would think a toymaker would have some interesting toys scattered around the place, but all Ciel has is a generic boxed board game that serves as a plot device but has no entertainment value of its own. Instead, the focus is on the household staff, with the butler obsessing about the garden and the food and everyone else getting in the way.

The first half of the book should be setting up the story and providing some context. Who is Ciel? Why does he wear an eyepatch? What happened to his parents? Is there something sinister about his family’s toymaking business? Has something terrible happened to the rest of his family? These are things the reader wants to know, but we get no answers, just more poorly drawn teacups and mutterings about poached salmon. Then his childish girlfriend shows up and dresses everyone in frills and bows, throwing tantrums to get her way. Halfway through volume 1, there has been zero plot exposition, but the annoying side details have reached critical overload.

And then, a few pages into chapter 3, after another slapstick scene in which the household staff spazzes out about mice, the whole story starts to change. Suddenly Ciel is playing pool with adults and practicing a little extortion as well, in exchange for getting rid of … someone. Everyone speaks in metaphors, so it’s hard to say who. Then there’s more business with pastries and dropping the china before the book takes a final lunge in the opposite direction: Ciel is kidnapped and beaten, and Italian mafia guys threaten to kill his household staff because apparently Ciel has stolen some drugs from them. Then there’s a lot of yelling and speedlines and eventually Sebastian shows up and kicks everyone’s ass with some slick moves, including a cool Wolverine thing with the cutlery (which, sadly, shows the sort of potential this book would have if the author had tried a little harder). But wait! There’s a Sinister Secret! Ciel and Sebastian have a special bond, and Sebastian is no mere mortal butler, which of course comes as no surprise—it’s the sort of thing you expect to happen in this sort of book, even if the creator has neglected to foreshadow it at all. The end of the book is only marginally more coherent than the beginning, but at least the characters seem to have some motivation and the story is morphing into an action/revenge kind of a thing.

Black Butler has the makings of a great story, but it’s never really realized. The toys, for instance, could have been exploited for atmosphere, and toys are much more sinister than pastries and tea sets. The first two chapters are just floating out there with no context; if Toboso had used them to fill in some of the backstory, they would have been a lot more compelling. As it is, the Victorian schtick has an off-the shelf feel to it, and the whole Upstairs, Downstairs thing is so poorly executed that it detracts from the main story.

The book’s one redeeming feature—and it gives me hope for volume 2—is the way Sebastian totally kicks ass in the last chapter. Toboso’s artistic weakness—his figures are too thin and insubstantial—becomes a strength when Sebastian starts swinging from the ceiling and delivering kicks to the face. There is a nice, dynamic feel to those last pages that is totally missing from the beginning.

Dedicated shonen fans who like slapstick and prefer ass-kicking to narrative will probably enjoy this first volume more than I did, but I’m willing to stick with the series to see if it gets better in the long run.

End note: I read Lianne Sentar’s review of the anime, and if you don’t mind spoilers, you should check it out, if only for her excellent descriptions of what went wrong. Like this:

Unfortunately, most of the comedic potential is wasted on a bevy of side characters who couldn’t be less funny if they were gassing kittens, and the homoeroticism between Sebastian and his pre-pubescent charge is definitely more disturbing than amusing.

Yup. But here’s the thing: Lianne likes the story, and she explains that the anime gets better as you go along. Hopefully the same will be true of the manga.

(This review is based on a review copy supplied by the publisher.)