Hachette names GN line; Hassler leaves Borders

Big news via PW Daily:

The Hachette Book Group is launching Yen Press, a new comics and graphic novel imprint that will focus on titles for adults and young readers, PW Daily learned this morning. The imprint will be directed by former DC Comics v-p Rich Johnson, who joined Hachette last month, and Kurt Hassler, formerly the graphic novel buyer for the Borders Group, who will join Yen Press November 27.

According to the report, Yen press will concentrate on licensed manga, Hassler’s specialty, but “will also publish a wide variety of comics works. Young said the list will include original manga, original American comics and graphic novels, webcomics, licensed adaptations and children’s works.”

Two big things here: the announcement of a wide ranging line of GNs from a major publisher. Previous efforts have been narrowly focused, or else consisted of a smattering of books here and there.

The shift of Hassler, who was recently named the Most Powerful Person in Manga, is the other bombshell. Although Hassler is credited with being one of the major architects of the graphic novel boom via his canny decisions and passionate advocacy for manga at Borders, he was also a hardline gatekeeper on what material Borders would carry. Any change in the buying patterns there could have huge ripples at the chain and publishers.


Why girls love boys love

Every one has already linked to this story by Eliza Strickland, which is the best written and researched piece we’ve yet seen on just why girls like comics about 12-year-old Japanese boys shagging one another. Strickland goes to Yaoi-Con for a first hand look and examines the psychology and history of the genre as well as looking at the potential dangers of censorship:

Meanwhile, in the United States, women were playing with slash fiction — that is, stories in which male pop culture characters hooked up (for example, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock). Yet yaoi and slash involve little casual sex. When couples couple, it’s an emotional maelstrom; even after a rape scene, the two men lie tenderly in each other’s arms and profess their love. It’s a visual treat with an emotional payoff, a dynamite combination for the ladies.

Untranslated Japanese comics began to arrive in the U.S. in the 1980s and ’90s. With the arrival of the Internet came a new labor of love — the “scanlation,” for which die-hard fans scanned each page of a comic and painstakingly added translations. To avoid such toil, Americans began writing English-language slash based on their favorite characters from anime (Japan’s animated TV shows and films) and manga.

“Then Gundam Wing happened,” explains Eliza Cameron, whose manuscript on the history of yaoi is being considered by a Berkeley publisher. In 2000, the sci-fi anime series about a team of teenage fighter pilots began airing on the Cartoon Network, and thousands of new fans ventured online to look for pictures of the cute heroes. What they often found instead was a slash universe that dedicated yaoi fans had already created around the Gundam Wing characters. “It was the ‘gateway yaoi’ of my generation,” Cameron says.

All interested observers really need to read this article. Even some of the yaoi publishers we’ve spoken to have only vague notions of the genre’s appeal, and we’re still not entirely clear on it ourselves.
Personally speaking, we always get a laugh out of a mild bit of slash that shows Kirk mooning for Spock or Legolas and Aragorn revealing how they really feel because in the original source material, there was so much boys-own-adventure posturing (a world few women were allowed into) that highlighting the absurdity of the world via making it a gay love story seemed highly appropriate. For The Beat it was a way of introducing some kind of feminine principle — that we could relate to — into a fairly male-dominated structure.

Strickland say yaoi has some of the same function, allowing female readers to break out of the often submissive and ninnyish roles played by the girls in traditional shojo manga. Psychologists also have their say:

If one does feel the need to psychoanalyze the phenomenon, however, academics have arrived at a standard interpretation. “It’s a way for young women and girls to explore sexuality without it being too intimately connected to them,” says Susan Napier, a professor of Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Without a female character in the book, readers can choose which male character to identify with, instead of feeling forced into one role. “They can enjoy seeing sexual situations with handsome young men, and can play out different sexual scenarios without having to put themselves into it, so it’s less intimidating or threatening,” Napier says.

Somehow we doubt the religious right will have the same open-minded attitude when they finally get hold of yaoi — although they seem to be having their own gay problems today.

Show us the Gerard Way

Umbacadfcsol TWe know rock and roll isn’t as big as it used to be, and here at Stately Beat Manor we prefer to listen to bleeping blooping stuff like Vitalic, Röyksopp and Les Baxter, but even we know that one of the biggest bands on earth right now is My Chemical Romance. Their gloom-ridden yet hard edged and accessible EmoGoth sound was torn from the mean streets of Newark, NJ, and they enjoy a loyal and rabid fanbase.

Gerard-Way-BigMore notable for our purposes is singer Gerard Way, a card carrying comics geek whose nerd cred includes: going to SVA, interning at DC Comics for Joey Cavalieri, and according to various sources, working in animation or at a comics shop. In interviews he lists Grant Morrison and Wes Anderson as major influences, so even though we don’t listen to that jungle music the kids do nowadays, he sounds like an okay guy.

Of course like many movie stars, movie directors and rock gods, all of that fame and fortune has just been a path to a single goal for Way: getting to write a comic book! It’s called UMBRELLA ACADEMY and it’s due some time in 2007 from Dark Horse, sporting art by Gabriel Bá and covers James Jean. According to MTV:

“The Umbrella Academy,” a six-issue series from Dark Horse Comics, tells the story of Sir Reginald Hargreeves — a “world-renowned scientist and inventor, intrepid adventurer, successful entrepreneur, champion cricketer and closet space alien,” according to a statement from Dark Horse — and his family of superpowered, super-abnormal superheroes.

” ‘Umbrella Academy’ is the story of seven extraordinary, maladjusted individuals, their triumphs, tragedies, failures and disappointments,” the statement reads in part. “Most importantly, it’s about a family of superhumans who need to learn to get past their spectacularly dysfunctional childhoods to defeat the Conductor and his evil Black Orchestra and do what they were born to: save the world.”

But whenever it does hit shelves, the initial six-issue series — written entirely by Way — will serve as a launching point for an ongoing “Umbrella” miniseries (sort of like what the company does with its “Hellboy” title). .

Way is busy touring and promoting the new MCR album, so who knows how this series is progressing. But the Dark Horse website has a two-page preview up, and it looks very nice. Even though his #1 occupation may be as an idol to millions of disaffected teens, Way has certainly paid his comics dues, so he can be allowed into our ranks — plus who doesn’t love artist Bá?

Little Lulu archives to Harvard

16-Lulu3-225As regulars here may know, Little Lulu is one of our favorite comics of all the times, and we have a small shrine in our home built to John Stanley and Irving Tripp — no really, we do, thanks to those cool PVCs Dark horse made a few years ago. (Stanley and Tripp wrote and drew the Little Lulu comics for many years.)

However, we are also admirers of Lulu’s creator Marjorie Henderson Buell, aka Marge, who is often overlooked in the well-deserved praise given to Stanley and Tripp. The Lulu comic may have given her a pantheon of adventures and fables second to none in the comics canon, but Buell did invent Lulu and Tubby, and the moppet’s basic mischievous nature.

Today a very wonderful link at the Harvard Gazette which explains that Buell’s son, Lawrence, has donated her papers to an archive of women’s history at Harvard. Lawrence Buell is the Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature; his brother Fred is a professor of English at Queens College — evidentally Marge raised some pretty smart kids,

“Lulu seems to me to be of great historical interest as a barometer of young women’s assertiveness in a male-dominated culture,” Buell said.

Buell, whose normal area of expertise encompasses Emerson, Thoreau, and other figures of 19th century American literature, is specially qualified to speak with authority on Little Lulu. His mother, Marjorie Henderson Buell, created the cartoon character in 1935. This year, Buell and his brother Fred Buell,…gave their mother’s papers to the Schlesinger, America’s premier library of women’s history.

Lulu will hardly be out of place there. Her creator was the first female cartoonist in the United States to achieve worldwide success. Little Lulu has appeared as a syndicated newspaper strip, in comic books, animated cartoons, and as a spokesperson for Kleenex. And she has been translated into many languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, and Japanese.

It’s a sunstantial article which includes many biographical details of Marge’s life, including how she and her husband dealt with two careers, and her attitude towards the strip and whether Lulu was a feminist or not. Best of all, examples of Marge’s delightful cartoons from the Saturday Evening Post are reproduced. Click and read!

When Disney went to war

Neff 326817 1[542992]We were trawling around on the ‘net and found this coolish page looking at Disney’s World War II effort, and the incongruity of cute cartoon characters being used to military purposes — a practice which continues to this day:

Just prior to America’s entry into the war, the U.S. Navy asked Disney Studios to assist in designing an emblem for one of the new American warships — the U.S.S. Wasp. Disney Studios, appropriately enough, designed an emblem of a wasp wearing boxing gloves straddling an American aircraft carrier. It proved extremely popular and further requests were made.

The link includes many examples of the emblems from the collection of the writer, Robert Neff.

We’re especially enamored of semaphore Mickey, because semaphore makes us think of two things which always make us smile: Semaphore Wuthering Heights from Monty Python, and the ending of CINDERELLA LIBERTY. “Bravo Yankee, Bravo…good-bye.”

Linkage 11/03

§ Jeff Smith stands in front of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao, as his European World Tour continues.

§ Andre 3000 (of music duo Outkast) is readying a cartoon for The Cartoon Network — you can read all about it in the link — it sounds pretty cool — but for our purposes, all you need to know it that is features contributions from John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy), Overton Loyd, Peter Chung (Aeon Flux), Bill Sienkiewicz and “Robotboy” director Charlie Bean.

§ You’ve heard Todd McFarlane called many things, but you’ve probably never heard him called a 45-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills resident as he is in the very lengthy piece about action figures, centering around an intallation at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts which consists of a pyramid of hundreds of action figures from the personal collection of Jarvis Rockwell.

§ Now that he’s got his voice back, Scott Adams has announcedDilbert’s annual Weasel Awards.

§ Comics and Politics: CHEATED (above) tells the story of what some believe was voting fraud in Ohio during the 2004 election.

§ Finally No Iranian newspaper has published the winning cartoon in the Holocaust cartoon contest :

Iran’s competition for cartoons mocking the Holocaust drew international reproach but made little impression at home Thursday, with not a single Iranian newspaper publishing the winning entries and people on the street saying it left them unmoved.

Iran awarded the first prize — worth $12,000 — late Wednesday to Moroccan cartoonist Abdollah Derkaoui, who drew a picture of an Israeli crane erecting a wall of concrete blocks around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site. The blocks bear sections of a well-known photograph of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz where as many as 1.5 million people — mostly Jews — died during World War II.

“The exhibition had no remarkable impact on public opinion,” said Gohar Dashti, a professor at the Soureh Art University in Tehran. “It was neither a concern of students nor of the media.”


We had a chance to attend a view of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan last week and our advice is to RUN RUN RUN to see it as soon as possible, because by the time the weekend has ended, all of your hipster friends will be quoting it so much that you will be sick of it immediately. You will LONG to hear “Oh, BEHAVE!” after a few days of sexytime and romance explosions, not to mention “The Running of the Jews.”

You should also see it because BORAT is one of the funniest movies we’ve ever seen, and you don’t want it spoiled too much. In case you don’t spend much time on the internet, it stars comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev, a reporter from Kazahstan who comes to America to make a documentary and ends up trying to marry Pamela Anderson — only he does it Kazakh style, with a marriage sack. Along the way, he encounters real life people who have no idea it’s all a joke, and admit to him — on camera — their own prejudices and medieval attitudes. Who is the real savage here? That’s the question that BORAT answers in stinging, merciless satire.

Why do people fall for Borat? Well, like all great satire, it’s because it’s true. Mahir Cagri, anyone?

In the meantime, we received this press release from NBM which reminds us that if you want to find out what Kazakhstan is actually like, you can read Ted Rall’s THE SILK ROAD TO RUIN:

As Ted Rall reveals in his hilarious “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?”, the truth about Kazakhstan is that it is a place where women of marriageable age beat their suitors nearly to death in a game called “Kiss the Girl,” and the national sport is betting which of President-for Life Nursultan Nazarbayev’s political opponents will wind up dead in a ditch, tied up and shot multiple times in a “suicide.”

“Silk Road to Ruin” follows up Rall’s award-winning, bone-chilling account of his narrow escape from war-torn Afghanistan, “To Afghanistan and Back: A Graphic Travelogue” (NBM, 2002) with a 304-page collection of graphic novellas and essays about the “Stans” and the many hair-raising, life-on-the-brink trips he took there for various magazines and media.

• Find out about “buzkashi,” headless dead goat polo in which the only rule is that the use of automatic weapons is considered gauche.

• Study the best ways to trick a corrupt military policeman into letting you travel another kilometer to the next checkpoint manned by another corrupt cop.

• Choose your favorite Central Asian despot—is it Nazarbeyev or President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov, a.k.a. Turkmenbashi the Great, who has renamed the months of the year and the days of the week after himself and members of his family?

You can read a preview at the NBM site.