Chris Stevens, a comics writer and editor who has co-edited two volumes of the anthology series Once Upon a Time Machine (the second volume is newly released) talks with Koom about Frank Miller’s work, Chris’ time with Philadelphia indy publisher Locust Moon, income inequality among comics creators, and of course, some of the stories he’s edited for the anthologies.
Many Westerners feel a bit puzzled by Japanese comics — the subject matter, the art style, the pacing, etc. Koom has been trying for some time to grasp what he’s not “getting” about manga. Meanwhile, manga translator Kumar is about done with “explaining” Japanese comics to people, but he makes an exception for Koom (and the podcast). They discuss I Am a Hero by Kengo Hanazawa, and A Distant Neighborhood by Jiro Taniguchi — both translated by none other than Kumar!
Three more talks with the folks at Helioscope Studio in Portland in this episode!
Steve Lieber, an artist in his own right and also manager of the studio, gives us a brief history of the studio (including its self-naming woes) and tips on how to start your own studio.
Intern/mentee Maria Frantz, a university student and web cartoonist who grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes, explains her internship and the aims of her comics work, and how her generation approaches comics.
Finally, Ben Dewey (Autumnlands, Beasts of Burden) talks about his process of doing art (involving digital pencils and analog watercolors), why you shouldn’t get too fussy over your comics, managing your comics creating time, and what was good about Rob Liefeld’s work.
Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons’ brilliant Give Me Liberty features a surreal America in the near future that is falling apart. Their Martha Washington, a young black woman raised in a housing project, is a tough, resourceful, heartbreaking heroine who journeys through and ultimately survives this America.
Koom and Kumar reflect upon the neglected classic and its eerie ability to touch upon the spirit of America during this election season. They recorded this podcast after the third presidential debate, when Hilary Clinton seemed likely to win, and joked about the connections. Sometimes, reality has a way of outdoing fiction.
Paul Chadwick’s Concrete first appeared in Dark Horse Presents #1 in 1986. While its hero is a human whose brain is transplanted to a huge stone body by aliens, the stories are otherwise very realistic and emotional, and often center on real-world problems. While the series had some success, and theoretically the next volume should still be on its way, Concrete does not seem to be so widely remembered.
This week, Kumar and Koom take a look at a couple of their favorite Concrete stories: Think Like a Mountain, which focuses on environmental issues; and The Human Dilemma, about overpopulation.
Originating out of the same ’80s black-and-white/anthropomorphic boom that brought us the Ninja Turtles, Usagi Yojimbo is one of the few comics of that batch that are still going today. Stan Sakai’s work combines historical drama, understated violence, light comedy, and even some explanations of 17th century Japanese culture — and he can pack a surprising amount of story into a few pages. Tom Spurgeon joins Tim and Kumar to talk about the long-eared samurai.
Richard Corben has repeatedly adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe — in fact, he’s drawn some of the same stories several times! Most recently he’s done the work collected in Dark Horse’s Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead.
How do his different versions of such works as The Fall of the House of Usher compare to each other? How has Corben enhanced Poe’s stories? Is reading Poe adapted as a comic a substitute for straight-up reading Poe? In general, is it harder to be scary in comics compared to other media? Kumar and Dana discuss.
Greek comics creators are taking the English-speaking world by storm! … well, OK, maybe not. But Eugenia in Athens has pointed out there are at least two recent examples of comics by Greeks that have been released by American publishers. This week she talks with Tim about two of them: Falling for Lionheart by Ilias Kyriazis, and Amala’s Blade by Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas.
By Kory Cerjak
Deconstructing Comics’ own Kumar Sivasubramanian translated Dark Horse’s weird and usually cerebral manga MPD Psycho into English. And it’s a good thing he did (rather, that Dark Horse licensed it in the first place) because it is the detective/crime thriller that I always look for.
MPD Psycho is about a detective named Yosuke Kobayashi who, after having his girlfriend literally mailed to him in a freezer, goes crazy and hunts down the man who did it. As a result of these events, he develops multiple personalities. The bulk of this information is given intermittently throughout volume one, which is an interesting storytelling tactic. It allows the reader to weave through the mystery him/herself while simultaneously setting up for the rest of the series with scenes like Kobayashi and future employer Machi Isono. In fact, his “transformation” to cold-blooded killer Shinji Nishizono is only revealed to us through Isono seeing a video made by a reporter.
This is why I call the manga “cerebral”. Much of what’s going on is presented to us in the first person, but it feels very much like a third person point of view. But it gets confusing because we’re looking through the eyes of Kazuhiko Amamiya (the now-dominant personality) as well as Nishizono and later Kiyoshi Murata. We’re most definitely inside of Kobayashi’s head, but we’re never immediately sure of whether it’s Kobayashi-Amamiya, Kobayashi-Nishizono, or Kobayashi-Murata. Thankfully, Otsuka clears that up quickly.
The plot itself centers around a serial killer who Isono and Amamiya’s agency is trying to track down, dubbed the “Lucy Seven” case according to Wikipedia. Those individual cases aren’t made evident to be more than just a murder. Once they solve it, it’s revealed to be part of the Lucy Seven. Lucy Seven itself is very complex, because we not only have to weave through the individual cases, but also how it ties in to the larger whole.
Despite the fact that we’re inside one of Amamiya’s many personalities at any given time, we’re still left piecing together the mystery. Amamiya isn’t aware of what Nishizono is thinking, and neither is aware of what Murata is thinking. So we, the reader, are left with bits and pieces of information that only make up a fraction of the whole.
It’s hard to write detective fiction this compelling and this interesting, and it’s a testament to Otsuka that he did it this well. It relies heavily on shocking imagery (like Kobayashi’s girlfriend being mailed to him and other dismembered bodies) early on, but it lightens up on that and becomes more than just a shock story. It’s good that it does, because Otsuka is certainly good at writing this kind of detective fiction. He can string you along and make you believe you have all the pieces of the puzzle, because Amamiya thinks he has all the pieces to the puzzle. In reality, Nishizono has a few of the missing pieces and Murata might have a few more missing pieces. We’re able to piece it all together, but it’s so interesting to watch the character work his way through it.
I don’t mean to knock on the translation of a fellow Deconstructing Comics-er, but I question one thing, and one thing only: the original Murata Kiyoshi’s speech patterns. It seems like it’d be a lot like Kugeyama from Genshiken, in that he’d have a stutter, but instead it’s just drawn out and slow. Since I don’t know what the original was, I can’t comment on whether that’s accurate, but it seems off and slows me down reading the broken up sentences. But what do I know, I don’t even speak Japanese. Also that could be an editorial decision, not of the translator.
The artwork in MPD Psycho is absolutely spectacular in places and mediocre in others. The faces of Amamiya (and I do mean faces) are spectacular. The differences in expression and hair make it easy to tell which personality is in control. However, the faces of background characters seem to be the same old face with new hair. Most of the other main characters are great, but not to the level of Amamiya. The background art is fine. It adds to the ambiance as backgrounds, but it’s never great like it could be in Kare Kano. Overall, the art does what it needs to do in a story like this, and that’s support but not lead.
I love things like Dexter, Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, and Blade Runner, so it’s only natural that I’d like MPD Psycho as well. It has the interesting maybe-right-but-probably-wrong serial killer, the sort of noir or neo-noir detective feel, and a mystery that isn’t told to you outright nor is it held in front of you like a carrot (I’m looking at you, J.J. Abrams).
Best of all, in volume four, MPD Psycho basically predicted the Rebuild of Evangelion.
MPD Psycho is in print by Dark Horse and easily findable at Amazon, Right Stuf, and probably your local bookstore—though it’ll most likely be shrink-wrapped. It’s also available on Dark Horse’s digital store, which is where I’ve been reading it.
Mulele bought a print comic from one of his favorite online artists, the mysterious creator of the Tanglefoot page on Tumblr. The comic, Dime a Dance, is a fun silent story with dynamic art. Too bad it doesn’t have more room to breathe.
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