I love reading comics and manga (漫畫, manhua)! They are, at least in theory, a near-perfect combination of art and story, allowing an excellent degree of creator control, which in turn allows creators to communicate in a very direct and effective way with the reader; in my opinion, the message-delivering ability of manga is second only to cinema. Plus, they don't take a long time, and they're a great way to learn another language.
I mostly read Japanese manga, sometimes in Chinese translation, sometimes in English (my Japanese isn't good enough to allow me to read them in Japanese). I have given the Chinese names where I could below; I rarely know what the original Japanese name is, and for this I apologize. My favorite topics in manga are gender and science fiction. I also read a fair amount of online comics. This page is devoted to all kinds of stuff.
And there's finally enough stuff here that a list of the contents is in order. Do you know how hard it is to figure out how to organize all this stuff? You can't divide it purely on Western/Japanese bases, since there are tons of Western manga. You can't really do alphabetical by author, because so many comics were written or drawn by multiple people. You can really do topical organization because so many manga and comics cross lines. And you can't divide them by whether they're online or on paper, since so many are both -- where do you put an online translation of a paper manga? But in any case, here's my weak attempt at an organizational scheme:
I'm a big fan of manga, or at least some titles. Of course, as with any form of literature (paperbacks, magazines, journals, etc.), there are lots of bad manga out there as well as good. But what's good is often excellent.
He has done numerous other beautiful works, including a lot of mythic children's stories about the importance of imagination, the troubles of technology and childhood, such as Laputa, City in the Sky; My Neighbor Totoro; and Kiki's Delivery Service. Although Miyazaki's work is often cute, it is never cutesy; his cuteness is the natural innocence of children, not the affected childishness of adults.
Here's what I have by Miyazaki:
I've never gotten around to buying My Neighbor Totoro; it has a beautiful story, but it's a little too simple & bare for my tastes.
There is a fan site that has lots of very good information on Miyazaki and all of his works. Miyazaki's own site, Studio Ghibli, is in Japanese, requiring an appropriately-equipped browser to access it.
A hugely complicated story about the dangers of either maturing too quickly or staying immature too long, this was one of the biggest influences on my science fiction interests. I also recommend almost anything else by Otomo, including Memories and The Legend of Mother Sarah (drawn by Nagayasu Takumi 永安巧 ).
I recommend almost anything by Masamune Shiro, especially his more cyberpunk-y works, such as The Ghost in the Shell (攻殼機動隊) and Appleseed (I have no idea what the Chinese name for this comic is -- anyone who knows, please let me know!). He's very good when he sticks to what he knows best -- intrigue and guns -- but when he delves into political theory or mysticism (such as in Orion), he gets pretty silly. His drawings also tend towards the lewd, but the tech stuff is excellent.
I've found a couple good sites on the Net devoted to Masamune. A very nice fan site, called simply Masamune Shiro, has lots of information, but doesn't get updated very often; otherwise, you might want to check the Shiro webring.
Another excellent artist who can sometimes tell a good story is 星野之宣. His views of the history of humanity and the way its fate is intertwined with technology owe a lot to 2001: A Space Odyssey (which he pays tribute to many times), but his drawings, most of all, are beautiful and stark. Probably his best series is 2001 Nights (2001夜物語).
While his other works don't particularly appeal to me, F.Compo has recently jumped up to become my favorite comic/manga of all time. I don't want to give away too much, but I should say that the story is about transgender issues in a very big way. The story is -- well, read it. You'll see why I like it so much.
I have to note some general thoughts about the manga.
The story is now complete, both in Chinese and Japanese, but it has yet to appear in English, as far as I can tell; who knows when a US translation will come out. The story kind of sagged around volume five, but became fresh and very compelling again at around volume ten.
There are a number of sites out there that have attempted scanlations. Here are some of the ones I know of:
There are also some other sites of general interest:
Okay, I admit it. I sometimes read Ranma 1/2 (亂馬 1/2) by Takahashi Rumiko (高橋留美). Yes, it's cutesy. Yes, the stories are silly at best, completely affected and ridiculous at worst. But come on, Ranma can change sex at the drop of a hat!
If you like manga and anime, you should definitely check out OtakuWorld, a site in English that has tons of information, news, anime downloads and other stuff. (Plus, one of the women who designed it, Jennifer Diane Reitz, has a very good page about transsexuality, and her own webcomic, Unicorn Jelly, is pretty good, though fairly odd.)
I don't only read manga. I have also read a lot of Western comics. Most of my collection is in the US, though, and living in Taiwan as I do, Western comics are hard to get. Nonetheless, here are some comics I've read or continue to read.
There are enough different comics that a navigation list is in order:
- D'Arc Tangent
- Eclipse-published titles
- Love and Rockets
- Moebius titles
- Puma Blues
- Stuck Rubber Baby
- Tales of the Beanworld
- The Tick
- Those Annoying Post Bros.
- Usagi Yojimbo
- Other sources
Dave Sim's comic was one of my first comic addictions. The first sixty or so issues were great; the issue where Cerebus is trapped in a ship's hold with Lord Julius, Elrod, etc. is one of the funniest comics I've ever read. However, I lost interest as Sim's politics intruded more and more, and as Sim did less and less of the actual comic every month (through leaving backgrounds to his partner, Gerhard, and through publishing fewer pages every month).
Some Cerebus-related links:
Matt Feazell's excellent minicomic/maxicomic done in stick figures. Some of the plots were marvels of minimalism; witness the story where all of Minneapolis was "gripped with terror" and Cynicalman won't help because it's his day off, or the one where he satiates a rampaging dinosaur with a huge quiche from the Riverside Cafe. Antisocial Man, Dr. Pweent, "brum!" and "ert!" -- there are lots of reasons to love Cynicalman.
Some Cynicalman-related links are below.
From Jan Strnad and Dennis Fujitake, Dalgoda was a very emotional space opera. The characters were very realistic, and the situations were interesting but sometimes painful. When Dalgoda discovered his family had died, when his friend was bottoming out in Hawai'i... And Fujitake's illustrations were a great mixture of detail and wash.
Here are some websites related to Dalgoda:
An amazingly tantalizing first issue from Phil Foglio and Freff (Connor Freff Cochran). To be honest, I don't remember the exact plot, but basicaly, it told the story of a noble in pre-Renaissance France whose mind was mistakenly transferred into a robot's body. There were several side stories; the events leading to the disaster, events at the Wall (a galactic spaceport, possibly where the robots came from); and I think something else. The story hinted at an epic scale and exploration of some very interesting issues, and the art was excellent. However, Foglio and Freff became embittered ex-partners before the second issue was finished, so all we're left with is the (as I said) tantalizing first issue.
There aren't really any links specifically about D'arc Tangent out there, but there are some related links:
Back in the heyday of black-and-white/small-press comics, I read a lot of comics published by Eclipse. They put out some really great titles: The Dreamery, Fusion, Scout, Beanworld and others. I never read Zot! or Miracle Man, though I now wish I had.
As for links about Eclipse, here's what I could find:
Excellently funny. Eyebeam is a great surreal comic strip by Sam Hurt, along the lines of Bloom County or something, but more adult and funnier. The theory about the direct link between the tackiness of a Chinese restaurant's decor and the quality of the food, the 1937 Ford Scrod, "I steer clear of bear meat", "It's getting to be more trouble than it's worth to rent a dog", Three Initial Corporation -- it's all great.
There are many links on the Web, but here's what I know of:
Sergio Aragones' series about an incompetent barbarian is predictable but fun. Aragones is a master of detail, and his drawings tend to be quite accurate historically, though not anatomically.
Here are some Groo-related sites on the Web:
The Brothers Hernandez' Love and Rockets is one of the classics of modern comics. I've always preferred Jaime's stories about Maggie, Hopey, Penny and the others; Gilbert's art style just never grabbed me, so I never got into the stories. Jaime's stories were a terrific mix of 50's strangeness, gritty realism and emotional interplay.
There are lots of Love and Rockets websites out there; a few choice ones are listed below.
I've read several of Moebius' works. Some of his things are great; some of the short stories he did for Heavy Metal are excellent. His illustrative style is always full of detail and emotion. However, a lot of his longer stories tend to drift into incomprehensibility. I think Moebius is often unable to rein in his plots when they get long; he imagination runs riot and he puts in everything he thinks would be 'cool'. The Incal, for example, starts off beautiful and interesting, but starts to feel like a messy Star Wars rip-off by the end.
Here are some links about Moebius:
An excellent environmentalist comic from Michael Zulli and Stephen Murphy. It's the story of a guy who gets a terrible job: he is in charge of destroying ecological mutants at a dead lake. He spends his time alone in a cabin by the lake, thinking about his relationship with his parents and occasionally going out to kill a mutant, such as a manta ray that has learned to fly in the air. The sentiments behind the comic and the amazing art by Michael Zulli made it challenging and beautiful.
There aren't very many links about Puma Blues on the Net, but here's what I've found:
Timothy Truman's epic of a semi-post holocaust USA. The original issues, when Scout was trying to deal with his visions and with the craziness of the government, were great. I also liked Scout: War Shaman, in the years after the final events of the first series. However, with the main series, Truman increasingly let other artists take over and the stories became more and more far-fetched. By the end of the main series, I wasn't very interested in either the art or the story anymore. Nonetheless, Scout was a great series. And, I have to note, if Arnold or Jesse ever become President, Truman will deserve credit for predicting it.
There aren't many websites about Scout -- here's what I've found:
By Howard Cruse, this graphic novel is about growing up in the South (of the US) in the 1960's, dealing with homophobia and racism and a lot of other things. Cruse is a great storyteller, and his illustrations are evocative and emotional. It's one of my favorite books.
Here are some related web sites:
Larry Marder's Beanworld stories were definitely unusual for their time. The artistic style was somewhere between Aztec carvings and stick figures; the stories were a mix of Native American creation myths and ecological documentary. The comic was overall a really interesting presentation of world-building, detailing how the world worked and what everyone's place in it was, while making comments on the meaning of life, the purpose of work, how to achieve balance and other things. Very good stuff.
Here's what I've found on the Net about the Beanworld:
Too damn funny. Ben Edlund has gone on to bigger things since, though few things better. The Tick was mostly an excuse for Ben Edlund to draw all his craziest superhero ideas: Four-Legged Man, Der Fliedermaus, Chairface Chippendale, Hand Grenade Man, etc. etc. His writing is just hilarious. He is also responsible for a lot of the amazing writing in Joss Whedon's great series (Angel and Firefly), and he worked with Whedon on Titan A.E. It's unfortunate that he isn't doing anything more with the Tick, but if he keeps working, I'll be happy.
Here are some Tick-related websites:
I first saw Matt Howarth's art in the Dune Encyclopedia, which partially inspired my own ARCADIA. Howarth's art is really pretty damn cool. Pointilism, ragged lines, generally amazing use of black and white ink. His main series was Those Annoying Post Bros., but there were many others: Savage Henry, Keif Llama and many more. The Bugtown comics -- the ones starring the Post Bros., Savage Henry, Caroline, etc. -- were often just reactionary anti-politically correctness, and in the later issues, Howarth made the Post Brothers' dimension-hopping abilities more and more into superhero silliness. The earlier issues, though, were great mind-bending fun.
Here are some Howarth-related websites:
Stan Sakai's epic about a rabbit ronin in feudal Japan. Sakai's stories were pretty good, with occasional heartbreak to go with the samurai action scenes, but my favorite aspect of the comic is Sakai's illustrative style. His use of ink makes it look like woodblock printing, my favorite form of East Asian art. He's recently gone to full color, which is a little disappointing, but to be honest, I lost interest when he went to multi-issue story arcs. His short stories were best; the emotion was more pure, and the plots were cleaner.
Here are a few Usagi Yojimbo-related links:
There are naturally many other sites and sources out there for comics information. Here are a few:
Now that I've started looking for online comics, they're coming out of the woodwork. There's so much out there! The web is an excellent medium for comics, and there are so many people out there who have stories to tell... Unfortunately, I can only present a few of them. Here's what I've found...
When you'd like to go back to my main page, please do.