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The Comics Alternative

The Comics Alternative is weekly podcast focusing on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics. (There's nothing wrong with superhero comics. We just want to do something different.) New podcast episodes become available every Wednesday and include reviews of graphic novels and current ongoing series, discussions of upcoming comics, examinations of collected editions, in-depth analyses of a variety of comics texts, and spotlights on various creators and publishers. The Comics Alternative also produces "special feature" programs, such as shows specifically dedicated to creator interviews, webcomics, on-location events, and special non-weekly themes and topics.


Aug 31, 2015

On this month's manga episode, Shea and Derek discuss two distinctly different titles. They begin with Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga (DC Comics). The second in this planned three-volume series, collecting all of Kuwata's Batman work, just came out last month, and the Two Guys look at both volumes one and two. These Batmanga stories were originally serialized in Japan between 1966 and 1967, at the height of the Adam West Batman craze, and both Derek and Shea comment on how much Kuwata's stories were informed by that TV series, as well as by the "New Look" of earlier in the decade. At the same time, this manga never comes across as intentionally campy or self-conscious of itself as a pop-cultural product. In fact, one of the guys' first topics of conversation is how much Kuwata's Batman takes from its American version and how much is unique and original to the manga. Surprisingly, there are relatively few American imports into the Batmanga stories -- Jim Gordon is prominent throughout, and both Alfred Pennyworth and Vicki Vale make brief appearances -- and the villains in Kuwata's stories are either street-level thugs or unique to the manga. Indeed, Derek comments on the weirdness of many of Batman's nemeses in these stories -- at least, more weirdly off-beat than those in the American version --  including Lord Death Man, the Human Ball, Professor Gorilla, the Hangman, and, one of his favorites, Go-Go the Magician. (Clayface is the focus of a chapter in the second volume, but it's a different Clayface from the American version.) These are definitely stories of their time, and the guys point out that Kuwata's Batmanga is perhaps best read as a rich cultural artifact. To fully appreciate Batman, you should understand the property's many historical contexts and manifestations. Next, the guys look at the the first volume in Dark Horse Comics' new Oh My Goddess! Omnibus series. Neither Shea nor Derek knew exactly what to expect with Kosuke Fujishima legendary title, except for the fact that it was a widely popular manga series. Derek expected something along the line of josei, and Shea thought that the title might be defined by several of the stereotypes many readers may have regarding manga. But both were pleasantly surprised, especially Derek, who appreciated the episodic, TV-sitcom-like nature of this seinen manga. In fact, as the guys point out, you can gain about everything you need to now about the series' premise in the book's first chapter, "The Number You Have Dailed Is Incorrect." From there, the remaining 22 chapters of this first omnibus follow suit, occasionally introducing new characters and situations that build upon the foundation laid down in the first. Shea is less impressed by Fujishima's meandering storylines, but Derek enjoys the casual, even charming, manner in which we get to know Keiichi, Belldandy, and the rest of the Oh My Goddess! cast. The reader's comfort and enjoyment levels develop as the series unfolds, and, as Shea points out, taking in a chapter of Oh My Goddess! is like eating a favorite food or returning to a reliable friend. However, for some (such as Shea) this is a title that might be best experienced on a regular serialized basis, and not consumed all at once in omnibus form. Regardless, both of the guys are glad that they've discovered Fujishima's recently completed series -- the final chapter was published in April 2014 -- and they'll probably return for the next omnibus volume that comes out late this year.