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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.


Jun 30, 2015

This month on their manga episode, Shea and Derek discuss two very different works. They begin with Hirohito Araki's JoJo Bizarre Adventure, which is now being reissued in new editions from VIZ Media. The title has been published in smaller paperback form for quite a while, but this year VIZ began collecting Araki's world-famous -- and still ongoing -- series in larger hardcover editions, beginning with the first two volumes in the series' first narrative arc, Phantom Blood. (The third volume will be released this August.) Shea points out that one the distinguishing features of these new collections is Araki's more contemporary artwork that can be found on the cover of the volumes. This is markedly different, he mentions, from Araki's original style from the mid- to late 1980s, when the series first came out in Japan. In fact, the guys discuss how JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is very much influenced by -- or at least participated in -- the kind of over-the-top, extreme action narrative that defined that decade. As such, you can see these early JoJo stories as a cross between Sylvester Stallone, the Die Hard movies, and Rob Liefeld's art. What happens in the first two volumes is definitely melodramatic and strange. As Derek suggests, if elements of the story just don't make sense, if you feel that Araki is just getting a little too weird, just accept that and enjoy the ride. What else can you say about a series involving a Jane Austin-style setting, a sensei training premise, breathing techniques that can make your arm extend, and an Incan mask that creates vampiric zombies? Next, Derek and Shea look at a new release from Drawn and Quarterly, Tadao Tsuge's Trash Market. This may be the first English translation of Tsuge's work -- the guys are unsure about this -- and this book collects six stories that Tsuge had originally published in Garo and Yagyō between 1968 and 1972. One of Shea's favorites is "A Tale of Absolute and Utter Nonsense," perhaps the most political (intentionally or otherwise) piece in the collection, and one that he feels highlights Tsuge's defining art style. Derek is partial to "Song of Showa," a semi-autobiographical, unromantic tale of Tsuge's working-class roots, and especially the titular story, perhaps the collection's most sophisticated and complex when it comes to character development. But all of the stories here are outstanding: "Manhunt," about journalists investigating the phenomenon of "vanishing men," "Gently Goes the Night," about a psychologically atrophied father and husband still struggling with his experiences during the Second World War, and "Up on the Hilltop, Vincent Van Gogh...," another semi-autobiographical piece revisiting Tsuge's early years as an artist. Tsuge's grim, stark realism contrasts sharply with Araki's decompressed soap opera approach, but that's what makes these manga episodes so much fun, a study in differences.