Archive for October, 2016

Do you remember the time when comics came out and were simply there to be bought and read? I do and it doesn’t feel that long ago (but that could be because when I was young I didn’t see the over the top lengths some people would go to get a single issue). Either way I kind of miss those days.
For me a comic is meant to be read. That’s the purpose of one being written and released , is it not? Well these days it seems the line between those buying to read and those buying for profit is very much leaning towards the latter. Now, I can’t say I don’t collect older titles and variant covers (I’ll get onto these soon) but most of the ones I buy, I buy because they either remind me of my youth or they fall into criteria’s that I collect.  I rarely buy comics to turn around for profit. If I do sell issues that is either because I no longer enjoy them or I desperately need money. But even then I would prefer to sell a comic for a low price to someone I know would get enjoyment out of it rather than someone who would just flip it again higher.
You could argue what is the ultimate point of collecting in the first place? That is a question that has always been in the forefront of my mind. I see people spending thousands on a single comic which is merely a few bits of stapled paper with artwork and story on. Doesn’t it seem silly? How many people actually read through their whole collections when they have hundreds of issues? And if you do have something worth thousands, would you risk reading it and decreasing its value?
The whole world of comic collecting has gone crazy and with the influx of comic book films it’s only gotten worse.  When these comics originally came out they were to read and for people to enjoy. It was a new means for telling a story and to get across new kinds of stories. But something changed and its become a large money sucking business with comics once costing mere cents and pence selling for hundreds, thousands and sometimes even millions .
WHY?
It is kind of disgusting in a way as the artists and the writers who actually did all the work, will never see any of the further proceeds of these comics. And at these prices do the comics themselves not lose all meaning? It just becomes a show of who has money and who can show off the most. I like buying old comics as I like the cover artwork for a lot of them (especially the old ‘Tales From The Crypt’ comics form the 50’s) The ones I that managed to get hold of, I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed in a way that I never feel with comics these days. What would be the point of buying them and never reading them and just having them sit in a storage box? There is none.
This is why I see little point in the whole CGC grading of comics. I have personally had some things graded and I have no idea why. People seem to think ‘if they are in a sealed box then they must be better’, but in my view they really aren’t. it all comes back to the reason that a comic is made. You can’t read something that is sealed away can you? The other thing worth noting is the fact that the comic can still degrade while in the case so it kind of nullifies any point of having it done if preservation is all you care about. I personally try and buy comics ungraded, as this way I can flip through them and enjoy the time and effort that has been put into creating it.
This leads me onto the whole ‘variant cover’ scene. It just seems to be a thing created for collectors who want to collect them as collectors’ items. It’s kind of odd when you think about it as most of these issues are sold as such and most will be put into collections, but what is the point other than garnering to the completest in all of us? The internal comic is the exact same so why do these different covers vary in price so much? I like some of these covers as I dislike the normal one, but the same is true the other way round sometimes. By advertising the comics as variants it also encourages some people to buy all of ones they see to sell on for profit which again to me is no different from scalpers selling over-priced concert tickets. This leads to the people actually wanting to read them not being able to at a reasonable price.
Variants serve no real purpose. They really don’t unless you look at it from the perspective as the ones making them. It does allow more work for artists but I guess it all comes down to the fact that companies know they can sell them. Just look at Star Wars. The new comic had around 100 different variant covers when it was released. Is this not a little extreme?  Spider-Gwen is also gaining new covers each day it seems and all of them are rocketing up in price even before the comic is released. It’s worrying that this is the state of things now.
I did go through a phase where I wanted to collect for the possibility of issues being worth more in the future but then I realised how silly that was. And how against the fundamentals of why a comic is made it was.  I have got some comics that I am guilty of not reading due to me being worried about devaluing them and it does anger me, but at the same time I plan on having them frames up on a wall as I love the covers. I want to enjoy them as artwork (not quite how originally planned but at least I am still having the enjoyment of seeing them).
It’s a very awkward environment to be in as you see things that you really want but when you actually break it down and thin why, most of the time it can’t be justified.  I recently was in a comic forum where someone was selling 4 comics for £100 and someone said this was a good price. To me a good price would be the cover price to someone who would actually sit, read and enjoy the comics for what they are. This is when I start truly questioning what the point is… Especially when it hard to stroll into a comic shop to look at new releases when all of an issue has been bought to be scalped.  The most recent example of this is ‘Silk #1’ which sold out in many places almost instantly and then weirdly hundreds of issues appear on the internet at three times the price. For those who actually want to read the comic that just seems unfair.
It’s something that will hopefully change in the coming years. I hope that prices come crashing down and people realise the mistakes they’ve made spending for profiteering sake.  I will say again that I am not innocent to all this as I have bought comics to sell on in the past, but looking back I am disgusted partially in myself. You have to think hard about where you lie in the matter and if you know you can make a quick buck. Like everything, the industry and its followers are trying to make as much money as they can, not caring how much damage they do in the process.
I guess the basic point to my entire rant, is that I feel that many people have forgotten why comics are made and that is to be read and enjoyed.  Am I never going to sell on for profit again? I can’t promise I won’t when I know I could get more, but I know that if it’s to someone that I know will read it I would more than likely give it to them or let them have it for the price of postage.
My advice;
BUY, READ, PASS ON (for whatever you paid, or as a gift or simply for the price of postage), REPEAT!

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urot

First things first. This is definitely not a title for children or anyone who’s squeamish. It features graphic violence and many very adult situations and themes.  As such some of the items I may touch on may talk about said

So…..

This is a little different in the fact that many have probably heard of this title (or the subsequent anime film) but have probably never read it. Some wouldn’t have read it on the basis that they can’t find a copy; others may be put off by the fairly adult nature of the subject matter. But it’s a lot deeper than you would expect.

The story isn’t explained much in the first volume but it does begin to build up to the events that happen in future volumes. The first volume works very much as an introduction piece to the main characters Tatsuo Nagumo, Akemi Itō and the demon Amano Jyaku. The former two are the more innocent parties of the story and are for all intents and purposes the heroes of this story. Amano on the other hand sits very much in the grey area of the spectrum. He does do good deeds but at the same time he commits an atrocious act right at the beginning of the story. But this is what I quite like about the craftsmanship of the story. Pretty much everyone has a dark side that really is quite deep. No one is perfect in it. The whole world created is quite grim and seedy. It’s unnerving and starts to get under your skin. It shows the underbelly that many try to ignore.  ‘Toshio Maeda’ is very open about what he wants to express throughout his writing and a fair chunk of it is to shock and make people take notice.

The art is magnificent while also being horrifying and disturbing the majority of the time. Everything has this grim layer to it that really helps emphasise the grittiness of the subject matter. The detail in the characters and the world is incredible (even the more questionable things still are amazingly well rendered.)  I will say though that at times there is so much going on in each panel that it can get confusing. Sometimes I found myself having to go back a few panels to realise what was going on. It’s not the end of the world but it does take you out of the story. It’s also worth noting that ‘Toshio Maeda’ also did the artwork for this book, which means that everything we see and read is his vision. There is no one else interoperating his ideas. It is just straight out of his fascinating mind and onto the paper.

Now…. Onto the copious amounts of sex and violence that fill the pages. Is it too graphic? Yes and no. The sex portrayed is never what one would call ‘erotic’. It is grim and most of the time, quite vile. It makes you feel on edge and that what you are seeing is some twisted voyeuristic fantasy of some outside party spying in on the characters. This works perfectly though as it helps create the atmosphere and the overall look of the piece. The violence is much the same in the fact that it is bloody and graphic, but at the same time is realistic and has almost ‘crime-scene photography’ feel to it. Maeda is clever in how much he shows and what he shows. It’s worth noting that the sex isn’t censored in the slightest and at times is highly graphic.

This brings us to the art or filth argument that has echoed through films and printed material for many years. Is there a true justification for all the sex? Yes! Unlike a lot of adult material, this actually has a deep story that the sex and violence is simply used as an aid to express.  Yes, it is also intended to shock, but is also intended to make people think and question what they are seeing. It also questions the reader into looking inside themselves and seeing the darkness that dwells within.  There is a reason why this and the film became so massive in Japan that they spawned sequels and spin-offs and it’s not simply because of the ‘adult images’ on view. It’s one of the few titles that sits on the delicate line between ‘Hentai’ or dark ‘manga’. For me it isn’t important what you judge it as. A story is simply what it is and should be enjoyed/read for what it is not under the label someone slips it beneath.

It is at no point a happy read and for this reason for me it instantly stands out from almost all ‘Western’ publications. It’s pretty much jet black in terms of the emotions it expresses. Its more lust over love; more death over life. It’s a fascinating journey through realms very rarely explored and one of the most realistically dark portrayals of the world I’ve seen in comic form (even if there are demons and such like within)

So would I recommend it?

It’s a toughie. For one it’s getting harder and harder to actually find a copy as it’s something that I doubt will be allowed in print again due to the graphic nature of it. It also focuses on subjects that many would like to ignore or pass off as ‘taboo’. It’s not ‘nice’ in the slightest and will not leave the reader with that happy sense of accomplishment they may get from reading some superhero story. It’s dark and dingy and makes you feel dirty afterwards. While reading you get sucked deeper into this dark pit and every time you try to escape you just get drawn further into the darkness.  It’s an amazing experience for people who know what they are getting into and for people who like to experience something almost entirely unlike anything else.

For me this is a true masterpiece of storytelling and is just so ‘different’. Toshio Maeda established his name with this series (as well as la blue girl) and is known for his twisted mind and the twisted imagery it pumps out. He is one of the greatest comic creators I have ever had the fortune of both reading his work and meeting him in person.

So I would recommend this, but only to those who can handle it and look past the sex and violence to see the deep story and intelligently written characters beneath.  It’s a deeply challenging and at times deeply repulsive journey, but one that is truly worth going on.