Jul 22, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 878: The Defenders #76, October 1979

https://www.comics.org/issue/33758/

Grabbed the two issues of Defenders that finish Omega, so I'm gonna get into them.

But got a horrendous sunburn today, so I think I'll talk about them both tomorrow. It'll work better as an ending of the Omega series that way anyway.

To be continued.

Jul 21, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 877: Weather Woman #8, 2001

https://www.comics.org/issue/340192/

As we rejoin the cast, Michiko has hired some people to rape Keiko while she films it.

Keiko kicks the crap out of them, and then punishes Michiko by having her lick her shoes clean. And when Michiko starts to care for Keiko (!?), Keiko fires her and kicks her out.

And then she gazes into the distance from a rooftop, which ends Book One.

Which means that, potentially, there's a Book Two out there, though I see no evidence of it having been translated into English. And, honestly, I don't really feel the need to read it. I get the picture.

To be continued.

Jul 20, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 876: Weather Woman #6, January 2001

https://www.comics.org/issue/340190/

On the cover of today's issue, Keiko is either putting on or taking off what looks like a nurse's outfit. A popular trope in manga, that nurse thing, but Keiko neither dons nor doffs this clothing in today's issue. In fact, the opening of the comic is yet more focus on gastrointestinal distress, and the second half is pretty much a how-to for stalking television personalities.

I really don't think I was prepared for what I've got myself into with this comic.

I don't know if it's an intentional narrative device, or if it's because I'm missing an issue or two, but I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what this story is trying to tell me, both from a literal and a figurative point of view. I don't see the build up to a climactic moment, a la Freytag's Pyramid. It more so seems to be a depiction of some of the more ridiculous and cruel moments of working in television weather (manga really does use every fucking thing as subject matter), rather than a narrative with a recognizable arc. Not that this is a bad thing. As long as we're all on the same page about what to expect from a piece of fiction, everything's fine. The trouble comes when you watch/read/experience such a fiction and it doesn't fulfill what you were expecting. Like watching the most recent episodes of Twin Peaks, and expecting to have any idea where things are going. You're just going to be disappointed. So perhaps, for the final issue tomorrow, I should bear this in mind. There may not be a satisfying conclusion of some sort, as we're doing more slice of (very strange) life rather than arc-based narrative.

Maybe. Maybe issue #7, which I'm missing, would wrap it all together, and it would all make sense. Or perhaps there's something in issue #2, which I'm also missing, that would have performed the same function. Somehow I doubt it though. However, this brings to light an interesting idea about the experience of reading such incomplete fictions. Even if it's meant to be a more traditional, arc-based narrative, reading it in the way that I am makes it seem more like a slice-of-life drama. So in terms of serialized fictions, the completion, or incompletion, of such fictions affects the manner in which one treats, or can treat, the narrative. Neat.

To be continued.

Jul 19, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 875: Weather Woman #5, December 2000

https://www.comics.org/issue/340189/

And the poop keeps coming. I hadn't realized that so much of the action of this series hinged on characters spiking one another's food and drink with laxatives. Keiko maneuvers her rival into presenting the weather, but first spikes her tea with a little something. What follows is a sequence of utter awkwardness, as Michiko attempts to both be sexy like Keiko and not crap her pants.

She doesn't manage to succeed at either.

The incident ends up bringing the two women together, if not as friends then no longer as enemies, and hopefully this signals the end of the laxative wars.

I've commented on how the story has a strange flow to it, very quick and jerky and hard to follow. I'd mused on whether this was a translation problem, but I think it's actually intentional. There's a section in today's comic in which we get snippets of news reports and events from around Japan as Michiko is realizing that her gaff on air is yesterday's news and will be forgotten, and the narrative jumps around in the same way. Perhaps the form of the comic is mimicking the way that news jumps from story to story, never considering the consequences or doing follow-ups. The montage is intercut with Michiko feeling the shame and fear in the wake of her accident - we see that there are ramifications, but also that the world, for the most part, moves on.

To be continued.

Jul 18, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 874: Weather Woman #4, November 2000

https://www.comics.org/issue/340188/

Though still a bit disjointed, I'm starting to get the atmosphere that's being created by this story. It's not just about the stalker-ish behaviour of the male protagonist, nor the casual nudity of Keiko. There's an undercurrent of satire that's poking fun at both the cutthroat nature of the television news industry and the over-sexualization of everything on television. Once the weather report becomes soft porn, what else is left, really?

I do have another criticism of this series, though it's really nothing to do with the story itself, and more to do with the publishing decisions. Because of the differing method of publication of this kind of serial in Japan, we get chapters that are spread between issues. For example, today's comic finishes chapter 5 and begins chapter 6. The problem with there not being a full chapter in each issue is that the story ends at completely arbitrary moments, dependent wholly on page count. A serial relies on cliffhangers at the end of each installment, but when those installments are chopped apart simply to accommodate the actual material size of the publication, much is lost. In reading serialized fictions, we rely on the ability of the creator to entice us back for more. A better strategy for this, or any manga story that's similarly constructed, would be to fluctuate story page count and ad page count in order to fit a chapter or two, depending on length, into each issue. That way the coherence of the story is preserved.

More tomorrow. To be continued.

The Earth-H Files - Daredevil in "McBrain's Brain Drain"

From Avengers v.1 #177, November 1978.


Jul 17, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 873: Weather Woman #3, October 2000

https://www.comics.org/issue/340187/

Whatever may have happened in issue #2, it's culminated in a number of people (and dogs apparently) ingesting a laxative meant for protagonist Keiko. I find that Japanese comics are far more tolerant of bowel-related humour (and sometimes not humour) than North American comics. Which I'm actually okay with.

I don't know if it's the translation, or if it's just the way the story goes, but I'm having a hard time following the action of this series, even disregarding the missing issues. There are sometimes responses, both physical and verbal, to which I can't identify the impetus for the response. And the comic jumps around a lot. Add to this that Keiko's expressions are all very similar, and I feel like I'm missing a large part of the story. It's not the first time, but definitely the most noticeable time for me, that I've had trouble following a manga. I try to bear in mind as I read a translated work that there's always going to be things I'm not going to get. This one's been particularly tough. I wonder if it has something to do with rearranging the panels to fit North American reading, or if it's simply a series that relies on innuendo and reference that North American readers are unaware of, or are untrained in recognizing.

Ah well. I'll keep plugging away tomorrow. To be continued.