Joe McCulloch

  • syllabi August 31, 2009

    Odd Manga

    Manga inevitably seems a bit strange to American readers, even if they’ve read a lot of comics. Those hundreds of small colorful paperbacks stacked at your favorite big-box bookstore are the beneficiaries of more than half a century of evolution in Japan, where comics flourish as a popular medium. As such, manga reflects not only the mores and attitudes of a culture very different from ours but also a manner of publication unfamiliar in English-speaking environs. Some manga highlights these differences better than others; below are seven points of departure.

    Joe McCulloch blogs on comics at

  • culture August 17, 2009

    The Nobody by Jeff Lemire

    Vertigo, a DC Comics label active since 1993, has long specialized in a particular type of fantasy comic, grounded in contemporary realism but with an eye toward timeless stories. This is the stuff of popular, writer-driven series like The Sandman and Fables, literary-minded accumulations of myth and folklore in which tales interact with one another, although the style also runs through more acidly critical works, ranging from the lurid socioreligious inquiry of Preacher to the flickering streetwise political awareness of Hellblazer.

    Jeff Lemire both writes and draws his work, and his take on

  • culture July 29, 2009

    The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa, translated by Lauren Na

    Call it the changing of seasons or a trick of time zones, but for English speakers, the slowly cooling summer of Japanese manga may yet be the spring of Korean manhwa. These comics have been on North American bookstore shelves almost as long as their Japanese counterparts have, though they’ve received less attention from the reading public, and few scholars have ventured to explore the distinctions between the two approaches. Often, titles and series seem selected for publication on the basis of how closely they emulate the look and feel of popular Japanese comics, so manhwa shoulders the burden

  • The Big Picture

    Born in 1935 and a published mangaka before he was out of high school, Yoshihiro Tatsumi has enjoyed a long and prolific career, albeit one unfamiliar to English-speaking readers prior to Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly’s recent efforts to translate his body of short works. Three collections have been produced under the editorship of cartoonist Adrian Tomine: The Push Man and Other Stories (2005), Abandon the Old in Tokyo (2006), and Good-Bye (2008). In each volume, Tatsumi delivers curt, sharp slaps of city angst as his near-identical characters wander hazily through doomed, damned

  • Gus & His Gang

    Should anyone doubt that the visual aspect of the comics form is its dominant narrative mechanism and the source of its idiosyncrasies, I can hardly imagine a more potent corrective than the works of French cartoonist Chris Blain. His command of the image—his lines, colors, and layouts; the moments and actions sliced and crunched and smeared across wide perspectives—drives his storytelling, while dialogue and narration traverse the mutable terrain of his grander world, his pages.

    Gus & His Gang translates some of Blain’s newest work into English. It’s a pastiche of American cowboy fiction