Archive for January, 2008

Import Nonfiction: Edu-Manga

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008


Even Japan is getting into education-based releases. This time, they take the form of Edu-Manga; in short, volumes focused around particularly relevant historical figures and their contributions to society. Ranging from more modern individuals such as Albert Einstein and Helen Keller, back to older figures like Joan of Arc, the manga use a style comparable to that of the American cartoon Histeria!, or even the earlier years of Doctor Who, to get their message across to the younger generation. By using one of the most recognizable characters in the history of manga, Astro Boy, as an observer to this history, it grounds the story, giving kids something to keep their focus.

The books were originally released in Japan back in 2001, but were first brought over and translated for a North American audience by Digital Manga Publishing in 2006. Each volume is written and drawn by a different team, however I assume consistency will be maintained, as Astro Boy is universally drawn in the same style whenever he appears. I am intrigued to see how accurate the biographies told within the manga truly are, so expect a more thorough review of the individual volumes in the near future, thanks to Akadot Retail having a bundle of four in stock. If you work at a school library or even the children’s section of a random branch, this sounds like a nice set of manga to add to your collection.

Jeremy Parish’s Terrible Habit

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Comics and video games have had a pretty storied history together. There are comic-based games like Superman on the Atari 2600 all the way to Marvel Ultimate Alliance on… practically every system in existence today; games that directly address the comics format like Comix Zone for the Sega Genesis where your main character can actually break through the panels and shred the pages; or of course, the many video game webcomics that currently litter the web today. Some, like Penny Arcade, are cultural forces onto themselves, providing intelligent and vital commentary on new games and industry happenings.

Ziff-Davis Media/ editor Jeremy Parish is well aware of this connection and has proclaimed his, let’s call it ‘admiration’, of the comics medium time and time again. He even started a group over on 1Up for the posting of original comics, an experiment that ultimately failed to pan out. But that doesn’t stop him from trying other things.

Maybe it’s because he’s been around a while, earned his dues, gained respect… or just a reputation, but Jeremy has gotten the leeway to post reviews which break traditional mores of what a review should be. Jeremy has explained them away by saying that sometimes he’s written enough about a game that another traditional review would be redundant. Probably true, but consider that these ‘gimmicks’ are often informative, witty, and they really stand out in the increasingly overcrowded field of Internet video game reviews.

And they’re really great examples of comics used for purposes other than entertainment. Check out some of his work, linked for your convenience over at his 1Up blog.

How to Howtoons For You

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Howtoons is a place where kids can be kids. The web site reminds me a lot of the Scholastic Magazines I used to get in the mail as a kid. There was actually a issue with the New Kids on the Block animated series on the cover.  But I digress.

Howtoons provides activities and projects for kids to do that are fun, creative, and can easily be enjoyed by adults as well. A perfect example of this is their recent Express Yourself strip, which focused on how to create custom T-shirts nice and easy. The strip focuses on how girls can have fun with the process, but I imagine boys could dig making their own shirts too. The instructions are clear, as are the pictures, and it doesn’t hurt that the art is very pretty. Vibrantly colored with simple design, it gets the point across while being easy on the eyes.

Each comic is downloadable as a .pdf for easy home access, and you could always download the jpg images if you so desire. Along with the comics, the site has a blog with more fun reads, trivia, and art for the kiddies to the enjoy. Next rainy day, you’ve got things to do. And please, do try the Trash Bag Raincoat. The Sin City-esque art is a fun art shift, and made me smile upon viewing. Do you think Marv did that when he was a tot? I would certainly like to think so, because I am silly like that.