It has been just over a year since Todd McFarlane releasedSpawn’s Universe #1which heralded the addition of three new monthly Spawn titles to the original Spawn comic. We now have Spawn, King Spawn, Gunslinger Spawn and The Scorched. McFarlane is writing Gunslinger Spawn and drawing occasional covers for some of the comics. Spawn is currently being written by Irish writer Rory McConnville who has been writing for the British weekly comic 2000 AD. American writer Sean Lewis is writing the remaining two titles, King Spawn and The Scorched.
It’s difficult to get hold of accurate sales figures for comics these days. But from what I’ve read online or heard in interviews, all four Spawn titles are regularly in the monthly top sellers. It appears that McFarlane’s efforts have really paid off with not only the new titles selling well but also the flagship Spawn comic receiving a substantial lift in sales. Before issue #300 of Spawn was released in September 2019, the comic was shifting around just 15,000 issues a month. Now it’s said to be closer to 45,000, a huge increase which is matched by each of the new Spawn titles.
Nepenthe is an orphan who has grown up working in a royal library in the city of Raine. She spends her days translating rare and unusual texts and has developed a real talent for it. During the coronation of the new Queen, a young mage gives Nepenthe a book that appears to be written in a language of thorns. This unique book has resisted all previous attempts at translation. As Nepenthe begins to work on it, something about the book draws her deeper and deeper into its thorny pages.
I woke up to this sunrise. Typhoon 11 is approaching. That’s right, Japan doesn’t give typhoons impressive names, only a number. Boring! It’s due to hit around noon. I think we will be lucky because we are only catching the edges of it. Korea is getting the brunt of it.
‘The doctors who worked in the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) during the Korean War were well trained but, like most soldiers sent to fight a war, too young for the job. In the words of the author, “a few flipped their lids, but most of them just raised hell, in a variety of ways and degrees.”‘
I remember watching the TV series with my parents when I was young. Later, I discovered the Robert Altman film adaptation. After getting used to Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers as the surgeons Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce and “Trapper” John McIntyre, it was strange seeing them played by Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould in the 1970 movie. I haven’t watched the TV show in years but I re-watched the M*A*S*H film earlier this year. I really enjoyed it and it inspired me to read the book.
Taking a leaf fromBookstooge’s book and having some time to kill at work, here is a quote from Patricia McKillip’s 2004 novel Alphabet of Thorn:
“What else did you see?” he asked the odd young woman, who seemed more woodland animal than human. A useful quality in a mage, he thought. Some of us have a harder time forgetting our humanity. ‘Things,’ she said vaguely, remembering them. She took an unconscious step toward him. ‘A tree spoke to me. It looked like a very old man, twisted and slow, with mossy hair down to its ankles and eyes like dead leaves. It did not say much, just my name. I think that’s very strange, that a tree I have never met would know my name. And there were the stags with the fire in their antlers. They did not speak. The warrior followed them.’ ‘The warrior.’ ‘Fully armed, on a white war horse. The warrior wore a great sword with a crosspiece laid with uncut jewels; it looked too long and heavy for anyone human to wield.
A recommendation from Bookstooge, I read Patricia McKillip’s In the Forests of Serre back in July 2020. Her lyrical prose and layered world-building really impressed me and I determined to explore more of her writing. It has only taken me two years to get around to it.
I’m currently about a third of the way into Alphabet of Thorn and I really like it so far. I feel transported to another world when I read this book, and that’s one of the main reasons I love reading works described as “speculative fiction.”
Q. What are you currently reading and how is it so far?
Thanks for reading!
-Wakizashi, *wallowing in the rare luxury of being able to read all day at work; just for today*
After a three-year break due to the “virus of unknown origin,” the summer fireworks festival returned last Sunday. I was delighted to be given front-row tickets by a family friend. My daughter was back from Kyoto for the summer holidays so we all went down to the local harbor together to enjoy the show. It was a lovely night, a little cooler than it has been and fairly windy. Fortunately the wind was blowing away from us.
The hanabi show began at 8pm and went on for 45 minutes. That seems to be the norm in Japan. I’m so glad they decided to stop playing music during the show a few years back. It’s so unnecessary and spoils the natural atmosphere in my opinion. But maybe I’m old fashioned? I’d much rather hear the BOOM of the fireworks and the spectators’ “oohs” and “aahs”, especially the childrens’ voices. Do they play music at the firework displays where you live?
There were a mixture of single big fireworks and choreographed clusters, as well as attempted shapes such as hearts, rabbits, smiley faces and characters. The town where I live is only small so it isn’t one of the more famous Japanese Hanabi displays. You can find more information about those here.
Here is a short video I took with my smartphone. It’s from the last five minutes of the show. Please enjoy.
I went to see the new ONE PIECE movie on Monday, One Piece Film Red to give it its full title. I was excited to watch it on the big screen. I was also making the most of something pretty rare over here: an early release for a movie in Japan! Well, it is a Japanese movie so I guess there are no surprises there. We usually have to wait weeks if not months for the majority of movies from other shores.
So how was it? Well, it was bright, colourful and very very musical. In fact I thought it was a musical as it features seven songs by the young Japanese singer Ado. It felt like a series of music videos set in the One Piece universe. The songs are performed by new character “Uta” which means “song” in Japanese. Here’s the brief synopsis of the film:
“Uta is a beloved singer, renowned for concealing her own identity when performing. Her voice is described as “otherworldly.” Now, for the first time ever, Uta will reveal herself to the world at a live concert.”
So the movie is basically the One Piece characters watching Uta’s LIVE Concert, which leads to some backstory about the new character and some rather confusing battles. The animation uses a mixture of traditional 2D and CGI, especially during the musical numbers. The effect verges on psychedelic at times. Ironically mushrooms play an important part in the story, but no spoilers here.
Sandman #1 introduces us to self-styled “magus” Roderick Burgess and his attempt to summon and imprison DEATH in a magical ritual held in England in 1916.
If you have been reading this blog for a while you will probably know I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN comic. It ran for 75 issues plus one Special from 1989 to 1996. I still have the original comics. I brought them over to Japan with me. I have read the comics many times and will no doubt read them again in the future. I’m particularly fond of the first half of the series and count The Doll’s House and A Season in Hell among my favourite story arcs.
With the release of the Netflix Sandman Series, I wanted to go back to the source and reread the first issue. I recorded a kind of audio-comic of Sandman issue #1“Sleep of the Just.” The first half of the video below is my summary of the first issue showing some of the gorgeous art from the comic. The second half of the video is me reading parts of Neil Gaiman’s essay on how he got the idea for the comic. It was originally published in the back of Sandman issue #4. I wanted to share it with you and anyone else who might stumble upon this page in the future. This was a labour of love.
As always, thanks for reading!
-Wakizashi, *listening to an approaching thunderstorm. Man it’s been humid today. I feel like the air is about to explode.*
TheDaredevil comic book will always have a special place in my geeky heart. It was one of the first American comics that I bought and read monthly. This is going back to the late 1980s when Ann Nocenti was writing it after Frank Miller’s famous run on the title. I was fascinated by the character of Matt Murdock, blind lawyer by day, devil-horned crime fighter by night. Despite losing his sight as a child, he developed incredibly heightened senses of hearing, touch, smell and taste. The fact that he kind of resembled a red ninja was another reason I got interested in the character.
After a long time away from the comic, I started reading Daredevil again in 2019 when Chip Zdarsky began his run. He was joined by Italian artist Marco Checchetto who brought a gritty yet eye-catching style to the book. His art is spectacular at times with both realistic character renderings as well as dynamic and fluid action scenes. Checchetto’s run as artist on Daredevil has garnered a lot of deserved praise. I highly recommend you check out his work on the title.
I’ve recently got hooked on a hidden gem of a TV series. It’s a Japanese slice of life drama called ‘Shinya Shokudo’ which translates as Midnight Diner. It started in 2009 and five seasons have been made so far, with Seasons 4 and 5 having a slightly different title: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. These recent seasons were produced by Netflix and this is where you can find the show. But be careful because it’s easy to start watching from Season 4 and completely miss the first three seasons.
Midnight Diner is about a tiny Japanese restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo that is open from midnight to 7 a.m. It’s run by a man who everyone calls “Master”. He has a very limited menu with only one dish, a kind of pork stew, and three drinks: beer, sake and shochu. But he will prepare any dish the customer requests, so long as he has the ingredients. The customers order the kinds of dishes that you don’t usually get at a typical Japanese restaurant. They are often comfort foods more commonly prepared at home. Each dish has a special meaning to the customer and we usually learn the customer’s story during the episode.