Roundtable: Books We Wish We Could Have
In life, I’m a pretty lucky person. I have a beautiful family, wonderful friends, and I get to read an amazing amount of fantastic books. But here’s the thing: I’d like to be luckier. I’d like my beautiful parents to stop offering quite so many "helpful suggestions," I’d like my wonderful friends to email more often, and I’d like publishers to drop everything and publish the books I want to read simply because I want them. Is that so much to ask? Really?
For example, as soon as I finished reading Rapunzel’s Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale and Nathan Hale, I immediately wished for more. I’m lucky. Calamity Jack is coming out in January and I couldn’t be more excited. I like it when publishers anticipate my wishes this way. So, in the hopes that all it’ll take is a little nudge to get more books I’d like to read published, I and my friends here at Good Comics for Kids are posting our holiday wish list: Books That Don’t Exist (as far as we know), But We’d Love to Receive as Gifts.
Eva: Seeing as how this is a sky’s-the-limit, price-is-no-object, reality-need-not-apply kind of list, my first request is for a second volume of Flight Explorer. On November 14, Christopher Butcher posted on his Comics212 blog that Kazu Kibuishi, editor of Flight Explorer and its parent series, Flight, is looking for a home for the anthology. And to that I say, "Boo." Yes, I understand that anthologies don’t sell as well as full-length books. And I can imagine that working out the details on a series like this, with so many different creators and properties involved, must be a mess. But I don’t care! Flight Explorer is great. The kids in my library love it and both copies we own are always checked out. They come in one day and go back out THE SAME DAY. I remember the excitement that went through the graphic novel portion of the librariverse when Flight Explorer was first announced. You could almost feel us vibrating from the buzz it generated. That a publisher hasn’t fallen over him/herself to try to capture that level of enthusiasm for a project with a second volume is mind-boggling to me.
My second pick for a book I’d like to see published is also a Flight spin-off. Tony Cliff’s first published story, "Old Oak Trees," was part of Flight, volume 3, and is the story of a young girl’s meeting with a faerie prince. The story was nominated for an Eisner in the Best Short Story category and, while I like it a lot and while it’s one of the stories often mentioned as a favorite when people talk about the Flight anthologies, it’s not the story that made me fall for Tony Cliff. For me, that story is Delilah Dirk and the Treasure of Constantinople. Robin picked this up at Comic-Con in 2007, showed it to me, and then I ran, not walked, to get a copy of my own. It’s a self-published short comic put out through Lulu.com about Selim, a Captain in the army of the Ottoman Empire, and the prisoner he allows to escape. It’s full of action, adventure, beautiful artwork, tea and biscuits, and more than a splash of the most awesome kind of a kick-ass swashbuckling take-no-prisoners heroine. It was also nominated for an Eisner, this time for Best Single Issue. Then, like a special present just for me (see how much I love it when publishers anticipate my desires?), Flight, volume 5, came out in 2008. There it was, a new Delilah Dirk story, "Delilah Dirk and The Aqueduct." And this time it was in color. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.
Publishers, I’d really, really like to see a full-length Delilah Dirk graphic novel. I’d love it if it included the two parts that already exist, if only so newcomers have a chance to see all the pieces — but really, I’ll leave the details up to you. Could one of you, Scholastic, maybe? Bloomsbury? Top Shelf? Oni? Could you please get Tony Cliff on the phone? I want this so, so much.
Robin: Before I launch into my own wish list, I just want to add my voice to the plea for Delilah Dirk. It’s high time, people, high time!
Delilah Dirk actually made me think of other keen adventure stories I wish were one, still in print, or two, finished. Although I realize it’s a hope against hope, I wish that the final issues of the now long defunct CrossGen universe could be collected and printed. Those titles, including Meridian, Ruse, Sojourn and Scion, were all of superior quality in terms of art, writing, and storytelling imagination. The collapse of CrossGen as a publisher was sad news for comics fans back in 2004 especially as so many series ended mid-story. The major series like Ruse and Meridian were allowed to finish in comic book runs, but their resolutions were never collected into trades. I still have a print from Meridian‘s lead, Sephie, on my wall, and every time I look at it I mourn the loss of such a compelling heroine for teen girls.
Over the years as my copies got more and more battered, I have had a steady stream of hooked readers who ask me for the rest of these stories. I have to tell them the company is long out of business, and there is little hope for getting more. Both Disney and Checker Books have held the rights to republish these series in omnibus editions. Neither has done so except for El Cazador and a hybrid continuation of Abadazad (both from Hyperion/Disney), and those series never had the fan following of Meridian, Ruse, or Sojourn.
Also too long out of print is James Robinson’s charming supernatural action series Leave it to Chance, starring the smart, rebellious young teen Chance Falconer. These oversize tales of mystery, demons, and adventure starring a strong female lead are some of the very few aimed at older kids and young teens that librarians everywhere should and could easily stock on their shelves. These were originally published through Image Comics, so I’d either love to see Image bring them back or some other smart publisher relaunch them.
Along the lines of more plausible requests, I would adore it if Fantagraphics would collect Castle Waiting II, of which there are currently fifteen issues, into a collected edition. It would make sense to continue with a matching hardcover to sit alongside their beautiful first collection, but at this point I’d settle for just a trade paperback collection. Castle Waiting was on Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Comics of 2006, and while it does not leap off the shelf like Naruto, it has a strong and loyal following. The charming blend of original and well-known fairy tale characters into one slightly dysfunctional castle household only gets better as it progresses. There is a "starter pack" available through Fantagraphics, but we cannot stock that in libraries — give us a bound book, please!
My big pie in the sky request is one I know other manga fans echo: CLAMP, please finished your unfinished series! I would like the end of X/1999. I would like something to resolve Legal Drug. I know, I know, there are many varied reasons these stories were never officially finished. Shifting publishers and deference to public sentiment during disasters (earthquakes) and crime (serial killers) in the case of X/1999, and a desire not to duplicate character dynamics (Legal Drug‘s pair being echoed in the currently running series XXXholic) left these two titles without resolution. I don’t care. I just want the end of the story!
Brigid: I’m a huge fan of Trade Loeffler’s Zip and Li’l Bit webcomics, and I would love to see them in print, along with more of the same. Loeffler has an old-fashioned style that is vaguely reminiscent of the Little Nemo comics, and his comics have a magical logic all their own, just the sort of thing that an imaginative kid would come up with. Toon Books sent me an ARC of Zig and Wikki, which he illustrated (it’s written by Nadja Spiegelman), and it’s very nice, but the Zip and Li’l Bit comics have a dreamy, surrealist air to them that I just find irresistible.
The other thing I would love to see is some American editions of the British girls’ comics I read as a kid. Now that manga has established once and for all that girls will read comics, I would love to see these classic stories back in print. The comics I read (Bunty, Judy, Diana, Misty) had stories that put girls front and center. They were strong, smart heroines, not the overly sophisticated urban teens of the Minx series. There were boarding-school stories, mysteries, ghost stories, career girl stories, Victorian-maid stories… you name it! They might seem a bit dated and foreign, but that doesn’t seem to have slowed the popularity of Fruits Basket and other shoujo manga, so I think someone should give it a try.
Kate: Hear, hear, Robin — I’m still bitter that X/1999 and Legal Drug remain in narrative limbo, as both rank among my all-time favorite CLAMP comics. And while I’m grousing about CLAMP, I’d also like to appeal to Viz for an omnibus edition of X/1999, as the early volumes of the series are nigh-impossible to find.
Topping my wish list would be an English-language edition of Doraemon. Doraemon is to Japanese popular culture what Peanuts is to American, its earless, robotic protagonist as ubiquitous and beloved as Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of Charles Schulz’s bobble-headed grade schoolers. Though Shogakukan released a few bilingual volumes, they’re expensive and hard to find — few parents would want to spend $20 for a single book. That’s a shame, because Doraemon‘s simple, appealing artwork and slapstick humor would cross cultural lines with a minimum of editorial intervention.
For older readers, I’d love to see Vertical, Inc. tackle Riyoko Ikeda’s The Rose of Versailles and The Window of Orpheus, two ground-breaking shojo manga from the 1970s. Ikeda’s gorgeous illustrations, androgynous characters, and historically informed plotlines have inspired musicals, movies, and countless cosplayers, but have yet to be published in English. (Like Doraemon, a few volumes of Rose were released in a bilingual format in the early 1980s; unlike Doraemon, these volumes are out of print and scarcer than unicorns.) Thanks to its anime adaptation, Rose is better known among American fans than Window; my inner Slavophile would rather read Window, however, as the Russian Revolution factors prominently into its complex storyline. Still, I’d be happy if either were available in their entirety in English.
Finally, I’d love to see Aaron Renier pen a sequel to Spiral-Bound. I’ve always been a sucker for books about elephants — chalk it up to a childhood obsession with Babar — so I was probably predisposed to love this tween-friendly adventure about Turnip, a sensitive pachyderm, and his spunky pals Ana, a rabbit with a nose for news, and Stucky, a dog with a talent for building machines. Renier writes with the same elan as the best children’s authors (one reviewer compared him to Roald Dahl and Louise Fitzhugh), creating a world that’s at once fantastic (the local pond harbors a Nessie-style monster) and utterly familiar (the kids have curfews). The story is quirky but never trite or forced; Renier captures the ups and downs of being ten with humor and sensitivity.
Snow: I’d like to enthusiastically second all of the titles mentioned above, but in addition to those, I’d love for all of the back issues of the Marvel Adventures titles to come back into print and be readily available to libraries through library vendors. That way libraries could stock up and make their young superhero fans very, very happy.
I’d also like Paintings of You by Mia Paluzzi and Chrissy Delk to get picked up by a new publisher (the original publisher, Iris Print, went out of business). It is a romance about two young men who fall in love in art college and it is sweet and touching and as tame as David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, so it could be stocked in many libraries without fear of a challenge, which would make many teen boys’ love fans very, very happy.
Robin: I just have to chime in again to say YES to Rose of Versailles. It is an unforgivable crime that it has not yet been published in English. I realize there are likely licensing factors that make it complicated, as well as the less than booming market for older shojo/josei, but I think it’s hit the time that such a title can and should be introduced to US readers.
Also, Snow, your mention of Paintings of You reminded me of the other teen boys love title that needs a publisher: Jen Lee Quick’s Off*beat. The third and final volume got lost in the mire of Tokyopop’s problems, and I know I do not understand the complexities of the rights and reasons behind their not yet publishing the third volume (or, at this point, if they ever will.) Nonetheless, I make my plea — please publish the third volume! This is honestly one of my favorite boys’ love titles that appeals to teen fans of the subgenre and is still very much an American tale. Sweet, full of mystery and yearning, and completely appropriate for any teen collection, it is sad to see the third volume left floating in the ether.
Lori: I loved My Cat Loki by Bettina Kurkoski and was disappointed that the series wouldn’t finish, not even online. Seeing the end of this touching and heartwarming story of an artist dealing with loss and learning to love and trust again would really make my day. The fact that it features a cat doesn’t hurt either.
Viz has several titles from early in this decade that I would love to see finished. Rumiko Takahashi’s Urusei Yatsura never got a complete and straight run. The comedy in this series is classic and just too funny to not see the light of day again. On the sci-fi side, Patlabor never got a fair shake either, with only 2 of 22 volumes ever seeing print. This action mecha story takes place in the (then) near future and follows Noa Izumi, a police office in the a division that uses the Patlabors to combat crime and accidents involving the robots. Well written characters and good stories with drama and action should be enough to get this series back in print.
Kate: I second Robin’s request for the final volume of Off*beat and Lori’s request for the full run of Urusei Yatsura, the manga that helped cement Rumiko Takahashi’s reputation as one of Japan’s most beloved creators. And since Lori’s request has emboldened me, I’m going to add the Rumic World and Rumic Trilogy anthologies to my wish list as well. There are some terrific stories in both collections — "The Fire Tripper," "The Laughing Target," "That Darn Cat" — that demonstrate Takahashi’s ability to work in short form. C’mon, Viz, why not an omnibus edition of ALL Takahashi’s short stories? I’d be first in line to buy it.
Eva: Shame on me for not thinking to make a licensing request. I know I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I’m baffled that someone (hi, VIZ Media!) hasn’t licensed Gokusen, by Morimoto Kozueko. It’s very funny series about an enthusiastic young teacher who happens to be the granddaughter of the head of a local yakuza family and her adventures with her classroom full of renegade hoodlums. Definitely for older teens, this josei manga has a ready-made audience of teens who are hardcore fans of the anime (licensed in the U.S. by Media Blasters) and have seen the live action Japanese drama starring the supercute and superpopular (and embarrassingly young) Matsumoto Jun and Oguri Shun. This is an excellent crossover title for adults, too, and could be a great boost for the adult graphic novel collection so many libraries seem reluctant to create.
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About Eva Volin
Eva Volin is the Supervising Children's Librarian for the Alameda Free Library in California. She has written about graphic novels for such publications as Booklist, Library Journal, ICv2, Graphic Novel Reporter, and Children & Libraries. She has served on several awards committees including the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics. She served on YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee for three years and is currently serving on ALSC's Notable Books for Children committee.
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