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Ryan Holmberg continues his essential column on the history of alternative manga today with an introduction to the concept of batakusai (which means “butter-stinking,” or in other words, overly Westernized) and its usage within the context of manga.

This term supposedly dates back to the Edo period, when visiting English and Portuguese traders were derided for their strong body odors thought to be caused by a fat and butter-rich diet. Most Japanese did not eat “four-legged creatures” until the latter nineteenth century, due to a combination of religious prohibitions and prejudices. Milk and milk-skin products had been consumed by royalty and aristocrats since the seventh century, but dairy was still regarded an oddity by Japanese in contact with foreigners during the Edo period. “Cheese” had been reported in Japanese markets by Jesuit missionaries as far back as the sixteenth century. But since there was no cheese in Japan at the time, they were probably misidentifying blocks of tofu.

A collection of early comics drawn by the late Ronald Searle during his time in a Japanese POW camp (see Warren Bernard’s bio of Searle for more details) has just been discovered.

Here’s a short article on Foo, the fanzine of Robert and Charles Crumb, once again coming to the conclusion that at least in their childhoods, Charles was the better artist. By the way, early Crumb fanatics may not have heard that the upcoming new edition of volume one of the Complete Crumb will include a newly discovered complete 1962 issue of Arcade. We’ll have an expanded look at the new material on the site soon.

Bart Beaty wrote an interesting short take on the Katz/Maus controversy yesterday. For inexplicable reasons, this somehow spilled over into the comments section of this site, and Dan gave more of his views here. I haven’t seen the Katz book myself (for those of you too lazy to click on the links above, it’s a repurposed version of Maus, in which the contents of the book are apparently unchanged, except that the heads of all characters within it have been turned feline), but it sounds like I’d agree with both Beaty and Dan, contradictory as that might initially seem. I have no thoughts on the legality of the situation, not knowing a single thing about French or Belgian copyright law.

Robert Boyd remembers Dale Yarger, a former designer of The Comics Journal, among many other Fantagraphics projects.

Steven Brower discusses the covers of recent Jack Kirby books, and the trend of using artists other than Kirby for them. (Basically, he’s against it.)


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