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2012 Comic-Con Best and Worst Manga Panel

Critics Pick the Best, Worst, and Most-Anticipated Manga of 2011-2012


Worst Manga: Is This a Zombie? by Shinichi Kimura, Sacchi (Yen Press)

Is This a Zombie? Vol. 1

Carlo Santos: "This isn't necessarily a BAD manga, but it is also an annoying manga. I saw the anime for Is This a Zombie? and thought 'Oh, this is cute."

"It's about a guy who's a zombie, and he lives with a necromancer who brought him back from the dead. She can't say a word, because her magic is so powerful that if she says anything, it might end up blowing stuff up. Then this magical girl traipses into his life. She uses her magical powers, and then he turns into a magical girl! I was watching this and thinking, 'This is hilarious!' But that was the anime."

"But with the manga version, they tried to make a comedy and they just completely do it wrong. It's just a bunch of characters screaming and being wild and having stupid over-reactions, and lots of ridiculous fanservice that doesn't make any sense."

Worst Manga: Kobato by CLAMP (Yen Press)

Kobato Vol. 6
Illustrated by CLAMP © CLAMP

Brigid Alverson: "I'll say right off the top that I'm not a big CLAMP fan. And I'll also say that this book has beauuutiful art. But reading this book made me want to punch this character in the nose!"

"I have not read the whole series because I just can't get more than halfway through the first volume. The characters are a very beautiful girl who wears very elaborate outfits who is supposed to do good deeds for people. There's also a blue dog with a spiked color who curses and smokes and whacks her whenever she does anything wrong, and he does this all the time because she never seems to get a clue."

"It's set up with this antagonistic plot, where the look of the book contrasts with the actual content of the book. I'd much rather read about the pretty girl than deal with that obnoxious dog."

Shaenon Garrity: "I had just the opposite reaction to this! I wanted to see more about the dog than the girl! That dog's got it going on!"

Carlo Santos: "I'm an actual CLAMP fan; X, xxxHolic, Card Captor Sakura, and on and on. But Kobato? This is terrible. CLAMP has turned into a parody of themselves. They copy all the crap from all their other books, and slapped it together into something that's pretty bad."

Most Anticipated: Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio (Fantagraphics)

Heart of Thomas
© Moto Hagio

Shaenon Garrity: "Moto Hagio is probably the greatest manga artist after Osamu Tezuka. It's taken a long time to get her work translated and published in English. Fantagraphics has done a great job with putting out a collection of her short stories, (A Drunken Dream and Other Stories), and now there's Heart of Thomas, one of her most famous series."

"It's one of the two manga stories that practically invented the boys' love genre, along with Keiko Takemiya's Song of the Wind and Trees. Hagio and Takemiya were roommates in the 1970's, so they started doing manga like these forbidden romances at boys' boarding schools. This is a beautiful manga that I've been waiting years and years to get."

On sale: November 2012, from Fantagraphics

Most Anticipated: Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)

© Shigeru Mizuki

Christopher Butcher: "Drawn & Quarterly put out Shigeru Mizuki's WWII manga, Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths, about the futility of war last year. They just published NonNonBa, which Shaenon talked about, which was about his childhood, when he was first exposed to the idea of a magical world that not everyone can see."

"Kitaro is the series that made him famous. If you're a hardcore manga fan, you should know that this will be approximately the same story breakdown as the French edition from Cornelius."

"This is one of those important ones that comes out very rarely, like Astro Boy, that are so, so important to Japanese culture, and so important to understanding Japanese culture. When this comes out, be sure to pick it up, because it's one of those keys that will unlock so many levels of meaning to so many other manga that it has influenced."

On sale: January 2013, from Drawn & Quarterly

Most Anticipated: Thermae Roma by Mari Yamazaki (Yen Press)

Thermae Roma Vol. 1

Brigid Alverson: "This is not quite as high-brow as the other two we've just mentioned, but it's about time travel, Rome, and baths! I'm basing this off what I've seen and heard because I don't read Japanese, but it's about a designer of bathhouses in ancient Rome. He then gets transported forward in time and ends up in modern Japan, and he sees how baths are designed today, which leads to all kinds of hilarious complications."

Christopher Butcher: "I actually bought all four volumes in Japanese, and it's just... weird."

On sale: November 2012, from Yen Press

Most Anticipated: Strange Tale of Panorama Island by Suehiro Maruo (Last Gasp)

The Strange Tale of Panorama Island by Edogawa Rampo, Suehiro Maruo from Last Gasp
© Suehiro Maruo / ENTERBRAIN

Deb Aoki: "The Strange Tale of Panorama Island is by Suehiro Maruo, who draws incredibly gorgeous and incredibly grotesque horror comics. It's a one-shot story about a novelist who meets a very rich guy who resembles him. This very rich guy dies, so the novelist then takes on the rich guy's identity, and indulges in a life of decadence on his own private island. The story was originally written by Edogawa Rampo, who is like Japan's version of Edgar Allen Poe. This should kind of give you a clue that something macabre and horrifying is in store for this character."

"I don't know too, too much about the rest of the story, but there are preview pages posted on Last Gasp's website, and they are fantastic. They've been promising that this book will be out for the past two years. Last I've heard, it should be out this year, or early next year, at last. I hope. Check it out and cross your fingers that this book will come out soon."

Christopher Butcher: "We've carried the manga and artbooks from this series at The Beguiling, and they're just gorgeous. If you know Usamaru Furuya's work on Lychee Light Club? He's essentially Suehiro Maruo's #1 fan. They just collaborated on a new book in Japan. If you like Furuya, you'll love Maruo's work too."

On sale: Winter 2012-2013? from Last Gasp Books

Most Anticipated: Barbara by Osamu Tezuka (Digital Manga)

© Tezuka Productions

Deb Aoki: "Carlo's most anticipated manga pick was Message to Adolf, which we talked about earlier so I decided to spotlight Barbara, another manga for grown-ups from Tezuka."

"This book is being published largely due to a Kickstarter campaign put on by Digital Manga. It's about a famous novelist in the 1970's who meets this alcoholic, homeless woman named Barbara in a train station. She moves in with him and becomes his muse. But she's not easy to live with. She's often drunk and abusive, and she steals his money. But the novelist? He's no saint either. He's got a lot of bizarre sexual perversions. There's bestiality in this book, there are Satanic rituals, there's everything bizarre and beyond the pale here that'll make you think, 'Oh my god, they're actually publishing this in ENGLISH?'"

Christopher Butcher: "Is it as crazy as MW or crazier?"

Deb Aoki: "Hella crazier than MW! If you thought what you've seen before from Tezuka is weird, this is the one of the weirdest of the weird. Check it out."

On sale: Late August/Early September 2012 from Digital Manga Publishing

Most Wanted: Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto (Shogakukan)

Sunny Vol. 1
© Taiyo Matsumoto / SHOGAKUKAN

The Most Wanted Manga includes titles that have not been licensed for publication in North America... yet.

Chris Butcher: "Sunny is currently running in IKKI Magazine in Japan. Taiyo Matsumoto is my all-time favorite manga-ka, and this is his latest series. This is the series where he completely changed up his artwork and his style. It's selling really well in Japan, and he's really breaking through as an illustrator with this series. It's gorgeous! It's awesome, and everyone should bug VIZ about publishing it."

Most Wanted: Chihayafuru by Yuki Suetsugu (Kodansha)

Chihayafuru Vol. 1
© Yuki Suetsugu / KODANSHA

Deb Aoki: "I picked this manga based on seeing the anime series on Crunchyroll.com. Now, let me just say that it's a bit of a longshot, because it's a shojo manga that's mostly about a competitive card game based on 100 classical Japanese poems that's considered a bit of an obscure sport, even in Japan."

"Now that sounds like a real yawn, right? But I watched the anime, and the story is really engaging! The relationships are compelling, and it just makes you care about every one of these characters, even if you never quite get what's going on with the card game or understand the poems."

"Chihayafuru's premise makes it a hard sell to North American publishers, but the anime has gotten a lot of positive buzz, and they've even announced a second season, which means it did pretty well in Japan too. The manga has won awards in Japan, and well... like I said, it's a long shot, but I hope someone finds a way to publish this in English soon."

Most Wanted: We Are the Beatles by Tetsuo Fujii, Kaiji Kawaguchi (Kodansha)

Boku wa Beatles Vol. 1
© Kaiji Kawaguchi, Tetsuo Fujii / KODANSHA

Carlo Santos: "I love time travel stories. I love the Beatles. In this story, a Japanese Beatles cover band goes back in time to the 1960's. they know all the songs by the Beatles before they've actually ever been written! They become accidental rock stars! Gimme! Awesome!"

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