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If you listen real close, you can hear me gritting my teeth.

It’s end of the month, and I am broke. In fact, I am beyond broke – uber-bankruptcy would be the right word.

Hence, not a good time to enter Landmark Book Store, Nungambakkam, Chennai.

But the flesh is weak. I sauntered up to the manga section which, strangely, is located somewhere in the middle of the children’s section while the rest of the graphic novels are just next to the entrance. Quite a few of the usual Del Rey suspects – Negima, Azumanga Daioh, xxxHolic and all – but the first one my eyeballs locked onto was vol 1 of Crying Freeman. The next moment, I was a crying Freeman myself, having observed the 594 INR price tag at the back of the book. Glanced wistfully at the pages – Ryuichi Ikegami’s artwork embellishing Kazuo ‘Lone Wolf’ Koike’s story about an assassin is something right up there in my Wish List, but no, goddamnit. I wasn’t spending any money today. No freaking way. Returned the book to its place. Went to the normal graphic novel section and winced harder at the sight of the hardbound edition of Jessica Abel’s La Perdida. The art was terrific, but again, flipped through the pages and kept it back.

Found out that Landmark has also begun stocking Los Bros Hernandez’s Love and Rockets books, at a stunningly low 295 Rs each. Amazing! How can Fantagraphics books afford to be so cheap, inspite of a cover price of 14.95$?? My friend opined that it was probably a mistake – and promptly picked up volume 1. I tried asking around to see if they had Palomar and Locas, the complete Love and Rockets collections from the two brothers. They didn’t. Oh well. I read the first volume of Oldboy – the manga in the store, which left me marvelling at the apt storytelling choices Park Chan-wook opted for while making a movie out of it.

And then I made my way to the sci-fi/fantasy section, and promptly regretted the decision.

Day Watch was out – the English version of the second book in Sergei Lukyanenko trilogy. Priced at 698, by the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth! And Ramesh Menon’s Bhagavat Purana, which has got to be the thickest standalone book I’ve ever seen. Should be about 1300 pages. 995 Rs. After I was done with the soft-sobbing-while-being-curled-into-foetal-position in the corner of the section, I called retail therapy. In other words, Krishna of Bookworm – who cheered up a so-far-dreary day by not only having both books in stock, but also using the magic words “twenty five percent discount” in the same context.

Update: Chandru was in Chennai yesterday, and he bought Crying Freeman for me. What can I say – the flesh is weak. Oh right, I already said that.

Update 2: Chandru also bought La Perdida. *Sigh*

Update 3: There is an eBay seller who’s put up five Crying Freeman volumes and nine of Wounded Man, another of Koike-Ikegami’s collaborations. And he’s shipping internationally too. Hrmmm.

* * *

It’s official. If Samit Basu is channelling Neil Gaiman in his user-friendly, accessible-fantasy-writer-prone-to-bouts-of-mythology in his work, Sarnath Bannerjee is channelling Grant Morrison in his cheery outlook to writing. The guy most remembered for the mess that was Corridor, has come up with Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers, his second work, and this is what he says about himself – “I am always at the fringe. I am the fringe of literature. I am at the fringe of art- its a very comforting space.” and about his work – “It’s a dark mysterious story which lot of it is me. It’s reality slipped into magic and magic slipping into reality with ease. Despite all the movement in space and time, the narrative is much more linear and much more rounded off.” How very novel. If you haven’t been reading Morrison’s semi-coherent interviews for the last couple of years, that is.

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Just saying…

  • Nightwatch (Nochnoy Dozor), the 2004 film based on the book of the same name is now available in Planet M as a 2-disc DVD. Tempted, so SO tempted.
  • The DVD for DON: The Chase Begins Again has been released in a 2-disc edition that comes free with a comic book, and a 3-disc limited tin edition, the third disc being the audio CD of the movie soundtrack combined with the OST of Dil Chahta Hai. I would be tempted, but for the fact that the film does not merit repeat viewings and also, the special features are next-to-worthless. No commentary track on yet another Farhan Akhtar movie – in a day and age when the Nikhil Advani and Karan Johars of the world are coming up with commentary tracks for their own codswallop. Though I am curious about the free comic book.
  • I reread Preacher over two days. God, now that’s something that’s got repeat value. I think I will reread this series once a year. On to Transmet and Starman, then.
  • Secondspin.com is having a free shipping sale yet again, and it has quite a bit of stuff I’ve been lusting after – the eight-disc release of Brisco County Jr, Sin City: Extended and Recut, the 3-disc release, and even Bjork’s Surrounded box-set, which is all The Divine One’s CDs remastered in 5.1 audio. Plus. Apache Indian’s No Reservation for only 2.99$. I would Mmmm-bueno-ing over it any other month but this. I require fuel for DVD binges, goddamnit!! Too much of the green is being redirected to original artwork monthly payments. Ah, well…
  • I have finished four of the stories in The Complete Conan Chronicles.
  • A much-delayed update to my comicartfans gallery is due.
  • And did I tell you someone special got me a genuine Mandala? I shall soon be putting up a scan, prepare your eyeballs for tremendous quantities of Shock and Awe.
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Does not really deserve a title.

Junji Ito is messing with my head.

Junji Ito who? A horror creator from Japan. Known primarily for a series called Uzumaki (Spiral in English, also made into a not-so-good movie) and for Tomie. Tomie. I read scans of this series a couple of years back. Fairly gruesome story about a drop-dead beautiful girl (heh heh heh) named Tomie, who has the power to make people obsess over her, and ultimately, kill her.

Except, Tomie does not stay dead easily. She regenerates, inspite of having been hacked and slashed and dismembered and, in one mega-sicko sequence, being ground to a paste and mixed with Sake. She regenerates, and sometimes, most of the time, actually, she comes back in ways that are extremely distressing to an unsuspecting manga fan who is having his dinner. Take my word for it.

The scans I had read before were from this defunct company called Comicsone, and the translations weren’t too good. Dark Horse comics has taken to reprinting all of Junji Ito’s works in a series called Museum of Horror, and I recently bought volume 2. Excellent stuff, more so because in this volume Ito’s art seems much more polished than the early Tomie stories. Now to find volumes 1 and 3.

You can read a complete Junji Ito horror story right here.

* * *

Gaurav got a bunch of my stuff back from the States. A Sergio Aragones Groo pin-up, a Harry Roland Vampirella painting, a Tony Harris Starman page, and a 2-page Kevin Maguire splash page from Gen-13/Fantastic Four( my first double-page splash! Woo Hoo!). The splash page had some of the most detailed inking I have ever seen, I spent a good half an hour just looking at the intricacies. Apart from the artwork, he got back the complete Hellboy collection, the first three volumes of Lady Snowblood, quite a bit of Ellis – all of which were part of Brady’s collection that I had purchased this year, most of which is still at 2fargon‘s place in the States. I finished the Hellboy volumes sometimes yesterday – started them in the airport the day before. Yes, I was travelling.

* * *

How was the last year for me? Very trippy. Right from Jan 1st, 2006, half of which I spent in Bangalore airport, I seem to have been travelling like mad. I cannot remember more than one or two weekends in the first three months of this year when I was in Hyderabad. None of these trips were too restful, except for a Mumbai trip in April, where I spent three and a half days in invigorating company, and the last week of the year, which was my Back To Basics trip. I nearly ended up spending half of 31st December in an airport too, but I didn’t mind it one bit, nosirreebob.

In case you haven’t been following the LJ too obviously, last year was also the year of Original Art. ( 2004 was the year of The Comic Book, 2005 the year of The DVD ) Technically, I bought my first pieces on 25th December 2005, but in 2006, the acquisition of my first Quitely page broke the 200$-eBay-barrier. I slacked off sometime in the middle of the year, but then I had this life-altering conversation with a friend, sometime in September, about why he is going to collect original comicbook art, and only original art, after he graduates. There was a flash of light, in which I realised how right he was. And from then, there was no looking back.

It was also, in a slighter degree, the year of a near-complete comicbook collection. I bought out a collection from someone in the US, and effectively that has put an end to fervent searches and snipes on eBay. I am contented. For now.

A depressing year, as far as new music goes. Apart from the fact that my sister gifted me an iPod shuffle, there has not been any hallelujah-worthy moment in music for me, this year. (Yes, that’s right, I have become a jaded old fucker. Rape me, my friends. Which reminds me that I waded through Nirvana’s discography sometime back. Excellent rush of happy memories that was. ) No, hold on, let me remember some music-worthy moments from last year…

– The live Zero-7 video that Vasu showed me, that made me go and listen to all of Zero-7 for a couple of days.
– Listening to this band from Nepal called Nepathya, who do rock versions of traditional songs from around the Himalayas. Infectious!
– Rediscovering DJ Krush, who I had heard a little bit of in 2005.
– Siddharth singing ‘Appudo Ippudo’ from Bommarilu, Shreya Ghoshal on the songs of Anukakonda Oka Roju, and, most important of all, ‘Dole Dole’ from Pokiri.
– All the adgy mixes.
– Kailash Kher’s Kailasa, the live DVD as well as the CD.

Hmm, seems like there might be a mixtape in the offing after all…

The first half of the year, I took this rather drastic measure of choosing to ignore ALL blockbuster movies that are released. It was meant to be a one-year abstinence from all things corporate-Hollywood-and-Bollywood-ish, but the idea got chucked somewhere along the way. I did not watch too many movies either ways – probably the fact that Sympathy For Lady Vengeance did not impress me as much early this year has something to do with it. The ones I saw were reruns of the ones I saw before. Repeat viewings rock, don’t they?

About the rest of what went on in my life, well, all of you who know me already know about what’s going on, so do I really need to write it all down? The rest of you will have to make do, I guess.

* * *

Right now, I have in front of me the following – Pride of Baghdad and Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, both hardcover. Genshiken volume 3 – I had bought volumes 4 and 5 yesterday on the last day of the Odyssey sale. DVDs of Pitamaghan, Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu, Anjali, and Jillanu Oru Kaadhal. A neat Hitman page, drawn by John McCrea and inked by Gary Leach, featuring the last appearance of Sixpack, that I picked up from the post office today morning. Ramesh Menon’s Mahabharata is occupying my nightly hours.

Ain’t life grand?

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True Story

I am obsessed with comicartfans.com. As if you didn’t know. While collection-hopping sometime last week, I landed up on a Spanish collector’s gallery, where, to my surprise, I found an Alan Davis page for sale. Not just another Alan Davis page, it was a page from an issue of Batman and the Outsiders, published sometime in 1985. It happened to be the issue where I had seen Alan Davis’s work for the very first time. And also, it was cheap, remarkably so. So, in my nostalgia-induced headiness, I sent a message to the collector saying that I wanted the page, and would he be all right with mailing it to India, and all that jazz.

He replied in a couple of hours, and quoted a price that was extremely reasonable, shipping included. Everything fine and hunky-dory. I would pay him on Monday, I told him. Cool.

So on Monday, just before I am about to pay, I notice that he’s online in GTalk. Just engage in casual conversation for a while, talking about comic conventions and collecting addictions and how tough it is to pay for Uderzo pages. While we are talking, I tell him that I am ready to pay and go over to Paypal, type in my information and click on “send money”. Just then, he asks me, “have you checked out the site that represents Alan Davis and sells his art for him?” “No”, I said. I hadn’t come across any site that sold Alan Davis artwork. He passed on a URL to me, and the moment I clicked on it, I knew I should have been more careful. There were Alan Davis pages GALORE, and truth be told, much better than the ones this guy had put up. It even had a page from The Nail, with all the JLA characters in it, and some pages from the X-23 debut in X-Men, including a kick-ass fight scene between X-23 and Wolverine.

And this guy, he takes my Paypal payment and returns it to me. I don’t know if he got charged for it or not, but this is what he said after returning the money:

“Maybe this way I lost a sale but won a friend. :D”

You sure did, Pablo.

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Landmark, Mumbai, and a crib about bookstores

Since I’ve been flying around the country quite a bit (urm, planes, not newly developed wings), I have been able to find time to catch up on a bit of reading. And buying. Reread Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors on the Kanpur trip. Also started a Diana Wynne-Jones collection of short stories just after that got over. And graphic novels, loads of them.

Landmark, Mumbai was a revelation. I had been hearing raves about it from oceansandearth and suku. The former gave me a near-apoplexy by mentioning that not only did the place have Samurai Executioner volumes 8 and 9, which yours truly had been searching for high and low, it also had volumes 14 and 15 of Blade of the Immortal, of which I had read volumes 1-13 in white-heat some time ago. And indeed, when I landed up there, the collection sent a rush of blood to my head. It had all that, and much more. Is anyone looking for volumes of Akira? What about David Lloyd’s latest original GN Kickback? Complete runs of Fables TPBs, Y The Last Man, Flash Gordon collections, Promethea – basically whatever mainstream comics has to offer. Even the first two volumes of the Koike/Kojima release Path of the Assassin, which is just being released by Dark Horse.

But hold on a second, no discounts. Wankers. Just went ahead and bought some bare necessities, Samurai Executioner and BotI included. Glared at the hardcover edition of The Complete Conan by Robert E Howard. Wankers. I will just have to pick up the softcover version the next time I am in Blossom. My patience has run out.

It pains me extremely to realise that nowhere in Hyderabad can I buy new books with a 20% discount, like I used to in Bangalore. It’s partly a blessing, because most of my book-buying is now confined to second-hand books ONLY while in this city. And boy oh boy, Best-Frankfurt-MR do manage to throw up surprises every now and then, like the original Tideland novel by Mitch Cullin for just 50 Rs, and a beautiful fairy tale book called Wingless which I picked up the other day just because it has illustrations by Atanu Roy. I do frequent the bigger bookshops – Odyssey and Walden – every now and then, but that’s just to check up on the latest releases. If I like anything, I buy them at 20% discount the next time I am at Bookworm or Blossom. Both Odyssey and Walden have these “Sales” twice every year, in which they sell all their stock at a grand 10% off. Phoeey! Walden does one better. It takes out the worst books of the lot, the marketting manuals that were out of anyone’s radar eight years ago, Java 1.2 API guides, Windows 98 tutorials, and tags them with “special prices” – which we customers are supposed to drool over and buy immediately. They are selling unsold hardcover copies of Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince at 15% off – well after the paperback has been released. Morons.

Count your blessings, Bangalore-dwellers. For all the cribs I have against your city, there are certain things that make me gnash my teeth and wish I were still in that office on Museum Road. Ah, to be able to drop in at Blossom every day at lunchtime.

Did you know that Barefoot Gen, the seminal manga on the horrors of Hiroshima, and considered to be one of the inspirations behind Grave of the Fireflies is now available in an Indian edition? Yes, and quite well-priced at 250 Rs, also comes with an introduction by Anand Patwardhan.

Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken and Plums is also available at most bookshops, though the cost price of 600 is somewhat off-putting. I will just wait for a Bangalore trip to pick it up.

Volumes 5-8 of Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha are available quite freely in the market now. ( How freely? Even a backwaters bookshop like Odyssey, Hyderabad has them on display. The last time I asked them if they had Buddha, one of the salesmen pointed me to the “religion” section. Bah! ) Prices also seem to have come down quite a bit. 295 per book, and if you buy them from places that offer a discount, you get them for REALLY cheap. I ought to be peeved that I spent almost twice the money on the first four volumes, but this lowered price makes me quite glad because more people will pick up this superb series, which deserves hosannahs and praise and our eternal gratitude to Osamu Tezuka for creating it all. Highly recommended, folks. Storytelling does not get better than this.

I tried watching Nacho Libre the other night, but fell asleep midway. Is it just me, or is Jack Black trying too hard?

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