The 650-Cent Plague turns five

panel from Akira #12 (Epic) by Katsuhiro Otomo

If one year for a dog equals seven years for a human, then five years in ‘Internet years’ equals… a long time. I started this weblog on January 15, 2012 and published two posts a month ever since. A look back on the first two years is already available, so here are some facts from the WordPress statistics about The 650-Cent Plague in 2014-2016:

  • For some reason, 2014 is still the most popular year with 9% more visitors than in 2015 and 3% more than in 2016.
  • The blog post with the most hits in these three years is still my completely off-topic review of Luzia Simons’s and Sarah Jones’s flower photography, probably due to reasons outlined in my 2nd anniversary post. However, its number of hits is declining from year to year, while the second most popular post, on Erwin Panofsky, is on the rise. The post with the 3rd most hits is the one on Heinrich Wölfflin, which makes me like to think that people might be interested in this whole ‘theory in comics’ series. So maybe I’ll write some more of this stuff this year.
  • Most visitors come from the US, followed by Germany. So far, so predictable, but what baffles me is that Germany is closely followed by France (UK on 4th place, Canada on 5th). There has been almost twice as much traffic from France than from the UK!
  • By far the most requested image is gay young Ozymandias and his “… aquaintance” from Before Watchmen.
  • Apart from image links, most outward traffic from The 650-Cent Plague goes to www.manganet.de, the website of German publisher Egmont Manga (which they seem to have changed to http://www.egmont-manga.de recently). In contrast to e.g. Marvel and DC, their manga series URLs are relatively stable, so I don’t hesitate to include them in manga reviews.

What will I write about at The 650-Cent Plague in the future? Well, is there anything you would like to read here? Tell me in the comments!

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30 day comic challenge, week 2

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Day 08 – A song comic you liked when you were younger

I’m still fond of many comics I liked as a child. A series I don’t quite like as much now as I think I did back then is Hägar the Horrible, still drawn by Dik Browne at that time. Some gags will always be hilarious, but many are not. Often, Browne simply ignored the Viking setting and made dull jokes about marriage and taxes instead. Current strips (by Chris Browne) can be read at hagarthehorrible.com.

Day 09 – A song comic that makes you want to dance draw

Granted, “draw” isn’t exactly to “comic” as “dance” is to “song”, but I couldn’t think of a better analogy, and at least the transfer from passive reception to activity is retained. Initially I was thinking of comics that represent the act of drawing, such as Kozue Chiba’s Crayon Days (briefly reviewed here), but one of the few comics that actually made me pick up pencil and paper was Civil War: X-Men. The drawings of penciller Yanick Paquette and inker Serge Lapointe make use of clear outlines and compact shadows, with often only minimal parallel hatching, which makes them relatively easy to copy. It’s not as if the colouring (by Stephane Peru) wasn’t good, but the quality of the pencil and ink drawings is palpable even in the finished comic.

Day 10 – A song comic that makes you cry

Although I can’t say it actually made me cry, I remember a scene early in Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant as a striking rendering of sadness and despair: Prince Valiant (and that other guy, Prince Arn) mourning the death of Ilene. That must have been around episode #80, from 1938.

Day 11 – A song comic that reminds you of summer

While some episodes of Jirō Taniguchi’s The Walking Man are clearly set in other seasons, some most likely take place in summer, e.g. “Night Swimming”. Generally, taking a walk or aimlessly wandering around (which is what this comic is all about) is more fun when it’s warm and bright.

Day 12 – A song comic that reminds you of your best friend

Back in school, Pat Mills’s Sláine was popular among me and my friends, particularly the albums of Simon Bisley’s run. That was at the same time when Braveheart became a cult film among us, and when listening to Irish folk music and drinking mead became fashionable.

Day 13 – A song comic you sing to read in the shower bathroom

Currently there’s a “Snoopy & die Peanuts” collection (i.e. late Peanuts, originally from the mid-80s) that a flatmate put there. I think I’ll read some of it eventually, although I don’t like what I’ve read so far.

Day 14 – A song comic you like hearing being read live

Uli Oesterle’s reading of Hector Umbra, which I think took place around the time it was re-released by Carlsen (2009), was great fun. He even had a DJ with him (which is only fitting, as there is also a DJ in the story).


30 day comic challenge, week 1

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Instead of just making other people take on the “30 day song challenge”, I’m going to try it myself. However, just like Paul Downey, I’ll replace “song” with something more suitable for this weblog. In my case, that would be “comic”, of course. Here are entries #1-7:

Day 01 – A song comic that makes you happy

This already raises a tricky question. What exactly is it about a comic that can make you happy? The process of reading it? The memories of having read it? Owning a copy of it? Looking forward to reading it? And would it be enough for such a comic to be simply good (whatever that means), or should that comic have a specific emotional appeal in order to elicit happiness? Intuitively, I think I’ll simply pick Karuho Shiina’s Kimi ni todoke (the first two volumes of which I’ve briefly reviewed here in February) because it works on all of these levels. It’s a series that succeeds in letting its readers join its protagonist on a rollercoaster ride of feelings, so when Sawako finds happiness, why shouldn’t the readers be happy too?

Day 02 – A song comic that helps you clear your head

Although I haven’t done any research on this, I’d wager that “clearing one’s head” is one of the more under-theorised concepts in the field of reception aesthetics. I imagine this “clearing” works like this: first you become so absorbed in a work that your mind is completely taken off of everything else, but after the act of reception you find it easy to focus on something else again – your head is clear. To cause such an effect, I guess a comic should be easily accessible, but maybe also have a certain abstractness and superficiality (in a good way), so that it doesn’t preoccupy you for hours after reading it. A comic that works well in this respect is Reza Farazmand’s often surreal webcomic Poorly Drawn Lines.

Day 03 – A song comic that makes you laugh

I found Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui to be surprisingly funny. Nicholas Theisen blogged about it last year, but it was only recently published in German.

Day 04 – A song comic that reminds you of something sad

Comics in which sad events take place are likely to remind readers of similar events in real life. In Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw, for instance, many sad things happen to the characters, some of which surely many readers can relate to.

Day 05 – A song comic that has a new meaning to you every time you hear read it

Gudrun Penndorf’s presentation at the comics translation conference in Hildesheim last month reminded me that there are still some references in Goscinny’s and Uderzo’s Asterix that I don’t get. Every time I read an Asterix album nowadays, though, I wonder how little I must have understood when I last read them.

Day 06 – A song comic you can always relate to

I find most of Mawil’s semi-autobiographical comics easy to relate to. In particular, the events depicted in Die Band should feel almost eerily familiar to any reader who has ever played in a band. It has been translated into Spanish (La banda) and English (The Band).

Day 07 – A song comic that is your guilty pleasure

While I don’t feel much guilt about any comic I read, sometimes people are surprised when they learn that an adult man regularly reads shōjo manga. I particularly enjoy high-school romance stories, a favourite of mine being Masami Tsuda’s Kare Kano.


The 650-Cent Plague turns two

This blog post marks two anniversaries: I started this weblog two years ago (on January 15, with a review of the now-defunct manga magazine Daisuki), and this is also the 50th post. That means, for two years I’ve been publishing two posts per month here. On this occasion, I thought a look back might be appropriate. WordPress provides detailed traffic statistics, so here are five ‘fun’ facts about The 650-Cent Plague:

  • Even if we bear in mind that web traffic statistics are always to be interpreted with caution, and that the number of hits isn’t equal to the number of people who have read a blog post, it boils down to: virtually no one is reading this.
  • The people who did read this weblog probably didn’t find what they were looking for: most traffic comes via Google, and the most frequent search terms were related to the flower photographs of either Sarah Jones or Luzia Simons. Given that these searches were for the most part performed on Google Images, it seems likely that those visitors were simply looking for images by these two artists (which are available in better quality at the artists’ websites, anyway), rather than my short comparison of their art on the occasion of the Goslar exhibition.
  • Another source of relatively high traffic was Facebook. I don’t have a Facebook account myself, but Robin Vehrs kindly posted a link to my review of his comic on Facebook. This resulted in the highest hits-per-day number in the history of The 650-Cent Plague (on August 4, 2012). The downside is: some people left comments pertaining to my review on Facebook, and I don’t have the chance to reply. Still not loving Facebook.
  • Anyway, the real currency in blogging are not hits, but comments. And the comment numbers for this weblog are dismal. Still, thank you, everyone who left a comment here – all five of you.
  • Having hardly any readers wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t take me so much time to write a blog post. I keep track of such things in a spreadsheet, and the average time spent on a post is almost 3 hours (not counting the time I spend reading the texts I write about).

Not yet, Colonel…

That being said, I still think blogging is a good exercise for any scholar. It helps me thinking about things, expressing that in writing, and remembering them. So I guess I’ll continue ‘talking into the void’ at The 650-Cent Plague for the time being. Any suggestions for how to make this weblog more interesting are highly welcome, of course.