This week’s contributor is Benny B, a DJ and real estate mogul-in-training. I won’t embarrass myself by using an old lady’s idea of cool slang to describe his collection, but I will say he has excellent taste in manga: what’s not to like about Barefoot Gen, Buddha, Bug Boy, or Sanctuary, I ask? – Katherine Dacey
I am a DJ living in New York City. I also work as an office manager for a real estate company that has a TV show. My number one interest is manga. I read it at least twice a day, in the subway to and from work, and before I go to bed. My favorite kinds of manga are seinen and classic. I recently got the iPad2 and I love it – it’s perfect for reading manga. Other than that, I like to go out to eat, collect music, and get new DJ gigs. Get in touch:
How long have you been collecting manga?
I have been buying a very small amount since the late 80’s. I really got into it in the last five years, though. I wasn’t a true collector before then. At first I was just re-buying the stuff I had as a kid, but now I’m really into current stuff, too.
What was the first manga you bought?
I first started buying manga in the late 80’s and early 90’s. As a kid, I used to sell candy and work at a fruit stand, so I blew all my earnings on comics and records. My first manga was probably Akira, Legend of Kamui (still have some of these) or Ranma – I don’t remember.
My parents first bought me an X-Men comic when I was 8 years old and after that I was hooked on comics for good. My favorites were X-Men and Batman. At first I would buy them in hardware stores and bodegas, which had these revolving wire racks. (Comics were really popular in America then – this was before Nintendo.) After a while, I discovered comics shops, and I saw alternative stuff from Dark Horse, Epic and Viz. A lot of American comic creators were being influenced by manga at that time and I didn’t know the difference between something like Usagi Yojimbo or Ronin and something like Orion or Akira. I started buying manga in comic book form; unfortunately, I lost most of them.
There was one called Memories that was a one-shot about a giant rose in outer space — I think it was by Otomo. Anyway, I should see if I can get that again because it was a favorite of mine. – Editor’s note: Memories is indeed by Katsuhiro Otomo and was originally published by Epic in 1992. Click here for more information.
How big is your collection?
I guess it’s pretty small – you tell me? All the other manga collections that have been posted look great.
What is the rarest item in your collection?
I guess it would be Kosaku Shima. Kosaku Shima is a fantastic manga in the “salary man” genre which is pretty much unrepresented in English translation. It’s a genre about office workers and corporate stuff. Shima is a James Bond-type figure except he’s just a regular office executive. The stories consist of him climbing the corporate ladder and include romance and adventure. The only ones available in the US are actually bilingual books that were published to help Japanese speakers learn English, so these are pretty rare. I have a few other bilingual editions, and I was about to start dropping a few bills on the Princess Knight editions, but Vertical came through with the translations.
Although some companies are doing great work, there are so few translated manga for grown folks that tracking down rare stuff like Kosaku Shima is really important to me.
What is the weirdest item in your collection?
The weirdest item would be Bug Boy or another horror comic. Bug Boy is about a nice boy who turns into a bug and watches his life turn into misery. Other weird ones I own and love are Parasyte, Cat-Eyed Boy, Berserk, Mu Shi Shi and I’ll Give It My All Tomorrow.
How has your taste in manga evolved since you started your collection?
I still like a lot of the same stuff I did when I first got into manga, actually. About 5 years ago, I started making a little more loot and, for nostalgic reasons, decided to buy up a lot of stuff I read as a kid. After I had re-bought all my X-Men comics, I realized that the manga holds up a lot better and I still enjoy it, whereas I don’t really enjoy superhero comics anymore.
I mostly read seinen. My favorite genres are crime, cooking, slice-of-life, horror — really everything that doesn’t have long, drawn-out fighting scenes. Also as you can see, I am a Tezuka freak. My favorite comic of all time is Barefoot Gen.
Who are your favorite comic artists?
Naoki Urasawa is just amazing to me. All of his stories are fantastic. They are vast and intricate and don’t rely on long fighting scenes to fill up the stories. I love One Piece like everybody else, but half of it is fighting scenes. Sometimes I’ll skip right over the fighting scenes and feel like I didn’t miss anything. But with Urasawa, you have this master storyteller who creates incredible novels and on top of that he is drawing everything as well! He’s an incredible artist and is just as good as any American comic artist, if not better. I mean, is there anything on Earth that really competes with that?
Favorite artists currently working: Naoki Urasawa, Takehiko Inoue, Hitoshi Iwaaki, Yamamoto Hideo, Makoto Yukimura and Jiro Taniguchi.
Favorite artists from the past: Osamu Tezuka, Keiji Nakazawa, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Buronson, Ryoichi Ikegami
As far as Tezuka goes, here are my 5 favorite Tezukas translated into English:
- Apollo’s Song
- Black Jack
Astro Boy is cool and everything, but it’s really just for kids. I felt this way about Dororo the first 2 or 3 times I read it, but now I think it’s pretty good.
What series are you actively collecting right now?
It’s hard for me to answer this question because I read manga so quickly that I don’t remember! My subway ride is about 30-40 minutes and sometimes I’ll knock down 100-200 pages in that time, which makes it an expensive habit. That’s why my collection is mostly used books. But right now, I’m reading Real, 20th Century Boys, Black Jack and any old stuff I pick up. Real is so awesome and Inoue is pretty close to Urasawa’s level, although Vagabond has too much fighting for me. I also read Shonen Jump and many different ones online.
Do you have any tips for fellow collectors (e.g. how to organize a collection, where to find rare books, where to score the best deals on new manga)?
I can’t help anyone with organizing besides telling you to get a cool bookcase or a cool girlfriend who will help you organize it (my strategy).
The best place to find rare books is either online (Amazon or eBay) or at a used bookstore. The Book-Off store in New York City is the best place I know of for rare used books, and this is where I get most of my manga. I personally don’t care what the book looks like, I just want to read it. I will buy an old, beat-up copy or a book with a library sticker on it, so in that way I’m a lousy collector I suppose.
New manga I would buy from Amazon. Amazon is really great.
Show Us Your Stuff is a regular column in which readers share pictures of their manga collections and discuss their favorite series. If you’d like to see your manga library featured here, please send me an email.