Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett discusses Tsum Tsum, Justice League Action and food manga.

It's gotten to the point my tired old brain can only accept only so many new things at a time.  I deal with this by trying to be only vaguely aware of them, a strategy which allows me to have the appearance of being familiar with the latest fads and trends while knowing only the bare minimum about them.  I’ll be able to recognize the name and acknowledge that it’s an "actual thing,” something some people seem to be taking seriously.  But until I absolutely have to know more, that’s usually sufficient.  Like those Funko Pop vinyl figures; I was vaguely aware they existed but didn’t get actively interested in them until I saw how much shelf space they were taking up at Super-Fly Comics.  And found out how well they were selling.

Or, I knew that Tsum Tsum was some kind of Japanese plush, but that was the extent of what I knew until they announced the Marvel Tsum Tsum comic book.  Having been placed squarely in my wheelhouse I was now obligated to find out more, like how the name was derived from the Japanese verb “tsumu”, meaning “to stack,” because they're stackable.  And that the collectible cute cylindrical plushes were originally created for the Japanese Disney Store but had taken off in the States.  As faddish toys go they seemed inherently no sillier than Beanie Babies, but to find a licensed Marvel Comic with a premise this goofy you'd have to go all the way back to Animax*.

I admit I was taken by the cover by Gurihiru which had the same slightly unsettling otherworldly quality I so often find in the art of Paul Pope.  But I still took my time getting around to reading it.  When I did, I found I liked it, a lot. Writer Jacob Chabot has written a fun kids comic that actually featured kids who looked like kids.  Being able to draw kids seems as if it should be an automatic prerequisite for being a comic book artist, but that isn’t always the case; I’ve seen too many comics where the children looked like stunted adults. But artist David Baldeon does a wonderful job making his young protagonists seem both real and appealing.  It’s a bright, sharp, colorful comic that’s a lot of (there’s that word again) fun and I hope we see more like it in the future.

In spite of the fact it seems more strongly skewed towards a younger audience than previous ones, I was already looking forward to the new Justice League cartoon Justice League Action. Then I saw the article on Comic Book ResourcesCartoon Network’s ‘Justice League Action’ Will Feature Over 150 Characters” and now I’m really looking forward to it.  It doesn’t name a lot of those characters but it so far confirmed Stargirl and John Constantine as well as the old school Justice League villains The Demons Three (now known as the Brothers D’Jinn, which as names go seems like an improvement to me).  And I find it extremely encouraging that not only does it feature appearances by Space Cabbie from Mystery In Space, for some reason Warner Bros. insisted they use him.

Long before there were “foodies”, I was extremely interested in food.  For almost a decade I worked in kitchens, busing tables, and washing dishes, ending up doing food prep at a mid-range, sit-down restaurant chain.  A place where food wasn’t so much cooked as assembled on a conveyor belt then slightly warmed.  I’ve always been disappointed there’s never been much of a crossover between my two passions.  Now, of course, there’s chef/author Anthony Bourdain's graphic novels Get Jiro and Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi, as well as Starve, Chew, Space Battle Lunchtime and Voracious.  The last title being for anyone like me who has always wanted a Jurassic Park movie to end with a celebratory dinosaur barbecue.  For a long time the only place you could find comics on food was in Japan.  Which brings me to a story I found on the NPR site, “Food Manga: Where Culture, Conflict and Cooking All Collide.”

It provides a solid overview of the genre with a special emphasis on the currently most popular food manga series, Food Wars, which is also running in the American version of Weekly Shonen Jump. It’s about a 16-year-old named Soma who works in his family restaurant and gets sent to the top cooking academy where he engages in endless culinary competitions which help him hone his skills as a chef.  It’s an enjoyable, romp with only a tenuous connection to reality; as Deb Aoki, who writes about manga for Anime News Network and Publishers Weekly, puts it, “When Soma cooks something really delicious, people put it in their mouths and they are so overcome with ecstasy that their clothes explode off.”

If you want to know what working in a kitchen is really like though, I highly recommend Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.  It’s kind of like that.  Without any of the fun stuff.

*For those who weren't’ there, Animax was 1986 Star Comic about car/animal hybrids, or animal/car hybrids; I can’t remember which.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of