Friday, October 31, 2003

Welcoming Eddie-torial 

Thanks to Dirk, I have discovered a fairly new blog called Eddie-torial. He has some interesting comments on bookstores here and here, which I'll respond to a bit later. But for now, I read through all his posts and I agree with a lot that he has to say. It is nice to see someone else bloggin that has been into both manga and american comics for a while (along with John and others I'm sure I'm forgetting).

So, welcome to the blogosphere Eddie, and hope to hear more opinions from you in the future. =)

Thursday, October 30, 2003

New news... 

Ok, things have been busy, so it has been a couple of days since my last post. Dirk, am glad your power is back on! Later on I'll also plan on writing up some movies I've managed to see.

Trigun sells out: According to this article, the first Trigun manga sold out of its run of 35,000 in a couple of days, and they have printed up 15,000 more to fill demand. It was obviously helped by the showing of the anime on Cartoon Network, but it is proves that some fears were wrong that it'd be hampered by its $15 price tag (despite being larger in size than normal).

GTO comes to TV: I really like the GTO manga, and it looks like Showtime is going to carry the anime. Hopefully this will get more exposure for this great title. For those that don't know GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka) involves a former delinquent biker and judo captain who decides to become a teacher in order to get girls. However, as he starts to actually teach, he finds he likes it, and his unconventional methods and past make him able to connect to students. This is a very funny comic that also tackles a lot of serious issues. Onizuka is a pretty interesting character, and the antics he gets into are pretty creative. Very recommended...

Fairly oddparents comic: This article shows that Tokyopop is continuing their domination of cartoon-based comic. I'm kind of so-so on these particular "cine-manga" titles in that they seem to just use stills from previous episodes and not have new material (am I wrong on this?), but it is still pretty interesting that it is a manga company that is putting these things out. And according to that PW article a while back, their Kim Possible title was third on the GN sales charts right under Endless Nights. Connections with both Disney and Nickelodeon is pretty serious stuff.

Diamond re-order charges: A group of retailers are petitioning Diamond to stop re-ordering fees. With the market moving more and more toward GNs, and other distributers being strong in those areas, this seems like a good idea. They seem to make the case that the reasons for the fee's origin are no longer a big factor. If that is true, then it would certainly help things to get rid of it.

Exclusives: An interesting perspective from a retailer about the new Spawn figures coming out in chains and how it may actually help him out. Obviously exclusives themselves are generally a bad thing, but his point about exposure in mainstream stores helping out may very well be true. Stores are in a pretty difficult situation right now, but I think if we can get enough good solid comic stores with very big selections and budgets for advertising, then the mainstream may help them more than hurt. Chains will never have the selection that a specialty store has, and that will have to be the strength of these stores in the future. If a situation can come about where someone is introduced to a comic in a chain and then knows they can find the rest of a series or other titles by the same author at a comic shop, then it may work out pretty well.

Unfortunately, I think the very small comic shops are going to have a lot of trouble surviving in the future. I think it'll be between the big chains and big comic shops. I guess we'll have to see how it pans out...

Manga versus american value: Check out this picture that John took. A huge amount of manga in Shonen Jump versus a sliver of american comics. What is even more insane, is that if you have a subscription to Jump, it is half price ($30 for a year). So for me, that stack on the left would be twice as high.

Some critisism in the comments were that this is re-printed from original material in Japan, and that the paper is not glossy and is b&w instead of color, so it may not be a fair comparison.

As far as original content versus not, well the original content in Jump USA is pretty much stuff like interviews, reviews, and articles. Not additional sequential art.

However, the comparison may not be quite as off as one might think. The anthologies in Japan are just like this except even cheaper. It isn't like Japan sells them in pamphlet form and the US is doing an Essentials version. This is pretty much just like how it happens in Japan. When you take into account licenseing fees and translation costs, I doubt the US companies have much less costs than the original companies did for paying creators.

The main difference is that in Japan, Shonen Jump is more like $3, has more pages, runs weekly instead of monthly, and there are more titles with one chapter each (along with one-shot stories), instead of less titles with multiple chapters as in the US version. And as someone mentioned, kids don't care if it came out Japan already. It is new to them...

Most of the ads in these anthologies in both countries are for the GN collections of titles, which is where most of the money is made. The anthologies make a bit of money, but it is mostly to get the buzz out on the various titles. Even if they just break even on costs with the anthology, then the GNs will be pure profit to them.

Anthologies have traditionally been a hard sell in the US, but I think times may be changing. Tokyopop is doing their Rising Stars of Manga anthology direct to small digest format and is selling well, with all of it being original american content. They also have titles like ShutterBox coming out directly to GN which is totally new material.

Both of those are more expensive than Jump for a smaller size, but are certainly a step in that direction.

I think some things to take out of all of this is that kids really don't care so much about colors and glossy paper as long as it is a fun story for cheap, and is availible for sale in places where they run into it. Also, if you can have some faith, selling stuff for cost at first may be the way to go, since you can get the profits later from GNs and meanwhile you've created an audience. Think if people who buy DVDs of TV shows. They got it free at first, but now they are willing to plunk down huge amounts of cash for the DVDs..

--Following stuff courtesy of Dirk:

A rising star in the comics world: This article talks about Tania del Rio, who was one of the people accepted into the second contest/anthology from Tokyopop: Rising Stars of Manga. I think stuff like this should NOT be overlooked. She is an animator working for Seaseme Street, and decided to use a manga style for her story (involving romance during a rafting trip in the Rocky Mountains) partly because of the female-friendly history:

The manga tradition, said del Rio, 23, offers a novel way to explore themes and characters that aren't often addressed in American-style comics, especially among younger women and teens.

"I think girls have been neglected in comics, videos, games and cartoons, and there's a real lack of girl-oriented comics. For teenage girls, there's nothing out there, or it's very dated," she said. "People assume girls aren't interested in comics, but if the stories are written for them, they'd start getting into it."

The manga style, she said, has a strong feminine tradition she wants to develop in her own work as an animator.

"They delve more into the characters in Japanese comics. In America, it's always good guys versus bad guys. In Japanese comics, sometimes it's harder to tell. The characters are more real. They take more time to tell the story," she said, speaking in her home-studio where drawings, cartoons and posters she collects with her boyfriend, Will Staehle, hang on every wall to form a crazy quilt of international pop culture.

See, this is exactly what I've been saying for a while now. Now that manga is filling a void for many people, it follows that they will embrace it and be influenced by it in their own ventures. With so many comics coming out aimed at girls/women being snatched up, I think it is going to have a huge impact as they grow up and perhaps decide to make comics themselves. Tokyopop is being really smart by capitolizing on this. If they play their cards right, they could be a powerful force in original american comics in a few years. Also, notice the stigma that comes out in that last paragraph. Obviously american comes aren't always "good guys versus bad guys", but it can sure seem that way from the outside.

Also, check out this:

One comics store, Squiggy's Dugout in New Rochelle, stocks a few manga titles. "It's still in its infancy. Some high school kids seem to be into it. It has a following, but it's not a large market," store owner Rob Williams said.

People made the same observations when Japanese cars first arrived on these shores to challenge Detroit's supremacy in the auto market.

I think that is amazingly spot on, showing how some people have their heads in the sand, and how big trends can sneak up on you. It is already a big market and I doubt it is going to go away any time soon...

Cup O' Kryptonite: Check out this article on a comic/coffee shop. This is the kind of thing we need more of in the future I think. They have places like this in Japan, as well as places where you can pay a fee by the hour and read as many comics as you want. It is always great to see more people trying to break down some of the stereotypes of what a comic shop is all about. This quote seems a bit odd though:

"When Spider-Man came out, it really helped the industry," Johnson said. "But, on the other hand, it is common knowledge that sales dipped when the Hulk came out. Right now, the Hulk (comic book) is not targeted toward kids, but Marvel put out a movie that was so targeted toward the kids."

I haven't seen the movie yet, but it certainly sounded like a movie that was for adults. He may mean the marketing campaign, though. This is one of the things that really bothers me about the current state of superhero comics is this blurring of targetting. From all accounts, the movie was a scary thing involving adult themes and abuse, but at the same time Marvel's biggest seller was the Hulk Hands. I remember a while back, someone talked about how there was coloring books for Wolverine, a guy with blades that pop out of his hands.

I can't help thinking that the shared universe concept, with different writers and artists on the same titles helps to contribute to this sort of thing. Yes DKR was an interesting book, but if characters are constantly being re-invented in totally different ways, I think it really messes with things. I have to say it is one reason why I like so many manga and independant comics. The association of a single creator with a work through its life tends to give some measure of internal consistancy to work... What do Batman or Spiderman even mean anymore? They've been re-invented so many times and had ret-con or implausible situations keep someone like Spiderman from aging or changing or ending, I just have trouble getting into them. I enjoyed the first volume of Ultimate Spiderman, but I can't help thinking I'd get into it even more if it was a re-working that happened years after the original Spiderman story evolved in a normal way and then came to an end...

I know this may be a somewhat unpopular opinion, and plenty of people enjoy stories that never end and have different people contributing their ideas to it all the time. But for me, it just isn't the sort of thing that I can get very excited about anymore.

Comic lettering: A roundtable discussionwas started up lately to talk about upper versus lowercase text in comics, especially Marvel's recent policy of having everyone use mixed case. While I don't really care all that much either way on which case is used, I have to agree that blanket rules are generally a bad thing.

More interesting to me is about half-way down when they start talking about many people being ashamed of comicisms like word balloons and sound effects, in an effort to seem more cultured and mature. I have to agree that the comics have strengths of their own, and if that is never taken advantage of, why do it as a comic? As was pointed out in the last paragraph, manga has tons and tons of sound effects (something which makes trouble for translators) covering many things that we don't. If you'd like a sampling of some of the Japanese sound effects, check out this page. The funniest one might be "bui", the sound of fingers making the V-sign. ;)

Another thing that has popped up in manga is graphical representations of things. Instead of using a sigh sound effect, you might see a puff of air coming out of a mouth. There's other stuff also the sweat drop for embarassment or stress, vein popping for anger, etc. Some people feel these are lazy shortcuts to show emotion, but I think they're a form of cartoonish stylization that can work well in many situations. This is the sort of thing that Loony Tunes was expert at, but you don't see quite as much of anymore, including in animation.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Various threads... 

Well, I'm always looking around the various boards for interesting topics. The last couple of days have produced some interesting ones:

I think comics should go back to their roots Rugal starts this thread to talk about the trend of more "mature" comics and how it may be leaving kids out of the loop. From there the thread takes off and goes in many directions (even into american creators from manga companies), with lots of good comments from different people. Be sure to check this thread out.

Do you buy trades? Vince, who is now living in Japan, talks about how being in another country has changed his perspective on things and how that (along with shipping costs) has encouraged him to buy more TPBs. A surprising number of other people chime in to say that they've finally decided to forsake monthlies for GNs. Considering that this is on a Marvel forum, I think it really show show opinions are changing. I have pretty much given up on monthlies myself (besides Shonen Jump), so I can defininitely sympathize with people trying to make up their minds...

No Tsunami after all??? Check out the comments from ManchesterTrix:

Better to talk to Marvel than keeping your fingers crossed. They've said that the article was inaccurate and there won't be any trades in the forseeable future and there are no final plans as to producing the Tsunami stuff in any format.

Then after I asked how he heard that:

I learned of it from the retailing community where one of the retailers had a discussion with Dan Buckley, the new Publisher at Marvel. There are currently no plans for trades but they are looking at other formats. I'd link it but it's not an open forum. But I was told it was okay to pass along the info.

This doesn't sound so good, but I guess I'll keep waiting until Marvel actually decides to make some sort of public statment on the issue. Marvel should take notice from the big outpouring of people that were breathing a sigh of relief from the Publisher's Weekly article to see that there really is support from fans for these volumes, and a good possibility that they'd do even better in bookstores...

I've asked if there are any bookstore employees that can check listings on this thread, so I guess I'll see if anyone responds there...

why is the tsunami line not manga General talk about the Tsunami titles and how they relate or don't relate to manga.

No Demo Trade? Larry Young and Brian Wood discuss the fact that the new series Demo will not have a TPB unless sales of the monthly are good, and that they fear it won't happen at all due to everyone saying they'll "wait for the trade." Personally, I think that is the wrong way to go and put in my two cents on the forum. (link courtesy ADD)

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Marvel Editor talks manga... 

As promised, here is the little mini-interview with C. B. Cebulski of Marvel from this month's NewType USA magazine. It is so short that hopefully people won't mind me putting it online:

1. Why do you feel the manga market is growing faster than the American comic market?

The growing manga market is garnering much of the attention these days, but the American comic book market is growing month after month as well. I think the manga growth lends itself to three factors: the direct to graphic novel format being embraced by the readers; increased distribution by the bookstores; low production and printing costs allowing for lower price points.

2. Is the booming manga market for real, or do you see it slowing down any time soon?

I think the manga market was flooded too quickly and has reached its saturation point. REaders and their wallets can't keep up. There's just too much manga, and unfortunately a lot of it is crap that was licensed and rushed out just to make a quick buck. This in turn will lead to more informed choices by the fans who are buying manga, and force publishers to better evaluate the manga they are licensing and publishing.

3. What is the most important advice you can give aspiring artists?

Work on your storytelling! No matter what style you draw in, you have to be able to convey motion and emotion through your art. The story has to flow from panel-to-panel and page-to-page. Let the pictures tell the story; do not rely on the dialogue and word balloons to do your job for you.

While I agree that price points, distribution, and format have all been important (especially in jump-starting things), he doesn't mention the variety of genres and topics which has roped in all kinds of readers. If manga was selling very well to 20-30 year-old males, it still might be news, but certainly not as big a deal as appealing to kids and females. Also, I'm not so sure that the market is already too saturated (there seems to be growth of readers), even though it obviously can still happen. As far as tons of crap, well there is certainly some stinkers out there, but IMO, there is actually a surprising number of quality titles. Lots of truly bad titles already got filtered out of the mix in Japan, so that makes sense.

Other NewType comic stuff: Also on the Bagged & Boarded page are small reviews of Ruse, Teen Titans, and Dork Volume 2: Circling the Drain. The reading list (with little blurbs) is JLA: Liberty and Justice, Marvel's 10th Anniversary HC, Conan the Legend One-Shot, Demo 1, and The Matrix Comics Volume 1.

On other pages were half-page reviews of Vision of Escaflowne 1 and Wild Act 1, full page on the RahXephon Bible, The Yakuza Movie Book, Full Metal Panic guide, Mardock Scramble (in Japan).

I just read the four-page street fighter thing, and it was ok (nice art), but there isn't a whole lot you can do in that short a space. Even the fight seemed way too short... I'd call this more of a little promo thing than an "exclusive comic"...

The Neil Gaiman stuff is 6 pages, but has a lot of pictures (nice pics though). Switches between him growing up, to Princess Mononoke, to some comic stuff. Nothing amazingly substantial, but still nice to see.

There's also a nice two-page interview with Monkey Punch (author of Lupin III), where he talks about wanting to make digital manga...

ADV had a full-page ad on their new manga line, Borders/Waldenbooks has a full-page manga ad, Suncoast had an ad on Japanese soda ('ll have to pick some up. They show strawberry and melon in the ad), along with one of the nicest looking ads I've seen in a magazine for the Kenshin box set.

Friday, October 24, 2003

NewType sales and streetfighter... 

According to this article on ICv2 (and confirmed by the magazine itself), NewType USA has pretty much quadrupled in sales from its inception, now selling about 120,000 copies a month. That is pretty significant for a $10 magazine that focuses on a niche topic...

One other thing that I forgot to mention in my previous post was that the November issue contains a 4-page exclusive Street Fighter comic by Udon, in addition to the regular ANGEL/DUST manga. There is a table of contents here, actually.

In other news... 

Jump goes Scholastic: Thanks to Dirk for the link to this article on Shonen Jump. A couple of interesting things in here. First was the statistic that they printed 500,000 copies of Jump in September, and hope to reach 1mil a month by 2005. The other news, which seems very big to me, is that they got a deal for it to be included in Scholastic's book club! This is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say that the manga companies seem to be doing a better job at marketing themselves than many US companies...

Alan DD gets a shock: I hate to admit it, but after seeing Dirk's link today, I realized I had no bookmark to the new ADD blog and haven't checked it since it first started. He even has a link to my blog, so I feel even more guilty. I really need to update my sidebar tonight if I can remember, along with other new stuff like Comicopolis.

Anyway, I've been keeping an eye on the various book and media stores for a while now, so changes aren't aren't as shocking as they were to Alan, but it can take even me by surprise, like the sudden move in Media Play yesterday. Like Alan, I really am getting impressed at the variety that is coming into these stores of late. There's no way to know for sure if it will continue to grow, but things certainly look promising lately.

I read through all the archives and something else that caught my eye was this one involving Nyx and his wife. I haven't read it yet, but it did look interesting. The issue pointed out is a good one, I think, though. Sure a lot of superhero comics have branched out into other genres and themes, but they are still superhero comics. If all you want is a regular drama, it can be very disconcerting. A personal example would be reading the first Books of Magic GN from the library. It was generally enjoyable (even though I felt like a little too much was stuffed into one place. We could have had more revelations about the nature of the universe later on), but I was SO jarred out of the story every time a superhero was mentioned like Superman. In a story like this (magic under the real world), I WANT to believe that the real world is like this. That one day some people could show up out of nowhere and bring me on a magical journey. I don't want any reminders that it is taking place in some OTHER world where aliens regularly save and attack the world and various other strange occurances happen every day... Considering the nature of the DC universe, I'm actually pretty surprised that the main character even has skeptisim over the existance of magic in the world...

Not to be too much of a manga pimp here, but if she enjoys Optic Nerve and a story involving kids in trouble, I'm pretty sure she'd enjoy some of the manga titles out there. Plenty of stories are out now involving no superpowers or anything supernatural at all. Something like Flowers and Bees, Mars, Paradise Kiss, Between the Sheets, and maybe even GTO might be right up her alley. There's enough different kinds of stories packed into those 3 sections of Borders (but still not as overwhelming as a full comic shop) with helpful blurb descriptions on the back, that she might find some titles on her own that sound interesting enough to pick up. Obviously, I make no garuntees, but it is certainly worth a shot. There's a good reason why manga companies says 60% of their readers are female...

Tsunami soaks direct market: Ok ok, my puns are getting worse, but anyway... Dirk says he has some insider info. which confirms that the manga-sized volumes of the Tsunami line are indeed a go, and that they really won't be availible to the direct market.

While I am really glad that they are going with this format (and I may actually buy some of them, even though I haven't gotten a Marvel comic in years), it seems like they've botched the marketing and implementation in about every way possible. They cancel the trades and mention nothing of the manga volumes, which creates rampant speculation. This may have been their intension, but if so is a pretty low move to do. They also cut the DM out of it for what good reason? To encourage more regular comic readers to visit bookstores? Out of spite? I suppose they may just want to not give the large discounts associated with Diamond since they think most of the market is in bookstores anyway, but really about all this is going to do is make people mad and make things harder on DM stores. Sure they can order from Ingram (and probably should anyway), but why make it harder on them?

Also, what's up with not having them show up in places like Amazon yet? And not having any advertising in publications like NewType USA? And not having any press releases at all for that reason? If they really do intend to have these things out in November, they sure haven't gone out of their way to inform people. One mention in a Publisher's Weekly article isn't exactly going out of your way to get the word out. They'd better have some sort of standup cardboard display at the very least in bookstores, if they are half-serious about this. In the end, I'm just glad that these things will be availible (and if they sell well, may keep the series from getting cancelled entirely), but Marvel sure is being idiotic about how they choose to do marketing..

Dirk finishes his multi-part editorial: Dirk gave his latest installment about bookstores and the DM today, and I continue to very much agree with him. Is the bookstore market the answer to everyones' problems? No, of course not... Is it helping to grow the industry a lot? Yes it is...

I do think specialty stores are important. I also think they are slowly changing. There are some great stores in this area (like my much recommended Modern Myths) which carry GNs, manga, indy, etc. On the other hand, many stores out there continue to close. Personally, I think what is going to happen is more traditional shops will continue their decline. The better run shops comic shops will continue to do ok, and if comics continue to be popular, more people will copy that format and follow suit. I think as time goes on, we'll see more and more shops that seem like specialty bookshops.

However, it'll probably get worse before it gets better. There are a lot more of the super-small shops out there, and even if we get dozens more good shops, the loss of hundreds of others will be a blow to the market.

I think of it this way... Yes, bookstores will cater to what they think can sell and be less likely to sell truely offbeat and smaller works. Like you probably won't see mini-comics at a bookstore ever. However, the DM also caters to what is popular in their market, and there are just a lot less of them than the bookstores. We still need good DM stores to carry the highest variety of titles, but bookstores are shifting the focus of what is really mainstream.

For all the comics that might not make it in a bookstore, there are plenty of others that are finding themselves suddenly on equal or greater footing with the Big Two. Oni Press seems to be doing quite well with titles like Courtney Crumbin and Blue Monday. Electric Girl sells insanely better in bookstores than the DM. The thing is that there are many comics that SHOULD be selling much more than they are currently because they can appeal to a mass audience, but are hampered by the regular DM audience. Some comics will never have mass appeal and these are the ones that really need the DM to survive, but other comics are finally getting to the mass audience that they most appeal to and have deserved all this time.

There's also the aspect of big sales helping to support smaller sales. For a company like DC, the big sales of their superhero comics enabled them to experiment and produce the Vertigo line. But for companies that have decided to forego superheros, they didn't have this help. But with companies like Fantagraphics and Oni now having big sales of some titles in bookstores, it lets them survive and produce smaller works that can then be purchased directly from them online, or off-line in the DM market.

I'm hoping that eventually the popularity and diversity of the bookstore market will filter backward and more and more good comic shops will open and be able to stay open. Once this transition happens (and maybe even a chain of specialty comic shops will open some day), we will be in a good spot. The most popular stuff will be in bookstores, but everyone will know they can go to local shop to buy the same comics and more, while supporting a local retailer. That is how I hope things will turn out, but it could be a very messy transition until that happens. For now, the DM just isn't enough for many companies and the bookstores are becoming a more and more important facet of the industry...

Media Play opts to segregate Japan... 

Well, last night I went to the local Media Play (in CT right over the border) to pick up the third FLCL DVD and discovered that a lot of things had been moved around. I went to look at the comic section and noticed that all manga was GONE. Now, I mentioned a couple of days ago how they expanded the selection from two bookcases to four. Now there was just two again, entirely full of American/UK type stuff.

I looked in the immediate vacinity and didn't see them, but I knew they couldn't have gotten rid of them. I asked an employee, and he pointed to the back of the store near the 9x9 video wall, and boy did I get a surprised when I got there.

They've pretty much created an entire section of the store devoted to Japan. They have the anime dvds, anime box sets, anime vhs, manga, t-shirts, posters, action figures, plushies, etc. Not only that, but the 9x9 wall was playing anime episodes in Japanese with english subtitles. There was also 4 bookcases of entirely manga...

The only Japan-related stuff in the store that wasn't in that area, was in the magazine section of the store. NewType USA (new issue out early!), Shonen Jump, etc. were were slightly moved but still in the magazine area.

So, this is a pretty interesting move on their part, something I'm of two minds of. One the one hand, it was pretty heavenly to be surrounded by all this Japanese goodness all in one place. It'll probably also encourage people to go to the back of the store past the rest of the merchandise (common technique to encourage unrelated impulse buys). Still, I don't like the fact that the comics have now been separated from each other. Interestingly, there was still a couple of american comics in the manga like Blue Monday, but this may just be a mistake on their part. If the Tsunami titles do come out in bookstores, what section will the be in? Not much chance of the manga fans stumbling on them if they are half-way across the store...

This makes a bit more sense for a media store like Media Play (are Suncoast/Sam Goody doing this also?), and I'd think that bookstores will stay somewhat integrated... Anyway, we are in interesting times to be sure...

The new NewType: On some side notes, the new issue of NewType seems good. It is an anniversery issue and has two dvds instead of one (one of them has two free anime episodes.. not sure on the other), stickers and other fun stuff. For the comic fans, there is a multi-page interview with Neil Gaiman and a 3-paragraph interview with the Marvel editor in chief (I'll type this one in after work) which is skeptical of manga keeping up the pace of growth.

FLCL: As far as the FLCL (Fooly Cooly) DVDs go, these come highly recommended. They have full-length commentary over all 6 episodes from the Japanese director, large printed booklets (15-25 pages each), a music video from the Pillows on the last volume, two-sided covers, a decent english dub, etc. A first class production. I got off my butt to get the last volume since the company has said that (due to a surge in popularity from the TV airing and printing costs) that future printings won't include the booklets, instead telling you how to download PDFs online. If you see a copy with a black sticker on the front, they have the booklet.

New Rightstuf Catalog: Well, I just got the newest catalog from Rightstuf, which is very nice. Pretty much every anime dvd, manga, soundtrack, t-shirt, etc. that is out there is in here, and the whole thing is in color (except for the separate adult booklet). You can order it for $4, get it free with an order, or download the pdfs on the page linked.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Misc. postings from Moi... 

The biggest on is a comment on an entry in Comicopolis. Basically talking about how sales numbers in terms of volume can be misleading when comparing floppies and GNs as well as how some manga companies seem to be courting American creators.

I couldn't help getting a bit off-topic on this thread regarding if the manga industry is headed for a big crash.

I also wrote a little bit in the responses to this entry from Sean.

Publisher's Weekly with 12 more GN articles! 

Check this out.

I mentioned they had a new article the other day, but it turns out they did a huge spree of them on the same day and linked them all together from one easy index page. This has to be about the most concrete info. on GNs and bookstores that I've seen in one place before. There is lots and lots of useful stuff in these articles...

Besides the top 15 list from the other day and the Marvel info. my last post, what else? Some interesting manga quotes:

Levy says Tokyopop's manga titles offer "dramatic stories about relationships and love—Sex and the City–type stories. They're like chick lit for comics," he said. The result is an American audience that is about 60% female. But boys read Tokyopop titles as well, and Levy estimates a market of $150 million in the U.S. "From the numbers I see, it couldn't be any less and it can grow even more. Teenagers will help this market grow and penetrate the culture over the next 10 years." Levy adds, "Some people want to call manga a fad. But it's a fad like film, TV and video games are fads."


Tokyopop has big plans. The house is publishing more than 500 titles next year and is looking to expand its kids' comics publishing. Tokyopop's top-selling titles (Chobits, Love Hina, Sailor Moon and many others) can sell in the 100,000-copy range. But some titles have sold 250,000 copies with the assistance of book clubs or TV or DVD releases of anime, the animated film version of manga titles. Levy said he expects to get "a non-media–assisted 250,000-copy book hit in the very near future." Over at Viz, director of sales and marketing Lisa Coppola tells PW, "Every day retailers are coming to us for help to sell manga." Viz is probably publishing more than 200 titles a year (the house declined to give exact figures) across many multivolume manga series. Viz uses Shonen Jump, a monthly anthology periodical of comics, to test and promote the popularity of different titles.


Many publishers are concerned about a glut of titles. But they also point to differences between the bookstore market and the traditional comics shop market, which has been flooded by overproduction several times in the past. "The bookstore market is different," O'Donnell says. "Good books flush out the bad and raise the bar. The market is intelligent– you can't fool the audience. It's not like buying a toaster. Once you've read one book, you need to get a new one."

On Courtney Crumbin in bookstores:

"Kurt thought the book had good potential and wanted to see it repackaged into a digest size with a simpler cover," explains Nozemack. The book was placed in Walden and Borders in a three-month exclusive. It was also racked at Walden checkouts for two weeks at the end of June. In addition to the checkout display, Middaugh and Hassler also gave the book a special display in the general graphic novel section after the checkout program was over, and Borders placed it in the New Books section in August.

As a result, the title outsold all of Oni's other books (about 9,000 copies). Middaugh had expected sales to start big and level off, but instead the opposite happened: "We've seen a gradual increase over time."

On Disney comics:

Kids love the comics medium," says Deborah Dugan, president of Disney Publishing Worldwide, "and there's been a distribution issue with Disney's comics material in the U.S.—we haven't been serving it up right."


Right now, Tokyopop's top kids' titles are coming from Disney—Digimon, Lizzie McGuire, Kim Possible," referring to Tokyopop's "cine-manga" line of comics made from film stills. Disney's also been testing out new comics talent in its Disney Adventures magazine, looking particularly to develop material for boys. The company's currently working on a new comics project based on Tron (the 1982 movie and the new computer game) put together by the Canadian 88 MPH Studios, which will appear in graphic novel form next year. Graphic novels with the classic Disney characters will be advertised in Disney's video releases this holiday season—"We're going to use the Disney machine to get them into the hands of kids," Dugan laughs.

Disney has a very big project coming next year, too. W.I.T.C.H., aimed squarely at 9-to-14-year-old girls, was developed as a comics series in Europe, and now appears in 42 countries worldwide. It will be a TV show on the Disney Channel, but it will be introduced as a series of graphic novels and "hybrid" books, with comics at the beginning and end and prose in the middle, to be published by the Hyperion imprint Volo.

What Dugan would like to see is more bookstores moving comics material for kids out of the graphic novel section and into the children's section. "You serve up Digimon and Spy Kids and Lizzie McGuire and Kim Possible and Mickey Mouse and Power Rangers and W.I.T.C.H. in this new medium, and watch sales. We intend to be a big player in this market," she says. "Quite frankly, we're just beginning."

On Diamond and bookstores:

When comic store distribution powerhouse Diamond decided last fall to create a separate book distribution division, that spoke reams about the growing importance of the bookstore channel to graphic novel publishers. Over the past year, Diamond Book Distributors has added more than 50 publishers.

According to Kuo-Yu Liang, v-p of sales and marketing at Diamond, bookstores are "extremely important" to traditional comics publishers. It enables them to "reach out to new readers that comics shops do not reach, mainly women and kids, and it allows them to do certain books that traditionally do not do as well in comics shops, such as literary comics and manga," says Liang. Adapting to the book market has meant adding ISBNs and preparing jackets four or five months ahead of publication, as well as creating returns policies. Comics stores buy books on a nonreturnable basis.

"Chains have been much more open to graphic novels," notes Liang. "They are consciously trying to grow new business for their stores. Independents are much more status quo. The mindset is very different." And it is that mindset—"I don't have the customers for this"—that Diamond and other distributors are trying to change. Liang, who worked at Ballantine for 13 years, compares the conversations he has now with booksellers about graphic novels to the ones he had with them about stocking science fiction a decade ago.


There's more to come. This month brings the release of French sensation Christophe Blain's Isaac the Pirate, a literary seafaring story, and there are plans afoot to bring more work by another acclaimed French comics author, Lewis Trondheim (including graphic novel versions of Dungeon in 2004), to these shores as well.

With an eye on the enormous popularity of manga, NBM will begin publishing Lea Hernandez, who Nantier credits both as a rare American manga artist and one of the very first to publish her work in the now explosively popular 5"×7" manga format. Her upcoming December release, Rumble Girls: Silky Warrior Tansie, is the first of a continuing manga series designed for ages 16 and up.

Hernandez's work is known for its sharp characterization and intricate plots, which Nantier hopes will help separate it from the rest of the burgeoning genre. NBM is shipping more than 6,000 copies initially, and it's a substantial departure for the publisher in terms of its market and audience.


Nantier plans to keep looking to expand NBM's audience: "Comics are a mass medium. We need to return to that."

On Drawn & Quarterly:

What began as a break-even project and labor of love is now profitable. D&Q's last two anthology volumes have sold more than 6,000 copies and have begun to show a profit. This, despite the fact that volume four was published before D&Q's new expanded sales and distribution deal with Chronicle Books. To complement the new deal, D&Q recently lured publicity and comics industry veteran Peggy Burns away from industry giant DC Comics to be its full-time marketing and publicity director.


[Regarding volume 5] There is also a gem from Yoshihiro Tatsumi, an influential 68-year-old Japanese cartoonist considered the inventor of Japanese alternative comics, or "gekiga," in 1957.

On AiT/PlanetLar:

Larry Young originally named his small-press graphic novel company PlanetLar, after a nickname he'd had in college; then he prefaced it with the initials of his first major book, Astronauts in Trouble, so it would be listed under A instead of P in distribution catalogues.


AiT/PlanetLar is distributed by Diamond to bookstores, where its bestselling titles are "far and away" Mike Brennan's two-volume kids' graphic novel Electric Girl, Young says. "I have to work very hard to sell 30 copies a month of Electric Girl in the comics trade, and we sell about 500 a week in the book trade. It's the librarians—YA librarians love it, and they all talk to each other." The title is up to about 10,000 copies on each volume and, says Young, "Mike just had a little baby girl, so he's committed to doing more Electric Girls for her."

There's a lot more that I haven't quoted (Palomar, Preiss, religious comics, Carla McNeil, Pantheon, etc.), so take some times to go through these things. Lots of good info.!

Is Tsunami REALLY down the drain? 

You know the infamous press release about the cancellation of Tsunami GNs really had me down, but I am beginning to wonder if I may have been at least a little wrong. Kabukiman was the first person to point out that the release specifically says Direct Market and doesn't talk about bookstores.

My first reaction was that it was pure wishfull thinking. Why would they omit saying they'd be availible in bookstores, causing rampant speculation and scaring the living daylights out of everyone? It'd be a pretty stupid move from a marketing perspective..

But then someone else on another board (sorry, lost the link) mentioned it in a way that suggested they had some inside info. that they would indeed still come out. Then I read THIS from Publisher's Weekly. The article is dated the day before the cancellation release and has this in it:

Marvel is entering that field with a Marvel Manga format that it will introduce in November: digest-size books, printed in color, with a price point of $7.99 or $8.99. Sentinel, Mystique and Runaways are self-contained stories with ties to the X-Men and Spider-Man lines, appropriate for school-age audiences. The company is also making a play for teenage girls with YA prose book adaptations of top comics series: Judith O'Brien's Mary Jane, a prose story focused on Spiderman's girlfriend, was very successful (it will appear in paperback soon), and O'Brien's Mary Jane II will appear in time for the Spider-Man II film's opening in early July 2004.

It mentions a month and specific prices. It is conceivable that the interview with Levitz happened before the final decision was made... But it still causes me to be much less certain of my position than I was before.

I guess I'll just stay very cautiously optimistic until the end of November roles around (or an official statement is made about bookstores either way). If it turns out to be true, boy is it going to hit the fan from retailers in the DM..

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Publisher's Weekly articles 

A new article about Selling Graphic Novels to Retailers was just posted and has quite a lot of good information that I haven't found in other places regarding bookstores and publishers.

They also list the 15 top-selling GNs of 2003. Nine from Tokyopop (one in conjunction with Disney), three DC/Vertigo titles, two from Viz, and one Marvel. I was surprised that Kim Possible was actually in third place, and that a full *6* of the Chobits volumes were on the list. Death at Death's Door was also surprisingly high. I guess I'll have to check out Wolverine Origins at some point, as it is the only Marvel to make the list...

PW also had a very nice article a couple of months ago about this year's BookExpo: Comics Create Big Buzz at BEA. Lots of good information there on how things are quickly changing, especially in bookstores and libraries.

Tsunami dead in the water? 

Grim from Fanboy Rampage mentions this page on Diamond Comic's site, which says that all of Tsunami's TPBs have been cancelled!

As he mentions, wasn't that the whole point of these titles to begin with? I've seen some "floppy" comics of these on a spinner at Waldenbooks, but I'm pretty sure I haven't seen any Tsunami GNs in bookstores yet, and I guess I never will. This seems like a bad sign to me, and makes me wonder if the monthlies are far behind the axe...

I sure hope DC does a better job than Marvel when it comes to the new Elfquest books. Has anyone seen these in bookstores yet? I think the first volume is supposed to be out already...

More Asian expansion 

CPM goes Yaoi: Wow, I think it is difficult to overstate this. According to articles from anime-tourist and ANN, it looks like manga/anime company CPM is going to create two lines devoted to Yaoi comics. The American definition of Yaoi is generally stories of guys falling in love with each other, written by and for ladies, but with stronger sexual content than Shonen Ai (boys love) titles. One of the lines will be for people aged 14-18, while the other will be 18+. So far, they've mentioned four new titles that they've licensed in conjunction with Yaoi anthologies Be-Boys and Be-Boys Gold in Japan. They are Kizuna, Kin no Cain, Kunshu-sama no koi no oaite, and Kunshu-sama no koi katte. Thanks to lux for starting the thread on AoDVD that caught my attention.

Why do I think this is a big deal? Well for one thing, it continues to show just how strong the female market is in manga if titles like these are being licensed. No one would have imagined these coming out a couple of years ago. The other thing is that between these titles just announced, titles already out (Fake, Gravitation), and other titles not out yet (My Sexual Harassment), that makes at least seven manga titles out with gay male protagonists. The argument can be made that these stories tend to portray idealized gay relationships as seen from a lady's perspective, but I still can't help thinking it is a whole lot better than the stupidity of Rawhide Kid, and something a bit different from serious stories which use the concept as social commentary and/or advocacy.

Anime to MTV: Another interesting development is that apparently the anime series Heat Guy J will be airing on MTV pretty soon. It is already out on DVD (reviews for disc 1 and disc 2). It sounds pretty good, and the character designs are similar to those from Escaflowne (think pointy noses), which I enjoy. If I decide to get extended cable again (right now I just have local channels and premium digital..heh), it could be fun to check out...

DigiCharat manga: Also, today Dirk mentions the official announcement of Brocolli's foray into manga. I can't help thinking the series will meet with somewhat limited success, but I guess we'll see...

Dirk, your blogging is a part time job in itself. I hope TCJ is paying you well. =)

More stuff... 

iTunes for Windows! Well, it finally did happen. I got the chance to use it at work a bit on friday (I'm running 98 at home), and it looks very nice. While I like tthe concept of selling music online in general, for me it is all about the details..

Not only is there a lot of music availible and a decent price (as well as album princing). They have recommendations from regular and famous people (I'd say Amazon's greatest strength has always been the community aspects of it). They let you give allowances of music to kids and gift certificates to friends. The copy protection is relatively innocuous with fairly easy ways to get around it if you really want to. The quality is greater than 128kbs mp3s. The actual app itself is very nice, with the keyword based system, ratings, and all kinds of other stuff. It is a system similar to the Powermarks bookmarking program, which I don't think I could live without at this point.

It sounds like it is doing very well so far, with a million copies download and a million songs bought (though probably not all on the windows side). It'll be interesting to see how this all shapes up!

Trouble with textbooks: I stumbled on this articleon CNN about how pressure groups and self-censorships are effecting textbooks in America. This led me to looking up the book Language Police on Amazon, and it sounds pretty good from the reviews. I'll have to see if the local library has a copy I can pick up.

I always find it amazing how people can take a good concept and take it so far in the other direction to make it just as bad. Sure, having examples on a test that rely on rules of sports is probably a bad idea since many people aren't into sports (skewing against women, even though not as dramatically as in the past), but not taking oceans into account? If people don't know that, then they should be teaching it. And for removing bad words and racism from texts? Especially with kids these days that seem to have their heads in the real world at an early age, IMO it is much better to tackle these kinds of issues head on...

I have to say that in general I'm against the concept of standardized tests, which seems a little linked to this topic. Besides the obvious fact that a lot of people just don't test well, I think it puts too much power into a limited number of people's hands, and doesn't leave enough room for individual educators to experiment.

I was an honors student for many years and experienced both creatively done things and things that seemly crushed any creativity in the general vacinity. I know a lot of people mean well, but I can't help thinking the testing will do way more harm than good in the end. It strikes me as being way too close to the "no tolarance" policies frequently seen in schools these days, which frequently seem to crush any kind of common sense for the easy way out...

Heavenly Creatures: Sean recently posted an entry talking about Heavenly Creatures and also some of the horror aspects of it.

First of all, I really do love this movie. Sean did a much better job than I could to sum up many of the great aspects of it. The imagination and energy present are really amazing. I'm not sure how much I agree with the horror assessment. I don't want to get into spoilers, but while I agree that the ending does have an element of great horror to it, overall I think I'd classify it more as a romantic tragedy.

It is arguable whether they actually share romance in the traditional sense (or even lesbian sense), but it is certainly a closeness not generally found. Despite the way things turn out, I can't help being at least a little jealous of two people that could be so close and on the same level. Able to escape the real world for a while into a fantasy world, more so than reading a comic or watching a movie.

I'm probably just weird, but I couldn't help but be somewhat uplifted by the overall movie despite the way that it ends. It is perhaps a contrast of fantasy and reality, but the fantasy is oh so interesting...

It is actually interesting that this got brought up at around the same time that I read Summer Blonde, which has a bit of a similar tone insofar as it involves lonely offbeat people who tend to descend into trouble.

But if you want some movies that really did get me down, check out Dancer in the Dark and even more so Breaking the Waves. No one can give you sick feeling in your stomach quite like Lars von Trier...

Oh, and speaking of horrorific movies with odd relationships, it may be worth checking out the Japanese movie Audition. It is about a middle-aged man who does a casting call for a fake movie in order to meet women, who gets a bit more than he bargained for. I don't think this more quite fits "horror" so much as dark fable (especially if you've seen a lot of horror). It has a lot of that twisted not-cut-and-dry feeling of things like Little Red Riding Hood (original version), Hansel & Gretel, etc. I don't think it is quite as cut and dry a movie as a lot of people give it credit for... There's an uncut version on DVD. May not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

Camera a success: Well, my new camera is really turning out great. I'm getting a much better handle on how to use it, and have now taken over 250 pictures! That would have taken me a fortune on film and developing, not to mention scanning.

It has been getting me out of the house more, which can only be a good thing, and with it being fall in New England, there is a lot of great pictures to take. I'll try to get some sample pics up pretty soon...

Belated congrats to Dirk! Dirk, I keep meaning to contratulate you on your year of blogging, but my scattered brain just keeps losing it. I've only been following you (or any of the comic bloggers) for a couple of months now, but your site is always amazingly informative and helpful. I can only guess how long it takes to put all that stuff together every day (and difficult to keep up day after day)... Here's to another year!

Monday, October 20, 2003

News news news... 

Foreign Sales Reshaping Anime Industry: More evidence of the popularity of anime in the US. ICv2 has this article talking about how overseas sales are helping to fund animation studios in Japan and even particular series like Big O Season 2, which never would have been made otherwise.

I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, it is good that we can be of help while the Japanese economy is in so much trouble. As is implied in the article, this can also sometimes free up the companies to be able to make stuff that they otherwise couldn't have done. My only worry is that after a while the companies may get a bit too concerned about making the shows appeal to western audiences to begin, taking away some of the cultural appeal that makes a lot of this stuff so popular to begin with. But hopefully with shows like FLCL and Excel Saga being popular (both examples of shows firmly set in Japanese and anime culture), they will realize that they don't have to change what they're doing...

Magical Doremi comes to 4Kids: A actual cutesy girl show from Japan being aired on TV? It'll be interesting to see how this pans out. Hopefully they won't feel the need massacre it like Cardcaptor Sakura.

In defense of Esperanto: A poster named Floro did a post about a constructed language named Mondlango out of nowhere, and so I couldn't help but come to the defense of Esperanto, with some links. Sure it isn't perfect, but it is far from dead, especially lately. Someone else posted that Klingon has more speakers than Esperanto, but after doing some searching, this seems like an urban legend. Solid numbers are hard to come by, but in my second post, I point out how unlikely that claim seems.

Esperanto may not change the entire world any time soon, but on a personal basis, I found it well worth learning. It has already brought me into contact with some great people and broadened my horizons a bit. If you have some spare time and think you can't learn a new language, why not give it a shot some time?

CrossGen Cutting: Ok, everyone is posting everywhere about CrossGen cutting 8 titles. Dirk has more info. among just about everyone else whose blogging. What do I think? Well, I am sad to see it happen, especially with titles like Meridian getting axed. I felt a bit like it was an dumbed down version of Nausicaa (probably not intentionally), but it was a good title to see, and seemed to have a lot of potentional. The move overall does seem smart, and will perhaps get them back on their feet.

My main worry at this point is the chilling effect it can have on the rest of the industry. With CrossGen having all these problems, and Jemas getting axed (with rumors of titles like Sential about to be canceled), I can see a lot of people deciding to stop any kind attempts at innovation, using this as an example. I do think CrossGen made some mistakes, and Paul O'Brian summed it up well all the way back in 2001. I just hope people take the right lessons out of this experience...

Bookstores on TV? Hmmm... a TV show portraying comics in a bookstore.. Who'd of guessed? (said with some light sarcasm)...

Eurocomics list: Andy points out in this thread that he has created a website devoted to english translations of European comics. Good job Andy! This is exactly what we need, especially with so many of these seemingly going under the radar of people..

Cameras on animals: I saw a really cool spot on Tech Live a couple of days ago about a filmmaker who straps little cameras onto the heads of animals. This CNN article seems to be about the same person. It really was fascinating to see even the brief footage shown on air from the animals' perspective, and it is something that I'd like to see a lot more of done. Maybe most people would be bored by this sort of thing, but I think it'd be pretty cool to watch an hour or two of a frog going through daily life from his own perspective...

A Summer Blonde in the Fall... 

Well, I just read the Summer Blonde hardcover from Adrian Tomine (nice to have good libraries..), and was very impressed with it. It is something where I want to say I enjoyed it, and I think I did, but just that it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. One of those things where you feel a bit drained experiencing it.

A lot of times I will enjoy a normal down to earth kind of story. Often times it ends up being some sort of manga.. I'd like to believe that it isn't the fact that it is normal life somewhere ELSE that attracts me to the stories, but occasionally I wonder about it. I find myself almost having to go through an additional barrier to pick up an American comic dealing with real life. I've seen a collection of American Splendor stuff at the library and I still haven't convinced myself to pick it up yet. I flip through it and am just turned off by the whole style. But one day I'll actually start to read it and will probably get into it.. But this book has reassured me that I CAN like these books, even if it takes me a while to get around to reading them...

Anyway, to get back on track, there are four unrelated stories in the volume, Alter Ego, Summer Blonde, Hawaiian Getaway, and Bomb Scare.

The first involves a young writer who has had one bit hit and is now in a rut. He gets a postcard from a girl he used to idolize in highschool, and goes off to find her in hopes of getting material for a story and tying up loose ends. It is interesting how it plays out, but is probably my least favorite story, the character being one I can't identify with much. The kind of person that uses his problems as a way of manipulating others...

The next story Summer Blonde is the title of the book and is well done. It involves an isolated timid man who is going to a psychologist and can't seem to connect to people. He is attracted to an attractive blonde woman working at a local store and ends up half-stalking her in an attempt to talk to her and help her out with her problems. While he intends no malice, it does end up causing problems in her life. Some memorable characters in this one, especially Carlo, the attractive musician who gets bored with a woman after having sex with her 5 times and somewhat repulsed after 10.

Hawaiian Vacation I'd say is definitely my favorite of the bunch. It involves a woman lonely introverted woman who gets fired from her phone job at a catalog store, and eventually ends up doing hostile prank calls on people using a payphone near her home. I'd say she has the same kind of personality as me, introverted and tending toward depression but not unable to interact with other people. The gradual falling apart of her life is portrayed in a realistic way, and a lot of scenes ring true, like being unable to fully enjoy a party with a lot of people (even though she knows them from work), and ending up staring out from a balcony.

What cinched it for me, though, was the very last page of that story, involving a memory of her childhood. It wouldn't really be a spoiler to talk about it, but still I think the way he shows it is worth seeing on your own. It conjures up a feeling which I'm not sure most people really experience. A sense of masochism and pain mixed with a sort of wistful, almost romantic, nostalgia. I can't help feeling like that one page sums up more of my life than just about anything else I've seen. I don't know if I should be happy or scared by that, but I'm sure I'll buy the book some day because of that story...

(It also gets some bonus points for having an asian-american lead character whose ethnicity isn't the main focus of the story. It isn't something that is ignored, but rather is just another facet of her life...)

I liked the fourth story, but for very different reasons. It involves an unpopular and repressed type kid (one seemingly younger than his peers) who is best friends with an outsider type, with both of them being falsely accused of being gay. In parallel, it deals with a popular girl (dating one of the jocks who taunts them) who has an unfortunate event, bringing her and the boy together. What I like about this story is how realistically the growth of these characters are portrayed. Just because the situations change doesn't mean that everyone suddenly becomes someone else entirely.

In too many stories out there, you see something happens to someone and they have the Scrooge effect of doing a 180 in personality. In reality, even when something drastic happens, most people change in much more subtle ways, which is what is shown here... The ending is quite touching, and I'm glad that the book ended on this particular story.

When I first glanced at the artwork in the book, it seemed like the people were going to be very stiff, but I was wrong. The style works very well for these stories, and he does a good job of breathing life and emotions into these characters, while still portraying their loneliness. I also like how he can show that people can be attractive without being earth-shattering beauties. The artwork is very clear to make out, using screentones for shading, and unfancy box layouts.

So, I definitely recommend you check this book out. You're likely to get something worthwhile out of it, especially if you're a somewhat offbeat person like me. =)

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

In other news... 

A new camera: Well, I'd like to announce the happy news that I now have a digital camera! Up until now, I've had a point and shoot Argus camera that has no focus, zoom, control over the flash or anything. It took good pictures, but I finally had the means to get something new, and frankly a digital camera will be a lot easier to work with since I don't have a scanner at home.

So, what'd I get? A Sony DSC-P72. So far, I am really happy with it. Takes nice pictures (even inside!), the 3x optical zoom is helpful, batteries last a long time, easy controls, and it has a really impressive movie mode (640x480, 16fps, sound, and has no limit on length besides your memory stick size).

At first I was going to go with the P32 or P52, but this one was on sale at Office Max for $30 off MSRP along with a free 64MB memory stick. The people seemed really mixed up at Office Max and I haven't done any big purchases there before, so opted to price match. At first we tried at Best Buy, but in the end it just didn't work out (they didn't carry Lexar sticks). However, Circuit City was really easy-going and the salesman had a lot of good information, so we ultimately got it there...

No pictures up yet, but I intend to eventually...

If Lynch made comics: Well, I just read Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron, and was very impressed. It took a little bit for me to warm to it (I enjoyed Ghost World, but this is quite different), but ended up enjoying it. This is one of those things where as long as you can accept that it doesn't all make sense in the normal sense (with some things either being a metaphor or just strangeness for the sake of being strange), you'll probably get something out of it. The artwork fits, conveying quite a bit of loneliness and ugliness (with some bits of beauty), and I really liked the pacing and laying near the end. Eventually it felt very cinematic and like I stopped reading and was instead watching it unfold.

As far as Lynch goes, sure comparisons like that can only go so far, but it really does remind me of Mulholland Drive especially. Speaking of Mulholland, am I the only one that feels like this movie is borderline horror? I've seen it described as everything from a puzzle to a comedy, but for me at least, I felt unsettled and disturbed at the end of it. I don't know.. I guess I just homehow feel like if there is an evil force lurking in the world, it'd be similar to what is in that movie. Dark threads right below the surface of normality. Obviously, he tackles similar themes in Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, etc. but for some reason that aspect of it it hit me more strongly in this particular movie. I should watch it again and see if I still get the same feeling from it, or something else entirely...

As an aside, if you like weird movies like these and like animation, you might enjoy the Revolutionary Girl Utena movie. While seeing some episodes of the series it is based on can help to get some of the inside jokes and relationships, I think it still works without that. The design on the movie is very beautiful and it is overall very imaginative. If you take everything as a metaphore, you'll probably find it enjoyable. My last aside is that the Utena TV series is very recommended. It is a very subversive show that turns shoujo anime on its ear and gets darker and darker as the series goes on. The first two DVDs are very cheap, and the rest are still worth it.

Kids and manga: a thread talking about kids and comics didn't mention manga, so I had to butt in once again. Of note to people that have read my comments before is some of my thoughts on how the manga's popularity has followed a similar track to anime, and how it might relate to the apparant lack of fan support of Sandman's popularity. Also, the thread vears off a bit to talk about GTO, one of the better manga out there these days.

A new comic blog: There's a new comic blog that just started called Comicopolis, which seems to have a similar theme to what a lot of us have been posting about. Also check out his comic survey. Some interesting results so far...

Kill Bill: So, I saw Kill Bill the other day. It was enjoyable, especially since I know some of the things Tarantino was drawing from when he made it. The fights were very well choreographed, the anime was interesting, it wasn't making fun of asian culture, etc. However, I have to say that anyone going to this movie expecting what is in the trailers is in for a rude awakening. People weren't kidding when they said it is probably the most violent US studio film that has been made. I actually think my enjoyment was a bit hampered by the fact that I watched it with my Mom. She is very open-minded and seemed to enjoy it, but it is always weird when you watch something while at the same time being concerned by what the person next to you is thinking of it. Overall, I liked it, but I certainly wouldn't fault someone for disliking it, as it is certainly one of those love/hate movies. At times it felt a bit too experimental for me (less unified in feel than Pulp Fiction), but I think I need to see it again to know how I really feel about it...

How amazing was it that the movie came out at exactly the same time that Bill Jemas was canned at Marvel? Truth is stranger than fiction...

Lure of KayBee: I almost fell into that 30% off deal that ended today at KB Toys... I nearly went for three packs of superdeformed gundam figures, a Batman figure (Justice League version), and Hercule (Mr. Satan) from DBZ, but finally decided I couldn't afford it after the camera purchase. It is too bad since those SD Gudams are sooo cute!

Shoujo manga fan translations on the rise: Something I forgot to mention on the last post with recards to the Kaikan thread was Tsu-na-mi's comment that fan translations of shoujo (girl's) manga online is sharply on the rise:

BTW, shoujo manga has had a HUGE upsurge in the fan-translation front in the last 6-12 months. This and 70-80 other shoujo series are currently being translated by various groups (well, KP stopped once it got announced). Got me interested in a lot of new artists, such that I started buying manga for the first time in about a decade. I'll be buying KP and Hot Gimmick (I have tanks of HG I liked it so much) when they come out since I got hooked on them thru scanslations. ^_^
This is always a difficult subject to bring up due to the illegal nature of such activities, but I do think it has helped out the fanbase here in the US. The fansubs of anime now seems much less necessary than they used to be. Almost every new popular anime that comes out is now coming to DVD in an official capacity, and barely anyone is translating the older obscure stuff which actually needs the exposure.

I am much more forgiving of manga, though. With the number of manga titles in Japan being perhaps beyond human comprehension, there are thousands upon thousands of titles that almost no one have ever heard of in the US, and the ease of doing a scan translation (compared to subbing anime), along with smaller file sizes, makes fans of obscure titles able to pursue them. However, I'd say the most moral thing to do is to actually buy the volumes from Japan and then download a text script to read along with it. That both supports the creators and gives you some nice artwork and real paper to flip through. Plus, once you get past shipping, generally manga is still much cheaper than it is in the US, especially if you can get some used volumes... Of I'm being hyprocritical since I haven't done that myself yet, but I do intend to buy Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou if doesn't get licensed soon. Certainly one of my most favorite comics of all time...

Plush Cthulhu! This page has to be one of the funniest things I've ever seen. You might already be aware of the this dread creature, but don't pass up this link unless you want to miss out on his frightening origin...

Sunn goes manga: Although I cringe at the continuing enlargement to the meaning of the term "manga", this new title shows one more example of manga's continuing influence on American comics...

Dave Barry versus telemarketers: I haven't caught Dave's columns in a while now, but I am really glad that this one was pointed out to me. It is nice to see some of these people get a taste of their own medicine. While I sympathise that people will lose their jobs, I think certain lines just have to be drawn.. Anyway, remind me not to get on Barry's bad side.

Coming up: What's next? Well... I have an anti-shared-world rant coming up that has been a long time in the making. There's been some discussion on this topic lately, so it seems as good a time as any... Hopefully I'll have something good up tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Manga "smut" for the ladies... 

Sorry for the lack of updates lately... I have quite a few things that I want to write about. But first, here is something that might slip under most people's radars:

The licensing of Kaikan Phrase by Viz, who continues to rack up the female manga titles lately.

Why is this important? Well it continues to push the boundaries of age and content for shoujo manga. Kaikan ran in the Sho-comi anthology, which skews a bit older than some of the other anthologies (high-school age). It has had some innocuous titles like Fushigi Yuugi, but some older ones like Ayashi no Ceres, and some more "trashy" titles like Kaikan.

If you'd like to see some fangirls gushing, check out this thread:

Sapphire gives a pretty good overview with:
The manga plot. HS shy girl Anine writes a "racy" poem, after nearly getting run over by the lead singer of the up-and-coming band Lucifer, Sakuya, he reads it (aiiiee) and he ends up using them for lyrics to a song.

Somehow, this results in Aine being made the lyric writer for the band, Sakuya pursuing her, fangirls hating her, Sakuya so totally getting her (SMUT) and a seemingly endless cycle of kidnappings, sex, some drugging, more sex, and some rock concerts thrown in.

It just goes to show that guys aren't the only ones into trashy comics... =)

Update: Bah.. I really am overtired today.. I forgot to take this off of draft this morning so it never posted...

Friday, October 10, 2003

Happenings of the day... 

So, how was my birthday? Relatively good actually. Got some cards today and yesterday, a coworker (hi Deb!) gave me A Prayer for Own Meany by John Irving. To tell you the truth, I didn't even know the name Irving until Cider House Rules was mentioned, but I haven't seen the movie either..heh. I'll have to give it a good read when I get some time...

Yesterday I picked up more comic stuff from the library and made an very lucky find. The library is giving away some of their books for free (seems to be a combo of books that have dated info., are duplicated in better editions, or just weren't popular). I don't really like the thought of old books drifting away like that, but I ended up with a sack of books. One of them was Japan Inc., a manga that I will write up a bit more on in a future entry. I scored a beat-up volume of DBZ like a month ago the same way, but this was a pretty unique find and in good condition.

The CD-ROM side of a program for the Infusion Nurses Society that I've been working on at work is almost done (and my first major project after one of the other programmers left the company), so that's good. Hopefully the web side will be done tomorrow (am using Authorware and ASP For anyone curious).

I also had the chance to do more yo-yoing than usual for some of my co-workers and it was nice to see them genuinely impressed. I don't have the greatest self-esteem in the world, so little things like that are nice (if a bit odd feeling) for me... =)

A very cool thing that happened today was a strange little insect appearing on the front porch of the house. I don't know what the real name of it is, but it has legs like a big grasshopper but has a body that looks like a leaf, and it was green. It moved around pretty slowly and almost in a human way (especially the front legs that it moved around like arms). Disappeared once and then came back and then was gone again. We were careful to watch out for it when going in and out of the house... I would have taken a picture but no film left in the house. I want to get a digital camera, which would help with moments like this... Some insects can be a bit freaky, but this little guy just extruded good vibes.. =)

The other event for the day was that I was going to go to the UMass juggling club tonight, and we got off on the Hadley exit and were going to turn right for the bridge, but it was packed. I don't know if UMass had some sports game going on or what, but we decided to bail on the club and instead go to a certain comic shop I haven't made it to in a while, Modern Myths in Norhampton. It really is a great shop with an awe-inspiring number of graphic novels.

A couple of new things I noticed... he recently re-did the manga racks so that weren't as deep. He mentioned that that gave more room around the rack and also made the smaller manga volumes less lost inside of huge shelves. A very nice idea... He also has a bunch of longboxes that have entire runs of comics together in packs, which I think is a great idea. Mom ended up buying packs of the Last Starfighter (3 for $1), Tick and Aurthur (3 for $5), and Shaman's Tears (13 for $10). I was temped for Groo 1-20 for $20 and some of the Sandman stuff (something Doll series), but opted to leave them for another time or go the GN versions instead... And he also has some other longboxes with 3 comics for $1. Cool stuff...

Now that I've been reading up on so many comics lately, there was a ton of stuff I want to get. I almost went for the first Vogelein or Private Beach, but ended up with manga like usual..heh... Jane, I promise to buy Vogelein eventually, though!

As always, I have a huge amount of trouble deciding on what stuff to get. I pretty much find a bunch of possiblities and make myself ill trying to pare it down. I almost went for Uzumaki 1 or Petshop of Horrors 2 or Vampire Princess Miyu 1 to keep in the horror theme of the month, but didn't do it..heh

So, what did I get? X-Day 2, Planetes 1, and Cyborg 009 1. I haven't even read X-Day 1 yet, but I am pretty sure I'll like it and figured since it is only two volumes, this way I can get it all at once. For those that don't know, X-Day is about a group of four disaffected kids who talk online and decide to blow up their school while no one is inside of it...

Planetes I hadn't even heard of before, but was impressed enough just by flipping through it to buy it on the spot. It seems like a serious sci-fi story in the near future (some space stations.. a couple of cities on the moon) involving three people whose job it is to clean up space debri from orbit that has been littered over the years. The artwork is great, with very detailed space hardware, and I like the character designs on the people a lot. They are in a somewhat realistic style with decent sized oval eyes. A little like Yoshitoshi Abe's work (Lain, Niea_7, Haibane Renmei) with maybe some Patlabor in there... If you aren't used to manga, this artwork would probably not put you off at all... It even has a text page at the end giving a brief history of modern rocket science (non-ficional).

The third is Cyborg 009. This is an old comic that stared in 1963. I'd been watching the anime on Toonami and enjoyed it. I think that is actually the third time the series has been animated. It striked me as one of the few anime that really was like a superhero comic. It involves a group of people that have been modified against their will by an evil organization to be cyborg weapons. Each has a different power like flight or telepathy or speed or even shapeshifting and they escape and team up to try to fight the bad guys (who send more cyborgs after them). Each of the characters is of a different nationality and has a different past...

So, I was curious about the manga, but didn't think I'd actually buy it. When I started to actually read through it, though, I was very impressed. It actually goes into the past of the characters a bit right up front and doesn't pull punches. One of the first scenes has Jet as a gang member in New York that gets into knife fight with a rival puerto rican gang, stabbing (maybe killing?) him, and getting conviced to go with Black Ghost's men as an escape.

There is a note at the beginning talking about how some of the characters seem to have racial stereotypes (the native american character with painted lines on his face and a mohawk, the african character with white lips, etc), but it is pointed out that the author shatters stereotypes and shows the characters as individuals. That he is actually using the art as a foil against racism. On the surface that sounds like a cop-out, but from what I can see, it does seem like it could be the reality. This book seems to have some strong statements about war, racism, etc. in it. The anime seems very much watered down compared to the original manga.

One other interesting thing. The head bad guy is Black Ghost, and he wears this black outfit with a black helmet and black cape and is perhaps a cyborg himself... This series predates Star Wars by 14 years, and I can't help wondering if somehow it inspired Darth Vador. I suppose it could be pure coincidence, but they do have a lot of similarities between them...

There is also a lot of different stuff done with paneling. Everything from a couple of two-page spreads at the beginning, to as many as 13 panels per page. Definitely check this out if you want an interesting superhero type story with lots of serious themes in it from one of the forefathers of manga. Shotaro Ishinomori is called the King of Manga (just below Tezuka's God of Manga status), produced over 70,000 pages of artwork in 30 years (rumored that he did 500 pages a month at some point), including Kamen Rider (Masked Rider), Skull Man (out in the US), and Japan Inc. (that library freebie that I'll talk about later on)...

Thursday, October 09, 2003

I am now a quarter of a century old... 

Hey, today is my birthday! =) I am now officially 25 years old. Some recent events (related to money) have made this truly a good birthday, so I am in good spirits despite being older than I used to be... ;)

In defense of American manga/dvd companies... 

Maybe I've been brainwashed from being a forum member of AnimeOnDVD.com for so long or something, but I couldn't help writing up two long posts on this thread defending the American companies releasing manga and especially anime.

Personally, I can't believe how cheap anime is getting and I get kind of flustered when people claim that the companies are ripping people off...

Also, a quick correction to Dirk's post in which he wonders why ICv2 mentions that manga titles are growing faster than sales and yet still booming. A closer inspection of the article in question shows that anime is what peaking, while manga is still in "full boom mode" in comparison. A Tokyopop rep recently noted that their titles get about an 8% return rate in bookstores and that they want to get it to double-digits, implying that there is still some room for growth yet...

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Diamond listings for September 

Usually I don't pay too too much attention to the Diamond sales charts, but a couple of things seemed interesting to me this month.

With CrossGen still having issues, Tokyopop is a hairs width from overtaking it in dollar shares. 2.66 versus 2.65. Unless CrossGen jumps way up, I'd say Tokyopop will be ahead next month. No small feat considering how much weaker manga is in the direct market than bookstores.

On the graphic novel section, I was surprised to see Gravitation make it in at 45th place! Is this the first case of a GN whose main protagonists are gay being in the top 50 GN list?

Between Power Puff Girls, Kare Kano, Mars, Kodocha, Courtney Crumbin, Gravitation, and Peach Girl, that's quite a lot titles targeting girls in the direct market. Adding to that Escaflowne and Zero Girl FC, which both female protagonists that aren't just sex objects, and things are looking pretty good, at least for graphic novels.

It was nice to see Elf Quest near the top at 7th place, but does this mean the new GNs are already out? I haven't seen it at any Media Play yet, but I guess I'll have to check B&N and Waldenbooks to see if they have it. If DC doesn't make a big push with this in bookstores, then they are really missing the boat...

Girls' Horror Comics in Japan 

I stumbled on this page today, and it seemed pretty appropriate with Halloween almost here. This page lists some that have been brought over to English It seems like the main titles translated to English so far would be Miyu and the spinoffs and Petshop of Horrors (even though a couple of things they list like Wish don't seem to fit as horror at all). Perhaps the most interesting thing is the listing of anthologies entirely devoted to horror for girls.

I saw the Japanese horror film Cure last night. I'll try to see if I can write up something about it after I wake up...

Or not... 

Ok, I spoke too soon. The faux manga thread started to get some good repliest going and I finally got around to writing a lengthy response. =)

Sunday, October 05, 2003

More manga backlash... 

Fredo asks if anyone else is tired of faux manga on TCJ, getting quite a few anti-manga posts in response. I'll have to see if I can muster up a response in the morning...

Friday, October 03, 2003

News and other things... 

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