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.

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