Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Another post from me on fads? 

I hope I'm not getting repetitive with these things, but a couple of different things popped into my head than usual after seeing seeing Steve Bunche's comment on another thread. When I later saw his reviews, I knew he wasn't just being dismissive as he seems into this stuff. So:

What will be the biggest story of 2004? The implosion of the manga glut; I just don't see the current success continuing since American audiences are notoriously fickle and quickly tire of "fads."

I just find that statement kind of ironic because the country usually sited as having the most fickle consumers and style-following kids of them all is Japan. I think that is what has actually put them in such a good position. Back when DBZ and Sailor Moon was on network stations, that was an experimental thing. Pokemon was a concerted effort from Japan to take an existing fad and make it work here. Same thing for Yu-Gi-Oh. After DBZ really started to take off, companies moved in YuYu Hakusho, Kenshin, etc. Each of those may be a fad in itself, but as it dies out something can take the place.

Japan isn't sitting still and the companies here aren't either. I think the thing is that "anime" (or "Japanimation" as the journalists used to love to call it) used to be a big buzzword. There is still some of that happening, but less. It is much stronger with the manga industry right now. The key is if they can take the focus away from the medium and into the stories and authors.

If all goes well, the kid isn't thinking "Hey there's a new manga out in the shop. We should get it because manga is cool." Instead, it is "Hey there's a new manga out in the shop. It looks really cool and the fights are supposed to be better than in XXX." When I was growing up, I didn't watch Voltron or Robotech because it was from Japan. I didn't even really think of where it came from. They just seemed like cool shows, along with He-Man and Transformers and M.A.S.K and stuff, and the style of all of those was certainly more similar to each other than something like Looney Tunes.

When I was growing up, pretty much all the comics I read were in color. If I saw something b&w, my first reaction was to be put off by it. It seemed strange and cheap. And non-superhero stuff was always sort of outside of the main vision. Image was new and cool but after a while it was just more and more of the same. If I'd ventured more outside of the normal, I probably would have stuck around instead of dropping out during the crash. Normal was just too limiting..

Looking at the shelves of manga in a bookstore or well-stocked comic shop lately seems a world of difference. A lot more variety there than I ever saw in Wizard. And who knew that comics don't have to be collectable? I liked light mystery stuff as a kid. I watched Clue bazillions of times and Scooby Doo was always fun. I would have enjoyed Kindaichi Case Files so much (review pending)... Kids will browse through all this stuff on the racks like novels and if they see a mystery, a horror title, a romance, something wrapped in plastic Mom won't let them buy, and a couple stories that seem too slow and boring, it already sets them up to know variety is up there and they can always try something else if they get bored.

Also, for kids of today, video games from Japan have been around for many years. Several generations of anime on TV in various forms, and more recently the CCGs and and manga. I'd bet that for a lot of kids, stuff from Japan in general just seems pretty normal. If that normality can then be broad enough to keep people interested, it isn't likely it'll all be dropped wholesale. Is a kid really going to look at Tuxedo Gin and say "You know I'm tired of comics with big eyes". It is more like "Whoah, a boxing penguin! Never seen that before...". Sure they'll get sick of too many martial art animal re-incarnation stories, but Japan seems good at finding new ways to mix up tired old themes to keep new people coming back.

A lot of fickleness comes from age of material. Gundam 0079 flopped on Cartoon Network most likely because it looked old. I hear stories of many anime teens and kids that refuse to watch stuff older than '95 because it is all "old stuff". Manga has a bit of an advantage there as it isn't always quite as easy to pick out the age on sight.

I do think there'll be a glut coming, and probably some company casualties, but I think Asia is here to stay unless local companies can manage to make titles even more accessable and varied and what people want to see, which would then weaken the presence. Like US movies oversees. Countries with strong home markets like France do well on that front, but still end up importing a lot of US blockbusters. I think for once we're on the receiving end of something big like that. And the iconic nature gives a convenient way into more places than usual. Dubbed cartoons are much less jarring than dubbed real people and comics are usually even less of an issue. Any coolness or aversion to reading back to front is going to go away very quickly and be a non-issue.

I think anime is already mostly settled. The bigger companies like ADV or Geneon can either outbid other companies for popular shows or have connections with Japanese companies. The stuff that first came out on DVD first has generally been re-issued in newer cheaper versions. Even stuff from like a year or two ago tends to be re-released in cheaper box sets. Stuff they're taking a chance on or isn't great quality will usually be cheaper to begin with. Specialized favorites with limited fanbases or restoration work can be more. It is about as mature as the DVD market itself is. Manga is still growing right now and the insane number of manga titles in Japan leaves more room for abuse, but there's also the known entities and returns. If they get too many returns, they just have to scale back. If things already seem saturated, new manga company X is going to have to have a good reason for Waldenbooks to start carrying their stuff. Hopefully that kind of stuff will help keep some checks in place.. I guess we'll see..

Asian Invasion Roundup 

Steve Bunche has some good reviews up on the Pulse as part of a continuing column. He takes a look at Crayon Shinchan 1, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 1, and Shaolin Soccer 1+2.

I've flipped through Crayon in the store before (it is basically made up of gag strips that are a page or two long, so no complex continuity here), and it was hilarious. I really want to pick up some volumes when I get more money in. A must for parents.

Actually, for those that like Shinchan, Azumanga Daioh may also be worth a look, as it is another humor strip manga (with some longer stories thrown in). It involves the misadventures of some students and their teacher and has quite a following (and was also adapted into an anime series).

Tokyopop loses its mind... 

Courtesy of this thread, it turns out that Tokyopop has changed the title to one of its new licenses called Ghost due to the fact that Dark Horse already has a comic by that title. What to change it to? Eerie Queerie of course. Ooohkaay..

Manga companies in 2003 

Here's a thread on AoDVD which has various posters rating the companies' performances in 2003. Some good stuff in there.

How times change... 

I remember when I first started buying anime DVDs, one of the series that looked interesting but I never got around to was Gasaraki. Money was tight and they were something like $30 each (maybe 35?). Now you can get all 8 for $30. Obviously it is an extra special deal, but still something just not possible in the past. It is a very cool time to be a fan...

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Opinions on this year and the next.. 

Pulse has a neat article polling a bazillion people in the industry on what they think was the biggest events of this year, what they think will be in the next, and what they want to see in the next. Then the posters add their own comments.

It is pretty funny to see how there are certain distinct divisions of opinion based on what they think is important or their perspective in the industry. Of course Hush on one side and manga on the other, but plenty of other stuff in between as well.

And with everyone talking about movies, I felt it a good idea to point out that there are also live-action movie adaptations from anime coming out eventually. With at least Evangelion (aparantly with Weta), Dragon Ball Z, Kite, and Parasyte movies in the works, it'll be interesting to see how they fit in with the rest once they make it out the door.

The great sickness... 

Yikes.. if you were wondering why I dropped off the map this time, wasn't from a lack of time. Was more like being hit really hard by the flu. Between aches, chills, fever, congestion, and finally too much time in the bathroom, I think it is finally on the way out. Unfortunately I had taken the friday off this week so I could take a four-day weekend. So this ate up two of my three days. As much as work can be stressful, would much rather work then this mess. You know it is bad when I can't even manage to get online..heh.. Maybe I'll go in on Friday if there is too much work to get done.

Hopefully, I'll be able to get caught up on the various news floating around now...

BTW, right before getting sick, I managed to pick up the first part to my new computer, the case. That was the only thing that was worrying me, really, as it could be a nightmare if it got messed up during shipping from the internet. However, while at Circuit City (looking at video cards), I discovered they carry cases! So, they had the Antec Sonata, ironically the first case I'd really looked at online, along with a $40 rebate. It is pretty nice looking at has a 180W Antec PSU, so I'm happy on that end.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Christmas Day... 

Woo.. turning out to be a pretty nice day. Seems like I'm one of the few people crazy enough to be blogging on Christmas day, but then again I already had the bigger family getogether on sunday.

This year was light on suprises (going to use funds on computer and pda type stuff), but I did have a couple of fun gifts this morning. Mom got me the third volume of Tuxedo Gin, along with an adorable stuffed penguin that looks a lot like Gin (and wearing a Santa hat and a scarf). I took a picture which I'll have to put online. =) Also got some Spiderman juggling balls (blue/red with a pic of Spidey) and a blue Powerangers type yo-yo. The yo-yo was supposed to make sound, but doesn't seem to. Perhaps that is just as well! But it looks kind of nice and so will join the yo-yo collection.

Other than that... been eating munchies (crackers, cheese ball, snack mix, cheese sticks), some sparkling peach type drink, and of course egg nog. Managed to pull some games out of storage and beat Mom like 5 times in a row at Connect Four. =)

Tomorrow will be a shopping day. Seems like there's a deal at Staples for $25 off of color PDAs and 25% off of accessories. Will probably grab a Tungsten E. May start ordering computer stuff from New Egg then also...

So, Merry Christmas (or whichever holiday you are into)! I hope all is well. =)

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Leaving and joining comics... 

Jim points to this entry of Ginger, telling of how she left the comic scene. Interesting reading, as are the responses to it. All spurred on by Eve's origin story.

Amused in Review... 

Just discovered another blog ala Joshua's posting one of his reviews on Sequential Tart's board. He has a review up of Azumanga Daio which I still need to get, but was very funny from reading a couple of the strips in the store. Also a review of the second volume of Tuxedo Gin. I enjoyed the first volume and hope to read this one soon.

Edit: Also Zodiac P.I., One Piece, and Tuxedo Gin 1.

ADV's Newtype on TV... 

You know, I was watching G4 today and during the hour-long retrospective of the show G4TV.com (a pretty fun show BTW.. when I manage to catch it) I was pretty surprised when I saw a commercial for Newtype USA magazine. I'd seen the commercial before on their promo DVDs that come with the magazine, but it was quite another matter actually seeing it on TV. Sure, a digital channel for video games isn't quite the same as primetime on a network, but then again it seems like it is the perfect audience to be marketing the product to. Obviously a magazine focusing on animation with subsections on video games, comics, and model-kits isn't the same as a dedicated comic mag, but seriously can you imagine a Wizard commercial on TV? With the combination of Newtype, the Anime Network, DVDs, and manga, ADV is becoming quite the force to be reckoned with..

As an aside, even though there isn't a huge amount of comic coverage in Newtype, usually they have a decent spread of quality stuff mentioned, and probably a lot of people who've never read comics are getting their first exposure in there. I was quite surprised to see an interview with Dave Sim in the last issue...

Marvel Age and Tsunami Digests... 

OK.. changing gears here... I think everyone has now heard about Marvel doing a new line for newstands called Marvel Age. It is taking classic stories and putting new art on them along with updates for the times.

At first glance, it is easy enough to say Ultimate Spiderman. This does seem a little different in that it is aiming at a younger age and will be more episodic. Still, at $2.25 an issue and the fact that most stores don't want to deal with thin-style comics anymore, I have troubles seeing it doing amazingly well.

However, there is in fact some good news. I haven't seen anyone quote the following yet:

Retooled versions of classic Silver Age Marvels will not be the only fodder for Marvel Age. In April, Marvel will reprint affordable 5x8 digest-sized collections of the contemporary titles Spider-Girl, Sentinel and Runaways.

Marvel also intends to collect the Marvel Age: Spider-Man comic books as well as other as yet unannounced Marvel Age titles and publish them in low cost digest editions.

Nothing had been said about the Tsunami digests for some time now, but this information seems to be new. I know that Spider-Girl was never mentioned before, and the April date also seems new. This is great news, IMO, and I think those have a chance at doing well..

As far as collecting the Marvel Age stuff, that sounds good as well, but hopefully they'll still do it even if the sales of the singles aren't very good. I'm still thinking this Marvel Age stuff would probably be better as a cheap anthology, though. Its good to have more stuff aimed at a younger set, even if it is rehashes of old stuff, but I have serious doubts that the monthlies will get far off the ground. Sure there is interest from the movies and merchandising, but how visible will these comics be? How will kids and parents be able to distinguish it from Ultimate Spider-Man or any of the Spider-Man monthlies? Do they play on packing any of these things in with the toys they are selling? Any kind of campaign of awareness or special displays in stores? Will they get it in more stores in general? If not, then how will it distinguish itself from the few comics that are currently on spinner racks and aparantly not selling well?

So, the digest news is really good, but the rest is pretty eh...

Horrible Beauty... 

Well.. I was flipping channels.. and Requiem for a Dream was just getting started. Against better judgement, I got sucked into it, making it the second time that I've watched this movie.

I find it hard to even describe it really. It is just so beautiful and purely horrifying all at the same time. I really find it pretty deeply frightening and disturbing on a lot of levels, much more so than some slasher picture. At the same time, the music, the composition, all so beautiful in a sad haunting way. And I don't know I have a thing for her or protection instincts kicking in or what, but Jennifer Connelly just radiates...

I think after I saw the movie the first time and had time to think about it, I wasn't sure if it went too far in the end.. going to extremes for shock value. Now that I've seen it again, I don't think so. It all just seems to flow together and when taken as not literal reality and partly diving to the realm of horror, it all seems to fit together.

This time I was also able to sit back a bit more and compare the styling to Pi, as well as have fun with the cameos a bit more... Was also able to appreciate even more his techniques for portraying visually how the characters are feeling. It has a lot of the iconic feeling of some of the best comic books, where skewing realism actually gives a window into internal reality. In any case, by the end I was still in a very altered state of mind. I'm only coming back to normal now...

So.. I dunno, I guess I'm rambling. I think I may now agree with (Sean?) about the Lars von Trier stuff suffering from just endless abuse. Now that I think about it Dancer in the Dark did seem like maybe too much at the end. Despite loving the music, I think Requiem succeeds better in both the horror and beauty categories.

BTW, if you enjoy movies of people self-destructing, I'd recommend Dead Ringers from Cronenberg. A co-worker recommended it to me, and is quite an interesting and disturbing movie where Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists who fall into drugs and madness. It surely has some of the same feeling of Requiem to it. Also, I can't help feeling some tenuous connection to some of Dario Argento's earlier movies, even though perhaps it is colored by Jennifer Connelly's appearance in Phenomena (which was actually before Labyrinth).

Anyway, I highly recommend Requiem for a Dream, one of my favorite movies of all time, even though "favorite" may imply the wrong tone. Watch it, but be ready for a rollercoaster. You may want the Care Bears Movie or something as an antidote, even though it might also ruin the horrible beautiful feeling...

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Fear B&N Customers! 

Did you think this was yet another entry about manga or GNs in bookstores? Nope! Thanks to Chris Puzak for pointing out this page of experiances while working at Barnes & Noble. A lot of funny and/or disturbing stuff in there. Glad I am not working retail at the moment...

For humorous stories of another sort, check out this page of computer abuses that techs have seen.

It's an on-demand world... 

Turned on the TV yesterday and ecountered something really wonderful! Our local digital cable now supports on-demand programming. =) When we fell on some harder financial times a while back, we decided to drop most of the normal channels while keeping the Digital Plus pack. Lost stuff like Cartoon Network and MTV, but kept IFC, Sundance, TCM, TechTV, G4, MTV2, Fuse, etc. I've been pretty happy with that decision as it generally encourages me to watch slightly higher quality programming, movies without commercials, and an hour of good live televion with the Screen Savers each day. Now, I'm even happier with the decision, as on-demand is really cool.

They carry various movies, costing from $3-4 for normal, but that part isn't so big a deal for me. The nice thing is that they have quite a lot of various TV episodes, all of which are free. You can only get the stuff related to pay channels (like Showtime) if you already subscribe to those channels, but they a decent assortment of programming from other areas.

There is shorts related to something called Atom Films, there are random episodes from G4 and TechTV. There is various cartoons for kids. There was one with teen shows and other of programming all made by kids from around the country that I haven't check out yet. There was a selection of music videos, which was kind of cool. There was two free movies from Sundance Channel, etc.

You can probably tell that I'm leading up to something, right? We have programs from the Anime Network!! There was like 60+ episodes from various series in there, all totally free. It is all dubbed, but that's no different from any other anime on TV, and this time I can watch the stuff whenever I want to as well as pause, fastforward, and rewind. The vid controls are way at the bottom of the remote control which is kind of annoying, and every time I'm done watching a show, it kicks me out to the main menu, but I can deal with it. This is the same sort of feeling I got from DVDs versus VHS. It is just a world of convenience that opens up to you.

I don't know how often content gets updated for the various channels, but they seem to a pretty good job of labelling content, so that helps. For instance, all of the anime shows have the episode number right in the title. For some of the very continuity-driven stories that are up in the teens for episodes, I'll wait a while for earlier episodes to show up, but there was a fair amount of titles starting from the beginning, and some are episodic enough for it not to matter. There's a lot of stuff in here that I had some curiosity about but not enough to buy a DVD (like Sorcerer Hunters) and this will be perfect to check the stuff out.

So, what'd I watch? There was an episode of Babar on the testing section, and I ended up getting sucked into that. Partly nostalgia and partly that it was an interesting episode about if modern society is always all it is cracked up to be.

A FAQ episode of Screen Savers aparantly made just for on-demand. An episode of Icons on G4, focusing on Zelda. I have to say I like Icons a lot, as there isn't a lot of stuff out there on the history of video games. It is nice to see Miyamoto being interviewed. They also showed a really bizzare collection of Zelda games that most people don't know about that were made for CD-i but not by Nintendo. Amazingly bad animated cut scenes!

For anime, I watched the 4th episode of Mazinkaiser, of which I'd seen the first episode on one of the DVDs that come with Newtype USA. I have to say that I am really liking this series. It is pure retro cheesiness with a slightly more adult wink-wink perspective, but not really a parody either. Imagine Voltron but more cheesy and crazy and exhuberant. This particular episode was a beach type episode with of course much fanservice flying around, but thankfully done in a playfull humorous way instead of the creepy stuff in some series (not to mention retro character designs). Surely not a series for everyone as there is no real depth, but it is pure cheesy fun. Everything from the robots themselves to the male/female Baron Ashura to the evil bearded Dr. Hell, to the catchy theme song.... "In the FIRE CRUSH on CRUSH!"... "Don't wanna know why, everybody ready GET IT ON!" I think this doesn't classify as a guilty pleasure, what does?

What else... Watched an episode of King of Bandit Jing. A fluffy series about a good-natured (young?) expert thief and his bird companion (who can aparantly transform his body). No amazing substance in here, but it is pretty stylish and the world is fairly imaginative. This particular episode involved an island of musicians and a touch of romance. I haven't read the manga, so I'm not sure how well it'd do with lack of motion and color, but you could do worse than this for an episodic quirky all-ages show...

Also looked at an episode of Noir. I saw the first couple of episodes a while back and it seemed interesting and the music was great. I hear it gets fairly repetitive until a character named Cloe shows up, and luckily she shows up in the episode I tried. ;) Lady assassins, intrigue, dark pasts, blah blah. Won't change the world but can pass some time..

I took a quick peek at Colorful, a very odd collection of perverted shorts. A couple of funny bits, but the whole theme was a bit creepy and it isn't like there is any plot going on.. Not really my thing. It gets points for a cool female Japanese punk theme song, but that's about it.

A cool thing was Mom decided to watch some anime on the other channel, and saw two episodes Zaion and some Sorcerer Hunters. I haven't seen either yet, so I'll have to check them out. I also want to watch some Aura Battler Dunbine (classic fantasy mecha from the Gundam creator), Dai-Guard (giant robots meet dilbert), Excel Saga (have a couple of DVDs but haven't seen later episodes), Rune Soldier (they are in latter episodes, but it seems somewhat episodic, so I might give it a shot). I might check out Boogiepop, but I do have half the series on DVD, so I may just wait until I can get the rest. Princess Nine is great, but I already own it all (and I'm not even a big baseball fan generally). I'll probably end up watching most of the stuff availible with the time availible during the holidays. Then again, I have plenty of DVDs and comics I haven't gotten to yet that I should probably look at first. ;)

If you want an idea of what's on, here's the schedule for January.

So, this is really neat. I'm sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but I'm glad to finally get more interactivity in my television besides an online guide..

Monday, December 22, 2003

You want some bad manga? 

I'm the sort of person that likes most stuff out there, but I flipped through Bomber Girl in the store today and went yikes. Osaka has a review that pretty much confirms my fears and more. If you're looking for an example of a stinker manga, you probably have a safe bet with this one.

While I'm at it, I remember from an old thread that pretty much everyone disliked the Korean comic King of Hell.

And one more note of negativity, how about this loooong thread on Manga you gave up on. Lots of stuff that people either just didn't like or felt dragged on too long or was too expensive, etc.

I do still recommend trying something like the first volume of Ranma 1/2 or Dragonball (not Z), but with the knowledge that they both went on way too long and you'll probably stop reading before the end. I think the early stuff is quite funny and might be worth your time...

Del Rey's manga site up... 

Thanks to Osaka for pointing out that Del Rey's manga page is now up. Out of the four, xxxHOLiC sounds the most interesting to me and Negima might be fun depending on how it is done, but I'm generaly so-so on "harem" type stories. Not sure how the Gundam Seed is, but I'm generally wary of manga based off of anime. Tsubasa could be good, but it seems like it may rely on you having read most of their other comics already, which I have not...

Stuff that seems odd is that they are all priced at $11 instead of $10. Sure it isn't much more than $10, but still, it'll make it more expensive than most of the stuff coming out. That combined with the slow release schedule may make this stuff a bit of a harder sell than it should be, considering the big names involved with the titles themselves...

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Egg Nog anyone? 

So, I am one of those people that really likes egg nog, but it can be hard to find some that is any good. A lot of them are too heavy or have a weird aftertaste. I present Horizon Organic Low-Fat Egg Nog as one to buy. Your first reaction might be that it'll taste bad because it is low-fat, but it really is amazingly yummy. It may be difficult to find, but snatch some up if you see it!

Johanna goes manga... 

So, Comics Worth Reading now has reviews up for three manga titles! I haven't read Shaolin Sisters yet, so I can't comment on that, but I do think that I've enjoyed Kodocha and One Piece more than she does.

Part of my feeling for Kodocha may be colored by having watched the anime, where the hyper quality of the the show really stands out, but I also found the manga to be quite fun, while managing to tackle some serious issues (considering it is obviously targetted at pretty young girls). Sana IS kind of annoying in a hyper way, but IMO that's also part of the charm, especially since pretty much everyone is put off by her zooming around at mach speed. ;) But I feel like the story the main arc that happens with Hayama has some heart to it without getting into an extended angst-fest.

She also seems a bit worried about the chauffer Rei, but really that is an non-issue. Sana likes to act adult, even if she doesn't really know what she's talking about. Sana calls him her gigilo, and drinks some "dope" but is only marginally aware of what the stuff really means. I think Rei is just a combination of embarrassed and flattered by her, but he soon (slight spoiler) gets involved with the actress Kurumi anyway (they may have already had a past relationship.. can't remember), so that line of thinking is moot.

I put out the opinion that Kodocha is worth a shot at least. I like the combination of craziness and heart.

As far as One Piece goes, I also like that series, but I can certainly see it not being for everyone. The "damn the plot, full speed ahead" that she mentions really does describe several instances of the plot (even though IMO not entirely negative in this case). She does seem to be put off by Luffy's "inappropriate goal" and lack of maturity and I guess I can't really argue with that. I do know it is a pretty long series. I'm not sure exactly how much growth the characters go through in that time. Anyone care to comment that has read/seen more of it? Personally, despite the faults I guess I've just been won over by Luffy's good-natured enthusiasm and the off-beat collection of characters and settings presented. If you look at it straight on, I suppose Luffy's one-track mind could actually be kind of disturbing, but the series doesn't take itself too seriously and I don't think it is trying to be deep. For me, it is just some fun escapism, and I think that is the big source of its popularity. With so much realism and grittiness and cyncism out there these days, it is nice to have a story that is more than a little wacky, with a main character whose hopes just can't be dashed...

Still, I might recommend Naruto as a different title with a character who wants to be "the greatest" but who isn't so crazy and acts more like a real kid would. I'm not as much into it as a lot of people are, but it is pretty fun and has a focus on self-improvement through practice and maturing and working as a team...

Anyway, I hope I don't sound like I'm coming off too negative. I love love Comics Worth Reading and am so happy to see some manga being reviewed. Not all manga is good and at the very least different things appeal to different people. The sooner that people consider a manga story just another comic to judge on its own terms, the better we'll all be. With various bloggers and review sites and news sites and message boards starting to look at this stuff, I think it lets there be more productive dialogue and guiding of the right titles to the right people.

Thanks for the reviews Johanna. =)

Pick a card.. any card... 

While we're at it, another hobby in the collecting sense has been playing cards. I'm not very serious about it, but I've been steadily picking up various decks over the years. When I was at Target the other day, I saw two Transformers decks and had to have them! They even have these cheezy lenticular things on the front (where the picture changes depending on the angle), one with Optimus Prime and the other with Megatron. The images on the deck itself are pretty cool, with a couple of transformers that I still have on there.

To continue the trend of nostalgia, I also picked up a War deck with G.I. Joe. I was tempted by several Winnie the Pooh decks (they even had an oversized one!) and a Candyland Old May set, but that's for another day.

I'll have to go back and look at what decks I actually have at this point. I probably have around 40 or 50 or something. X-Men and Sailor Moon come to mind as semi-recent stuff that I had bought. I just like playing cards as a nice solid form of artwork with a functional fun use.

Mom picked up two packs of Return of the King movie cards but at $2 for 7 cards, it is expensive stuff. I used to collect fantasy art cards and some comic art cards in the 90s, but usually I'd buy a whole box at a time. I'm still happy that I have stuff like early Boris Vallejo sets, Michael Whelan, WildC.A.T.S., ST:TNG, first Marvel Masterworks, etc. but I think at this point I'd rather spend on a bunch of GNs than $60 or whatever it costs for a box of cards. I should probably sell off some of my duplicate card sets on ebay one of these days, though...

On yo-yos and AA and Mr. Punch... 

Ok, I've been kind of comic-focused due to that hobby getting me into blogging in the first place, but what about my love of yo-yos? I've been plugging along at single-A (string tricks with one yo-yo) for a while now. Been keeping up decently well with a lot of different kinds of tricks and mostly being laid back about it all. But at the last Dog Bite meeting, they had me do a short freestyle with AA (looping two yo-yos at once) and boy was I rusty! So, the last couple of days I've been putting some work into that again, and am happy to say that I've recovered a lot of what I lost.

I think part of my problem before was being in too much of a competition mindset and constantly comparing myself to the super-amazing Japanese players. Plus, most of the people at the weekly club aren't so into looping (and those that are pretty much only go to monthly Dog Bite), so it is kind of odd being the only one. But Andre seems to be getting more into it (keep at it.. hint hint..heh) and if I actually have new stuff to show off with instead of just practicing some old stuff for a couple of minutes, that should be better.

But really, I started off with two-handed because I enjoyed it, and it seems like I still do. It can be pretty meditative thing when it works well. I think having any kind of hobby where you have to put in some practice through repetition (with some occational creativity) can be a good thing, whether it is drawing or martial arts or yo-yos or skateboarding or whatever. Having written so much on the subject, it seems silly for me to have done so little looping for such a long while now.

So, it feels nice to be back into the swing of things and my semi-new pair of Kamaitachi have the benefits of long sleep times while still being responsive, along with an adjustable gap (I know some find them pricey at $30+ each), but have been well worth it for me. Combining that with slick-8 string means I don't have to change strings nearly so often now. Back with my old setup of technics and normal type-8 strings I had to change like every two hours due to strings breaking and the yo-yos looping too high as the strings thinned out. With this setup I can do do fairly intensive stuff for a couple of hours over two or three days which is nice for lazy old me.

I'm doing well at constantly switching arm crossing loops and even some kurukuru type switches (not constantly rotating my arms, but just switching which arm is on top without uncrossing my arms). Starting to get the hang of some whirlwind milk the cows. And getting better at crossed arms milking the cow with my weaker hand on top (and switching between the two). Also, put in some serious time for the inside loop arm wrap and finally making progress. I can't go back into looping with the sleeping yo-yo yet or do multiple wraps but I can manage the trick and get both yo-yos back to my hands sometimes, which is progress!

Oh, and I can now officially do hyperloops (thanks Andre!). I haven't tried it with sleeping yo-yos yet, but I can do it with dead ones fine, which means I can also do it with poi! Something to show off at the next juggling meeting to the other poi people.. ;)

This is all on the heels of putting some (71 to be exact) new single-A videos online a couple of weeks ago. I still haven't managed to write up any descriptions for them yet, but they are finally online at least..

For those needing a comic connection, I named a particular move I created Mr. Punch off of Neil Gaiman's book of the same name (a great one BTW if you haven't read it yet. I also worked it into a combo called Mr. Punch Kills Judy. Click here to d/l if you're curious (DivX 2.11a codec needed).

Oh, I also finally picked up two of the semi-crappy-but-ok-for-$3 plastic Duncan yo-yos from K-mart the other day, a blue Imperial and blue Butterfly. Why? Because they come with some neato mini-cdroms with Flash program that gives instructions to basic tricks and some freestyling of harder stuff along with music. It is a really good idea and the kind of thing more people need to experiment with. Of course I was at Target the other day and saw a bunch of them with an newer design on the labels for only $2 each! Oh well...

While I'm here, I should give props to Yoyoing.com's Blog, the only real news-related blog for yo-yos. It's like Journalista, but with less dead trees and more cotton strings... ;)

An early Christmas... 

So, today was a pretty nice day. We usually get together with the immediate family to exchange gifts the weekend before Christmas. This was no exception and we first went off to the Ivanhoe restaraunt for an impressive buffet dinner with my Mom, grandmother, grandfather, uncle and aunt. Lots of good food and I didn't even get around to the main course of ham or beef (a guy stands there and cuts it for you). There was a pretty amazing coincidence in that our landlord and his gf and roomates were there at the same time and at the table next to us! What is the chances of something like that happening?

Then we went go my grandparents' house and did the gift-giving. Last couple of years we'd mainly been giving stuff that was asked for (and still did it this time), but also tried to throw in some inexpensive extras that they'd hopefully enjoy. They were surprised and seemed to like them (including a dog-toy for our uncle and aunt's dog, a Great Pyranese named Gabrielle "Gabby").

One of the gifts was a book for my grandfather called Making Animated Whirligigs. Whirligigs are those wooden creations with arms that turn in the wind. He's made quite a lot of them over the years, and hopefully I can manage to get some pictures of them online eventually. I regret not having spent more time trying to learn woodworking skills from him. I remember hanging around his workshop as a kid and doing some small projects and it was a pretty magical thing.

Getting the book was an adventure in itself. We did 2-day shipping on it to get it here in time, but then it never showed up, despite tracking saying it was left on a porch. It turns out the delivery guy reversed two numbers in the address and delivered it to the wrong place. We waited over a full day and pretty much gave up on it, having Amazon cancel the order but then finally a lady showed up saying she almost never goes by her front porch but was expecting a package of her own and discovered ours! Saved at the last minute..

Oh, and aparantly a flock of wild turkeys passed through my grandparents' yard some weeks ago and they got pictures! There was like 20 of them. I still have yet to see a wild turkey in person, but some day...

Tivome on comic creators in Japan... 

A while back Tivome had written some good info. about comic creators in Japan in the comments to one of my entries, but in a recent thread, he writes a bit more, providing one of the better summaries that I've seen. First, in response to statements about copyrights:

They DO have full copyright over their manga. The publishers have PUBLISHING rights, much like the rest of the publishing industry, Japan or US.

When you're talking about anime (Dragonball GT is not based on manga, only DB and DBZ's manga based), it's a different story. Anime is created throught a committee consisted of the creator/writer of the manga (the copyright holder), usually the publisher, and various investors (toy companies, private investors or even the animation house itself). If the mangaka is rich and is able to finance cost of anime production by themsevles (like Takahashi Rumiko), then the mangaka has total creative control over the anime, and they can pick the animation house, etc. (ever noticed how Inuyasha anime is almost EXACTLY like the manga?)

In most other cases however there are other investors who takes most of the financial burden, especially if the mangaka is new and without much resources. Each 24 minute episode of anime costs about $1 million yen (about US$100,000) to make fom a quality animation house like Production IG or Gainax, and so a 26 episode series would cost almost 3 million bucks.

For the case for DB GT, I'm not sure about the specific of the case, but I believe what happened was that Toriyama was never much of an anime guy; he's a mangaka through and through. Thus when he signed up to do the anime for the DB series, I believe he gave away too much creative control power, and thus DBZ became the long repetitive bore it is today. Now DBGT is just an way for the the publisher (Kondasha) to sqeeze more money out of the franchise, and Toriyama really opposed the idea, since he thought DBZ is already too long and the Cell and Boo saga was really drawn due to pressure from the publisher and fans. Many of you don't know but Toriyama is a very nice guy and he often give what people ask of him. However, even HE thought DBGT was way out of line, and completely dissasociate himself away from it and has nothing to do with the creative process.

So back to the topic... Yes the mangaka owns the copyright of the manga, but the committee owns the right to the anime, much like the Estates of JRR Tolkein owns the copyrights to the book LOTR, while New Line Cinemas owns the movie adaptation of LOTR.

As for the assisstants, most of the time they're just lowly paid artist paid for by the mangaka and takes no credit. Sometimes they do their work for free especially for a friend (since the friend will do the same for them), and sometimes, like CLAMP, the whole team takes the credit and the ownership. If the work is a collaboration of a writer and an artist, and they both jointly hold the copyright throught some sort of agreement (i.e. Hikaru no Go).

Remeber the majority of current mangakas were fomer assisstants, so though it may seemed unfair to you, but that's because very rarely does anyone in the US system see the upside of the Japanese creator-owned system. Some assistant may work without credit under a famous mangaka for years, but once he's honed his skills and learned all he can from the mangaka, he or she starts with their own series and his boss will almost always help them sell it to a comic anthology. If the series hits big then the assistant will became the credited mangaka, and the process continues.

And YES FOLKS they call it COMICS in Japan too. A lot of anthologies have the word comic in their name, like Comics Dengeki Daioh (one of my favorites). Manga is a very generic term, but the word COMIKUSU is used often for the sake of coolness.

After being questioned on sources:

Source about what? About the working of the industry? That came from years of fandom and several Japanese friends explaining how the manga industry works in Japan. The mangaka's life is public information in Japan since a lot of tanks include side stories about the artists life and their assistants in the back pages. Toriyama used to do this a LOT, and CLAMP has been really open about their lives as well.

If you're talking about the cost of anime per episode, that number came from an issue of NewType USA when they did an interview with Production IG (I believe, one of the top ones). I can double check the exact issue when I get home tonight.

And on the uncredited assistants:

Well, my point is that everyone in Japan really know that these help exist, and although often uncredited, the mangak usually give them props in the tankoubon. For example, the mangaka for Kindaichi often name her assistants by name and tell reader what they do, and how much she appreciates them in the released tanks. (Yes a woman created Kindaich's Case Files). I just want to point to the UPSIDE since most folks in the US seemed to think they're some sort of slave labor. All assisstants do their work willingly in order to learn the techniques and a shot at being the "MAN" themselves one day. It's more like paid Internship for most. Once they have a good, original idea and enough technique to do pro work, they WILL strike out and make their own fame and money. That's the upside of the creator-owned industry: you create and own your own fate. They are not employees of a major firm and they don't punch cards. They don't get "fired" from their creations (although they can easily be canceled). In fact, I would say the Japanese system which values individual achievement and creativity is more akin to American values than what Marvel/DC is doing to our artists over here.

Nice work Tivome!

Friday, December 19, 2003

A pretty good DM vs. Bookstore thread... 

Check out this thread on Comicon for some pretty interesting exchanges on the topic of comics in bookstores and how good a thing that is. Several people on both sides of the argument and some good points brought up. Especially check out the post by LordJulius on page two.

Manga vs. DM sales #s... 

Ok, there was an article on ICv2 whose main purpose was to say that Hellsing would start off with a large printing, but the interesting thing was the real sales numbers they mention on Trigun. Due to licensing restraints, Trigun was larger and more expensive than usual for manga ($15 but very thick) and while people worried about that, it seems that it has done really well. I'd say that the #s are probably realistic because of the multiple printings involved.

So, the first printing of Trigun (released in October) was 35,000 copies. That sold out and the second printing was another 15,000. That also sold out, and they just did a third printing of 15,000 that'll be out for the new year.

For the purposes of this comparison, I'll count the first two printings and say Trigun has sold 50,000 copies. At $14.95 each, this comes out to $747,500 in sales.

To compare, here is some approximations from ICv2's readings of comic numbers from October and September, from here.

In October, AVENGERS/JLA #2 had strong sales and was expensive:
176,734 * $5.95 = $1,051,567.30

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #500 (#59) does about half as well:
162,176 * $3.50 = $567,616

So, so far Trigun's sales are above an issue of Spider-Man, but less than Avengers/JLA

Looking at the October GNs CHRONICLES OF CONAN VOL 1 TP doesn't fare up so well:
8,322 * $15.95 = $132,735.90

To be interesting, let's look at Trigun in that month from Diamond:
7,502 * $14.95 = $112,154.90

I'm not sure how these Diamond listings list re-orders (do they list it at all?), and of course some shops use Cold Cut, but it seems like around a 5th of Trigun's sales have been in the DM.

Now, let's look at September for some perspective. BATMAN #619 sells a lot, but has a pretty low cover price
233,775 * $2.25 = $525,993.75

In GNs, it is all about Gaiman's SANDMAN ENDLESS NIGHTS HC
26,230 * $24.95 = $654,438.50

In comparison 100 BULLETS VOL 6 SIX FEET UNDER GUN TP barely makes a mark

Considering Endless Nights also had a big bookstore market, I think it is fair to say that it has made a lot more than either Trigun or the highest monthly comics.

Of course this isn't the whole story either. Dark Horse isn't the biggest manga publisher out there. Tokyopop has said the following:

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."

100,000 * $9.95 = $995,000
250,000 * $9.95 = $2,487,500

Tokyopop says it published 350 titles in 2003. Just about all of those were $9.95. Some titles sold 250,000 copies, and some must have sold much less. Let's throw out a random number. Say the average was 20,000 copies sold:
20,000 * $9.95 * 350 = $69,650,000 about 70million dollars sold for the year.

Obviously not all of that money went into Tokyopop's pockets, and even less is profits after their own expenses, but I just illustrate it to show that the manga market really is getting quite big and companies like Tokyopop are surely not losing money...

If someone is feeling especially ambitious and wants to try to come to a number for Marvel or DC total yearly comic sales based on the charts, that'd be really cool. It's lot more complicated due to the varying prices and sheer numbers of different titles, but maybe some broad averages can be made.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Rising stars keep on rising.. 

OK, I've mentioned a couple of times about Lindsay Chibo and how her comic Peach Fuzz got grand prize of the second Rising Stars of manga contest. Two new aspects have come up lately.

First, according to a Tokyopop press release, Peach Fuzz has been green-lighted to become an ongoing full-length comic. It'll be nice to have another family-friendly title out there on the shelves.

Second, ICv2 tells that Tania del Rio will be the new writer and artist of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. This seems pretty significant as it is a comic that has been around for many years. It does seem to make sense, as it'd fit into the fact that so much manga is popular with girls, and the style of the cover shot seems to be a hip Paradise Kiss type styling. Still, I wonder how this will fit into the current market of the title. Is Sabrina currently availible at main newstands, or just in the direct market? If just the DM, it could suffer from longtime readers not liking the new style while new one not even see it...

Monday, December 15, 2003

More Rising Stars of Manga info... 

Well, when searching for something else entirely, I came across this article about two more of the runner-up winners of the second Rising Stars of Manga anthology. It is interesting that aparantly they formed their partnership at a Border store originally and are both around my age (one 24 and one 27).

Also interesting is that they state explicitly that there were about 800 entries for this contest. A different article mentions that submissions were up 25% over last time.

After doing some searching, I also discovered this page, which gives links to all the websites of the various people that made it into the two issues so far. I'll have to look through those a bit to see what each of these people are all about. They also are hosting a forum for people to discuss the anthology. It is nice that someone came forward to put together a resource like this...

Update with a couple more links:

Article on Andrew Wong, whose story deals with a 5-year old kid whose food talks to him.

Interview with Nicholas Liaw. He has some preview artwork up here.

Aparantly Ben Seto did some comics before getting into RSoM. Look pretty nice from the covers.. will have to look into it more.

Pretty long article about Bettina Kurkoski, a Massachusetts native and Alicia Hotovec.

A long interview with Clint Bickham and Priscilla Hamby from the first volume of RSoM.

Another article on Bettina Kurkoski.

Aparantly there was a local TV appearance by Hans Tseng. They also link to an article on NewsBank, but aparantly that service is password protected.

XIII where are you? 

Speaking of lost opportunities, Rick mentions something that I noticed a little while ago. A new video game called XIII is out on multiple platforms and is getting good reviews. It is a first-person "shooter" which features cell-shading and comic-style visual sound effects, while also having a pretty in depth storyline. I happened to see a making of special on G4, and that was the first time I heard that it is actually based on a comic, a French BD comic. It was interesting listening to the game creators talk about how they incorporated elements of the comic into the game, as well as looking at a bunch of american comics (I think Hellboy was mentioned) as a source of inspiration in methods of visual storytelling.

As Rich says, this is a golden opportunity for someone to license and translate this comic and do some major promotion on it in conjunction with the game. It seems like this and Jeremiah are both examples of French comics making an impact in the US while the source material remains under the radar of most people. At least some Jeremiah comics are out, but it isn't like even most comic fans are aware of them..

Tokyopop continues its invasion... 

With Dirk's foray into law, it isn't surprising that a tiny article in ICv2 about Tokyopop continuing agressive promotion could get lost in the shuffle. But it has some pretty interesting information.

Aparantly not satisfied with bookstores, they seem to be pushing hard into other mass retail stores. They did a 100-store Walmart test a while back, and Fred Meyer and Shopko are also doing tests. Best Buy is aparantly going to carry some manga near to the anime DVDs, and perhaps most interesting to me, the Stop and Shop supermarket is aparantly stocking manga volumes! I never thought to look at Stop and Shop for manga, but I guess I'll have to check around locally to see if any of the ones near me have them in stock. There is also a mention of Sam Goody record stores having some large display racks.

This is all starting to be a majorly potent force. There is anime on TV. People go to Best Buy to get DVDs and see all the anime, start with stuff they're familiar with and branch out to other titles. Now they see manga volumes there, as well as Media Play. They see Jump at newstands and read that along with seeing ads for anime and graphic novels in bookstores. They buy NewType USA also at newstands with those same ads to go to Best Buy and Media Play for anime and bookstores for manga as well as fluffy reviews of content.

It is quickly becoming a very connected web of promotion and as these companies get richer the promotions seem to just be getting stronger. With content prominantly on TV, at bookstores, media outlets, newstands, music shops and even supermarkets it is becoming easier and easier to stumble on this stuff even if you aren't looking for it. And that's ignoring video games and collectable card games.

In comparison, the US industry just seems that much less well organized. I suppose one thing to thing to the advantage of the asian properties is that often times different companies license different parts of the same property. Different companies may be doing manga versus anime versus card games versus video games. That kind of forces them all to work together to promote it. In comparison, DC and Marvel control their characters and properties and don't have as much of a reason to work together and those companies versus Oni Press versus Fantagraphics all seem so different from each other to almost seem part of different industries.

I think it is also easier to do big pushes because of having new properties all the time. So much of the superhero stuff is revamping of old characters that it often appeals to older fans of the character, but still may not seem like something really "new". YuYu Hakusho comes out and there is a cartoon on TV. It starts getting released on DVD. It gets put out in Jump as well as digests. There is a CCG, etc. There is a multilevel push. In comparison, a lot of the best-selling US comics are stuff like Batman. There might be a new run with a different creative team to get people excited, but the Batman cartoon and movies are mostly in the past now. It isn't like new story arcs of Batman are being animated... The new movies coming out do help with visibility, but still they tend to be adaptations of older material and not as part of a push for an entirely new title.

I don't know.. I guess I'm rambling. I don't want to sound like I'm too pro-marketing, because often times that is fairly destructive, but it seems like even the mainstream hyped up pop titles don't usually live up to modern marketing standards. Stuff like the Hulk promotions seemed very inconsistant and not as well thought out as it could have been. The movie was mostly adult in tone, but a lot of the promotion was of toys for little kids like the Hulk Hands. At the time, I saw a lot of Hulk GNs in bookstores, but I'm sure those ran the gambit of adult and kids fare with various artists and writers and arcs and a lot of people weren't sure what to start with. After that, most of the Hulk stuff faded away and in the end I doubt that many people actually started to read the monthly Hulk comics.

I suppose that in the end they were probably relatively happy with the result, selling a lot of toys and getting the Hulk name onto TV, but I'm not really satisfied with that. They probably would have sold about as many Hulk Hands if they'd just run commercials for those without the movie, as it seems like a fun concept, and most people viewing the movie probably found it to be an interesting sci-fi Jekyl/Hyde movie, but not something to rush them out to see more.

I have some hope for Hellboy as that is based on a series not that many people know of and is a title relatively self-contained and creator-driven, but its comics roots show more easily than in something like Road To Perdition, where most don't even know it came from a comic. Hopefully DH will take advantage of the situation to get a good buzz going and maybe get some of it into bookstores or promote comic shops in some concerted way.

Dirk goes to law school... 

So, Dirk has a large entry up about the situation of Paige Gifford's comic shop dealing with the IRS. I hadn't really commented on this until now as I didn't feel like I had anything to contribute with my limited knowledge of everything involved.

Not that I have that knowledge now, but it is really interesting to see Ms. Gifford claim one thing, then retailers say another (including Jim), and then Dirk come up with more on her defense. It is just another example showing how little most of us really know about all of this stuff. It really is kind of frightening the amount that we all assume certain things in order to get on with life.

So, I'm still not sure who's right, and I guess we'll have to wait and see for even more information to come out and everyone come to some sort of consensus on the matter.

It ties in a bit to when you know a lot about a certain subject or are privy to inside info. and then you see a story in the newspaper or TV with facts that are innacurate or plained skewed. It can really shake your faith in what you're told on a daily basis...

Whoever's fault this latest mishap is, it really is a shame for all these comic books to be destroyed, and for the industry to most likely lose one more comic shop..

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Dirk's latest essay... 

Well, as much as there is a lot I agree with in Dirk's latest essay, I think I'm going to have to go with Neil on this one. Sure, just about everyone in the world could stand to be a bit more opeminded and try new things, but it isn't all that realistic to ask a bunch of fans of a particular genre to try other things for the good of the industry. I don't even think it is really all that fair...

The issue for me has never been that superhero comics need to go away, or that people need to stop reading them. I'm not against superheros and I enjoy reading some superhero books. I'm not even against cheesy or low-class comics. One of the manga I'm reading right now is Tuxedo Gin, about a boxer who is temp. re-incarnated into the body of a penguin. Sounds like a silly concept, and it is. It is fun an funny, but I'd never claim it to be high art.. So, then what is my point?

There's always going to be stuff that is popular but not as good as other stuff, or at least very manufactured. That is the way the world works, and despite watching Indy movies, I also like movies where stuff blows up. Trends movie through popular culture and good luck trying to stop hair metal or grunge or rap-metal...

My issue has always been that the "mainstream" of comics isn't so mainstream at all. Superheros are a subsection of comics. They have a good amount of fans and a rich history and mythology. But it is the domination of the industry by this section that seems out of place to me, especially in light of low numbers the industry is having.

If you look at the superhero section itself, you see stuff like the Jim Lee run on Batman doing really well, while other superhero comics that may be better are faltering or getting canceled. That is unfortunate, but is still pretty understandable to me. Big name creators and established characters will do well, just like how a summer blockbuster movie tends to do well while a good Indy will usually not get past the art houses, besides notable exceptions. That kind of thing happens everywhere..

The same thing in manga. A popular creator like CLAMP is likely to sell a lot of copies even if the story isn't as good as it could be, due to the name and following. A story like Love Hina involving a downtrodden male character and a ton of ladies often in towels was one of the best-selling titles in bookstores. A lot of manga fans dislike Love Hina for being deriviative, going to the lowest donominator, etc. The backlash against the popularity of DBZ in the anime community was insane for a while there. Mentioning your were a fan was enough to get you laughed off of a forum...

But in those cases, despite pandering or being overly commercial, they are what a lot of people want and sell well. Usually they are at least competitent at what they are trying to do and have some sort of formula that works. Like a lot of Rumiko Takahashi's work is popular and yet drags on and on, milking the story for all that it is worth (like Ranma 1/2). Some of the romance stories like Peach Girl can get frustrating from being too repetitive and a lead that is too stupid to figure out what is going on.

I wouldn't claim that any of those stories are crap, but there is other stories out there that perhaps should be more popular. But there's only so much you can worry about that, as the public is the public, and a lot of it is still enjoyable for what it is..

The problem I have with the comic industry is the great disconnect that seems to be going on. Superheros are just one section of possible topics and yet it is just about synonymous with the industry. The reason I bring up manga so much is that I feel like it is doing a better job of having its pulse on the rest of the world. Where were comics for girls before manga started to get big? There was a couple of titles like Strangers in Paradise and Love & Rockets (both somewhat for older readers), Akiko and Castle Unbounded (neither selling amazingly well), A Distant Soil and Elfquest (both self-published for a long time), etc. I'm sure there are a couple more, but not that many. That's all the industry can manage after many years with a bazillion titles released every month? For half the population?

Obviously there is untapped potential out there, and that is what frustrates me.. Country music isn't really my thing in general, but there is a lot of fans, a rich history, and may variations to it. I'm sure country fans get mad at people telling them it all sounds the same, when they know it isn't true if you've heard enough of it. I'm sure a lot of country fans hate big-name acts because of how commercial they are. But still, what if 80% or more of all the music availible was country music? What kind of messed up music industry would we have? I can accept Britney Spears and 50-Cent being pop stars. I couldn't accept 9 out of 10 stations on the radio being only country because that is all that the music industry produces, despite the fact that kids (in this altverse) are obsessed with dance music from europe. The music industry tries to incorporate some synth sounds into the country music, but it just doesn't prove popular, especially since kids have pretty much given up on the radio as a place to find music they're interested in...

What is the answer? I don't know exactly.. but it isn't to tell superhero fans to abandon their favorite comics. I think things aren't quite as bad as they could be at this point, and will hopefully improve. I don't think manga will suddenly explode out of existance as it is currently filling a void, and I think bookstores will keep carrying them for now. Superhero stuff may have trouble in bookstores if it can't provide what that audience wants. Hopefully it won't take out too many other american comics in the process. The Oni Press books still seem to be doing well, and Vogelein just got picked up for Waldenbooks. I see this as survival of the fittest (not necessarily the best, but what people are looking for). If the U.S. companies want to compete in that market and remail relevent, they'll have to come up with different stuff.

For the comic shops and direct market in general, if they want to keep going, they'll either have to remain as a superhero-niche retailer and hope that particular section of fans will be enough to keep them going, or transform into a real comic store with a variety of kinds of comics and an atmosphere that doesn't turn off women and families. As a diversity of people come in and buy stuff, the selection can diversify even more, and naturally the dominance of the superhero will lessen, becoming just another category of the comics. This does mean that (due to space constraints), there won't be as big a variety of superhero stuff carried, and a danger of some of the less-selling stuff not being carried, but hopefully some of that will be compensated by some of these being bought more by other areas of the clientell.

So, in summary, I think bookstores should keep doing what they're doing. U.S. companies shouldn't be afraid to try tapping into that market and demographic of readers, and I think more comic shops should try to diversfy and find ways to bring those other readers into their shops. If all that can continue to happen, then I think nature will take its course and the public at large will dictate what they want. Even if all of that happens, we'll all still be complaining about good comics being overlooked for new flashy stuff, but at least the industry as a whole will be more varied and healthy and not a one-hit wonder...

Brian Wood hates kids... 

Well... maybe he doesn't ususally, but he's pretty frustrated about the emphasis by many on getting kids to read comics. (thanks to Neil).

Well, I have to say that I really disagree with this, and made my thoughts felt in response here. My main argument is that kids reading comics are a lot more likely to become adults reading comics, and adults in general are pretty hard to reach. Plus, the whole falacy that kids just don't want to read comics has a lot of evidence to the contrary these days. Comics for kids doesn't have to mean talking to down to them, but we need more stuff that is at least appropriate to the age group and availible to where they usually shop...

For the love of Kermit... 

You know, I never actually looked at Mark Evanier's blog before, but I am glad I decided to check it out today. He has a nice entry here on the Muppets. He recounts an experience with Henson and mentions that there is a DVD out now featuring all of the Muppets' appearances on the Ed Sullivan show. I have a couple of the Time Life DVDs of the Muppet Show itself, as well as Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Follow That Bird, but I could always use more. I also have a book taken out from the Library on Muppet stuff, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Losing Henson was truly a huge loss to the world...

Cooking and Space... 

I think I missed this when it first got posted, but Franklin Harris two nice reviews of Iron Wok Jan and Planetes.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Carl Horn predicts the present day comics scene.. 

So, I was flipping through Dreamland Japan from Frederik L. Schodt, and I came across this quote:

Ultimately, in the United States and other countries manga may have had their biggest effect on the publishing system itself. Just as artists have begun to emulate the Japanese style of art, publishers have tried imitating the Japanese system of doing business. Links to animation and movies are being strengthened, as are the rights of creators. Increasingly, thin American-style "comic books" are compiled into paperback book collections and sold through non-traditional channels such as trade book distributers, which gets them into regular bookstores. In an article in the April 1996 edition of Wizard magazine titled "American Manga," writer Carl Gustav Horn even speculated that the growing popularity of Japanese manga might create a renaissance in the otherwise ailing U.S. comics industry.

Wow, so its only taken, what, 6 years for everyone to catch on...

Another manga intimidation stack.. 

Well, you're probably already familar with John's manga stack of intimidation, but Alex at Keromaru has expanded on the concept.

Ultimate Spider-Man TPBs vs. manga digests. Marvel Essentials vs. manga digests, and Shonen Jump versus the Japanese anthology Shonen Ace.

Spidey doesn't stack up so well, but Essentials fairs very well. As for the Shonen anthologies, it is pretty striking. The Shonen Ace stacks up a bit over twice as high as Shonen Jump! Now, Ace's paper isn't as good as Jump's and of course Ace's readership is much larger in Japan, but is still a pretty powerful image. When you consider that readers get huge volumes like that weekly in Japan, it quickly becomes aparant why they put them out for recycling and buy small digests of favorite stories. ;)

Alex, sorry for taking so long to post about this. I figured someone else would see the thread and take up my slack of posting, but oh well.. ;) I hope more people can do comparisons like this. They aren't always entirely fair, but it is a nice way to present information in a visual way...

Comics that look interesting... 

First up is Ellium. The author posted about it on SPA's forum, and that got me intereted. It involves a powerful secret organization present in the world which while not evil (and having good intentions) may not be entirely good either. It looks to be an interesting combination of horror, sci-fi, and other genres.

First off, those covers are gorgeous! The insides are pretty interesting as well. Seems a little stiff at first glace, but seems like it could work well for the story, and seems to be taking advange of being printed in black and white. As far as format goes, a $10 GN ($8 on the site) and a floppy one-shot. It sounds like there are two more GNs on the way which will finish off the story.

I have to say that this seems pretty appealing to me. As a manga / oni press / GN kind of person, I find this really appealing. I'm not going to try to special-order this at a comic shop, but ordering a full GN direct from the creator is very cool. The addition of the one-shot means that people shy of spending a lot at once can try it out. But even if that didn't exist, I'd probably still considering giving it a shot. If I didn't like it, I could always sell it on ebay and probably get a couple of bucks back or donate it to a library or something. He said he's working on B&N and Diamond, so perhaps it'll get some wider distribution in the future as well... Personally, I think they have the right idea and I hope more self-publishers follow suit with this format.

Next up is Lost at Sea, reviewed today by iComics. This is another b&w GN, this time by Oni Press. A tale about the isolation of a young girl, this seems to be good timing with Ron's and my sentiments of foul mood earlier today. Anyway, the artwork looks nice and story sounds appealing. Seems to capture some of the same aspects I like about the more down to earth manga, while being distinctly western in style..

Lastly, I'm sure everyone already knows about this, but I have to mention Kindergoth. I may wait on it for now, but it seems like I need to pick it up one of these days... Little goth kids? What's not to like?

Well, to throw one other one in there, I may have to pick up something from Artesia at some point. I first saw a review for Artesia Afire at iComics, and it sounds like something I might enjoy. I've always been a big fantasy novel reader, and this sounds more like a traditional serious fantasy plot than most of the fantasy comics I've seen. The artwork also looks to be fairly unique, using a somewhat realistic painted look. It sounds like two TPBs are already out, so I'll have to see if I can track down a copy...

Spam spam spam spam... 

Well, there's been a lot of talk on the Screen Savers lately about spam. It seems like a lot of people are moving toward having digital signature certificates on e-mails (aparantly Yahoo was the first to implement this). If enough ISPs start to do this, then they may eventually stop accepting non-authenticated e-mails. On the surface, it seems like a good idea that could actually work. However, I'd really hate to lose the anonymity of the internet.

After doing a search, I came up with Brad Templeton's essays on spam. Brad has a ton of great information in there. Some history on spam, overviews of different ways of fighting it (along with pros and cons), classifications of what spam might be, and his own preferred idea of fighting it.

An interesting distinction he makes is between content and the way it is distributed. He makes the case that a single person decided to send you a commercial e-mail is not necessarily a bad thing. For instance, if you run a business, someone might e-mail you to ask if you're looking for new employees. It is unsolicited and business-related, but it is really directed right at you and isn't as big of a deal. On the other side is unsolicited bulk e-mails. These could be commercial or religious or political or a scam. He argues the problem is more about the fact that sending these out to a bazillion people at a time really causes problems and harms the internet experience. I think this is something that I generally agree with actually. If some guy with a local store visits my site, sees I'm into yo-yos and live locally and decides to e-mail me, I'll be less offended than someone who owns and online yo-yo site, harvests a thousand e-mail addresses off of a yo-yo message board and e-mails all of them.

Brad's thought on a technical solution is an interesting one. He proposes that there be whitelists for trusted users. These might be people who are authenticated or who are part of an ISP with a user agreement stating users can't send spam. These people wouldn't be restricted and could send normal e-mails or bulk mailings (presumed to be a mailing list). On the other hand, for people that aren't authenticated, e-mails would be brought to a different router which checks for bulk mailings (and perhaps other spam characteristics) and places restrictions it. E-mails get put in a holding area for a small time and if similar e-mails show up it is delayed even longer until getting outright rejected after reaching a certain size. Instead of making everyone have to be authenticated, this method only restricts bulk mailings to these people. It does seem kind of involved and I fear people may just go for a simple b&w approach, but hopefully enough people can support something like this for it to be practical.

With it estimated that now 58% of e-mail is spam, it seems like something has to be done. It is bad already... what happens when 95% of all e-mail is spam? Client-side bayesian filters are great, but that still doesn't help the massive load that networks and isps are being put under. It seems like something has to happen besides just a presently unenforcable national law. I just hope our rights and privacy won't be futher erroded in the process...

Manga invades the Shack... 

In perhaps another milestone, Tokyopop has managed to get a set of the first three Initial D manga into Radio Shack. This comes along after they got exclusive RC cars for the series into the Shack, so it is a smart marketing move.

For those that don't know, Initial D is a story involving illegal street racing. It follows a young man who learns to drive fast in order to deliver tofu for his father's shop at night (not as silly as it sounds), eventually getting sucked into the world of street racing, despite initially having no interest in it. Unfortunately, after the first volume (and subsequent printings of the first), it was decided to edit mature scenes out of the manga, despite still being labeled as part of the "100% Authentic" line, angering many fans. They also changed names of characters and changed music in the dub, along with downplaying the prostitution of one character even in the subtitles. I wish I could support this release, as it is a pretty fun show, but in their attempts to make this a big breakout hit for kids (despite the fact it is for older kids and promotes illegal activities) have really messed with the release for the people who want the real deal...

Blogging again? 

Ok, after that jumpstart, I guess I'll see if I can't get some stuff on here again. First, why the sudden lull? Well, frankly there's been a lot of stuff going on. I plan on building a computer from scratch, and have been doing quite a lot of research (being ignorant to most of the process). I plan to post more about that in a later entry. I've been doing various holiday stuff. I've been trying to work on one of my websites a bit (4 months since I last updated that). It has also been pretty busy at work, making me a bit more tired than usual.

So, those are the excuses. Between all that and reading various blogs and boards online, not a lot of time to actually write. Will it change any time soon? Well, I've been trying to keep track of interesting urls and discussions, and hopefully I can write a bit later today and probably more during the weekend (I tend to write more on weekends, as opposed to most bloggers..heh). So, try to bear with me here. Things will probably be more like usual by the time it gets to January...

On self-reflections... 

Ron, I know exactly how you feel. Well... not exactly, I've never even been to a comic convention before, but as a fellow person with low self-esteem and a generally messed up self-image, I can sympathise. I don't know, it is a weird thing to try to define. On some sort of logical level, I know that I must have talents and people seem to generally like me, but a lot of times it feels like it is far away. Like it isn't real and they must really be talking about someone else.

A lot of times I try to do stuff that I think might be helpful to people. Sometimes I'm not sure if it is because I'm really charitable, or that if people giving me thanks and compliments will convince me that I'm worth something after all...

I don't know, when it comes to stuff like this, try not to trust your own feelings entirely. It is easy to distort reality and mess with yourself. People are still reading your blog. Maybe you are more relevant, witty, or clever than you give yourself credit for...

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