Friday, April 30, 2004

Chris Butcher On Humanoids & Rebellion Press Moves

I must admit to not knowing a heck of a lot about either of these imprints that DC Comics just bought the rights to publish. Yet Chris's piece has some very interesting thoughts and comments on it, that made me think of the nature of the recent moves and what they mean.

Nice honor for comic writer

Long time comic scribe Ron Marz has been asked to be the keynote speaker for the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire's English Festival. He is not a alumni of the school, but was chosen to appear for this student run festival.

Great deal at Suncoast Video

If you have ever thought about trying manga, now is a good time to do so thanks to Suncoast video store. --which you'll find in just about every mall-- They are offering a free, with any manga purchase, book called Tokyopop Sneaks, containing coupons and 1 chapter previews of the Crescent Moon, The Demon Oronon, DNAngel, Eerie Queerie, Paradise Kiss, Courtney Love's Princess Ai, Sgt. Frog, and more series of books. This a wonderful way for readers new and old to sample the true diversity that manga has to offer.

I guess I don't hate superheroes

A comment I've been getting lately, because of my interest in manga and my own professed disinterest in a lot of today's strip mining the past style of storytelling. Is that obviously I don't like superheroes, which can't be further from the truth.

While it is true that my interest in the genre has dropped a bit as my interests in other genres has started being stroked by graphic novels and manga.

I think the biggest thing for me is that even though, comparatively speaking, I've been reading comics for a short span of time(just over 15 years) in comparison to most fans. I already am close to the point where everything seems redone, and thus there seems nothing new to me.

Luckily I have good friends who I trade stuff with, and today I receive a shipment of books that looks like they may respark my interest in the genre. In this box are nearly complete runs of DC's Infinity, Inc. and All Star Squadron series.

I've heard people talk about these series for years, and they are obviously very loved given the reliance that today's JSA series has on many of the characters and stories. Yet I wasn't reading comics at the time of their publishing, and until now had no access to them.

Looking on the covers I must admit some excitement, some of the characters are familiar ones, but for the most part they are totally new to me. When i look on these covers and see female versions, who were minorities to boot, of Wildcat and Doctor Midnite I must admit intrigue.

Especially with Wildcat being female, given the rather sexist portrayal of the character in the current JSA series.

I look at these series and wonder how will they hold up? It has been nearly two decades or more since many of the issues saw print. Will I as a new reader coming to them after all of this time be able to appreciate them? I'm curious to find out.

If you're curious as to how I react to them then stayed tuned to this blog over the coming weeks, as I plan to post whatever thoughts and questions I may have on them. I must admit that this is as excited as I've been about anything superhero related in a long time, which is a good if weird feeling.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Tokyopop CEO Stuart Levy Interviewed

I know what you're saying, "great another interview with the guy behind Tokyopop big whoop" yet this one is a little different as it is done for the Japanese news network Japan Today. Thus offering a slightly different slant than the usual questions asked in things like this, as they try to understand the reasons for success in a different culture.

There are a lot of insightful and thought provoking things in the interview, but the things that stood out to me most were:

What is behind the current manga boom?

It is a combination of factors. First of all, the art really resonates with this generation of young people, teenagers and children. They have grown up playing video games and Japanese games have been some of the most popular.

That's something I hadn't really thought of before but is true. A lot of today's current crop of manga fans have grown up playing their Ninentdos, Segas, etc, which featured Japanese styled characters and art.

So seeing them in book form is likely as appealing for them, as when I was a kid after seeing the Superman movies or playing with my G.I. Joe toys and finding those characters in book form.

He goes on to say:

The art style of manga is something that American kids are used to and attracted to, and we are putting a lot of time and energy into getting it out there into the hands of the potential audience. It is the sort of product that fans might not necessarily find on their own. We are a delivering mechanism.

Which given the news about Tokyopop doing ads for television, and the sheer magnitude of outlets that provide manga really is impressive.

Many American comic fans, creators, and heck even companies seem to rarely get this notion. They seem to be of the mind that if you just do good work, then the audience will find it. That often isn't the case though, as options for consumers attention is greater than it has ever been.

In order to sell something it must be easily available to the consumer, not locked away in some specialty store that requires a special trip to get. Never has the old saying "out of sight, out of mind" been more true then it is today.

Was there any market resistance at first?

When we were first raising money, we'd go around and talk to people and they'd say: "Why would Americans want Japanese entertainment? They have Hollywood." It was very hard for us to explain that manga are cooler than a lot of Hollywood entertainment, or at least it is a different field.

Interesting that the resistance seemed to focus on comparing it to Hollywood, and not the American comic market, though his answer the next question probably shows why that is.

How do you compare manga with American animation and comics?

More and more, the line is blurring. Recently, American creators have become influenced by manga and Japanese anime. Up until a couple of years ago, the main difference had been the esthetic. Clearly, Japanese manga is black and white, so the way that an artist expresses him or herself is very different from how U.S. artists express themselves in color. The lines in the U.S. are bolder and more consistent, more in your face animation. In Japan, the lines are much more subtle and elegant.

Another difference is that the traditional American comic is based on the superhero. In Japan, with manga, there are all sorts of genres and topics. There's romance, fantasy, history, politics, sports, etc.

Which nails it in one, because a huge draw to manga is its diversity. Instead of relying on one genre for its bread and butter, manga offers something for everyone. This willingness to try everything, and not being afraid to fail, is something I wish the big two American comic companies would try more of in a concentrated effort.

Anyway, these are just a few of the highlights of the interview, I highly recommend everyone to give it a look. Especially if you have ever been curious about the people behind today's biggest comics success story.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Viz get new US Distributor

Newsarama has the news of manga publisher Viz, LLC going with Simon & Shuster Inc. as their new US distibutor. Viz has been one of the leading publishers of manga titles here in the US, but seemed to be perceived as secondary to the more well publicized Tokyopop line of titles.

With this move Viz's exposure should increase greatly, and allow them to compete just as well in the ever growing manga market. Which should be great, as with titles like Hot Gimmick and Maison Ikkoku, they are producing books as good, if not better, than any other publisher on the market right now.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

What about Wonder Woman?

Something I just noticed about the article I link to below, about Dan Didio :

Didio went on to say that in his eyes, Green Lantern should become the #3 franchise from DC, behind Superman and Batman.

Uhm, what about Wonder Woman? Is this just poor phrasing on his part, or was he intentionally dismissing the importance of the one big name female lead character in comics?

Green Lantern Comes Full Circle

Hal Jordan to Return as Green Lantern

Confirming what has probably been the worst kept secret of the past year, Newsarama talks about an article in tomorrow's Wizard featuring Hal Jordan's return to the role of Green Lantern.

10 years ago DC took the Green Lantern franchise in a drastic new direction, having long time hero Hal Jordan go insane and destroy the GL Corps and almost all of the elements of his era of Green Lantern. Then giving the ring to a young man named Kyle Rayner, who had none of the prerequisite qualities of complete honesty or fearlessness that past GLs needed to get the job.

Instead of a stories about galactic threats or military styled political intrigue between the various races in the GL Corps, with a sure and already accomplished hero. The stories were more down to Earth explorations of what it meant to be a hero, as the reader followed Kyle's journey to becoming a man.

Needless to say, many fans of Hal were outraged and wanted things fixed right away. Yet opposed to this were new fans for who Kyle's stories sensibilities were a refreshing take on the series that had never held much interest to them before.(which I fit into)

Given the success the change was having sales wise at the time, DC stuck to the change, which furthered Hal fans outrage. Making them believe that DC wasn't listening to them, and for some that DC was personally out to get them.

Causing some to come together to form the group known as H.E.A.T.-- Which originally stood for Hal's Emerald Attack Team, but as the group solidified they eventually changed the Attack to Advancement in order to have a more positive image.--- whose main goal was the restoration of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps to current DC continuity.

To further their goal they took out an ad in Wizard, threw support behind an online petition, and finally became a presence on various GL related forums to have their views aired. There they came in conflict with fans who didn't agree with their stances, and the heated debates are still going on to this day.

Over the past few years, DC had seemed to be easing off from the direction they had taken with the title and character ten years ago. With "flashback" miniseries like the Waid penned JLA:Year One and Flash & Green Lantern The Brave and the Bold. To even bringing Hal Jordan back as the Spectre.

The GL series itself has showed changed over the decade as well. While at first the stories seemed to focus on showing how Kyle was different and outside of the normal role of past GLs. Over the years the title has seemed to embrace its past more and more, with the return of old elements like Oa, the Guardians and other former GLs.

Now everything is coming to a head, with Ron Marz returning to do one final storyarc with the character he made popular 10 years ago. Meanwhile Geoff Johns prepares to bring Hal back in a miniseries known only as Rebirth, that is sure to lead to even more debate and hype for the franchise for the next 10 years.

How will it all shake out? Is there a way to make both Hal and Kyle fans happy? I guess only time will tell.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Today's Links of Interest

Valentino sets record straight.

Newsarama sat down for an interview with Jim Valentino where he talked about his removal as EIC of Image Comics, and what he felt he did for the company during his tenure. One thing in particular struck out at me:

NRAMA: Looking back at your time in the Image publisher seat, how did you find the place and how did you leave it? What are your proudest accomplishments and what didn't meet your mark?

JV: If we remember, when I arrived Image was awash in titillation books, cross-branding- something I was directed by the entire Board to put an end to, and less than professional looking books - purely subjective, I admit.

Which is something I too have memories of. At one point Image was known for nothing other than softcore porn books, lateness and gimmicks. Under Jim the company really diversified, becoming a company that became far less easier to categorize, and truly living up to the claim of having something for everyone.

Which worked to mature the company as a whole, but probably hurt as the Image brand itself became less descriptive.

I was also sad to read that he in the beginning stages of osteoarthritis, which prevents him from doing any regular creative work. While not as dynamic as some of his other partners, Jim had a good eye for panel layouts and figurework, that I really admired at times.

Whedon X-Men Preview

Newsarama has a wordless, black & white preview of Joss(Buffy:TVS) Whedon and John Cassidy's Astonishing X-Men series. The pages look great, though I wonder at times why all of Cassidy's character always look pissed off.

Johanna's Chick Check

Johanna Draper Carlson does a Chick Check, listing the number of women working on and women characters in the books, of last week DC and Marvel series. Her finding on the creative front especialy are startling,

For DC:
... these titles have at least 7 creators listed each, that means 10 titles * 7 slots = 70 possibilities, of which 9 are women, or about an eighth. Two of those slots are occupied by Lysa Hawkins, who's rumored to have been let go.

For Marvel:
... these titles have at least 6 creators listed each, not counting Editor-in-Chief or Publisher, that means 11 titles * 6 slots = 66 possibilities, of which 11 are women, or one-sixth.

Would any other industry have this little representation, or even allow such? It just seems to me, that women are still not really valued at the big two, and that is why neither has a large female fan base.

If the two ever wake up and see the large numbers places like Viz and Tokyopop get, who do have a much more diverse workforce, thus a much more diverse line of books. Perhaps something will be done. Until then, while I know things may have gotten better than it was in the past, the big two still give off the "boys club" feel. Which will keep them from reaching the huge audience that could be theirs, if they just tried to reach out for it.

CrossGen's Creator Owned Line Was A Sucker's Bet

Over on Ron Marz's forum at Broken Frontier, was a topic asking why CrossGen's Code 6 creator owned line didn't bring in already established CO work.

Ron had an interesting answer:

without giving away too many confidences, I can tell you that some avenues you mention were explored. I can tell you this -- I'm a HUGE Nexus fan; one of my favorite series ever. I was a pretty big Sable fan, too, as well as stuff like Dreadstar and American Flagg, both of which are now surfacing at Dynamic Forces.

Unfortunately, none of them worked out, often because of ownership rights. The typical Code 6 deal was 75% ownership to CG, 25% to the creator. Whether that's a great deal is another discussion ... but the point is, no one with an existing propety was going to come in and give up 75% of something they already own. And unfortunately, CG management was fairly intractable in such cases.

Also to be considered is the kind of sales numbers -- or lack of them -- that CG was pulling. Those low numbers translated into whatever CG published, whether it was was sigilverse title or not. Projections on most Code 6 titles were money losers.

I had high hopes as well, and was disappointed in the outcome. I wish a wider range of tastes was considered when material was chosen. But not everything is a democracy.

CrossGen wanted 75% ownership? Were they freaking nuts? Well okay, maybe other behavior by them already proves that to be the case. Yet the sheer stupidity I see from the company never ceases to amaze me at times, or the way they seem to try their best to screw folks over.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Cool Stuff From Tokyopop

I was just looking at Tokyopop's website today and noticed a lot of very cool upcoming items from the publisher that I wanted to talk about.

Comic Party
Sekihiko Inui
Street Date: 06.08.04

A promising sounding series about a young man whose friend drags him to a manga/comic convention, where he develops an interest in becoming a manga artist. The series promises to explore the life of a want to be creator, while also seeming to have some romantic entanglements. Given that his girlfriend seems less than supportive of his choice of vocations.

Crazy Love Story
Lee Vin
Street Date: 10.05.04

Isn't that just the coolest looking cover? The series description is of a young woman named Hae Jung Shi, who thinks the world is out to get her, so feels she can act or be however she may. She has a boyfriend who she has a volatile relationship with, and a friend who has a real mean streak.

When a young musician takes an interest in her, and decides to try and force his way into her life. Hae Jung and her friend, decide to make his life a living hell.

This just sounds like a concept that could be a lot of fun. I've always been interested in characters who didn't take the normal goody, goody role, yes I like Veronica over Betty, which this seems to promise to put on display.

Passion Fruit:Sweat & Honey
Street Date HC: 7.6.04
Street Date SC: 9.14.04

Another gorgeous cover here. This is an anthology series promising to explore the innermost desires and secrets of the human condition. It is nice to see that Tokyopop has such diversity, so that they can have more fantasy oriented stuff like Chobits and the like. Yet have very personal, down to Earth type stories such as this.

As far as I know, releasing a hardcover version of one of their series before releasing the cheaper soft cover one later, is a new thing for Tokyopop. It is nice to see them willing to take chances and give new things a try, and a HC might make for a nicer piece to have.

The One I Love
Street Date: 10.12.04

I've only recently discovered the CLAMP family of books, but think it great to see an all female group of creators coming together to work. This book promises 12 individual stories and essays, dealing with the creators own experiences in love, insecurity, honesty, independence and more.

This should be a fascinating look into the lives and cultures of the creators, that I can hardly wait to try.

Tokyopop to do TV ads

As reported by Shawn Fumo, Tokyopop is scheduled to run tv ads of some of their manga titles on the Cartoon Network, MTV, Spike TV, G4, and Tech TV television stations.

Comic fans and retailers have been asking for companies to do this for years, yet so far only Tokyopop has had the will and funding to do so. While the only title scheduled to be advertized of interest to me is Princess AI ---- Tokyopop describes as a mind-bending trip co-created by alt-rock goddess Courtney Love and featuring some of the most cutting-edge manga art in Japan, including character designs by famed manga-ka Yazawa Ai. ---

I will be curious to see how the ads will help the sales of comics in general, as well as the specific volumes specifically.

DVD History, Mirrors Comic TPB History?

From TV Shows on DVD.

Recently Fox announced that the X-Files DVD sets will be marked down to $99. I found the history of the sets interesting:

May 11th is the street date for the final season of The X-Files, which was the first series to ever come out on DVD in season-length gift sets. Season 1 arrived back in May 2000, and ever since then, in six-month intervals, Fox has faithfully released a new season set. X-fans have been able to count on May and November as the months to get excited about for releases during the past four years.

Being a pioneer in the season set business, Fox didn't know what to charge at first for such an enormous 7-DVD set. A lot of factors must have been kicked around, including show costs, manufacturing costs for such a set (certainly higher at the time that this first was put together), any piece of the home video pie that cast may have had written into their contracts, distribution costs, marketing costs, etc. In the end, Fox worked up an SRP of $149.98 (US$)/$179.98 (CAN$) for these releases. And fans have happily purchased at these prices, putting the home video industry on the road to TV-on-DVD season sets as one of the biggest types of sellers in the market.

As the series wound down on DVD toward it's last few seasons, fans started voicing the opinion that the once-acceptable suggested retail price was now feeling a bit high. After all, fans said, the series wasn't quite as enjoyable at the end, especially with the coming-and-going of popular star David Duchovny. Moreover, as the TV-on-DVD category exploded, list prices on season sets scaled drastically downward, with SRPs in the $60-$80 range being quite common and under-$50 SRPs for season sets being findable on a regular basis.

Could this be an analogous situation to comics and trade paperbacks today? Mainly DC and in part Marvel were among the first to start collecting their stories in collected form. I wonder if they too didn't know what price to set or if there was a market for it?

Then as the numbers started to show that there was a market that desired this format, other companies started jumping into the field each offering different price points and opportunities.

Things seem to be settling in now, with certain formats or amount of content being priced at certain points. Could we soon be finding our median prices? Will we soon see price corrections that will mirror the above one with the X-Files sets?

We are also already starting to see a price reduction in some DC archives, Batman volume 1 was recently offered at $20, and Marvel has released some of their Masterworks in a cheaper format. Are these just flukes? Or could it be that we are starting to see the ever growing TPB market find its boundaries?

Saturday, April 24, 2004

DC Video Interviews

Perhaps I'm out of the loop, yet I just noticed that the DC Comics website now features video interviews with comic creators. This is a great way for readers who are unable to make it to cons to learn more about their favorite creators.

So far on the site are interviews with:

Dial up users be warned though, the downloads are over 1 MB and require Quicktime to view. Still a very nifty idea.

Variant Covers

Newsarama reports on a schism in Marvel's upper management about the use of variant covers. I find it difficult to beleive, that if there really was a disagreement such as this, that Marvel would go public with it.

This is just another way for Marvel to play to the crowd, under the days of Jemas it was in attempt to piss fans off and cause controversy. Because their feelings were that as long as people are talking about them and their series, then they'll have them in their minds when they go to the shop.

Now it is an attempt to play hero, with Joe Quesada casting himself as the guy against the gimmick of variant covers, fighting against management. Which from the replies to the article praising him seem to be working, yet watch as the variant covers keep on coming.


Johanna at Cognitive Dissonance tells about her night out eating with friends, where she tells them about a dream she had. The dream features her going back in time to meet her younger self fresh out of college. Where she wondered what she should tell herself to avoid or do now that she's got the 20/20 hindsight that time brings.

She says the dream freaked her friends out, which I can understand as people often fear things from their past, preferring to look forward. Johanna really has a deep understanding of herself though, and all I could think was how great an idea for a comic this would make.

Yes, I am a geek.

Why it matters

John Jakala at Grotesque Anatomy says this

It's really for the best if you ignore the people who didn't like Dogville, which is easily one of the best movies I've ever seen.

I do, however, wish I knew how people can watch a movie in which disturbing behavior occurs and, because they find the film hits too close to home on some level, deduce that that reprehensible behavior is being endorsed--particularly in an oeuvre like von Trier's, in which characters who treat women horribly are inevitably punished for that treatment.

For me personally, it is because I have no interest in seeing others suffer. In the case of this movie, which features a town chaining a woman up to be gang raped every night. I can't see any reason to want to watch it, because I highly doubt that anything worthwhile can be won through such horrible deeds.

Yes I'm sure in the end the movie everyone that was bad gets it. Yet the world of movies is filled will happy endings, and no one ever really remembers them. It is the sequences inbetween the beginning and end that stays in peoples minds.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Libraries rule!

On my lunch break today, I picked up some GNs at the library across from where I work.Given that I live in a fairly rural part of southeast Texas, I am amazed at how they continue to grow their Graphic Novel section each new time I venture in. I was pleased to see things like Hot Gimmick, Amelia Rules! and other books commonly found on the recommendations page of the Comics Worth Reading website on this trip in.

This week I picked up:

Further Grickle - I was shocked to see this quirky humor strip collection from a small company like Alternative comics there. and while the first volume didn't knock my socks off I saw enough to look forward to reading this.

SUNN - Mainly for curiosity's sake, because it is a superheroish manga style book from a company I don't know much about in ibooks publishing. Still it doesn't cost me anything to try, and the theme of the son of a superhero trying to take on his dad's role is a classic one.

Batman: Dark Knight Strikes Back - Yeah I know common opinion is this sucked, yet I hadn't read any of it before. I thought it would be something neat to sample in this way, especially given that the original story was part of what got me into Batman comics in the first place.
Also featured on this blog will be commentaries on things like this:

24 Hours Comic Day

From Johanna's Cognitive Dissonance is a report on the 24 Hour Comic Day event that is going on this Saturday. The event involves comic shops around the country hosting creators who will be attempting to do a full comic book in one day.

Johanna points towards coverage of the event at her shop, by a local newspaper.

With events like a concert by a local band, shop promotions and a gaming tournament. I wonder how the creators will be able to keep their concentration on their hard task?
Welcome to my blog, as the description says I expect to use this to post occasional reviews like these:

Quick Manga Capsules

I've had a lot of free time over the past couple of months, and have been reading a number of manga titles that I wanted to share some quick thoughts on.

Kare Kano Volumes. 1-6 - A high energy teen romance series, involving two popular, but nice, kids who find in each other the things they didn't know they were looking for. The book's characters are sweet and have a real innocence to them, which made the turn of events in Vol. 6 surprising. Yet not unpleasantly so.

The artist could still use a little work on faces though, because at times --especially given the fact that many of the characters are related-- it can be hard to determine who the characters are if there are more than three on panel.

Snow Drop #1-2 - This series about rich kids, at a high school trying to be cool and find love at the same time is interesting in places. Unlike in Kare Kano, the characters in this series are far from innocent. Some have even seen far more than they should have at the age they are represented as being. Which adds a level of sophistication to the stories.

The bad part is that I learned more about what might be wrong with some of them, by reading the character bios and back cover blurbs, rather than the stories themselves. The story's slow progression strained my patience at times, since I'm unsure of the reason for it given that any surprise is spoiled by the other material.

The art is gorgeous and fully detailed, with diverse figures and outfits that give each character an identified personality before they speak a word.

Though there seems to be a certain coldness about it as well. Which I put down to there not enough attention is given to expressing emotion in the faces. Which left me with a sense of detachment at times.

Kindachi Case Files: The Opera House Murders Imagine Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys if written by a Japanese Ellery Queen with the sensibilities of today. That's how I would describe this wonderful mystery series following the grandson of a famous detective trying to solve mysterious murders while on a school trip.

The characters all have a certain charm to them, that makes you instantly like and care for them. Which makes the eventual deaths of some of them horrifying and meaningful to the reader, as well as the sense of danger and wondering "Who done it?" as the murders continue.