So I’m headed to Comic-Con this year. Most of the time I’ll be at the UDON booth, 4529 (graphic to the right) but I’m taking a full day off this year (Friday) for more meetings, and to see people I feel like I’ve missed over the past few years.

I find that, nearly despite myself, I’m excited to go.

It’s kind of strange, the last few years Comic-Con has become ‘just another con’ in my schedule in a lot of ways, although obviously the largest and the biggest undertaking on my calendar. I mean, I’ve pretty much figured out how to “do” Comic-Con with a maximum of comfortability and accomplishment, and most of the obnoxious shit about the show (getting tickets, getting hotels, shipping, organizing) is all working out just fine now, almost on autopilot. The best part is still getting to see friends I don’t get to see very often, even though that’s often relegated to a quick drink, a late dinner, or a hug/high-five on the con floor. Bumping into people at parties. It’s nice, it’s okay, it doesn’t really stress me out that much anymore, but it’s not special.

But this year… I’ve had occasion to hear from a bunch of people for whom Comic-Con is not just special, but the most special, the pinaccle of their comics experience. Usually I find that kind of energy off-putting, because it comes with a lot of other baggage. Like the dude who was super angry that Comic-Con was coming up with ways (wristbands) for people not to need to camp out wearing diapers for 4 days to get into Hall H, because he was ‘hardcore’. Like I said: off-putting energy.

For whatever reason though, I’m kinda feeling it this year, getting a little excited, and enjoying the positive energy that people are putting out. People excited to exhibit for the first time, sign at their pub’s booth, (flatteringly) people that wanna meet me. Hell, people that are just excited to go. It’s nice.

So yeah, I’m totally looking forward to going to Comic-Con. I’ve been working about 80 hours a week for the past two weeks, I’m here at work typing on a Saturday trying to get ready, but yeah, I’m excited.

Hopefully I’ll see ya there!

- Chris

P.S.: I’m on the following two panels too, come say hi.

THE UDON PANEL 2014
Meet UDON’s artists and editors, including Joe Ng (Street Fighter Origins: Akuma), Long Vo (Street Fighter II HD Remix), and Chris Butcher (director of marketing, UDON) as they discuss this year’s big hits and preview their upcoming 2014/2015 books, including the new Manga Classics line. Panel attendees will be the first to hear about some amazing as yet unannounced titles featuring iconic properties from across the pop culture spectrum.
Saturday July 26, 2014 5:30pm – 6:30pm 
Room 26AB
THE BEST & WORST MANGA 2014
There’s a lot of manga available in English now, but what’s really worth reading? A panel of opinionated bloggers, retailers, manga mavens, and comics curmudgeons spotlight the best new manga that hit the shelves in the past year. Hear them rave about their favorite continuing series! Watch them rant about the excruciatingly mediocre manga that they were forced to read (so you won’t have to)! Find out which manga Brigid Alverson (CBR, Robot 6, MangaBlog, Good Comics for Kids), David Brothers (4th Letter), Christopher Butcher (Comics212.net), and Deb Aoki (MangaComicsManga.com, Publishers Weekly) have loved and loathed so far this year, hear about their picks for the most anticipated upcoming releases for fall and beyond, and discover their favorite underappreciated gems that are worth picking up.
Saturday July 26, 2014 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Room 23ABC

Hey guys,

I’ve had my head down working on TCAF and UDON (and, of course, The Beguiling) so I apologize for the near-total lack of updates. In case you’re wondering about me, here’s where you can find me over the next few months. Feel free to come say hi if you can.

April 24-27: Calgary, AB, Calgary Comic Expo @ UDON Booth #910

April 30: Toronto Reference Library, 7pm, “Bitstrips: Democratizing Comics” Panel (link)

May 3: The Beguiling, Free Comic Book Day with Ed Piskor & Tom Scioli! (link)

May 8-11: TCAF, The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (link)

May 22-26: Anime North, Toronto

June 26-July 1: Las Vegas, NV, American Library Assosciation Conference

July 3-6: Ottawa, ON, Wedding

July 21-28: San Diego, CA, Comic-Con International, UDON Booth

Busy, huh?

Hopefully I get to see all y’all. ;)

- Chris

 


I just wanted to write a brief note to let you all know that The Slate Annual Cartoonist Studio Prize has been announced, and the winners are Taiyo Matsumoto, for Sunny, and Emily Carroll, for Out of Skin. You can see all of the nominees, with links to their work, at The Slate Magazine website.

I was lucky to be one this year’s guest judge, alongside Slate Books Editor Dan Kois, and the faculty and students at the Center for Cartoon Studies. I just wanted to take a second to talk a little about these two authors’ works, and why I’m so happy that they’ve one.

Emily Carroll: What a wonderful year for Emily Carroll!! Like most I discovered her work with the outstanding His Face All Red, which used the medium of webcomics in an unique, wonderful, and truly beautiful way. This year Carroll had a fantastic run of releases online, but for my fellow judges and I, the creepy and haunting Out Of Skin was the strongest, and one of the strongest stories of her career. As a bit of a closet-formalist, I love the methodologies that Carroll uses to tell her stories as much as the stories themselves, and I’m very excited to see how these iconic stories translate to the printed page in her debut print later this summer. You can view her winning work, and a selection of her comics, at her website.

Taiyo Matsumoto: I think it’s pretty well-known, by this point, that I’ve been a fan of Taiyo Matsumoto’s work for nearly 20 years now, and I’m happy that with the semi-autobiographical Sunny that he’s finally getting some of much-deserved respect and recognition for his work. Moreover, I was thrilled to find that my enthusiasm for Sunny was eagerly returned by my fellow judges. With two volumes of Sunny released in 2013, and two more scheduled for 2014, 2015, and beyond, I’m thrilled to know that Matsumoto’s work will continue to be discovered by new audiences for years to come. You can find more info at U.S. Publisher Viz Media’s page, and Japanese publisher IKKI Magazine’s page.

In closing, I’d like to offer my thanks to my fellow judges Dan Kois,  and Nicole Georges and the students and faculty of The Center for Cartoon Studies, for this opportunity to shine a spotlight on some truly phenomenal comics work. It was a surprisingly difficult experience to choose the best of the best, but a truly worthwhile one.

Best,

- Christopher


Hey, the good folks at the “Guys With Pencils” podcast had me over to shoot the shit and it went on for like two and a half hours…? Anyway, it was fun, and I’m remarkably lucid throughout. If you wanna know more about, you know, me, or TCAF, or a little UDON and Beguiling, or event management, or whatever? You know? Anyway, mercifully they broke it into two parts.

Part 1: http://guyswithpencils.tumblr.com/post/76197814250/guys-with-pencils-ep-148-tcafs-chris-butcher

Part 2: http://guyswithpencils.tumblr.com/post/76932859543/guys-with-pencils-ep-149-tcafs-chris-butcher

I did listen to it, I think it’s a pretty clear version of my thoughts on TCAF, and I guess TCAF’s operating procedures. I hope you guys dig it.

I hope Jim “Throatpuncher” Zub doesn’t punch me in the throat.

- Chris


The Arcade Fire, Reflektor

I have a bad memory.

I feel like this is at least in part due to my heroic intake of aspartame via diet coke from my early childhood up until a few years ago, when I kicked it more-or-less entirely. I’m certainly hoping that someone draws a link between aspartame and memory loss, because I am DOWN for some of that sweet class-action money–my diet coke intake was so prodigious that it even got a shout-out in volume 4 of Scott Pilgrim.

But I digress.

I have a bad memory, and so when someone asks me how my summer was, or to reflect on my year, or “so what was the coolest thing about your trip to Japan?” I get a little scared because I can never pull that info up. I’m bad at it. I try to rehearse a few key things so I have something to do other than stare blankly. Japan trips in particular are tough, because I’m usually pretty depressed when I come back from Japan, and the trip itself has smushed together into a warm fuzzy comforting blur, and the disparity between those two states of mind, and my aformentioned poor memory, tend to obliterate details in their entirety.

So, we were talking about music at work, and cool music we liked this year (This was a month ago, when that discussion would’ve made sense, but I’ve also gotten shitty at blogging in a timely fashion so here we are, February!). I mentioned that I really liked the new Arcade Fire, Reflektor, and then I remembered how I came to own it, and it was one of the coolest things I did this year.

You see I was in Japan, and I was there for three weeks. Long trip! I knew I wanted to travel and get out of Tokyo, my last bunch of trips had been confined to Tokyo, and while I love the city, Japan has lots for me to discover, and those discoveries tend to come more quickly when I travel outside of the city. So I bought a JR Pass, a rail pass good for free travel on the national train lines anywhere in the country. And I decided that I would either go to Hiroshima, I’ve never been, or go back to Hokkaido (and Sapporo in particular) because I’d only been once and loved it there. I’d let fate decide, I had a bit of business I could do for UDON with the good folks at Crypton (stewards of international virtual idol sensation Hatsune Miku), headquartered in Sapporo. If they wanted to meet with me, I’d go to Sapporo. If they were unable, I’d go to Hiroshima.

I should note, at this point, I fully intend to go to Hiroshima, I just haven’t been able to commit to it, it’s huge in my head… I don’t know how else to describe it, it’s too big, and sad. Seriously. I went to the war museum adjacent to the highly-controversial Yasakuni Shrine, and I was bawling by the end of that. Meticulously catalogued death, I could not deal. So, yeah, I’m going to go, but I just need to psyche myself up for it. Next time.

As you may have guessed, I went up north to Hokkaido. I spent the night in Hakodate, a lovely little town with great history, food, and lots of onsen. Super cute trolleys running through the town too. It was a great stop, and now I want to go back there, too.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself a little here.

The main island of Japan, the island that Tokyo and Osaka and Kyoto are on, is called Honshu, And the island north of that is Hokkaido, and that’s the island that Sapporo is on, and they brew beer there. Actually, I have a lot more to say about Sapporo than that, including that I love it there and could totally live there for the three summer months that Tokyo basically becomes unliveable thanks to the 105 degree heat, digress digress digress.

To get from Tokyo to Sapporo, most Japanese just fly. It costs about $100, $150 to do so, round trip. It’s about an hour and a half. Like flying Toronto to New York. It’s like… 9 or 10 hours by train, I think. But, if you’re going to Osaka and Kyoto and wherever else in Japan, where you would have to pay for train tickets anyway, it becomes free to go up to Hokkaido… if you bought a train pass. Frankly, I can use some time to decompress, I’m a little busy usually, a 5 hour stretch on a train actually sounds lovely. Except, as I mentioned it’s a separate island. But, amazingly, the Japanese government built a railway and drilled a tunnel underground to connect the two islands, under the Tsugaru Strait, called the Sekai tunnel, and it goes underground and underwater for nearly 24km. It goes 240m below sea level, and 140m below the seabed. If you have fears of things related to those two ideas, it is intense. It connects Aomori, on Honshu, with Hakodate, on Hokkaido.

Also, it now becomes relevant to point out that for like 8 bucks a day you can get a sim card for your iphone with unlimited data, unlimited local calling, and a bunch of free international calling, for your trip to Japan. There’s nothing like decompressing on a train for 5 hours when you can just read infinite tweets.

So I’m in Aomori, and I get on a train named SUPER HAKUCHO, and via Twitter I read, and am reminded, that The Arcade Fire released their album the day prior.

So I go to iTunes, which works just fine, and I see it’s there.

And as my train is hurtling at high-speed towards a 24km tunnel under the sea in Japan, I purchase, and download the complete album on my phone. It completes in about 8 minutes.

I start listening to the album as we enter the tunnel. I’m 240m below sea-level on the other side of the world, listening to my favourite Canadian band on my phone.

I smile, because every aspect of that moment is something that I had wished for, longed for, really, since I was a child and first became enchanted by the promise of technology, and travel, and Japan as a gateway to these ideas.

I get that this is a stupid, small moment, and one that I’d seemingly forgotten until last month, but looking back at it, it’s just so… cool. The perfect encapsulation of the life I’ve wanted for so long, and now it’s here, and isn’t that great? 

Anyway, just thought I’d share. Hope you had some cool stuff happen to you this year as well.  :)

- Chris
P.S.: I really liked the album, obviously.

 


It was a very good year and a very tough year, all things considered. I am very fortunate though, that the highs of the year were spectacularly high, that I got to see as much of the world as I did, and that I have a good man to share it with.

Here’s a little of my 2013, and here’s to all of us having a good 2014.

- Chris

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November


December

See ya in 2014!


Style Webcomic #2 - © Bryan Lee O'Malley

Once upon a time I lived with Bryan Lee O’Malley and this other guy, and we used one of the rooms in the house for our office. It housed all of our computers. I was kind of poor, so I had a pair of hand-me-down speakers for my computer and no headphones, wheras Mal and Other Guy both had pretty bitch’n headphones. So it made sense to me that I could just play the music I wanted because they couldn’t hear it anyway. About the time Christmas rolled around and I started listening to Christmas music 24 hours a day, I was informed that my music could in fact be heard, and was in fact intolerable.

That did not deter me. So Bryan made me a comic strip.

I still consider it a tribute, rather than a threat.

- Christopher


Last year, The Slate Book Review and The Center for Cartoon Studies teamed to create The Cartoonist Studio Prize. It’s actually two, $1000 prizes awarded to cartoonists for their graphic novel or their web comic of the year. Eligible works are English language, published between January 1 and December 31 of the previous year.

They’re continuing the award this year! http://www.cartoonstudies.org/index.php/studio-prize/

I’m very happy to announce that I was asked to be the featured guest judge this year, and I’ll work with Dan Kois of Slate, and James Sturm and the faculty of the Center for Cartoon Studies, to determine a winner. I’m also very glad that it’s a largeish group deciding on the best book, as it will minimize the recrimination. :)

If you’re interested in submitting your work for consideration, head to http://www.cartoonstudies.org/index.php/studio-prize/ and check out the appropriate forms.

Thanks to Dan, James, and everyone for the opportunity. :)

- Christopher