Category Archives: Anime

ARTISTS HELP JAPAN: TORONTO FUNDRAISER APRIL 17

Hey everyone, this is an event I’m helping to organize here in Toronto on April 17th. I would love it if you could attend, and help us spread the word!

Artists Help Japan: Toronto
Toronto’s Illustration Community Fundraiser for Quake and Tsunami Relief
At REVIVAL, 783 College Street, Toronto
…Sunday April 17th, 12 Noon to 12 Midnight
Free To Attend – All Ages

http://artistshelpjapan.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=208247572520178

FEATURING LIVE ART BY:
Kei Acedera [Alice In Wonderland]  –  Kalman Andrasofszky [X-23]  –  Jason Bradshaw [Boredom Pays]  –  Bobby Chiu [Alice In Wonderland]  –  Svetlana Chmakova [Nightschool, Dramacon]  –  Julie Faulkner [Promises Press]  –  Ray Fawkes [Possessions]  –  Agnes Garbowska [Girl Comics, Marvel Comics]  –  Scott Hepburn [Star Wars]  –  Stuart Immonen [Fear Itself]  –  Dale Keown [Pitt]  –  Eric Kim [Oni Press]  –  Ken Lashley [Black Panther]  –  Alvin Lee [Street Fighter, Marvel Vs. Capcom]  –  Jeff Lemire [Sweet Tooth]  –  Francis Manapul [The Flash]  –  Kagan Mcleod [Infinite Kung-Fu]  –  Alex Milne [Transformers]  –  Joe Ng [Street Fighter]  –  Ramon Perez [Captain America]  –  Marcio Takara [The Incredibles]  –  Marcus To [Red Robin]  –  Eric Vedder [Darkstalkers]  –  Chip Zdarsky [Prison Funnies] – Jim Zub [Skullkickers]  +  More To Be Announced!DJ SETS + MUSIC PROVIDED BY:
RIVIERA [PERFECTO,MYTH, KINETIKA NYC], LAZY RAY [NIGHTTRACKIN’], GERRENCE [NIGHTTRAKKIN’], ALVARO G [KINGS OF LATE NIGHT], ROLAND GONZALES [STUDIO+], CARLOVEGA [STUDIO+], JASON ULRICH [LAB.OUR UNION],SHINGO [HOT SAUCE], UNCLE MATTY & DUTTY MAUS [THE BEACS]

TORONTO—Toronto’s Illustration and Artistic Community comes together on April 17th in a 12 hour art-event at Revival. The unique event will raise money to aid relief efforts in Japan following the devastating recent earthquake and tsunami there. Spearheaded by a consortium of Toronto illustration studios, the Artists Help Japan: Toronto event is the local iteration of a charity movement begun by Pixar Art Director Dice Tsutsumi. The Toronto edition will feature live art shows, a silent auction, and dozens of artists and illustrators selling commissioned drawings, with all proceeds benefiting the Canadian Red Cross.

“As artists we are tremendously inspired by Japan and Japanese culture,” says Bobby Chiu, the illustrator, teacher and founder of Toronto’s Imaginism studios behind the Artists Help Japan: Toronto event. “We were all personally affected by the quake, tsunami, and resulting damage. It is important to give back for all that Japan has given us, and we can think of no better way to do so than with our art.”

Artists Help Japan: Toronto will feature more than 24 artists and illustrators from the Greater Toronto Area creating original drawings for 12 hours! This is an unprecedented opportunity for the general public to commission an original drawing from a professional artist and watch its creation in process; the artist’s fee will be donated entirely to the Canadian Red Cross.

In addition:
– Dozens more cartoonists will donate original art, books, and other rare items to be featured in a silent-auction on-site at Revival Bar.
– Live art demonstrations from Toronto Illustrators on stage, with the final pieces to be auctioned off live at the event
– $1 from the sale of every drink at Revival Bar will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross.

Admission to the ARTISTS HELP JAPAN: TORONTO event is free, and all ages are welcome. The event will run from 12 Noon to 12 Midnight.

ABOUT:

Artists Help Japan is a charity movement initiated by Dice Tsutsumi, an art director at Pixar Animation Studios, who was also behind 2008 Totoro Forest Project to help preserve Sayama Forest in Japan and Sketchtravel Project, to gather the force of communities of artists and creative minds around the world. We believe artists have special roles to contribute to the society. http://artistshelpjapan.blogspot.com/

Artists Help Japan: Toronto is spearheaded by Imaginism Studios President and illustrator Bobby Chiu, who was contacted by Dice Tsutsumi to run the Toronto event. Working with Illustrator Alvin Lee, Udon Entertainment CEO Erik Ko, writer/artist Jim Zubkavich, and Christopher Butcher of Toronto comic book store The Beguiling and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the team hopes to bring together Toronto’s diverse and exciting artistic community to engage the public in an unprecedented fundraising endeavour.

All proceeds from Artists Help Japan: Toronto will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross, specifically earmarked to aid in Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief.http://www.redcross.ca/

SPONSORS:

Revival Bar has been entertaining guests, visitors and fans as a premium event space since 2002. Revival has generously donated the use of their main space for the Artists Help Japan: Toronto event, and will be donating $1 from the cost of every drink to the fundraising efforts.http://www.revivalbar.com/


Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema – Nov 18-21

I’m pretty stoked about the line-up for this year’s Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema, going down in Waterloo, Ontario November 18th-21st. Previously they’d had Canadian premieres of anime films like Evangelion 1.0, though sadly I haven’t had a chance to attend the Festival yet. Their line-up continues to impress though, and for 2010 they’re doing screenings of the much-anticipated REDLINE (image above) and SUMMER WARS (image below).

I’m seriously hoping I get a chance to head down to Waterloo next weekend… For more information and to pick up tickets, you can visit http://www.wfac.ca/.

– Christopher

Satoshi Kon: 1963-2010

Update: An English translation of Satoshi Kon’s final words–a note he wrote to the public in his final days whilst dying of cancer–has been posted. It is heart-breaking, and honestly beautiful. Go read it: http://makikoitoh.com/journal/satoshi-kons-last-words

Amazing Director. Of the films he’s contributed to, I’ve seen and enjoyed Roujin-Z, Millennium Actress, Memories (The “Magnetic Rose” short), and Paprika. I own most everything else but haven’t gotten around to watching it just yet… no time like the present eh? He’s also a very strong manga creator, it’s a real shame none of his work has been released in English as of yet. Sad day.

Had the sad news first: http://twitter.com/AkiYanagi

http://board.otakon.com/index.php?showtopic=20122

http://www.uk-anime.net/newsitem/Director_Satoshi_Kon_passes_away.html

http://www.japanator.com/paprika-director-satoshi-kon-dies-at-age-47-16279.phtml

– Christopher

A quick little follow-up on Comic-Con…

So, here’s Wizardworld Chicago The Chicago Comic-Con’s promotion for this year’s show, taking the top spot every day this week in comics/nerdculture news-site ICv2’s daily newsletter:

CHICAGO COMIC-CON 2009!
600+ Guests including Twilight Saga Actors, former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei “THE PITBULL” Arlovski, scores of Star Wars guests, wrestling legends and some of the HOTTEST actresses including Michelle Rodriguez, Emma Caulfield, Orli Shoshan and Rhona Mitra.  Get a premier weekend pass or VIP Package and get into the show 1 hour early each day.  Advance tickets start at $25, more at the door.  Get your tickets now at [redacted].
A Paid Advertisement from Wizard Entertainment

Did… did you notice the lack of comics? At the Comic-Con? I mean it’s Wizard, I think enough has been said about Wizard’s relationship to comics to put them into the ground by now (and yet…), but still. They went through all that trouble to rename the convention and everything add “Comic-Con” back in, and their promotion seems to be downplaying, or ignoring completely, comic books. In favour of “hottest”ness. It’s a little strange?

Or maybe not, if you look at San Diego.

One of my biggest criticisms of The New York Comic-Con is that, in its early years, it showed enormous potential to be the sort of comics & publishing-oriented show that this industry needs and deserves. It’s not like it hasn’t been more-or-less sold out every year, particularly the early years that were all about New York Publishing (including and especially comics!). Yet every year the show becomes more and more about movies, toys, and tie-ins. They’re pushing the show closer and closer to the San Diego model and it makes for a weaker show each year. What is the San Diego model btw? Simple: A gateway to nerds. Comic Con International: San Diego is selling floor-space (and advertising space and mind-space) sure, but what they’re really selling is access to mouthy nerds with blogs, tastemakers, half-comprised of the people that make up their audiences and the people that will incite the rest of the country to be their audiences. Comic-Con is all about access, and who’s willing to pay the most for it.

Let’s get this out of the way: I love comics. I think comics are awesome. And I think comics as an industry and a medium needs big events like NYCC and SDCC and hundreds of other regional comics shows: they act as ambassadors for the medium. And so the question for the organizers of these events should be “does any of what we’re doing serve comics as a medium? or an industry? or is it just about the value of the access to mouthy nerds with blogs?”

Now I’m not an idiot, I know the preceeding sentence is naive as fuck. Seriously, Microsoft shows up with a suitcase of cash and they should ask them “but how does what you’re doing serve comics?” Of course not. But there’s that idealism of mine: why not? Something like SDCC but just for the entertainment industry? It doesn’t exist. The movie studios, the video game producers, the TV Shows and toys and Bud Bundy and all that, they’re coming to the comic book show. SDCC has got all the power, because nothing else like that event exists anywhere (Gareb Shamus tried and clearly failed; Reed is travelling the same road Shamus took). Imagine if SDCC really did take the ideological position of “how does what you do help comics?” with their exhibitors, and charged them accordingly? What if they used ideology as the wedge to expand the show into the parks, into the stadium, into the giant parking lot that’s as big as half the convention centre? Here I Drew A Map. Imagine the best possible things happened! Wouldn’t that be great? Why not work towards the best?

Pipe dream, sure. But I like having comics at a comic-con, and if it’s a zero-sum game with attendence: 150,000 people each year, and more and more of the people attending have little-to-no interest in anything other than their specific blinkered fandom (which tends to exclude comics), that means less money for the folks doing and selling and bringing comics to the show. Which tends to mean less comics at the show.

As an aside, the 10,000 TWILIGHT fans at the con really were a problem for the show, but a lot of the reasons that got floated came from a sexist, xenophobic, bullshit fanboy place. I actually feel bad even writing this, but truly, legitimately, 6,000 people at the show JUST for Twilight means 6,000 people that weren’t spending money at the show means 6,000 people that might’ve wanted to go that had an interest in dropping a few bucks at the various vendors? Shut out. Twilight is just the biggest, most concentrated fandom in years–maybe ever, so it puts the problem of Hollywood “stuff” into the clearest relief against the traditional convention crowd. I don’t begrudge anyone taking a road-trip and having a great time for the weekend; I hope the fans had fun. But with a very tight, closed economy at the show (due to space limitations) and little-to-no crossover with the rest of the event, what did having those fans and that event bring to the show? To comics? Why was Comic-Con the best place for that event to happen? And if it wasn’t the best place, and space is at a premium at Comic-Con, then why was it held there?

Two last things:

1. Anime Cons. The big buzz in anime conventions right now is that prices have gone up, and the recessionary economy means that attendees have less pocket-money. Anime Expo, typically one of biggest shows of the year, was reportedly a very poor sales show for most-if-not-all exhibitors. No one had any money. They did have costumes, they did come to hang out with their friends, and they did spend a not-inconsiderable ammount of money on a 3-day pass. They just didn’t have any left-over, afterwards. This wasn’t isolated either, not trying to pick an AX, this is the buzz from most anime shows I’ve been hearing. When a show becomes primarily a place to participate in fandom, a closed circuit, it tends to decline… rapidly. Sci-Fi cons are the biggest examples of this. If your convention is a place to break-out your Klingon costume, hang out in a hotel for three days and go to room-parties, then your convention is not long for this world. Or rather, it’ll be around forever, it’ll just shrink and be sad. No one wants that. Imagine 20 years from now, 40 year old dudes breaking out their Naruto costumes and drinking schnapps out of a bottle in their Holiday Inn 2 dbl bds room with 10 other similarly dressed people. That’s the difference between a vibrant, thriving medium, industry, and fandom, and one that has started to eat itself.

2. PAX: The Penny-Arcade Expo. From nothing to the second-biggest nerd-culture convention (for the public) in just under 5 years. Anyone who follows convention planning/news/whatever is in awe of what they’ve accomplished, and they’ve done it in a smart, controlled way–with an iron fist. First rule of exhibting at PAX? PAX IS A VIDEOGAME SHOW. If what you “do” isn’t directly about video games? You can’t exhibit. Period. 5 years, second-biggest nerd-culture event in North America, accomplished by sticking to their guns. Cooooooool.

Alright. That’s 1200 words of nonsense. Time to go.

Christopher

Waterloo Animated Film Festival This Weekend!

eva565.jpg

This weekend in Waterloo (about an hour outside of Toronto) is the Waterloo Animated Film Festival. It’s an amazing event! I’m going to be missing the screenings because I’m the best man at the wedding of two of my most wonderful friends… But if you aren’t going to be there, check it out online at http://www.wfac.ca/.
The two headline events for me are a North American premiere showing of the new Evangelion film, Evangelion 1.0: You Are Not Alone, and a special Canadian stop for a travelling presentation of the Ghibli masterpiece GRAVE OF THE FIREFILES which sounds amazing:

fireflies.jpg

“Anime Masterpieces, a new screening series highlighting the best in Japanese animated feature films, will be presenting Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies on Friday, November 14. The winner of several international film awards, Grave of the Fireflies chronicles the experiences of two children as they valiantly struggle to survive amidst the ravaged landscape of Japan during World War II. It is considered by many critics as one of the most moving anti-war films ever made.

“The film, which critic Roger Ebert calls “an emotional experience so powerful it forces a rethinking of animation,” will be followed by a panel discussion with leading scholars and authors on the subject of Japanese animation. The panel will feature Frederik L. Schodt (author of Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics), Brian Ruh (Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii) and John O’Donnell (founder, Central Park Media).

“The presentation at the Waterloo Festival will be the first and only Canadian stop for this programme to date, before it goes to the Smithsonian and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

“The Festival is presenting the programme free to the public. Advance tickets can be reserved through the Festival’s online box office, or via phone at +1 (800) 838-3006.”

Frederik L Schodt!

There are tons of amazing, amazing animated films screening this weekend. Piano no Mori! Genius Party! Sita Sings The Blues! Awesome, awesome stuff. If you’re in the area or can get there, GO.

– Chris

Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude, AKIRA

akira-explosion.jpg

Teletoon is showing AKIRA tonight and it’s just awesome. I mean… you sort of take it for granted that it’s as good as you remembered, but… Dude. AKIRA. DUN! DUN DUN! [bells chime]. DUN! DUN DUN DUN! [chimes].

I swear to you I am not chemically altered in any way, but I am enjoying the hell out of this film.

– Christopher

What’s the hottest manga that no one knows about?

vampire-knight.jpgAlright, I totally need a little help here.

I’m pretty up on the manga, I do my best to research the market, talk to fans, all that stuff. I’m spectacular at doing this within my field (comics retailers) but still at least pretty decent when compared to the legions of die-hard manga fans that populate the interwebs. But I totally need a hand with this, because the upcoming Anime North convention in Toronto at the end of the month? It manages at least one big surprise every time.

We do a massive set-up for this show, 18 tables in an island, something like 180 feet of frontage the way we set it all up. We try and bring every manga you can think of, because a lot of fans save up for months to come to AN and pick up the manga they love, that they’ve only read about on the internet (or in scaaaaaaaaaaaans) and they want to own it and love it and squee all over it. And we want to have it for them.

Every year we get blindsided by one major title, and it always pisses me RIGHT OFF.

2005: “Do you have Chrono Crusade?” Sure, we had like maybe 3-5 copies of each volume. That lasted about half way through the first day, and then the next 22 hours of convention were “I heard you guys have Chrono Crusade!? PLEASE! I NEEEEEED IT!” and I’m all “oh noes.”

ouran-1.jpg2006: “I NEED OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB! O! M! G!” and I’m like are you kidding? We sell like 2 copies of that at the store. But yeah, getting asked 20 or 25 times a day for that book for 3 days? I can guarantee you we totally stock deep on that one now. It did us no good at the show, however.

2007: “Vampire Knight Vampire Knight Vampire Knight Vampire Knight” and I didn’t even know what that was. Seriously. Either like 1, or maaaaaaaaaybe 2 volumes had come out, and I figured it was some ultra-rare Infinity Studios title or something. No, Shoujo Beat again, we were barely selling it at the store, and it was the book we got the most requests for (of course, we ended up selling like a case of each volume of Death Note and Naruto at that show, we didn’t do too badly…)

So the 2008 Anime North show is coming up May 23-25, and I think I’ve done my homework this time and I’m trying to stock up on fan-fav series, but I’m sure that we’re forgetting something.

Soooo, if you’re going to Anime North, or if you just want to promote your favourite manga series (and it looks like I’m a little weaker at predicting the Shoujo/Crossover-appeal series than the Shonen) then I’d love to hear from you in the comments. I’m totally aware that this is asking you to do my work as a retailer for me, and I apologize for that, but I’m asking because I want to satisfy as many customers at the show as possible. Hopefully that counts for something!

Thanks in advance,

– Christopher

Viz’s New Original Content Line

I hinted at it in some of my brief New York posts, but I thought I’d maybe blog a little more thoroughly about my conversation with Marc Weidenbaum, the fella at Viz in charge of Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat, about his work developing a new line of original comics for Viz. We found a bench to sit and chat for an hour on the Friday of the New York Comic Con–just after the announcement of ULTIMO! a collaboration between Stan Lee and Hiroyuki Takei debuting in Japan that very day. It’s worth noting that, for the purposes of journalistic integrity, Marc and I have become fairly cordial over the past few years, and our conversation about the new developments at Viz were much more friendly than professional. I even offered to send this to him before I posted it (something I don’t normally do) in case I got anything wrong, but he said not to bother. So, here’s my take on what’s happening at Viz with their forthcoming line of original comics.

First and foremost, Weidenbaum’s new title at Viz is “Editor-in-Chief, Magazines. Vice President, Original Publishing” which kind of makes sense, as the two manga magazines are where more-or-less all of the original content is being generated at Viz right now. The recent cover-art/interview/short comic by Bryan Lee O’Malley on Shoujo Beat sort of brought this fact to everyone’s attention, though Viz has done original content in the past, including a Pokemon comic strip for newspapers a few years ago. But the original publishing aspect of Marc’s title will likely become very important to the comics industry in the next few years.

According to Marc, it’s all about television.

Marc Weidenbaum: “We’re in a golden age of television right now,” specifically referring to the critically and commercially successful serialized entertainment offered up by HBO, BBC, Showtime, and even some of the networks. Marc feels that there are all of these wonderfully episodic shows that build up a serial storyline with amazing cliffhangers that you can’t miss. And he doesn’t seem inclined to cow-towing to any particular ‘style’ or genre of story either, with a crime drama being just as interesting and well produced as a comedy or historical epic… Editorializing a bit here, it’s no mystery that Brian K. Vaughan (for example) was picked up for LOST–his work on Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, and even Runaways is built on the gripping last-page reveal, and his work is structured in an incredibly compelling way. If I’m reading Marc correctly, he sees this not so much as a model, but as inspiration for a new line of comics work: One that has broad appeal, strong construction, and the benefit of a talented and trained editorial staff.

diarycover.jpgThat last part is particularly intriguing to me, because while producing licensed material does have Viz editors sharing some of the same duties as their original-content producing counterparts in the rest of the North American comics industry–scheduling, proofing, working with creative talent–the Japanese editorial system, the one that Marc referenced a couple of times, is quite different and even more involved than anything you’ll find in North America… In a bit of a coincidence I picked up a new manga by Fanfare/Ponent-Mon at the New York Comic Con just before I was talking to Marc, called Disappearance Diary by Hideo Azuma. It’s about this manga-ka that goes nuts from stress and becomes a bum living in the mountains. In it, the protagonists manga editors are variously portrayed as abrasive, mean, and egomaniacs who threaten and taunt him, draw over his artwork to change it to their liking, and ignore or encourage any number of truly life-destroying behaviours on the part of Azuma-san… as long as the work comes in on time. It’s a comedy. And autobiography to boot.

But Marc’s a smart guy with–believe it or not!–creator interests at heart. He seemed to be talking about a sort of a hybrid system, where he and other editors at Viz had worked closely with Editors within the Japanese comics production system to learn from them, and have brought this system back to North America to put their own spin on it. This also tied in nicely to the fact that Viz’s big guest-of-honour the NYCC weekend wasn’t a manga-ka, but rather an editor, (one Mr. Asano who edits Bleach and Shaman King amongst other top-of-the-charts releases). Marc has a lot of respect for editing and editors in general, and the idea of working with a creator to produce the most successful and strongest possible work. It’s the kind of idea that I can feel myself bristling at, as I type it out now, but hearing it come out of Marc’s mouth I totally believed it… I do have to say that will not be the sort of editorial guidance that every creator is looking for, particularly not in an industry where the idea of editorial mandate from DC and Marvel has become so reviled that it seems every other comics publisher’s editorial guidelines are a hands-off reaction against them.

Scott Pilgrim Volume 4 CoverI was having a hard time getting an idea of this ‘line’ at this point in our conversation, what it might look like, and I couldn’t tell if it was going to be akin to Tokyopop’s “hire’m all and let the market sort’em out” original content strategy, or something a little different. So I asked him flat out–name five books published in the last few years that you could see as part of this line. His response? “None.” Really, not one book? “Not really, I don’t see a lot of the work fitting our ideas. Maybe elements of Scott Pilgrim come closest to it, or Ed Brubaker’s Scene of the Crime or Sleeper. Stuff that’s really good, solid concept-stuff but with a twist to it, a hook.” I believe I mentioned that Scene of the Crime and Sleeper sold fairly poorly at the time, but I don’t remember what, if any, response came of it.

Said I: “I’ve talked to a number of creators working in the ogn or straight-to-collection format, and many of them have very similar concerns about the system of creating a graphic novel with little-or-no input for a year, and releasing these graphic novels to sometimes little or no feedback, and then going back to the drawing board. The idea of shorter serialization has been floated as a possible remedy…” Marc responded that things were still up in the air regarding format, but had heard and shared many of the same concerns. We talked a little bit more about various successes and failures but Marc was reluctant to name names, which I can appreciate…

“You know,” I said. “As soon as I post this you’re going to get flooded with submissions. Horrible people sending you their ideas for a sequel to Dragonball Z, all that shit.”

He knew it, but made it pretty clear he had no interest in submissions right now. “Maybe in a few years we’ll open it up to submissions,” said Marc. “But right now I just want to see already completed work. What you’ve done, what you’re capable of.” So if you’re sitting on the world’s best manuscript for a 3400 part serial about a new level of Super-Saiyan, can it. At least for a little while. But I do have to say that Marc seemed quite genuine about wanting to see published work and specifically mentioned webcomics, mini-comics and self-pub’d work as well as professionally published material…

It’s at this point in the conversation that my friend writer Ray Fawkes (Apocaplipstix, coming this summer from Oni Press) walked by the little concrete benches where we were seated and came and said hello. Ray has 4 projects in development with four different publishers at the moment, is incredibly talented, and above-all sounded like the exact sort of person who would be doing books that would fit with Marc’s idea for the Viz Original Content Line. I introduced them and mentioned something to this effect, and sure enough there was a warm exchange of business cards and a plan to talk further about an exchange of work… So if Marc wasn’t being genuine when he said he would happily look at published work, he was at least putting on a good face in front of my friend ;).

Sidebar: It’s worth noting that at the big Viz Panel the next day, this exact situation came up. Here, I’ll quote from “A Geek By Any Other Name”:

“Someone just asked about whether they’d be accepting any original series, and they answered that they weren’t really looking for anything, which is a little counter to what Brigid and other bloggers heard yesterday.”

I think that’s a pretty clever answer, actually, because Marc made that quite clear to me as well: They aren’t looking for anything in particular. They’re looking for talented people who’ve done great work–at this point in the game–and are probably looking to develop something with them as opposed to just accepting or rejecting a pitch. An important bit of semantics!

Now, you have to understand, all the while I’m having this conversation with Marc… I’m feeling pretty good about all of this actually, but this nagging phrase wouldn’t stop repeating itself in the back of my mind: “THE TOKYOPOP DEAL”. I fucking hate The Tokyopop deal, flat out. It’s awful and abusive of young creators, and while I haven’t gotten up and shouted I TOLD YOU SO at anyone two years later, the number of disenfranchised and angry Tokyopop creators has more-or-less done the work for me. I’m not particularly happy about being right of course; it is, at best, a pyrrhic victory.
“Marc,” I said. “Who owns it?” I was honestly not anticipating the response.

“The creators do. It’s going to be a standard book-industry type contract, although even there we’re doing a bit of tweaking. I believe in that, and we wanted a fair deal.”

Huh, how about that. We discussed it a little further, mentioning things like other-media adaptation rights and all that, and while we really only talked in generalities, it all sounded really reasonable. Maybe even… good. Marc relayed an anecdote about visiting a comics class at SVA the previous week, I think either he mentioned either Tom Hart or Matt Madden or Jessica Abel were teaching, and he was talking about this very line. The instructor sort of built up this menacing tone and said “And now we’ve got a hard question for you, Marc! WHO OWNS THE WORK!?” which I have to admit that’s kind of amazing, that ownership and contract discussions are a part of comics instruction now. But Marc said “oh, the creators.” and just sort of deflated the instructor’s bubble (it was funny, not dickish, at least when Marc told it). You have no idea how heartening it was to hear this, the idea that copyright (amongst many other rights) would reside with the creators of the work. Of course, no contract is perfect and each one is different and be sure to get a lawyer to read things over before you sign them, etc., but just hearing an affirmative and positive reaction to creator ownership coming from the spokesperson for a massive international corporation? Even one with Marc’s long history of publishing and working with comics creators (google him)? It’s fantastic.

Our conversation sort of drifted from that point as it seemed that I’d wrapped up everything I had to ask, and started mulling over my opinions of the prospects of this line. I can’t help but feel that the possibilities of a company as well-invested and an editor as well-intentioned as Viz and Marc both are could seriously shake up comics production, where the money becomes in line in both frequency and scale as Marvel and DC; where they could develop a very creatively supportive but still professional environment; where serialization and the possibility of easy access to the Japanese market (and work produced in a Japanese-fashion) could attract a whole new generation of manga-inspired creators.

Moreso than Vertigo’s announcement at the show that they were actively scouting out “original graphic novels” and, to my mind, trying to directly take projects away from Oni Press, Slave Labor, and Top Shelf, this feels like something that just isn’t being done in the industry right now, but when laid out as Marc Weidenbaum did for me, makes it seem essential… Possibly even as important to original comics content creation as manga was to the bookstores. It doesn’t take a genius to see that serialized original content with a strong narrative hook and enticing cliffhangers are part-and-parcel of the manga experience… perhaps with Weidenbaum’s affection for top-notch (and often very mature) television shows and evocations of Brubaker’s crime fiction, this line of books could be that mythical ‘stepping stone to adulthood’ that everyone wonders about for the aging manga demographic.

Or not. It’s pretty easy to look at what I’ve written here and see it as corporate-controlled comics, with nothing to offer the comics auteur. I can’t speak for Marc on this point but I do see validity to that point of view. There’s a reason that someone like Seth designs his books right down to hand-lettering the indicia and choosing the colour of the foil-stamping on the hardcover, you know? I don’t see that as what this line is about, and quite frankly there are lots of places to publish that sort of material that do it very well (Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, Pantheon, First Second, etc.). But a vision of the comics industry where compelling commercial comics don’t mean superheroes, half-assed movie pitches, or the occasional fluke from the majors (and let’s not forget that Y: The Last Man‘s commissioning editor was fired by Vertigo shortly after its launch…!)? At the very least, you can put me on that mailing list.

Anyhow, those are my impressions of the conversation I had with Viz’s new Vice President of Original Publishing. All of which are subject to the haze of memory and just having come off of a panel where I sat 15 feet from Stan Lee for an hour. Following our chat I walked Marc to a cab and resisted the urge to invite myself to his dinner with important people from Japan, which showed some tact on my part (though obviously less-so now that I blogged it). I ended up having a great dinner anyway (thank you, Dave & Raina), and didn’t see Marc for the rest of the weekend. Just goes to show you that it’s important to make time when you can, at these sorts of shows.

Thanks again for being so generous with your time Marc! I hope your inbox is not immediately flooded.

– Christopher

Studio Ghibli’s Little Nemo

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Go check out the full test for Studio Ghibli director Yoshifumi Kondo’s take on an animated Little Nemo in Slumberland. It’s amazing:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3342755205038857742

And if you want to see a higher quality video (that mysteriously has about a minute of footage cut out of it…) check out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnL-6yLzgWA

It’s pretty darned cool.

Edit: I decided to do a little more digging about this film clip, and found out something interesting. According to Nausicaa.net, one of the best fan-sites around (and devoted entirely to Studio Ghibli):

“Little Nemo” was an American/Japanese joint project, and [Hayao] Miyazaki and [Isao] Takahata were involved in the pre-production stage during 1982 and 1983. However, due to creative differences with the American producers, both quit the project. It was finally made into a movie with different staff members and released in 1989…

The film is currently out of print though it was apparently released on DVD in 2005… It was originally released on laser disc, and as a bonus, the laser disc includes two early animation tests for the film…

There is a rumor that two pilot films in the Japanese “Nemo” LD box set were done by Miyazaki and Takahata, but they were actually done by Yoshifumi KONDOU and Osamu DEZAKI, respectively.

So it seems likely that this clip is from the Japanese LD release… I wonder if the test by Osamu Dezaki is available online as well? I’ve done a cursory search, but no luck.

Anyhow, all of this information and more can be found over at CartoonBrew, the apparent originator in this round of discussion about the work.

– Chris

Limited Edition Manga T-Shirts…in Japan

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Oh man… Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo is helping celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Shonen Sunday Magazine by releasing a year’s worth of limited edition manga shirts! The first 10 shirts were released for sale on Monday, and feature a range of classic and contemporary manga series, all priced at just $15 a pop! I can’t figure out how to order them internationally, which means that you’ll probably have to pick them up IN Japan. But if you can? Duuuuuuuuuude. You instantly become the coolest otaku in town.

Shown above is the Ranma 1/2 shirt in black, by Rumiko Takahashi. If anyone’s headed to Japan in the next little while, I take an XXL…

More shirts:

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Ashitaka No Joe

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Cromartie Highschool!

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Ge! Ge! Ge! no Kitaro! (Nifty)

– Chris