Category Archives: Manga

The Creative Underclass

Flight Volume 4 CoverIf you head over to The Comics Reporter today, you’ll see Tom Spurgeon list six problems facing the comics industry, at the moment. Not to steal his thunder or anything (it’s a good list), but except for the syndicated comics concern all of his points are cycling through my brain at least 2 or 3 times a week. The DM/Superhero Retail concerns more than the others, admittedly, but the future of the North American Manga Market and the “Loss of the Professional Class” are both high on my list of comics-related worries. Usually I treat those wories with comics-related Gin & Tonics.

Tom does a great job of summarising everything though, and I particularly wanted to talk about “The Loss of the Professional Class”. Take it away, Tom:

“I’m becoming more and more of the mind that the recent surge in business for many comics industries has for the first time in the medium’s history not had an identifiable, corresponding impact on the fortunes of comics creators. In previous decades comics rates went up when the business was booming… Now, despite the opening of new markets for new creators and the obvious relative health of the direct market when compared to five years ago, the stories about people receiving corresponding remuneration generally relate to opportunities seized outside of comics, not within it. In fact, there’s some initial evidence that a few of the new models even when they’re working full-bore may offer up rewards more of the struggling artist rather than the successful artist variety.”
Tom Spurgeon, Comics Reporter

I just realised that’s a great tag to go after Tom’s name. Neat. As to Tom’s point… well… yes and no.

Steady Beat Volume 2 Cover, by RivkahI have a number of friends who are young comics professionals, and looking at their carreers now, as opposed to what might have faced them 5, 10, or even 15 years ago, it’s pretty easy to see that there has been a significant, quantifiable increase in the dollars going into comics creator pockets. It’s still about as much as getting a real job as opposed to Todd McFarlane Wealthy, but it is possible to earn (rather than eak-out) a living in the new world of graphic novel publishing. Of course, it all depends on the deal you sign. $10,000 for a Tokyopop GN that’s effectively work-for-hire with a few sales incentives thrown in? Seeing as I’ve lived on $10,000 a year I know it’s possible, I just don’t want to do it. But there are people and they are getting better, fairer deals, and in some cases a pretty stupendous advance (we’ve all heard those names floated around, no need to go into them here).

Let’s look at Jeff Smith and his series Bone. Jeff Smith built his massive success on his and his wife Vijaya’s backs. It was a pretty brutal slog, in retrospect, with Jeff not only illustrating 140 pages of comics a year for 10 years, but also running the company that published those comics and doing 10-15 conventions per year on top of that. When the Scholastic deal came around, and let’s not forget that both Bone and Cartoon Books were successful at this point, that money was a reward for 10 years of very hard work. But could anyone, at this point, go the Bone route? My money’s on ‘no’.

But we’re also at a point where no one has to. The Mouse Guard guy is hitting a bunch of conventions, but he’s not the one lugging cases of his books (I hope), he’s got a publisher for that. Kean Soo’s Jellaby will be coming out from Hyperion Books next year, a young-readers graphic novel aimed squarely at the Bone-reading audience, and while mainstream authors are always encouraged to do promotions and press for their work (and I will be roping Keaner into a number of “personal appearances”) he’s got a team of people out there getting Jellaby in front of reviewers, into bookstores, onto book clubs, and into the hands of its intended audience. Which is gonna be hell for him, he’s so hands on. 🙂

Making Comics, by Scott McCloudThe real reason that I’m not entirely worried about “The Loss of the Professional Class”? It’s a secret I probably shouldn’t spill on my blog, but… Alright, here goes: Judy Hansen, of Hansen Literary Agency [Edit: I had the name of the agency wrong, earlier, apologies to all involved]. Judy Hansen is Scott McCloud’s agent, and got him out of the deal with DC and into Harper Collins’s warm embrace. Scott set Judy up with Flight, and moved them from Image’s money-on-the-back-end deal to Random House, where… I don’t know how private those details are. Let’s say everyone involved is currently much happier with that situation, except possibly Image? Anyway. Judy also represents a ton of individual Flight Anthology creators, including Kazu Kibuishi (Scholastic), Hope Larson (ginee soo books/S&S), and the afformentioned Kean Soo (Hyperion). Her name most recently came up when it was announced that Svetlana Chmakova has signed with Yen Press (a division of Hachette) for her post-Tokyopop graphic novel series, negotiated by Ms. Hansen. Judy Hansen is known as an extremely tough negotiator for her comics clients (coming out of the collapse of Kitchen Sink publishing and seeing too many artists treated like commodity), and it’s a matter of public record (scroll through the archives at Publisher’s Weekly) that her clients are generally happy with the deals she secures for them.

I can’t speak, from the creative side, to the artists not represented by Judy Hansen, but despite her gruff reputation (she once told someone to stop talking to me because they had somewhere more important to be, all the while never making eye contact with me) I have quite a bit of hope for the economic feasibility of being a graphic novelist thanks to her. My fears are still there, but assuaged.

I honestly think that as graphic novels (not even as a category (although that’s nice), but individual gn’s) continue to hit with solid sales and critical acclaim, more agents, editorial staff, and publishers will become educated enough to really understand the medium, its unique creative and fiscal concerns, and things will settle in (upwards) accordingly. I wouldn’t trust a publisher, entrenched in either the direct market or out in ‘the real world’, who tells you there’s no money to be made in the publishing side, that it’s all in getting the work optioned for other-media exploitation. If the work hits (and if the publisher does the work so that it has the potential to hit) then creators should get paid for the sales of the book, it’s that simple. On that count, Tom Spurgeon is 100% correct, and the deals have got to get a hell of a lot better for creator-owned material (and creators really have to get lawyers and/or agents to look over those contracts before they sign them…!). But there are good deals out there right now, contracts to pattern yours after and a value being placed on creative work that’s equivilent to a living wage. It’s really up to the people with the power–the creative people–to seize on it.

– Christopher

Moe, of the 3 Stooges. Not the Moe you were looking for.P.S.: The future of the U.S. manga market is that either the tastes of the audience will age and the material being imported will do the same (like JAPAN), or it won’t, and we’ll be stuck with a nation of hardcore fucking nerds, lusting after MOE 12 year olds and deeply enjoying material for children (like AMERICA). Either way, you know, there’ll be an absolute avalanche of material to choose from, and so the market will remain healthy. It’d take a new Pearl Harbor for North America to turn away from Japanese culture in the fashion necessary for the market to collapse.

Anime North – Wish You Were Here 3

animenorth010.JPG

Canadians love that Tim Horton fellow.

animenorth012.JPG

I had to post a better picture than the last one of Jamie, just so he’d speak to me again.

animenorth011.JPG

animenorth015.jpg

Svetlana Chmakova, signing at The Beguiling table on Saturday. She had a huge line.

animenorthkai.jpg

Since Kai was good enough to make a post on my blog, and since I didn’t fuck his mother in return, I’ve instead decided to post this picture. Also, the following pictures were taken by Kai:

animenorth016.jpg

animenorth014.jpg

animenorth017.jpg

animenorth018.jpg

animenorth013.jpg

animenorth019.jpg

Awwww! That’s ADORABLE.

– Chris

ATTENTION NEW YORK: PING PONG OPENS TODAY

pingpongmovie.jpg

Thanks to the heads-up from Matt Fraction in the comments section, we now know that PING PONG the 2002 film adaptation of the Taiyo Matsumoto manga we talked about yesterday opens in New York City. Edit: It might only be playing tonight?

The New York Times reviewed the film and mentioned where it’s playing, and they seemed to really like it. Maybe you will too?

Most interesting? It’s being released by “Viz Pictures”, which strongly implies a DVD release from Viz, and if that does well, who knows? EDIT: Who knew? Apparently, Viz Pictures has a website? Check it out at http://www.viz-pictures.com/ and see the info for more screenings, in Chicago and Seattle.

pingpongart.jpg

– Christopher

Taiyo Matsumoto: Public Service Announcement

Tekkon Concrete

So it occurs to me that my enthusiasm for Taiyo Matsumoto a few days back may have been met with blank, questioning stares from much of my audience. I realise I haven’t been going on quite as incessantly about Matsumoto-sama as of late, and what with the recent upswing in visitors, well… context! So, here’s some background.

Background: Taiyo Matsumoto (松本大洋) is a popular manga creator in Japan. Matsumoto started as a manga creator later in life and was originally interested in professionally pursuing sports, and specifically soccer. He spent time in Europe in his early 20s where he picked up artistic influences from graphic novel creators like Moebius, Enki Bilal, and Prado. He’s cousins with manga creator Santa Inoue, the creator of Tokyo Tribes. Nearly all of his work is published in Japan by Shogakukan, one of the parent companies of North American publisher Viz Media LLC. It is unlikely that his work will appear in North America from any other publisher besides Viz.

English Works: Taiyo Matsumoto’s work generally falls into the category of “Seinen” or “Young Men’s” manga, meaning older than the Shonen manga that totally dominates the sales charts in North America. Besides that, it’s pretty ‘artsy’ for Seinen manga, thanks largely to it’s European influences, and you add it all together and it historically hasn’t sold very well at all in North America…

Matsumoto’s first work published in North America is Black & White, which debuted in the first issue of Viz’s monthly manga magazine Pulp, a magazine dedicated to showcasing manga for an “Adult” audience. Features two homeless street urchens who beat the tar out of people while their city crumbles around them. Black and White was collected, complete, in three trade paperback editions, all of which are thoroughly out of print. You can read reviews of Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3.

Matsumoto’s next English-language work is No. 5 (“Number Five”), released straight to graphic novel by Viz in a size closer to standard-format North American comics (mirroring the Japanese collections, it should be noted). It shows deep influences by European creators in its globe-spanning science fiction story setting, but is probably the most relentlessly creative work I’ve seen from him in any language. Only 2 volumes of the 8 volume series were released in English, and they’re both out of print too, making this series incredibly frustrating to read and/or collect, despite how excellent it is. You can read reviews of Volume 1 and Volume 2.

The most recent English-language collection of Matsumoto’s work is Blue Spring, a collection of short stories about the author’s teenage years. It’s an intense collection of work, with narratives that range from traditional to very experimental. It’s mostly very early work, but it’s really very cool and luckily still in print! Here’s a review of the book.

Last year, a short story by Matsumoto entitled “Kankichi” appeared in the anthology Japan: As Viewed by 17 Creators, published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon. It’s a short folktale and very different from most of his recent work, so far as I can tell. The book is great anyway though, and worth owning. Read Jog’s review.

Adaptations of Matsumoto’s Work: Despite being fairly commercially unpopular here, Matsumoto’s work really broke through to mainstream Japanese society thanks to a film adaptation of his manga Ping Pong (not to be confused with the raunchy comedy manga/anime Ping Pong Club). It’s sort of like the Frank Miller effect, actually, where a popular adaptation funnels a huge audience into the many existing works of that creator… Couldn’t happen to a better guy. There are several adaptations of Matsumoto’s manga available in other media.

Blue Spring (Aoi Haru): Based on two of the short stories from the Blue Spring collection, the 2001 film of the same name is dark and fucked up and doesn’t end on a happy note. As their high-school society crumbles around them, a gang of teenagers start to push at the limits of their despair. I really liked it, but I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to Matsumoto’s work… Apparently, this got a domestic U.S. release! Review.

Ping Pong: Based on the five-volume manga series, this 2002 film explores the changing nature of friendship and heroism. It asks the question whether it’s better to love something and try your hardest, or to be the best and not care? Utterly remarkable and wonderful film, the best movie I’ve ever seen about sports and competition, and utterly accessible to people who are afraid of Japanese film. This movie did get an official U.K. release but nothing in North America. Worse still, the manga that this film is based on are fucking awesome, but not available in North America. There are scans floating around if you look hard enough. Review.

Tekkon Concrete: A 2006 animated adaptation of the series Black and White. A malevolent outside force is remaking the city in its own twisted image, and only two ultra-violent homeless boys can stop it. Pure spirit, pure strength, beautifully animated! A U.S. DVD release is planned for the fall, and the film should be hitting a bunch of digital film festivals around North America this year.

Tekkon 2

Resources: Here’s a bunch of stuff about Matsumoto I was able to dig up on the internet:

Background:
Taiyo Matsumoto profile at Lambiek: http://lambiek.net/artists/m/matsumoto_t.htm
Taiyo Matsumoto profile/bibliography: http://users.skynet.be/mangaguide/au1128.html
There was a great interview with Matsumoto online at one point, but it looks like it’s gone forever. :-/. In this thread you can see Abhay Khosla and a few other creators freaking out over how good it was, which is better than nothing: http://www.comicscommunity.com/boards/pop/?frames=n;read=24575&expand=1

EDIT: Yeah! Thanks to commenter Matthew for finding this: http://web.archive.org/web/20040803161149/http://www.inter-g7.or.jp/g2/manga/HTML/GHTML/MATIN.html

Manga:
Shogakukan’s Taiyo Matsumoto Mini-site (J): http://www.shogakukan.co.jp/taiyo/
Taiyo Matsumoto Manga available in Japanese: http://www.s-book.com/plsql/com2_writer?isbn=4091882013
Taiyo Matsumoto Japanese Manga at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/3aerp5
Taiyo Matsumoto Manga available in French: http://tinyurl.com/284wqc

Movies:
Taiyo Matsumoto at IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1137219/
Tekkon Concrete Movie Homepage: http://www.tekkon.net/index.html

Hope you enjoyed this brief overview of one of my favourite manga-ka. Rush out and pick up Tekkon Concrete (Black and White) when the new all-in-one manga version is released this fall.

– Christopher

Taiyo Matsumoto’s BLACK AND WHITE to return…

Black and White Movie - Tekkon Concrete

From an interview with Viz EiC Alvin Lu in today’s Publisher’s Weekly Comics Week:

“We’re looking to continue in other areas as well, like the Viz Signature line [a new line for older and more adventurous manga readers]. We’re looking to continue pushing that, and we’re looking to acquire titles this year and next. We’ve got Uzumaki and Gyo by Junji Ito and we’re excited about that. We’ve also got a new title this fall—a repackaging of Black and White [by Taiyo Matsumoto]. That’s the old title. The new title is Tekkon Concrete, which is [also] the title of the anime that will be coming out. That’s being released by Sony. It’s making the festival circuit now and will be released on DVD by fall.” – Alvin Lu.

Yes.

Alvin told me about this at New York and I (quite surprisingly) kept my big mouth shut about it. But yeah, a new edition of Matsumoto’s Black and White this fall and, if what we talked about is correct, it’ll be a single-edition, and probably in the “Phoenix” size rather than the standard-format manga size. Which is goddamned awesome. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it.

– Christopher
[Image from the Tekkon Concrete Japanese Movie Website.]

On Entitlement

So today I broke a girl’s heart.

It’s not the first, despite my ‘delicate’ nature, and it probably won’t be the last. But this one was different, because the girl in question was only… 17.

“Do you want to see my sketchbook?” She asked me. “I don’t care, I’ll show you anyway.”


PopImage Volume 1 Book Cover - By Aman ChaudharyBefore I worked for The Beguiling, my job title at the last comic book store could more appropriately be described as “Comic Book Bartender” rather than “clerk”. This is because, in addition to dispensing the poison of the customer’s choice–Pokemon Cards, Action Figures, Warhammer, T-Shirts, Anime, or somtimes even comics–I was also the guy behind the counter that listened to your problems, offered you open-ended, non-comittal advice, and was a friendly face in a world that hated and feared you. Customers would spend quite a bit more time at that store, just hanging out. The boss didn’t mind as long as they spent money, and I provided a wonderful little co-dependent service for them. Did I mention I wasn’t very happy, in general, back then? Anyway.

Every once in a while, I would get marginally more involved with someone’s life. Either I would ‘make friends’ with select individuals at the store, or I’d actually give the tough advice that would be helpful, in the end, but probably a little harder to hear in the short-term. Sometimes I even picked up! At the comic store! Whoo! I’ve got a few really good friends from those days, people who I really love and treasure, but many of them? I feel like an asshole for saying this, but many of the people I spent hours and hours and hours talking to, I wouldn’t recognize if I passed them on the street. But yeah, I put a lot of time in with people, and one of the big areas of discussion was “how do I break into comics?”

At that time I had the excellent cache of being ‘an expert’. I’d been published as a colourist, I’d interviewed a bunch of big-name creators for PopImage, and I could draw. Not great, but a hell of a lot better than I can draw now. So, knowing this, people would show me their art, or story pitches, or whatever, and say “What do you think?”

  • Rule #1: No one ever wants to know what you actually think.
  • Rule #2: Only 1 in a 1000 artists is going to break into the comics industry without any formal training. It won’t be the person I’m talking to.

I never met an artist who ‘broke in’ without formal training. Most of the artists who showed me their stuff were convinced that they were going to be that one though, which was harrowing. So I did a lot of tip-toeing around the issues. I recommended post-secondary education, a lot. Life-drawing. Specific areas of improvement (“Draw Feet. And Hands. And Backgrounds.”) I tried to put people in touch with other people when I could. I tried to be open, and friendly, and supportive, but honest. And I was trying to steal as much as I could because I wanted to draw for a living too. 🙂

I never sent anyone out of the store unhappy, we always had a good conversation and, like I said, I developed friendships with some of them. Alex Milne and James Raiz were both friends from that time, and they’re both working professionally in comics today, which is great. We see each other at conventions every once in a while, and catch up on how things are going, career-wise. Let’s just say that the pages Alex was doing that Pat Lee was signing his name to, they didn’t come as much of a surprise to me, but unfortunately it wasn’t my place to say anything. I do have good memories from my employment there, mostly the time spent interacting with customers, and it did help me develop a lot of the skills I’d need for later in life. People-skills, mostly…


So against my will this girl flashes her sketchbook at me.

“I only need to learn to draw hands,” she says, handing me the book. “They’re hard. I’m really great otherwise.”

I’ve posted about fangirl entitlement before. Mostly it comes up in relation to yaoi, and the fans therof. Straight girls and women deciding to boldy stake a claim on homosexual sex, logic or cultural appropriation be damned. But I invite all of my non-manga readers to really spend a day visiting anime and manga fandom: It’s fucking monstrous. You’ll find many of the most reprehensible children imaginable, running wild across forae that encourage their stupidity and encouraging a sort of fake-drama-based high school clique system that rules every facet of their lives. I hate to say this, but the Newsarama commenters, as attrocious as they are, don’t hold a candle to some of the bullshit I’ve seen.

To say that this girl had an air of entitlement about her work would be something of an understatement.

The thing is, she was very good at what she was doing; she’d refined her one very cartoony character design with different hair styles bleeding off the bottom edge of the page so as not to draw feet/legs to a “T”. She did that for roughly 200 pages, actually, venturing outside of her niche to attempt a more realistic figure three times, and to do 4 or 5 pages of heads floating in space. True to her word, she could not draw hands, as they were most often circles at the end of arm-tubes. When she initially said she couldn’t draw hands, I recommended she check out the Bridgeman DRAWING DYNAMIC HANDS on the main floor. This was a mistake, as I should’ve just told her to try drawing her hand 4 or 500 times, just to get a start.

So, where did I begin? By flipping through every page without saying anything at all. Honestly, I wanted to see how long she’d had the book, and if she showed any development or variation at all, before I opened my mouth. She took that differentlt, as while this happened, her opinion of her work changed dramatically.

I draw cartoons for my school newspaper.”

“Uh, you don’t like these do you?”

“I’m not very good at faces.”

I didn’t get up this morning, looking to break some girl’s heart. She’s even a nice kid, a regular customer. But she’s really into the yaoi, and the online thing, and when she and a few friends are in the store the squealing and the decibel levels rise, and I realise the kind of fan community that she’s a part of. It’s one that is all-supporting, all-encompasing, and completely unlikely to give her any constructive feedback whatsoever. Obviously.

So I decided, then and there, that this would be the first customer in quite some time that I would actually help, like I used to. So I did. I offered constructive criticism along the following lines that I think might be helpful to most artists:

  • “You look like you’re Drawing all of the surface elements of manga and anime, without thinking about WHY you’re drawing them. Specifically, highlights in anime-style eyes, blush/form lines on cheeks, etc.”
  • “You’re not doing any under-drawing at all. No guidelines, no skeletons, nothing. That’s a huge problem.”
  • “You’ve totally written off your art classes as not teaching you anything, but it looks like you’re not doing any figure drawing, or backgrounds, or characters in a three dimensional space, or any non-people objects. All of that stuff is what art class is good for.”
  • “You’re not pushing yourself to get better. You’re comfortable drawing what you’re drawing, and you’ve done it for 200 pages here, but if you want to draw what you see in your head, you need to try and actually draw it.”
  • I then re-drew a picture in her book on a piece of scrap paper with a ballpoint pen in 30 seconds to show her how she could easily improve her drawings with a little bit more planning, and it was better than most of her work.

How to Draw Anime and Game Characters Volume 1I didn’t break her heart at that point, but I may have destroyed her whole world.

I motioned her to follow me over to the ‘How To Draw Manga’ books. She was nowhere near any of the advanced stuff, so instead I showed her How To Draw Anime and Game Characters Volume 1, which is probably the best intro-to-manga book on the market. Translated from the Japanese, and featuring all of the basics of figure-drawing, anime stylization, perspective, faces, posture, and design detail. It’s a solid book, and the only thing you really need to put into it is practice; it’s not teaching you anything wrong. I showed her how the under-drawings worked, how to use guidelines, how to move characters around three dimensionally. She seemed to be ‘getting’ it, and finally connecting the dots between what she was taught in art class, and what she actually liked to do with art. This is a HUGE chasm, by the way, for most artists.

“My parents really want me to go to Sheridan. I always thought I’d study history, but I really want to go!”

Sheridan College is a local school that has one of the top five computer animation programs in the world. They also have a highly-regarded illustration program. It’s a pretty top-notch school.

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “But I don’t think you’re ready for Sheridan right now. If you work really, really hard for the next 7 months, you could get in to their Art Fundimentals course, on the road to illustration, but I don’t think if you applied now, you would get in.”

Actually, I knew she wouldn’t get in. I was being nice. Her face dropped.


My friend Jim Zubkavich is the director of the Animation Program at Seneca College, another highly-regarded local school. Every six months or so, he posts his reaction to the portolios of work submitted to get into the Animation program. Every six months or so, we are treated to a truly hilarious, cringe-inducing post that makes you wonder how in the hell these people got as far as they did in life without anyone opening a window and letting the blinding rays of truth shine on their work. Selections from Jim’s most recent post include:

  • Having letters of reference from your high school art teacher, your school librarian, the manager at your part-time job and your family doctor is all well and good I guess, but when the actual artwork is extremely poor after delving through all that rah-rah cheerleading, it’s a bit comical.
  • Disproportionate limbed anime fantasy katana-wielding caped screaming Dragonball-headed dude: It’s a genre all its own.
  • I know you want your shoujo winged angel anime dude to look relaxed but the sword lazily slung over his shoulder looks like it’s impaling him in the head.
  • Writing ‘I have trouble with perspective drawing’ on your room drawings is honest, and I appreciate honesty, but it doesn’t bolster your case.
  • Tracing hand pictures from a sign language book doesn’t show me that you can draw hands.
  • I almost thought I was going to get through a whole batch of applications without seeing a bad drawing of a crying girl holding a rose while floating in empty space. Unfortunately not.

Heh. You really oughtta check those posts out for yourself. But the best part is in his post from a month or so earlier, where he talks about what the submission process is really like:

“The tough part comes in understanding how much hard work that will be for some people. If you work hard and you still aren’t making it, then a lot more hard work is required. There is no motto that states “Your hard work will be the same or less than anyone else who has ever succeeded”… Do the research, look at your work and be honest about where it’s at. I’m not saying this to be mean. I don’t think I know everything, but I have a decent idea of where my skill falls on the ladder and what I can and can’t do at this point. I wish my skills were stronger, but wishing alone doesn’t make them better. Blaming someone else doesn’t improve them either. It’s not like a I sit around cackling like Doctor Doom raising up or destroying people’s lives as they apply to get into this course.” – Jim Zubkavich


Once Upon A Time I Used To DrawSo I totally broke her heart. Lower-lip quivvering and everything.

“Yeah, I know,” she said. “I know my stuff isn’t good enough to get in.”

I’m not the devil you know. I’m not. I could see that, despite giving her the same talk I’d given dozens of times about paying attention and working hard, about the realities of being a working professional in art or illustration, gleaned from having roughly 250 friends currently making a living from art or illustration, not to mention knowing lots of people employed in art instruction, despite all of that, she’d just never heard it before and she was not taking it well.

Change in strategy!

“I don’t think your work isn’t good enough to get in right now,” I said. “You’ve shown a lot of dedication here, filled up hundreds of sketchbook pages in no time and the stuff that you like to draw, you do pretty well! You’re just not pushing yourself as an artist. You’ve got the dedication, now you really need to concentrate on improving all of the stuff that needs to be improved. I think that if you put the same energy into learning and improving as you do on drawing already, you’d be ready to apply for Sheridan’s art fundementals course by the winter, and that’s a good first step.”

“You think so?” Fighting back a tear.

“Yeah, I really do. You have lots of friends, get them to pose for you. Draw from life more, and see if it’s not too late to get back into your highschool art class, and learn whatever they’ll teach you, it’s a lot more useful than you think.”

“Okay, yeah,” she said, and I started to feel a little better. She even cracked a smile.

We chatted a little as she packed up her sketchbook, about things to work on in general and places to talk about art online, social circles and the like. I told her that I’d more-or-less given up on my artistic dreams, but she had about 12 years on me and could do whatever she wanted with her life, as long as she was prepared to work for it. She seemed in better spirits, and when I went to put the How To Draw Anime and Game Characters Volume 1 back on the shelf, and she actually snatched it from my hand, and then paid for it. That’s a pretty good sign, I think. Her heart might just be on the mend.


So how was your day at work?

– Christopher

References: PopImage Volume 1, How To Draw Anime & Game Characters 1.
Bottom art: I drew that 4 years ago.

Top 20 Canadian Frontlist Comics & Graphic Novels Sales

Negima Volume 13 CoverEveryone loves sales lists! According to Canadian Book Industry periodical Quill & Quire and the graphic novel sales tracking agency Booknet, these are the top 20 frontlist comics and graphic novels sold for the two weeks ending March 11th. This is based on titles first published in August 2006 or later.

This isn’t a regular feature at Quill & Quire, and this information is actually locked behind a subscriber wall. But I figured industry watchers might appreciate a look-see as to what’s selling in Canada.

As to what’s selling? The answer is manga, and most of the titles that you might expect. I remember this list being a lot more Tokyopop-heavy the last time I checked, so it looks like Viz’ Canadian Distributors Simon & Shuster have made significant inroads into the Canadian market over the last 12 months, armed with strong properties like Naruto, Bleach, Death Note, and Full Metal Alchemist.

This reporting is based on Canada’s BookNet Canada Reporting Service, which tracks “over 600 retail locations”. Graphic novels, as a category, are considerably less developed in Canada than in the U.S., and I’d say that the Direct Market here would probably makes a considerably larger impression on the sales charts than the DM in the U.S. would. Of course, most direct market stores here are ordering the totallity of their graphic novels through Diamond as specialty booksellers, so… Anyway, here’s the list:

1. Negima! Volume 13, Ken Akamatsu
(Random House, $13.95 pa, 9780345495051)

2. Tsubasa Volume 12, Clamp
(Random House, $13.95 pa, 9780345485328)

3. Best of Pokemon Adventures: Red, Hidenori Kusaka
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $9.99 pa, 9781424509280)
They got the ISBN wrong, it’s actually 978-1-4215-0928-0

4. Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $9.99 pa 9784421509280)
This ISBN doesn’t exist at all. I’m guessing this is Volume 12, but I have no idea.

5. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 11, Hiromu Arakawa
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $11.71 pa, 9781421508382)

6. Bleach Volume 17, Tite Kubo
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $9.32 pa, 9781421510415)

7. Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories Volume 2, Shiro Amano
(TOKYOPOP/HarperCollins Canada, $12.50 pa, 9781598166385)

8. Best of Pokemon Adventures: Yellow, Hidenori Kusaka
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $10.99 pa, 9781421509297)

9. Death Note Volume 9, Tsugumi Ohba
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $9.36 pa, 9781421506302)

10. Vampire Knight Volume 1, Matsuri Hino
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $10.54 pa, 9781421508221)

11. Justice Volume 1, Alex Ross
(DC Comics/H.B. Fenn and Company, $26.99 cl, 9781401209698)

12. Fruits Basket Volume 15, Natsuki Takaya
(TOKYOPOP/HarperCollins Canada, $12.99 pa, 9781598160239)

13. The Marvel Encyclopedia, Tom De Falco
(Dorling Kindersley/Tourmaline Editions, $50 cl, 9780756623586)

14. Death Note Volume 8, Tsugumi Ohba
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $9.99 pa, 9781421506296)

15. Scrum Bums: A Get Fuzzy Collection, Darby Conley
(Andrews McMeel Publishing/Canadian Manda Group, $13.95 pa, 9780740750014)

16. Naruto Volume 11, Masashi Kishimoto
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $10.99 pa, 9781421502410)

17. Death Note Volume 7, Tsugumi Ohba
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $10.99 cl, 9781421506289)

18. Absolute Boyfriend Volume 3, Yuu Watase
(Viz Media/Simon & Schuster Canada, $10.54 pa, 9781421510033)

19. Infinite Crisis HC, Geoff Johns
(DC Comics/H.B. Fenn and Company, $33.99 cl, 9781401209599)

20. Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories Vol. 1, Amano Shiro
(TOKYOPOP/HarperCollins Canada, $12.99 pa, 9781598166378)

(Note: I have added additional information on titles and volume numbers where available.) 

For more information on this sort of thing, visit http://www.quillandquire.com/ and the Quill & Quire Blog at http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/. Their prices are really reasonable if you’d like to sign up for this sort of info.

– Christopher

BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH

It’s a bad time for established power structures, folks. Actually, for whatever reason “Beware the Ides of March” always reminds me of Jhonen Vasquez’ Johnny The Homicidal Maniac. I can’t remember which issue it is, but Johnny is unleashing the horror of knowledge on young Squee, and he utters the phrase “There’s so much to be afraid of.” So while you’re being wary of ides, here are some other, terrifying things to anticipate… with dread!

Artemis replaces Diana as Wonder WomanFEAR #1: The worst thing about The Death Of Superman wasn’t actually The Death Of Superman. Sure, it was a little purile and they had to ignore logic in order to make the story work, but as a rollicking yarn with a brutally depressing ending, it was alright. No, the thing that was truly, utterly terrible about The Death Of Superman was the onslaught of similar, attention-seeking moves that followed.

We’re going to break Batman’s spine! And replace him with a new Batman!

Like Wonder Woman? Too fucking bad, she’s been replaced by a younger version with bigger boobs!

Your Green Lantern is now a psychopath. Instead, here’s a new one. We just killed his girlfriend!

WE CUT OFF AQUAMAN’S HAND!!! Uh, anybody? Hello? Doesn’t anybody care?

…and so on. So yeah, now that we have The Death Of Captain America, I’m not so much fearful of the return to speculator-driven comics, I’m more worried about the Spider-Man and Power Pack Public Service Announcement comics going from them warning kids about the danger of child abuse to Spidey actually fiddling with the Power Pack. Fuck, I bet that’d make headlines on CNN.

FEAR #2: Soon all blogs will be link-blogs, and then what will they link to? I got a press release today about AOL’s new comics link blog, Comics Alliance. It seems to be 50% reworded press releases, 45% linking to other sites, and 5% original content (though the hot topless dudes are always appreciated). That’s pretty close to the Newsarama and The Beat mixes, with Journalista being 95% linking and Comics Reporter sitting at around 75% linking, and these are more or less the most popular comics blogs out there. The other thing is, whenever anyone at more-or-less any blog or site comes up with a decent piece of original content or thinking, everyone links it. Who linkblogs the linkbloggers? THEY DO. Spurgeon called it at San Diego, what the ‘comics internet’ needs more of is actual content; Jog can’t do it all by himself. Get to work, people!

Rival Schools Fan YaoiFEAR #3: What if the second floor of the store caves in? I’m up here like 50 hours a week. We just put up two more bookcases of manga here at The Beguiling. 80cm Billy bookcases, making for another 40 linear feet of manga. ***Slurp*** The manga ate that up like it was there all along. They’re releasing like 2 and a half  feet of manga a week. A week. This place is solidly built, but how are we supposed to deal with that? Start “not carrying” certain series? Poppycock! But… It is worrying. As is every creak in the floor.

Also, I counted? I think there are now 225 different Yaoi titles in print. YEAH. So much for that “niche”. All your shelf space are belong to boys humping boys. Be afraid.

FEAR #4: No one has good information. The one thing I took away from the New York Comic Con is that no one’s information about the comics industry and its future is any better than anyone else’s. Some people have more, some people have less, some people are knowledgable in different areas, but no one has the ‘key’. The entire industry is operating on a lot of best guesses. I don’t know about you, but I find that terrifying.

It does level the playing field a little though.

So, BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH and the ides of the rest of the year for that matter. And feel free to tell me what’s scaring you, these days.

– Christopher