Category Archives: Culture

The Comic Book Shop

Yesterday a kid came into the store, maybe 6 years old, for the first time. He asked if we had any MAD Magazines and I showed him the newest one, and he looked a little disappointed and said “But… do you have any more?”. I told him we did, we had hundreds of them, and showed him the bins. His eyes got real wide, he freaked out a little “All… of these?” Yup. He ran downstairs to tell his mom, then ran back upstairs to go through every MAD we had, pulling out his favourites and laughing.

It’s an amazing thing when you discover a comic store for the first time, that there are all these comics you never knew existed. It reminded me of my first time in the comic book store. I just posted that story to Twitter, and I thought I would share it here as well.

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but my first comic book was Transformers #3, which had Spider-man on the cover. I loved Transformers, and didn’t realize that there were comics. I knew that there WERE such things as comics, I’d see them in the Beckers’ convenience store across the street from my house, but I wasn’t really interested.

I was 8 at the time. I’d just changed schools and it was a bit shocking. Class went from ridiculously easy to challenging, all of my childhood friends had disappeared… I just became obsessed with Transformers. I asked (probably demanded) that my mom get it for me, that there are TRANSFORMERS ADVENTURES NOT ON TV AND LOOK IT ALSO HAS SPIDER-MAN IN IT THAT’S CRAZY. She relented.

(I did know Spider-Man from the old cartoon though, it aired at lunch time, and so I’d see it any time we spent the week at my grandmother’s house–cheap babysitting in the summertime. Spider-man and Transformers crossing over probably added a bit more unreality to the whole situation, made the comic seem more… mythical.)

Of course, of course, it ended on a cliffhanger. We went back to the store the same day I think, and asked the man behind the counter when the next one would come out. Transformers was on TV every day at 3, and I’d gotten used to that sort of schedule. He said “probably 1 month…” Insanity. I was beside myself for three days waiting for it, then promptly forgot, then my mom reminded me it’d been about a month and we should check the store to see if my comic book was in.

We got to the store, and found… Transformers #5.

We’d somehow missed #4 completely, AND I was holding #5 “of a 4 issue limited series”. Lessons learned?

  1. You won’t get every issue.
  2. Comic books fucking lie all the time.
  3. So do clerks at the convenience store.

Needless to say we bought #5, which had the most amazingly bad-ass cover, and the story inside was even crazier. Issue #4 haunted me… I didn’t know what the cover looked like, I didn’t know what had happened (all of the Autobots had been beheaded!?). I would try to get the issues every month, and I’d miss three or four over the next few years, and it was incredibly frustrating.

(My mom would try to ease the pain by getting me started on another series, “Planet Terry” from Marvel’s STAR line… and I liked it, at the time, but it was just as problematic in its way because I’d miss issues of that as well! I never did find out how that ended until Marvel reprinted it a few years back. It was a terrible non-ending, I should have guessed.)

When we moved to another suburb a few years later, my biggest concern was where I was going to get my Transformers comics. Not my friends (I learned the hard way about making friends that when you move, you lose them) not my meighbours, who were moving as well a few months before us. Just where to get Transformers every month.

Apparently, comic books were available at every convenience store, not just the Beckers by my old house. Who knew?

Then, for Christmas that year, when I was maybe 10 years old? Best Christmas ever.

My parents got me every single issue of Transformers I was missing, including issue #4. Including issue #1. It was magic. That cover to issue #1 is amazing too. I still remember that #4 ends with “Definitely NOT the end…!” and it goes into a letter column explaining it became an ongoing series. Amazing.

I asked my parents how… where they could find older issues of comics? And they said that they had found a store that sold nothing but comic books. A comic book shop. My mind was completely blown. I asked that they take me. Immediately. They explained it was closed Christmas Day, like everything else.

I contented myself with reading all of my comics for the first time, in order. 21 of them! IN a row! It was unbelievable to me. #21 even introduced the Arielbots, and I had gotten the toys that year for Christmas, and they formed Superion which held together WAAAAY better than my brother’s Devestator! Hah!

The next day, we went to the comic book store, and it was amazing.  It was called “Your Friendly Neighbourhood Comic Shop”, in Brampton, about 15 mins drive from my house. We’d been living there 6 months and I had no idea that there were comic stores that close, or even comic stores at all.

It was a clean, organized, well-lit store. The owners were kinda grumpy but it had everything you could want and more. Hundreds of comics, racking lots of indies, black and white comics, Marvel and DC, stuff I’d seen on the spinner and magazine racks at stores, but also so many more I’d never even heard of. It had statues and posters too, and boxes to store your comics in! (I used to keep mine on my book shelf, standing up). It had specially sized bags to put your comics in, and cardboard to put into the backs to keep them straight. You could never miss a comic again because they had every issue! It had everything.


Except it didn’t have any more Transformers comics. I asked at the counter and they said #21 was the newest, and #22 would be out in about a month.

That Christmas I had achieved my goal, I now had every issue of The Transformers that had been published, which meant as magical as the shop was,  it wasn’t magical enough.

I’d gotten everything I wanted and I was still disappointed.

And on that day, I truly became a comic book fan.


Spurge Rewrites His Annual Comic Con Guide

I’m going to be making the trip out to San Diego for Comic-Con again this year, in service to my various masters, and so as always I’m glad to see Tom Spurgeon’s outstanding “Comic-Con By The Numbers” guide to the show. Better still, he seems to have significantly overhauled it this year, and it’s a pretty darned fun read, in addition to being incredibly useful.

It’s worth noting that attending San Diego Comic Con does not necessitate reading a 170+ point guide to attending San Diego Comic Con, but if everyone who attended the show actually did read it we’d all have a much better time. Go check it out.

– Christopher

Saga Shennanigans

I was quite happy to see Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ new comic SAGA on the cover of this month’s PREVIEWS catalogue for a couple of different reasons. For one it’s an independent, fully creator-owned series from Vaughan, whose “Y The Last Man” and “Ex Machina” are at least partially owned by DC, despite him creating them from whole cloth. For another it’s the highest-profile work Canadian Fiona Staples has ever done, and she’s wonderfully talented and deserves all the accolades sent her way. It’s another high-profile book for Image and I’m always happy to see them in the spotlight. And the cover features two action/adventure heroes, one with a sword and one with a gun, a man and a woman standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and the woman’s even breastfeeding her baby. If there’s a better “our family against the whole universe” image I can’t really think of what it might be.

Then I thought “Maybe I should point this out on the blog, this is a cool thing.” Then I thought “If I’m the first one to point out breastfeeding on the cover of Previews and the cover of a comic book, it’s just going to tip-off some neanderthal who objects to a woman’s breasts (but covers that up with some other sort of rationalization).” Then I thought “I’ll just enjoy that it’s happening, let those who would object discover it for themselves.”

Cut to: Vaughn and Staples end up with a feature in USA Today! As expected, the wide release/distribution of said image did bring an unsavoury objection from someone in comics, in the form of a nasty little screed from Dave Dorman, since deleted. I had a list of awful conservative comics ‘pundits’ who I thought would be the first to take a swipe at the image… Dave Dorman though, who’da thunk? His objections mostly centered around the fact that the image of a baby being breast-fed was inappropriate for children to see (think about that for a moment), and that the act of breast-feeding on a comic cover was exploitative, but unspecifically exploitative, as the rest of his post seemed concerned with “women having it all” and what not… it was a muddled and confused thing, that post, very irrational and for someone like me an absolute joy to read. Basically, whatever point he may have thought he logically had was so totally obfusticated by his puffery and indignation that he came off, rightly, like an ass.

Now of course the reactions/round-ups have been posted (I’ll link to my friend Andrew Wheeler’s because maybe he gets paid by the hit or something:, and people on the internet have torn a strip off of Dorman. As I’ve noted, Dorman has pulled down his post and is doubtlessly going to follow-up explaining that he was ‘misunderstood’ doesn’t find breastfeeding objectionable, just that it’s been exploited for this comic, yadda yadda yadda. Same old bullshit internet spin cycle, no one is accountable for anything, everything’s misunderstood, and it all gets swept under the rug as soon as Marvel makes an announcement about a new variant cover or some other such bullshit.

I’m just saying, congrats to Vaughan and especially Staples, on a great-sounding new series, on a lovely piece of promotional artwork, and on the boost to your sales that will surely follow a 10s of thousands of people being made aware of your series that might have missed it otherwise, even on the cover of Previews.

– Chris
P.S.: If Dave Dorman is reading this, hey, I like your work. Sorry you said something stupid on the internet. As someone who was there for the ‘birth’ of internet comics journalism, which you now find yourself trapped in, I strongly suggest you just flat-out apologize, with no conditions or ‘explanations’. Anything else will just be incessantly picked apart by blogs/websites/angry fans, who honestly have nothing better to do until Marvel makes that variant cover announcement. Just “I’m absolutely sorry, I spoke entirely in haste without thinking, my apologies to the creative team, I wish them well.”  That will placate all but the craziest of commenters. Then spend a few days and figure out where all of that anger is coming from inside you about breastfeeding and maybe try and work that out, because… yeesh.

OUCH: 7 year old girl objects to Starfire as lobotomized sex machine, naturally.

Mom: “Do you think this Starfire is a good hero?”

7 Year Old Girl: “Not really.”

“Do you think the Starfire from the Teen Titans cartoon is a good role model?”

*immediately* “Oh yes. She’s a great role model. She tells people they can be good friends and super powerful and fight for good.”

“Do you think the Starfire in the Teen Titans comic book is a good role model?”

“Yes, too. She’s still a good guy. Pretty, but she’s helping others all the time and saving people.”

“What about this new Starfire?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“Because she’s not doing anything.”

Go read the whole brutal exchange at IO9

It’s like they took this comic by David Willis and made it real, and somehow sadder.

Look, since everyone is weighing in on this thing: Not every comic needs to be for every audience. Not every depiction of someone being slutty is a problem–even in superhero comics. I think it’d be lovely if the[second] biggest company in comics gave a damn about creating a diverse line of books that appealed to people other than straight white dudes, 24-40, which would make the occasional sexual inference and cheesecakiness less de rigeur. I would absolutely adore that–I’d sell more comics! There is an inherent weariness to this argument, to reaction to these books, and it creeps me out a little bit that a mom is putting a picture of her sleeping preteen daughter on the internet to make a larger social point about appropriateness of content. We’d all do better to engage the material we enjoy and discuss and promote it, or better still, create our own material to enjoy and ignore the rest of the shit entirely.

BUT ALL OF THAT SAID: DC Comics, Scott Lobdell, Cheesecake Artist #827, You Screwed The Pooch on this one. For all of our sakes own up to radically sexualizing a children’s character that is still in reruns for children today, admit it was a mistake, fix it. That’s it. “People did not like this new direction, we’re going a different way, we appreciate your passion.” Fix it.

Fix it.

– Christopher

Japan: Tradition. Innovation. @ Canadian Museum of Civilization, May 20th, 2011

Japan: Tradition. Innovation.
May-October 2011. Opens May 20th, 2011.
Canadian Museum of Civilization
100 Laurier Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M8
(Just on the other side of the river from Ottawa)

So, I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this on the blog, but one of the coolest things I did last year was act as a special consultant on popular culture to The Canadian Museum of Civilization, for their new exhibit on Japan opening this week. Japan: Tradition. Innovation. is a unique look at the Edo-period origins of contemporary Japanese technology and design. Focusing specifically on consumer goods–things that we interact with every day–the show breaks down 400 years of cultural innovation into five themes; travel, automation, social status, consumer culture, and entertainment. Comparing woodblock prints to manga, contemporary Japanese street-fashion with armour and traditional garb, robots to mechanized dolls–it’s all cool stuff.

I specifically helped acquire materials for the manga and anime collections, including first-editions, cels, and some cool ephermera. I’m excited to see how it’s been placed into the context of the larger collection. It was an amazing opportunity to dig through all kinds of cool old manga and anime at Mandarake during my last visit to Japan (Oct/Nov 2010), divorced from my normal concerns of finding cool stuff to bring back to The Beguiling. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a bunch of first-edition Tezuka manga at the store, but I doubt they’d sell with the expediency that we’d need them too to make any sort of profit. Buying for a museum has a very different set of criteria. Oh, and as a special note, I’d like to thank everyone who helped me identify some of those pieces, it was very cool of you and I really appreciate it. Feel free to ask me for a favour in future.

Oh, and speaking of The Beguiling, the awesome comic and graphic novel store which I manage, we also acted as a sponsor of the exhibit! We’ve donated hundreds of manga to the exhibition’s “reading room”, which is essentially a wall of manga you can hang out and read at. It’s also roughly 50/50 French-language and English-language translations of Japanese material, which means we could include a bunch of stuff not yet available in English. I feel really good about the mix of manga included too, because it covers not only popular and contemporary series, but also classics, “art-oriented” works, and works that seek to explain certain Japanese customs, aspects of the culture, and traditions through manga. Oishinbo is as prominently displayed as Naruto, A Drifiting Life and The Rose of Versailles and Doraemon all getting equal face-time. So exciting!

The exhibit has a special opening this Thursday, May 19th at 6pm, for Museum members and the press only. I’m going to be there to see the public’s reaction to it for the first time, and I’m pretty excited! If anyone from the Ottawa/Montreal area will be there and would like to get-together and talk manga, drop me a line! If you can’t make it this week, don’t worry, the show’s on until October and I’m hoping we can put together some exciting programing at the Museum featuring manga and anime experts and professionals over the course of the summer. I’m also going to try to do a report on the exhibit here on the blog, if I can manage to remember my camera. 🙂

For more on the exhibit, check out

– Christopher


Please feel free to republish this announcement. Thanks! – Chris

Toronto comic artists and DJs band together for Japanese Quake & Tsunami Relief

Artists Help Japan: Toronto is proud to announce that their 12 hour live art/DJ event on April 17th was an extraordinary success, raising $20,000 towards Tsunami and Quake relief in Japan.

Spearheaded by a consortium of Toronto illustration studios, the Artists Help Japan: Toronto event was the local iteration of a charity movement begun by Dice Tsutsumi at Pixar. The Toronto edition featured live art and DJ music, a silent auction and dozens of artists selling commissioned drawings, which raised about $18,000 over the 12 hour event. Event organizers UDON Entertainment have stepped in with an additional $2000 donation to help bring the final total to $20,000, with all proceeds being donated to the Canadian Red Cross.

The organizers of the event would like to thank all of the talented artists, illustrators, and DJs who donated their time and expertise, and the hundreds of Torontonians that came out in support of this event. The organizers will continue their various fundraising efforts over the weeks and months to come, including a series of special auctions featuring artworks donated by artists at the fundraiser! Look for details on these auctions in the next week.

Some words of thanks from the organizers:

Erik Ko, founder of UDON Entertainment: “I have a lot of friends and colleagues in Japan who were affected by this unfortunate event. I felt a real need to try and lend a helping hand to the people there and I really appreciate so many people supporting us! Thank you so much!”

Bobby Chiu, head of Imaginism studio: “People were incredibly generous with their money that day. It was truly touching to see a city come together to support the people of Japan.”

Alvin Lee, comic artist on Street Fighter and Birds of Prey: “It was awe inspiring to see the outpour of support and compassion from Toronto’s Art and Music scene. To give back to a country that has influenced so many of today’s artists, including myself – I felt like it was the least I could do.”

Krystle Tabujara, Library Services Coordinator for The Beguiling: “Having recently travelled to the Pacific Rim with my partner, I felt an obligation to be a part of such a great cause. It was an honour to be working alongside some of Toronto’s most talented artists.”

Jim Zubkavich, writer/creator of Skullkickers from Image Comics: “All of us involved with this event feel a deep connection to Japan and we’re ecstatic that so many people came out to show their support. To the artists, musicians and donators – Thank you everyone!”

Christopher Butcher, manager of The Beguiling and Director of the Toronto Comics Art Festival: “Japan has been an inspiring, near-mythical presence in my life since I was very young, and their culture and traditions have had a huge influence on my writing and career. Coming together with so many like-minded people to give something back has been similarly inspiring, and I’m humbled by the generosity of our volunteers, artists, DJs, and the hundreds of attendees who came to the event. Thanks everyone and please, if at all possible, don’t stop giving.”

The organizers would also like to thank the many volunteers and supporters who helped make the event a success, including: all of the wonderful artists and publishers who donated art and other items for our silent auction; Jeff at Imaginism; Michael, Akiko, Magda, Marc, Andrew, and Shane who helped out on the day-of; Peter Birkemoe and The Beguiling; Joe Saturnino and the entire staff of Revival.


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.

Artists Help Japan: Toronto was 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 brought together Toronto’s diverse and exciting artistic community to engage the public in an unprecedented fundraising endeavour.

Participating artists at Artists Help Japan: Toronto included: Agnes Garbowska, Alex Milne, Alvin Lee, Bobby Chiu, Brian McLachlan, Chip Zdarsky, Dale Keown, Eric Kim, Eric Vedder, Francis Manapul, Jason Bradshaw, Jeff Lemire, Jim Zub, Joe Ng, Julie Faulkner, Kagan Mcleod, Kalman Andrasofszky, Kei Acedera, Ken Lashley, Marcio Takara, Marcus To, Michael Cho, Ramon Perez, Ray Fawkes, Scott Hepburn, Stuart Immonen, Svetlana Chmakova, and a number of other local artists who showed up on the day of the event to offer their support and assistance!

Participating DJs at Artists Help Japan: Toronto included: Riviera [Perfecto,Myth, Kinetika NYC], Felix & Gani [Milk. Audio], 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], and Illscience.

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.


Revival Bar has been entertaining guests, visitors and fans as a premium event space since 2002. Revival generously donated the use of their main space for the Artists Help Japan: Toronto event, and donated $1 from the cost of every drink towards fundraising efforts.

The Beguiling Books and Art is Canada’s premiere source for comics, comix, and high-art funnybooks. Visit us online at


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

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:

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.


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.

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.


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.

Japanese Film Screening for Tsunami Relief April 5th

My friend Chris Magee of J-Film Pow-Wow just sent me this note about a benefit film screening that he’s running on Tuesday, April 5th. The film looks like a lot of fun and I’m going to try and head out to it myself, and I really wanted to spread the word too!

Hello Friends,

The Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow is proud to present the Toronto Premiere of Yosuke Fujita’s comedy FINE TOTALLY FINE on TUESDAY, April 5th at THE REVUE CINEMA at 7:00PM. 100% of the proceeds from this screening will be going to Japanese earthquake/ tsunami relief. TICKETS ONLY $8.00 AT THE DOOR!

Yosuke Fujita has made a truly feel good indie comedy with his story of Teruo (YosiYosi Arakawa), a tree trimmer whose mission in life is to make the scariest haunted house experience in Japan. He enlists the help of … his best friend Hisanobu (Yoshinori Okada), a hospital administrator, in his bone-chilling plans, but Hisanobu is starting to doubt if two guys heading into their 30’s should really be spending their time trying to scare the life out of people. The lives of these two friends takes a turn when accident prone artist Akari (Yoshino Kimura) comes to work at Hisanobu’s hospital. Can wanting to terrify people, growing up and falling in love co-exist in these two slackers’ lives?

100% proceeds from this screening of FINE TOTALLY FINE will go directly to SUPPORT JAPAN – GAMBARE/ JustGiving, a relief fund created by Yuko Shiomaki, the president of PICTURES DEPT., the distributor of FINE TOTALLY FINE. Japan is facing its greatest crisis since WW2. Please come out to see a great film and to help those in need! Read more about JustGiving here:

Thanks to Pictures Dept. and Third Window Films for making this event possible.



Hope to see you all at the screening on the 5th!


Chris MaGee

Founder & Editor & Chief
The Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow

Help Japan

I’m having a tough time with what’s going on in Japan right now. I never visited Sendai but we did travel through/nearby in 2009, on our way from Nikko to Aomori. It’s further south than I had thought, about half way between the northern tip of Japan’s main island and Tokyo. Travelling by train I saw a lot of the countryside; the news reports from the area matched my memories of travelling which has made the disaster more personal. I still can’t imagine what it’s like for the people who are there though, and my sympathies and condolences go out to everyone affected.

I’ve donated a few dollars and watched the news constantly, and at this point there’s not much else to do. I did want to put up a brief post saying that I hope things get better, and if you’ve ever enjoyed my travelogues or photos of Japan I hope you’ll consider donating a few dollars to the various organizations trying to aid folks in distress.

I recommend:, who are the first organization to send people and aid into the hardest-hit areas.

Also the Red Cross is setting up a relief fund. If you text REDCROSS to number 30333 in Canada, or 90999 in the U.S., you can donate $5 or $10 really easily and every little bit helps.

Thanks for anything you can do,

– Chris

How To Buy Manga: RIGHT NOW

“One of the things I most hate to see on manga-related forums are comments like, “I’m interested in this series, but I don’t know if they’re going to cancel it, so I’ll wait a bit and see if it continues.”

“You know what practically GUARANTEES that something will get dropped from publication? Not putting your money where your mouth is and picking up volume 1.

“This sounds snarky, and I know everyone has to prioritize his or her budget, especially in tight times, but seriously—this is a business that relies heavily on perceived demand, and how do we know there’s a demand for a title if no one is picking it up?  I think there’s an idea in the fandom that the manga market is a lot bigger than it actually is, and if you pass on a volume for now, enough people will still buy it that it’ll stick around for a while. Unfortunately, this isn’t really the case–Manga is a hit-driven business, and most series only get one chance to get out there and succeed.”

– Tokyopop Representative “TPHENSHU” on the realities of manga publishing

Someone named “TPHENSHU” on the Tokyopop website addresses the question of why certain series “go on hiatus”, by turning the practice around and blaming it on the fans.

See, here’s the thing. The rest of that article ( is actually a really straight-forward, plainly spoken explanation of how book publication, distribution, and sales works. It’s a smart explanation, and incredibly helpful. Some of the finer points are disagreeable to me personally (particularly the enthusiasm for print-on-demand, though that at least is somewhat tempered by describing it as an ’emerging’ technology) but at the core of the article is a very real problem; the combatative attitude between this Tokyopop employee–and really Tokyopop in general–and their fans. You don’t start off an answer to a frequently asked question on your website by complaining about your customers. You don’t do any one of dozens of weird aggressive things Tokyopop has done over the past 10 years or so (running Sailor Moon in the same magazine as Parasyte? Really?), but that’s a big one.

And the thing is I don’t disagree with the frustration expressed by the TP staffer. Standing behind the counter at the store, it can be brutal to hear customers say things like “I really like that series but I’m not going to buy it because they might drop it half way through.” Hell, it’s even more angering to hear a customer (or potential customer) say “I’m not going to buy that because I already read it online.” But if I responded to such comments with, say, “People like you saying things like that is what’s killing manga!” I would get creeped-out, blank looks as the once-potential-customers backed out of the store, never to return.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is unacceptable.

If you want to be “that guy” who attempts to treat every uninformed statement by a potential customer as a “teachable moment,” go ahead. His name is Jeff Anderson. (Admittedly I do pick my battles on this front, only engaging folks on the subject of piracy who, after saying something dumb, twig to the fact that saying something like that out loud was at least slightly socially inappropriate in a store dedicated to selling such material.)

But look at the history of manga publishing in North America and you can see it’s filled with unexpected and unfair treatment of customers, particularly in regards to series dropped in the middle of runs. Even putting aside the incredibly poor business decision of randomly insulting your customers, how can you really blame anyone who’s had their heart broken when it comes to a favourite manga series for being cautious on future series? A reader who has 14 volumes of a never-to-be-completed 26 volume series looks at those books on their shelf and feels personally and financially betrayed, a loss of hundreds of dollars, dozens of hours, all from a company who won’t even acknowledge the fact that they’re cancelling the series publicly, or the reasons for it. Manga publishers’ behaviour regarding series cancellation (“going on hiatus”), and Tokyopop’s in particular, have been absolutely abhorrent. For them to criticize their fans for ill feelings that they created?

Poor form.

– Christopher