Comics In Toronto This Weekend: Well first up this evening is the first ever industry night at the Victory Cafe at 8PM. Comics pros getting together to discuss... comics... should be fun for a beer or two, anyway. It's just south of The Beguiling, so feel free to stop by and say hello first.
So what's the big comic event in Toronto this weekend? Why, it's actually the Ashkenaz Festival, featuring Ben Katchor (Jew of New York), Bernice Einstein (I Was A Child Of Holocaust Survivors), and Stan Mack (The Story Of The Jews). Ashkenaz is a Jewish cultural festival which, this year, has a pretty solid selection of graphic novel coverage:
Sunday September 3rd at 1pm - The Story of the Jews with Stan Mack Harbourfront Centre: Marilyn Brewer Community Space - FREE Sunday, September 3 at 5pm - Graphic Lives: Ben Katchor & Bernice Eisenstein Harbourfront Centre: Studio Theatre - Tickets $10 Monday, September 4 at 2pm - Ben Katchor, Bernice Eisenstein and Stan Mack Harbourfront Centre: Marilyn Brewer Community Space - FREE
Meanwhile, there's a anime/sci-fi/horror/gaming/comics event this weekend too. Torontoistweighs the pros and cons of attending (Pro: Kirk and Spock! Con: $300 to see Kirk and Spock!).
Friends and Neighbors: It's artist extrordinare Vera Brosgol's birthday today. That's one of the sketches from her awesome new sketch blog to the right there. Happy Birthday, Vera! I finally remembered to add your blog to my linkbar.
Speaking of which, I updated the linkbar with some new stuff. In addition to Vera's Blog, make sure to check out Greg McElhatton's new review site, ReadAboutComics, the Drawn & Quarterly blog, the First Second Books blog, the Tulip Tree Press site, and... well I was going to link to the new iteration of Dirk Deppey's Journalista at TCJ.com, but it's not there. In fact, the test site is gone too. So... that will have to wait?
I guess now I don't feel so bad about my new site not being set up or moved or whatever. I just need 3 or 4 uninterupted hours to move everything and make sure it's set up alright. So at this rate, it'll never be up... :P
Tokyopop Finally, I'm kind of working on my thoughts regarding the Tokyopop thing in another window, hopefully I'll get to that today. But if you're already writing your rebuttals, here's something to get you thinking: Consumer Confidence, and how for a sizable percentage of their customers are the Direct Market retailers that they've snubbed. I don't feel very confident in Tokyopop's line, do you?
According to an article and interview with Tokyopop Publisher Mike Kiley posted on ICv2 this morning, Tokyopop has announced that Dragon Head, one of the 3 or 4 good manga that they publish (and their second best seller for us), has been moved to an "online exclusive".
"Among the series that have previously been sold through retailers that are now being sold only through the Website are One, Neck and Neck, Heaven Above Heaven, Sorcerer Hunters Authentic Relaunch, Soul to Seoul, Dragon Head, Dragon Voice, and Arm of Kannon."- ICv2.com
Mike Kiley then goes on to give an interview where he equivocates out his ass for the decisions the company is making, all the while failing to take any responsibility for what they're doing. (Essentially: "We would never bite the retail hand that feeds us, except for right now, where we're biting the hand that feeds us.")
It's a really solid month for D&Q, with the long-awaited return of a long-lost series, and two truly excellent graphic novels. As always, click on the images to get bigger versions.
Peepshow #14 By Joe Matt 32 pages, 2 color, comic book $ 4.95 USD
After a nearly 5 year absence from comics, Joe Matt returns with his funniest, and possibly best issue of Peepshow yet. This issue is the conclusion of a four issue story arc that documents Joe’s obsessive “editing” of porn videos. Days go by where Joe never leaves his room, so that all of his quality time can be spent creating just the right scenes, where all the guys’ faces have been deleted from the final cut to make one “flawlessly edited” compilation. This is Joe Matt at his lowest ebb, a harrowing and yet still darkly funny portrait of an artist as misanthropic porn fiend. Offered in Previews are two other Joe Matt books, Fair Weather and the Peepshow Cartoon Diary, both excellent companions to this new issue.
Curses By Kevin Huizenga HARDCOVER book, 148 pages, 8 x 10.5 inches, partial-color. $ 21.95 USD 1-894937-86-4
Kevin Huizenga is regarded by many as one of the most promising young cartoonists of his generation, whose artistic talent, singular writing and studied substance prove the versatility of his skill. Curses collects his work from Kramer’s Ergot and Drawn & Quarterly Showcase, his award-winning and nominated comic book series Or Else, and Time magazine; it is the most extensive selection of his comics to date in a single volume. Delving into mythology, belief, and spirituality, Huizenga’s short stories are based in the lives of familiar characters confronting the textures of mortality in unique and sometimes peculiar ways. Huizenga fuses the most banal aspects of modern culture with its most looming questions in a consistently genial style. Light-hearted, but with a healthy dose of 19th century spine-tingling, the narratives presented in Curses are insightful portrayals of reality. Glenn Ganges, the central character in Huizenga’s comics, is a seemingly middle class man living in the suburbs whose blank-eyed wonderment at everyday experiences brings together such diverse aspects of our world as golf, theology, late-night diners, parenthood, politics, Sudanese refugees and hallucinatory vision, into a complete experience as multifaceted as our own lives.
Lucky By Gabrielle Bell HARDCOVER book, 112 pages, 7 x 9 inches, b/w. $ 19.95 USD 1-897299-01-X
Gabrielle Bell (Mome, Drawn & Quarterly Showcase) documents the mundane details of her below-minimum wage, twenty-something existence in Brooklyn, NY with a subtle humor. Her simple, unadorned drawing style, heavy narration and biting wit chronicles transient roommates who communicate only through post-it notes; aspiring artists who sublet tiny rooms in leaky, greasy broken-down border-house loft apartments crawling with bugs, cats and bad art. Bell tackles a string of forgettable, unrelated jobs including nude modeling, artist’s assistant, art teacher, and jewelry maker that only serve to bolster her despair, boredom and discomfort in her own skin. Bell’s self-scrutiny leads her to dream sequences that allow her to rise above her banal actuality and hyper-awareness. Bell fantasizes about her vision of a perfect world as she becomes the accomplished artist and world traveler she longs to be. Bell’s daily comics allow her to escape the harsh, judgmental gaze of the world and the monotony of daily life. Her unpolished art speaks to a desire to record all the messy details while the pain and confusion is still fresh. Coming of age amidst the zine revolution, cartoonist Gabrielle Bell has been creating her comics to much acclaim, even winning an Ignatz Award for the self-published serialization of Lucky.
Offered Again: Fair Weather By Joe Matt Trade Paperback, 128 pages, 6 x 9 inches, b/w. $ 14.95 USD 1-896597-74-2
In Fair Weather Joe examines his 1970s suburban childhood. Young Joe Matt is a selfish child who steals from stores, takes advantage of his friends, threatens to burn his mother’s house down, teases those weaker than himself, and reveals himself to be a fairly normal child. Completely unsentimental and strangely kind of endearing, Fair Weather continues the American tradition of hilarious self-exhibitionism. An excellent companion to the new Peepshow #14 offered here.
Offered Again: Peepshow: Cartoon Diary of Joe Matt By Joe Matt Trade Paperback, 104 pages, 8 x 10.5 inches, b/w. $ 14.95 USD 1-896597-27-0
For over ten years Joe Matt has been notorious in cult circles for the embarrassing frankness with which he reveals his distressing habits and predilections. Utterly shameless and completely self-absorbed, Joe Matt writes with an exhibitionist’s enthusiasm for his favorite subject, himself. An excellent companion to the new Peepshow #14 offered here.
Chris's Notes: The collection of Kevin Huizenga's Curses is the book I'm most looking forward to. I've seen an advance and it basically collects all of his anthology pieces in one convenient, amazing book. For fans of GANGES #1 from the Ignatz line, this is book is absolutely not to be missed.
Gabrielle Bell's Lucky is also one I've been waiting for, after having seen only a few of the mini-comics that comprise this volume. Her story in the recently released Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Volume 4 was her strongest work to date, and I feel that this book will continue that tradition. What a great month for comics!
(Warning: I've written this an hour at a time over a week and a half. It's not that coherent.)
At MangaBlog Brigid pulled one of the comments to my excerpt from the Giant Robot interview with Kizuna creator Kazuma Kadoka out into its own post. It's a comment from a gay man talking about why he doesn't feel excluded from Yaoi, and why he shouldn't either. A gay man who incidentally has his own blog that you should check out, http://www.yaoi911.com/.
Even before he commented (or my friend Craig followed it up) my boyfriend made a point of mentioning that he was infuriated with the Kadoka interview. I hate to paraphrase him because I don't want to misinterpret his point, but the gist of it is "How dare this woman tell me what is or isn't a valid gay identity?" He's got a point, and I was waiting for him to type something up in the comments section but we've been busy so... Well, he'll have to comment on this post, and I'll edit it in.
For now though, I wanted to pull the well-thought-out comments out of my comments section and let them shine, then talk a little bit about the ideas put forth in the interview. Ready? Let's go:
It's interesting that "feelings of pain and longing" are often being attribued more to women than gay men by BL creators and that this perception is being used as a way to show the distinction between yaoi and gay comics. Certainly listening to Bronsky Beat's Age of Consent as a kid and remembering now how much it resonated with me, it's hard to imagine my "gay" feelings as a teenager and young adult (the age of many BL heroes) described as anything other than "pain and longing." In many ways, this argument rings false to me, especially because as a gay guy I have no problem relating to the characters in these "just-for-women" works.
But that said, one of the reasons I am choosing to write "yaoi" works as a gay guy is because I believe that labeling something as manga and yaoi in particular does imply a stronger focus on relationships and emotions in the story, even if the story is an action-adventure one. And the fact that the intended "yaoi audience" is predominantly but not exclusively women encourages me as a creator to focus more on universal elements in my stories, hopefully making them fun for the whole family. So perhaps I am part of the problem, too. ;-)
I think the true definition of "yaoi" and exactly how it is supposed to differ from "gay comics" will be something that will take a number of years -- and the maturing of the yaoi market -- to be decided. And I question whether, in the end, the distinction will be relevant in any meaningful way. Alex W - http://www.yaoi911.com/
(Incidentally, "BL" used a couple of times in his post means "Boy's Love", the general catch-all phrase used to include yaoi (which is generally considered to be explicit) and less explicit material.)
I, too, had great trouble with the assertion that gay comics aren't about emotions, feelings, relationships, etc. It smacks of the whole "I'm not gay!" defense on the part of straight people who feel they must continue to define themselves & the things around them so that no one thinks they're gay.
If we look into the world of gay porn, no one loves gay porn as much as the gays than straight women. Why do they love it? It's non-threatening because in straight porn the receiving women are not sexually attractive to anyone other than the straight men watching (I'd even go so far as to say the women of porn are disgusting skeezes). So there's nothing for straight women to identify with in straight porn.
More than looking at the sex part, straight girls like looking at the bodies in gay porn. It's safe and pretty...and my sense is that this is true of yaoi as well.
I haven't read much manga, and have read some yaoi (after a student of mine was reading it before class started, and I was like "Hey, that looks kind of intere--Oh, my God!") but I don't know why this question of differentiating gay/ yaoi is even a question? Craig - http://www.headshakepress.com/
Interestingly, both commenters (so far) are involved in the publishing of gay material; Alex is a yaoi writer and Craig is a publisher and the writer of The Magic If, a very realistic (and very good) gay romance story. As two gay men with differing experiences in yaoi they've come to the same conclusion: What are considered the important parts of what makes yaoi work are not exclusive to female readers. That's my boyfriend's complaint as well, and particularly with Alex's examples (The Bronski Beat indeed...) Kadoka's assertations have been proven to be generally false, and probably informed by a very skewed definition of what being gay really means.
Meanwhile, notorious homosexual Dorian at Postmodern Barney has had really mixed reactions about the genre and the individual books released so far. From a review of two DMP releases on his blog:
And even though this is the yaoi title that seems the most "gay" to me, there are aspects of the story, particularly involving sex roles, that just feel a little off.
(Now, [I wait] patiently for some brave publisher to translate the works of Gengorah Tagame, Go Fujimoto, Iwao Iwata or Echigoya Shinnosuke--or, you know, any of the gay artists in Japan doing gay comics for gay men.) Dorian, http://www.postmodernbarney.com
I don't mean to put words in his mouth, but I feel his latter statement echoes a lot of what I've heard about most BL or yaoi material, that it doesn't really speak to much of the experience of being a gay man. But then I feel like romance novels don't really speak to the experience of being a straight woman either so I'm not convinced, because on some level (even just basic fantasy) those works really connect with their audience. That said, if you Google the names of any of the artists that Dorian mentions above (probably NSFW) the art and stories are generally... very different. They're more along the lines of what Western gay culture would call 'bears', or stocky hairy guys with beards (gross simplification) -- a very 'masculine' ideal as opposed to the wispy, 'feminine' ideal of most yaoi characters. It's like the difference between Disney's Prince Charming and a Tom of Finland character. And most interestingly, the majority of these types of works are created by gay men, and for gay men. In Japan, the market really is very clear cut, though certainly the audiences aren't mutually exclusive even there.
I think the whole perception of men loving men, particularly Kadoka's opinion of what the gay identity is and what "gay comics" look like overseas is very, very tied up in the Japan's gay culture. I'm hardly an expert and I don't want to pretend to be, but at least annecdotally I've been told that you can be as gay as you want to be and screw whomever you like, so long as you (as a man) get married (to a woman) and produce a few children. That's sort of the complete opposite of North American gay culture, and I can see where it would really distort an opinion about what is or isn't hot to guys... Particularly if, as a creator, you've only had female fans for 20+ years.
It's funny, over at Achewood for the past week or two they've been talking about what gay culture is or isn't... I think Chris Onstad has got a much stronger hold on it than Ms. Kadoka does. Anyway, start reading Achewood here to follow the story, and just start reading Achewood in general.
So here's the last few comments to that blog post, preserved for posterity:
Thanks for linking to my post, Chris! ;) Actually, among the responses to my article, the only two things that have bugged me are: (1) disdain for my Freudian pseudo-self-psychoanalysis -- dudes, I already mocked that in the title of the frickin' post, and if you're not willing to overanalyze the pop culture you consume, then as far as I'm concerned YOU'RE DUMB; and (2) people telling me the term "shonen ai" is outdated. Jeez, I'm aware of that, I just like how it sounds, and it *is* a literal translation of "boy's love"... please don't get on my case as if I was calling anime "Japanimation" or monthly comics "chapbooks" (no, I'm not OneMoment). But really, I'm glad that it got such a big response. Thanks! Jason Thompson
Yeah, that "No one calls it shonen ai any more stuff is such petty fanboy/fangirl bitchiness. You can almost hear them punctuating their sentences with DON'T YOU KNOW HOW MUCH MORE I KNOW THAN YOU!? The only reason the terms Boy's Love and BL exist is to specify the language used to discuss the genre to a finer degree, thereby making it more fan-oriented... I'm just going to start calling yaoi and BL... let's see... CHANGEPURSE. Just to be more esoteric and in-the-know than everyone else. "God, don't you know anything? It's called ChangePurse manga now, which connotes scrotums! 'BL' is so 2005."
You bring up some good points, Craig -- and yeah, there does feel like there is a subtle element of homophobia in some of these creator interviews, or at the very least, sexism. Of course, it is practically a multicultural sport to draw distinctions between the genders, but in the end, I don't think what is turning on a straight woman in yaoi is all that different than what is rocking my boat with the same work. Alex W - http://www.yaoi911.com/
...and my first commenter gets the last word. Well, except for me. But yeah, attractively drawn male characters fucking, it's not hard to see what 'rocks' the homosexual boat there. Sure, the characters are slim and hairless and femme and resort to traditional gender roles, but haven't these people ever heard of Twink Porn? I honestly don't think what's going on in the discussion of yaoi, specifically why women like it and why it's NOT FOR MEN, isn't homophobia at all but a combination of ignorance and marketting. Companies like DMP and (previously) Be Beautiful and Yaoi Press and DramaQueen are selling GAY PORN. They can tart it up any way they like, they can put FOR WOMEN ONLY on the books and the websites all they want, but it's still just gay porn. It's probably a lot easier to operate in corporate conservative America by positioning these as products for women, and not for fags, but who do they think is the default market for this material? This isn't Japan, and the same ideas and ideals about behaviour simply don't play here, if they ever really played in the home country at all. No, they're going to have to wake up to the fact they are publishers of gay porn, and they have a lot more in common with Queer publishers than they do with Tokyopop. Well, except that like Tokyopop they can't keep their shit in print...
Actually, you know who I like? DramaQueen. It's the reason that I was quoted in that company profile that ran at PW this week, and the reason I was so effusive there. The DramaQueen publisher rep tracked me down and forced me to listen to her sell her books, about how good they were and how well produced and how they were %100 behind their products. And she was right, is right really, the books are really well produced and printed. And Dirty! So Dirty! I was trying to express this in my interview with Kai-Ming Cha, but the spectrum of sexual activity is broad and varied in translated ChangePurse manga. On the one hand, you've got DMP's material which, even at its most explicit, is all very from-the-waist-up sort of stuff. Lots of sweat and other fluids, but not much happening 'on camera' (that I've seen). Be Beautiful (publisher of Ms. Kadoka's own Kizuna) went a step further and showed the occasional outline or hinted at penetration, but such shots were often brief (a page or two) and become more abstract and emotional as the scene goes on. Flowers, tone patterns, close-ups on under-drawn faces, that sort of thing. DramaQueen's books? They leave nothing to the imagination. Muscley (though still pretty) dudes with big veiny cocks fuck each other, in close up, with lots of insertion shots and the detail ag-go-niz-ing-ly rendered.
DramaQueen's Brother and Rising Storm are, more or less, your average gay porn DVD on paper. And DramaQueen, unlike the majority of their competitors, isn't shy about it either. The mottos attributed to them in the Publisher's Weekly article are "purveyors of fine man sex" and "harder, faster, cheaper" and none of that rules out a gay male fanbase (hell, it might even encourage it).
To be honest I think it all comes back to fangirl/fanboy entitlement, like so much of the manga discussion seems to these days. The uneasy relationship between people who love something and the companies who want to sell it to them. Like I always say, a community is defined by who it excludes, and the yaoi community seems to think that it doesn't include gay men. Sure, their reasoning is benign on the surface and it's all very nice, but honestly? It's false, entirely false, and it's only going to become more and more so as the variety of ChangePurse manga published in North America expands and the genre penetrates the public consciousness. So to speak.
The queers are coming. First one to cater their gay porn to the gay community goes home with the money. :)
...I'm on a bit of a vacation from the internet at the moment, but I've been informed that a short interview with me is in tomorrow's Publisher's Weekly Comics Week, about... YAOI. Specifically the Drama Queen company profile. Just in case you missed me. :)
Chip Zdarsky ursurped The Engine for his own purposes today. Actually, it's going on right now. It's quite fun. Most of the talk seems to be centering around his balls, their relative size, colour, and fortitude, but I'd prefer to steer the conversation back to the "reason" he did it in the first place: To promote his new comic new in Previews.
MONSTER COPS Page 312, $4.00, lots of pages of art and story.
You may have even seen the solicitation text, which is very funny:
"CIVIL WAR FINALE! It all ends here! With the South on the run, can the North finally claim victory? There’s only one way to find out! Check out this issue of MONSTER COPS, which collects all of their previous appearances, including a run-in with VAMPIRELLA! It’s fun for all ages!"
But in the interests of bringing you a little something extra, I'd like to present to you the other bits of solicitation text that didn't make the cut. Think of these as DVD extras, except they aren't and this is a blog:
----- 1. Dear Fans, Unlike a certain “Bat-Man,” these classic monsters respect the law enough to become police officers. So check out this collection of their previous adventures, including an all-ages run-in with VAMPIRELLA! Love, Chip
---- 2. Dear Fans, Come and enjoy the all-ages adventures of these classic monsters turned cops! This collects all of their appearances, including a run-in with VAMPIRELLA! It’s not even scary! Unless you’re scared of the police, and if you are, what are you trying to hide? Hmm? Love, Chip!
---- 3. Dear Fans, This all-ages comic features every appearance of the MONSTER COPS, including their run-in with VAMPIRELLA! But enough about me, how are you? I heard that the comic industry is doing quite well, which is nice. Are you following Green Arrow? Man, that Judd Winnick is good. Love, Chip.
---- 4. DEAR FANS, I’M TYPING THIS IN ALL-CAPS BECAUSE I’M V. EXCITED ABOUT THIS COLLECTION OF MONSTER COPS STORRIES. IT’S CLASSIC MONSTERS AS COPS. HOW GREAT IS THAT? THE ANSWER: VERY. ALSO, DID YOU KNOW VAMPIRELLA IS IN THIS COMIC? I’M SO EXCITTED I DON’T EVEN HAVE TIME TO RUN A SPELL-CHECK. Love, Chip.
So remember to bother your retailer to order copies of MONSTER COPS, it's at least as good as all of the fuss being generated in its name; probably better.
Although it's already been linked into the ground, I wanted to make a special note of former Shonen Jump EiC Jason Thompson's post on yaoi at His LiveJournal. In it, he describes his awkward initial fumblings with the genre and comes away feeling pretty good about the whole thing--better than I did, that's for sure. Jason knows an awful lot about manga. I know he doesn't mention why he decided to start reading tons of manga all at once in his post, but at some point in the future I'll be able to use a common axiom to describe Jason's knowledge of the medium/form and have it be litterally appropriate and accurate.
At any rate, aside from the feeling amongst the hardcore fan community that the question "Why do women like yaoi?" is the new "BIF! BAM! POW! Comics aren't just for kids!", I thought the post was a perfectly livejournally-take on a new experience; equal parts enthusiasm, emotion, and critical thinking. And while I agree that he's really only looking at translated material and not the subgenre as a whole as available in Japan, the hairs split in discussing the sub-genre feel a little bit like certain people arguing that MOE isn't just about wanting to fuck pre-teens; spurious and besides the point.
Continuing to prove my theory that if it ain't on the internet it doesn't really happen, the most recent issue of Giant Robot magazine, #42, features a really good interview with Kizuna mangaka Kazuma Kodaka, by interviewer Cathy Camper. In it, the interviewer and Kodaka talk about many of the issues that arose out of Jason Thompson's Yaoi reflection. Two passages in particular stood out to me, on as a point of clarification for one of Jason's points and one as a comment on some of the reaction:
Giant Robot: How much connection do your stories have to gay culture? Kazuma Kodaka: My manga is yaoi, not homosexual, and there's a subtle difference between the two. I could draw real homosexual comics, "slash," if you will, but female readers wouldn't accept it in the same way. To tell you the truth, I want to draw more realistically--realistic love scenes, for example. But I have to be careful to make it soft and mild. It's an essential point.
The psycholgical aspect plays an important role, too. It's about how the characters feel and how they struggle to obtain love until it's finally achieved. The story is usually about the characters' feelings of pain and longing for each other, which is a more feminine sensibility.
GR: Do you see differences between American and Asian readers of yaoi manga? KK: I'd say there are no significant differences between Japanese fans and American fans. Their responses were surprisingly similar. Maybe the age group for yaoi fans is a little different in the U.S. In Japan, it's not unusal for people who seem much older than me--middle-aged women, even--to attend my autograph sessions.
In Japan there used to be extremely enthusiastic fans; some of them were almost stalkers! But not so much anymore. That behavior has calmed down. I've been drawing yaoi manga for many years, and many of my readers who were in college when I started doing yaoi have become housewives. They got married, had children, and have matured to the point where they are mild and calm. On the other hand, new yaoi fans are emerging in the U.S. I feel the heated atmosphere of the fans here. Again, maybe that's due to the fact that Japanese yaoi fans tend to be older. - Interview with Manga-ka Kazuma Kadoka, Giant Robot Magazine #42
I'm more-or-less finished with the new issue of The Comics Journal. I've been informed that previous TCJ "Anniversary Issues" have sold extremely poorly, focussing as they do on previous issues of The Comics Journal. It looks like editor Dirk Deppey figured that out as in this, his last issue, he's decided to instead look forward through a series of articles on the Direct Market (ie: comics shops), and interviews with creators, editors, and publishers on "The Future of Comics". Nowhere is this forward-thinking more more evident than in Deppey's interview with Dark Horse Comics' Diana Schutz; an interview that seemingly starts in the middle of a conversation about what things will be like "5 to 10 years from now" and never really escapes the subject.
The interview is a frustrating read for me because Dirk's hypothesis about the future of comics in the direct market seems all-pervading, and that I think Diana Schutz is an interesting interview subject but maybe not the best one for what Dirk wants to hash-out. It's also frustrating because Diana has her heart in the right place and some of the facts she presents are really very positive, but not rooted in the day-to-day reality of Dark Horse's publishing model:
SCHUTZ:"I don't know whether [the direct market] is growing. It's certainly changing. I look at something like Usagi Yojimbo, for instance, which at one time survived on its (almost) monthly release of comics. That's changed dramatically. Stan [Sakai] continues to do the individual issues, and they sell OK, but it's the book collections that continue to grow, make money, and go back to press and make more money. We're up to book 20 of Usagi this summer and we're always going back to press on one volume or another."
I don't know if this is wishful thinking on Schutz' part or a disconnect between editorial and the people holding the purse-strings, but Usagi Yojimbo in particular falls out of print for extended periods all the time. Usagi Yojimbo Volume 18 in particular hasn't been available since June of 2004. It's been more than two years since we were able to order that book. A quick check at Diamond shows that of the Dark Horse volumes (early Usagi volumes are published by Fantagraphics), volumes 11, 12, 14, 18, and 19 are out of stock. That's about half of them. It's not just comic stores 'whining' as many online retailers (including Amazon.com) are out of volume 18 as well.
Further, Hellboy Volume 6, the newest volume, has been unavailable for reorder more-or-less since it came out a few months ago. Did you know that the week The Amazing Screw On Head animation was released, and linked everywhere, you couldn't order a copy of the comic? And I think everyone knows the stories of Dark Horse running out of copies of Hellboy, Sin City, and 300 when the film adaptations of those works were receiving major media attention. I can go on and on too, but I think I've made my point: It's very difficult to grow the market when the publishers cannot keep the most popular and acclaimed books in their catalogue in print. I'll be writing more about this in the next week or so. I hate to get all Stephen Colbert on this, but Tokyopop and DMP: You're on notice.
I like Diana Schutz a great deal having met her a number of times, but there have been long periods where even her hand-chosen favourite titles like Pop Gun War and Mother, Come Home have been unavailable. I think that makes her a bad choice for the type of interview Deppey wanted to hold about nuts-and-bolts industry stuff (but I'd really love to read an extended career retrospective on Schutz sometime... Maybe there's already one in a Comics Journal from long, long-ago).
More successful (at least reading it here; apparently a fairly large technical problem marred the interview and what sees print is a recreation) is Deppey's interview with Dallas Middaugh of Del Rey Manga. If you're curious, the entire interview is available online at http://www.tcj.com/277/i_middaugh.html and it's definitely worth reading. Middaugh is affable, knowledgable, and generally well-liked and well-respected in the comics industry. He doesn't equivocate in any of his answers and everything he says seems very deliberate:
MIDDAUGH: "Look, I think superheroes are a perfectly valid genre for comics, but the fact remains that only so many people are going to be interested in reading about them. I mean, let's take a story about someone finding a magic ring. In manga, the story would focus about how the ring changed that person's relationships, how it affected his life, and how his everyday circumstances would be different -- and there would be adventures, too, but that wouldn't necessarily be the primary focus of the story. These are things that resonate with boys and girls alike. If it were a Marvel or DC comic, the person would find the ring, make a costume and go out to fight supervillains, and that would be the main focus of the story. An exclusive diet of that isn't enough to build an audience for your books."
Way to very neatly sum that up. Related, though not quite the opposite, is the fact that many books, even superhero books from Marvel and DC, that try to side-step this formula are ignored or treated with hostility by the established fanbase. It's not enough that all of the trappings of superhero genre stories are there, but they have to have that very specific focus as well, or risk being ignored or labeled 'pretentious'. Only in mainstream superheroes could gaining special abilities and 'doing the right thing' be so completely irrelevant to anyone but superhero fans.
But anyway. Middaugh is also a master of PR, for the most part, and it's amazing to read his answers and see what he doesn't say, and how cleverly he hides that. It's a very solid interview.
My favourite part of the issue is the 21-page interview with Jean-Christophe Menu, co-founder and publisher of France's L'Association. It is an expansive, detailed, fascinating piece that explores Menu as "cartoonist, editor, publisher, theorist, ideologue, contentious son of a bitch" according to the introduction by interviewer Matthias Wivel. It is fascinating for his history and opinions on comics, and seeing him become both more integrated into France's bande dessine scene as well as rail against it. The people and the comics that are discussed are often indivisible, as they are usually autobiography or influencd by such. As a result, Menu's railing against corporate comics adopting the methodology and aesthetic of true independents (a methodlogy and aesthetic he helped foster if not create outright) takes on an iconic, larger-than-life feeling. Comics and prose manifestoes against crap comics!
MENU:"I don't know. I perfectly understand that artists have to feed themselves and their children, or that somebody might wish for "better exposure," or better money, or that somebodu would basically just be open to offers from anyone, and so on. But on the other hand, some artists would not accept higher pay i it meant being part of a shitty collection, or letting down the smaller publisher thanks to which they exist, or just mixing with assholes, etc. I mean, it's still a choice everyone can make. It's just like in the music biz; you'll have the bands that stay at their small label, while others will accept a deal at a major, sometimes for good, most often not. And the question will remain so long as artists wanna make a living with their art."
It could never and would never happen here; the various factions of the industry are a little too insular. Mostly because, as has been noted by both Deppey and Schutz in their interview, Gary Groth and The Comics Journal have been shouting at everyone for quite some time now anyway and everyone has stopped listening.
The Menu interview also acts as a fascinating sequel to the Journal interview with David B. a few months back. In addition to the direct follow-up questions that deal with accusations David B. made against Menu and L'Association, there is also a subtle but continuous delineation from start to finish in which Menu seeks to underline his side of the debate. I don't take everything, or really anything he says at face value; his interpretation of potentially working with Dupuy and Berberian on either Mr. Jean or the autobiographical Maybe Later is somewhat different than the circumstances as outlined in the latter book. Still, it makes for a hell of a read.
The issue also features an extensive interview with cover artist R. Kikuo Johnson (yeah that's him doing the riffs on all of those different characters) which is interesting, though it feels like one of the young-creator interviews in the Fantagraphics anthology Mome rather than a Journal piece, probably due to Groth being the interviewer for both features. Chynna Clugston is interviewed as well, and it seems really... cursory I guess? At the website there's an extended version of the interview that a couple pages in is already much better than what saw print. The Chris "Achewood" Onstad interview is excellent; I couldn't get through the Fred Gallagher stuff. On the editing and publishing side, the Mark Siegel, Joey Manley, and Chris Staros interviews were all very interesting. The Mark Siegel interview is going to tie in to my First Second wrap-up (which is still coming) so I'll talk about it more there.
I also spent two days reading both the new Alex Toth Doodlebook and the Journal's extensive coverage of his career and developed a real appreciation for the man and his work. It's a shame that the Doodlebook wasn't better produced though, as it was pretty fuzzy at points and the reproduction of the art in the Journal is gorgeous: crisp and large. But that's getting off topic.
On the whole, this has been the most all-around interesting, focused, and thoughtfully-produced issue of The Comics Journal since their Shoujo Manga Issue a year earlier (and a lot less likely to cause the bitching from long-time Journal readers that that issue did). For the range of ideas and opinions and the quality of material presented, I think it's an essential purchase. Run out and pick up a copy.
Hope Larson continues her reign of terror this morning, as she has a new (big!) cartoon in The New York Times. It's about living in rural Nova Scotia in her beautiful old farm house. To repeat, she did a comic for The New York Times from the beautiful house she bought in Halifax. Also? She has started her own publishing company, and their first book, Rebecca Kraatz' House of Sugar will debut sometime this fall. You can go read it for free at http://www.tuliptreepress.net/sugar/.
The following items are apparently shipping to The Beguiling in Toronto, Canada. Not all items may be showing up at your own shop this week, but it never hurts to ask!
JUN060183 52 WEEK #14 2.50 JUN063613 AKIKO AND THE TRAINING MASTER YR TP (C: 0-1-2) 5.50 APR060050 AMANO TALE OF GENJI HC ILLUSTRATED NOVEL (C: 0-1-2 24.95 JUN063614 AN UNLIKELY PROPHET TP (C: 0-1-2) 16.95 MAY063475 ANGEL SANCTUARY VOL 15 GN (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 JUN063205 ANGEL SCRIPTBOOK #6 3.99 JUN061945 ANNIHILATION #1 (OF 6) 2.99 JUN061946 ANNIHILATION HITCH VAR #1 Of(6) 2.99 JUN061947 ANNIHILATION THE NOVA CORP FILES 3.99 MAR063635 ART OF S CLAY WILSON HC (C: 0-1-1) 35.00 MAY060220 AUTHORITY LOBO HOLIDAY HELL TP (MR) 17.99 MAY062788 AYA #3 2.95 MAY063476 BANANA FISH VOL 15 TP (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 MAY063477 BASARA VOL 19 TP (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 JUN060161 BATMAN LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #209 2.99 JUN060223 BATMAN STRIKES #24 2.25 MAY061720 BEDLAM ONE SHOT 4.99 MAY062879 BETTY & VERONICA #220 2.25 MAY063487 BEYBLADE VOL 12 TP (C: 1-0-0) 7.99 JUN061949 BEYOND #2 (OF 6) 2.99 JUN062966 BLACK BELT CLUB VOL 2 NIGHT ON MTN OF FEAR GN (C: 4.99 JUN062855 BLACK COAT CALL TO ARMS #4 (OF 4) 2.99 JUN060015 BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL #116 (MR) (C: 1-0-0) 2.99 MAY063478 BOYS OVER FLOWERS VOL 19 TP (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 JUN060226 CARTOON NETWORK ACTION PACK #4 2.25 APR063037 CHIPS WILDE THE WILD ONE GN 17.95 JUN061954 CIVIL WAR FRONT LINE #5 (OF 10) 2.99 JUN060037 CONAN & THE SONGS OF THE DEAD #2 (OF 5) 2.99 APR061771 DAWN VOL 3 THREE TIERS HC (RES) 39.99 JUN063476 DEVI #2 2.99
MAY063105 DRAWN & QUARTERLY SHOWCASE VOL 4 TP (MR) 14.95 The new installment of D&Q's new talent showcase is another strong entry, possibly my favourite so far. Gabrielle Bell's lead story is powerful and made all the more-so by its proximity to real life. Martin Cendreda brings a ghost story inspired by both history and real life. And Dan Zettwoch relays the story of his grandfather, a young man caught in a flood. All of them really strong shorts (about 30-40 pages each) and they add up to a cohesive reading experience. Definitely recommended. MAY063534 DUNGEON SEPT 2006 #138 (C: 0-1-2) 8.99 MAY060204 ELRIC MAKING OF A SORCERER #4 (OF 4) 5.99 APR063659 ELVGREN PIN UPS 2007 WALL CALENDAR (MR) (C: 0-1-2) 12.99 MAY061732 EMISSARY #3 3.50 JUN060043 ESCAPISTS #2 (OF 6) 2.99 JUN060260 FABLES #52 (MR) 2.99 JUN061962 FANTASTIC FOUR FIRST FAMILY #6 (OF 6) 2.99 APR062951 FATHOM #10 2.99 JUN060179 FIRESTORM THE NUCLEAR MAN #28 2.99 MAY063467 FLAME OF RECCA VOL 19 TP (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 JUN063245 FRAGILE PROPHET GN (MR) 9.95 JUN063172 FREAK VOL 1 GN (C: 0-1-2) 10.95 APR063312 FURRLOUGH #161 3.50 MAY062782 GIRL GENIUS VOL 5 HC 32.95 MAY062781 GIRL GENIUS VOL 5 TP 19.95 This is the first collection comprised entirely of material not found in the printed comics. Volume 4 had about 15 pages of material that was web only, which made some folks complain... But I think people just like to complain. At any rate, volume 4 sold much more strongly than we expected and we've bumped our orders up considerably this time around. JUN063151 GOOSEBUMPS GRAPHIX VOL 1 CREEPY CREATURES HC (C: 0 16.99 JUN063152 GOOSEBUMPS GRAPHIX VOL 1 CREEPY CREATURES SC (C: 0 8.99 I'm really, really curious to see how this turns out.
JUN060181 GREEN ARROW #65 2.99 MAY060164 GREEN ARROW HEADING INTO THE LIGHT TP 12.99
MAY063493 GUMBY #1 FREE GUMBY BENDABLE INCV (NET) (C: 0-0-2) PI Free Gumby! With purchase of Gumby #1 comic! It would have been nice if this had shipped WITH the Gumby #1 comic, though. JUN061965 INCREDIBLE HULK #97 2.99 MAY062789 JALILA #3 2.95 JUN060198 JSA CLASSIFIED #15 2.99 APR063332 KATMANDU #34 (MR) 4.99 JUN060034 KICKBACK HC (C: 0-1-2) 12.95 JUN061680 KITCHEN SINK MAGAZINE #14 5.95 MAY063291 LAI WAN #2 3.50 MAY063470 LAW OF UEKI VOL 1 TP (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 NOV053021 LEGEND OF GRIMJACK VOL 5 TP 24.99 MAY060029 LITTLE LULU VOL 11 APRIL FOOLS TP (C: 0-1-2) 9.95 MAY063109 LITTLE MAN TP NEW PTG (MR) 14.95 MAY063106 LOUIS RIEL A COMIC STRIP BIOGRAPHY TP 17.95 Two Chester Brown soft covers... Hey Sean, it looks like you can finally stop waiting.
MAY062799 LULLABY VOL 2 POWER GRABBER TP 14.99 JUN060248 MAN CALLED KEV #2 (OF 5) (MR) 2.99 JUN060206 MARTIAN MANHUNTER #1 (OF 8) 2.99 JUN061968 MARVEL ADVENTURES FANTASTIC FOUR #15 2.99 JUN062014 MARVEL ADVENTURES FF VOL 3 WORLDS GREATEST DIGEST 6.99 JUN062005 MARVEL ZOMBIES HC 19.99 MAY063231 METAL GEAR SOLID SONS OF LIBERTY #7 3.99 MAY063471 MIDORI DAYS VOL 7 GN (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 JUN061983 MS MARVEL #6 CW 2.99 MAY060213 MUSASHI #9 VOL 8 (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 JUN063239 NAT TURNER VOL 1 TP (RES) 10.00 MAY061739 NEGATIVE BURN #3 5.99 JUN061995 NEW X-MEN #29 2.99 JUN060207 NEXT #2 (OF 6) 2.99 APR062915 NINJA HIGH SCHOOL #140 2.99 MAY063472 NO NEED FOR TENCHI VOL 8 2ND ED TP (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 MAY060208 OMUKAE DESU VOL 1 (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 APR060022 PENNY ARCADE VOL 2 LEGENDS MAGIC SWORD TP (C: 0-1- 12.95 JUN063316 PERFECT DARK JANUS TEARS #1 (OF 6) 3.50 MAY062790 RAKAN #3 2.95 MAY063473 RANMA 1/2 VOL 35 TP (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 MAY060016 RECESS PIECES HC (MR) (C: 0-1-2) 14.95 APR060045 REVELATIONS TP (C: 0-1-2) 17.95 JUN060045 SCARLET TRACES THE GREAT GAME #2 (OF 4) 2.99 MAY060181 SECRET SIX #3 (OF 6) 2.99 MAY063480 SENSUAL PHRASE VOL 15 TP (MR) (C: 1-0-0) 9.99 MAY061997 SHE-HULK 2 #10 2.99 APR063436 SHOJO BEAT SEPT 06 VOL 2 #9 (C: 1-0-0) 5.99 MAY062896 SHRUGGED #2 2.99 MAY062884 SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #165 2.25 MAR063098 SOULSEARCHERS #78 2.50 JUN062013 SPIDER-GIRL PRESENTS AVENGERS NEXT VOL 1 DIGEST TP 7.99 JUN061940 SPIDER-MAN FAMILY FEATURING AMAZING FRIENDS 4.99 APR063217 SPIKE VS DRACULA #5 (OF 5) 3.99 JUN061988 SQUADRON SUPREME #6 2.99 JUN063519 STALLION GN (MR) 12.95 JUN063380 STAR TREK MANGA GN 9.99 JUN062765 STRANGERS IN PARADISE BOOK 3 PART 7 HC 49.95 JUN060166 SUPERMAN #655 2.99 JUN061725 TASK FORCE ONE #2 (MR) 3.50 JUN062753 TOYFARE BLACK COSTUME SPIDERMAN CVR #110 (C: 0-1-2 4.99 JUN063188 TRANSFORMERS STORMBRINGER #2 (OF 4) 2.99 JUN062016 ULTIMATE GALACTUS BOOK 3 EXTINCTION TP 12.99 JUN061935 ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #2 3.99 JUN061936 ULTIMATE X-MEN #73 2.99 MAY062887 VERONICA #173 2.25 MAY060205 WILL EISNERS SPIRIT ARCHIVES VOL 19 HC 49.99 MAY062748 WIZARD MARK SILVESTRI MILLENNIUM LTD DLX HC (C: 0- 29.99 JUN061999 WOLVERINE ORIGINS #5 2.99 JUN062027 WOMEN OF MARVEL TP 24.99 APR063570 WONDERFUL WORLD OF BILL WARD KING OF GLAMOUR GIRLS 49.99 JUN062023 X-STATIX PRESENTS DEAD GIRL TP 13.99 MAY062791 ZEIN #3 2.95
The big news is that E3 is effectively ending as the supernatural epicentre of video-gamedom. E3 was an 'industry only' video games conference where game developers, manufacturers, licensors, and the press would all get together and talk about the upcoming year. Over the past 4 or 5 years, the show had changed pretty considerably as the definition of 'press' got blurrier and blurrier. You know that the show is has changed from being industry-only when folks show up in costume, and they're not being paid to do so. According to that GameSpot article, the new E3 will have an attendence of 'roughly 5000', which I think is kind of bullshit because no matter how much you pair back you don't go from 60k to 5k in one year. I have a feeling that next year's E3 will make the '06 New York ComiCon look empty and well-run in comparisson.
Upon hearing the news that the show would be drastically scaling back, I started doing the mental comparissons to San Diego and their little convention problem (how many more people can they put into that event?). The thing is comics content has not accounted for the majority of exhibition space or attendees for quite a while now, so any attempt to decrease SDCC in size or import just won't work: Too much of the show is other media and 'swap meet' stuff. About the only thing I think they can do would be to pull all the comics stuff out and do it the week before or something, just to get the number of attendees back down under 100k (and I'm not sure even that would work).
Likewise, I don't think an industry-only event would look the same in comics. Diamond's retailer seminars are close, but fail to take into account... well, about half of the industry at this point. The cynic in me wants to say that the only reason any retailers show up at those things is to bitch and take as much free-stuff as they can anyway, though I'm sure something gets accomplished. The biggest hurdle to an industry-only comics event is the fact that buyers at B&N have almost nothing in common with the majority of comic store owners, that Diamond doesn't want to have to compete with bookstore distributors, that no one in publishing wants to let out its precious secrets even one moment before the Previews catalogue is out, that the medium and the 'industry' are further apart than ever... Wait, that's four things. Well, there you go.
Which isn't to say I didn't take an interesting meeting or two in San Diego. I'm just saying it was really fucking loud. Anyway, San Diego is going to be king of the hill for a good long while. Even though Marvel and DC get more and more in bed with Wizard every year, that organization's contempt for anyone who attends at its conventions and for anything that doesn't look like a superhero book will ensure it Wizardworld Chicago never becomes anything more than a place for Bendis Boarders to get drunk in hotel lobbies and make plans to rape people.
Derek T. Haliday wanted me to post this link to his buddy Eisu's interview at Newsarama. It's a fairly solid "up and coming creator" interview by Chris Arrant, and it features some interesting fan-art for Avatar: The Last Airbender fanatics. Like my brother.
Have you been to Stop Hobbystar yet? If you've been following the blog you'll remember a few posts I made about some pretty bad behaviour on the part of "The Big August Show" that happens in Toronto every year. Well, that's only gotten worse (much much worse) and some concerned citizen set up a blog to chronicle the extremely bad behaviour of these show promoters at http://stophobbystar.blogspot.com/. For the record, we're not going to have anything to do with any of their shows for the foreseeable future. You can let your conscience be your guide, but make sure to read the blog first. It's kind of completely insane.
Comic book geeks get a bad rap. Sure, there are those who still sleep in Spider-Man sheets and obsess about the latest continuity gap in the X-Men universe, but there are also people who simply enjoy a good story told with skill and passion.
These fans know the best place to satisfy their graphic novel lust is The Beguiling (601 Markham St.)
While Silver Snail has recently drowned itself in action figures and role-playing games, the 19-year-old Beguiling simply stocks the best graphic novels, comic books and manga in Toronto. The first floor is dedicated to new and classic graphic novels and art collections by such living legends as Art Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes and Chester Brown. Staff are happy to point you to their favourite, as-yet-undiscovered artist, and jazz or vibrant indie-rock fills the air.
But perhaps it is the stairway to the second floor of traditional superhero comics that holds the store's best feature: hundreds of original, framed prints by artists such as Seth and Robert Crumb, forming a mini-history of comic books.
Open Monday to Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays until 9 p.m., and Sundays noon to 6 p.m. Barry Hertz, National Post
Butcher: Is 29 years old and lives in Toronto Canada. In addition to the manager of
world-famous comic book store The Beguiling, he is a freelance writer
and comics production artist and the co-founder of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. He can be contacted at chris at beguiling dot
com , though chances are it will get caught in the spam filter. You're better
off posting in the comments field.
Online Comics: Young
Bottoms in Love: Great gay webcomix archive. Achewood: My favourite webcomic. Penny Arcade: Thrice-weekly comic strip about video game culture. Diesel Sweeties: Pixel-based hipster soap opera, with death robots. Dinosaur Comics! OMGWTF! In a just world, Ryan North would rule us all. Comic Strip: Chip Zdarsky's print/online comic for the National Post. Secret Friend Society: Online comics including Jellaby, Salamander Dream, and more! A Softer World Comics made of photos. Also, check out OverQualified by the same author, which are humourously deranged cover letters for resumes. House of Sugar: Rebecca Kraatz' daily online comic strip. Makeshift Miracle Complete online graphic novel, available via Bitpass. Moresukine Updated weekly from Tokyo, experience Japan through the wonder of comics. Perry Bible Fellowship Very funny short comic strips, very well drawn too. Click on the man with the hat to get to the archives. Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles Awesome/creepy weekly comic strip. Superslackers Toronto's Steve Manale presents humourous superheroes for children of all ages. The tonic to 'Infinite Crisis'. ButternutSquash Ramon and Rob do an autobiographical comic that people think is farace. It is not. They're just like that. Jay's Days You will not be able to tear yourself away. Serializer.net: Awesome online alternative pay-comics site, worth your support with money. ModernTales.com:
The original, filled to the brim with great comics. PVP: I generally enjoy PVP, but Scott Kurtz is a pretty horrible person.
For more, click
the Resources tab up top.
Non-Comics Blogs: Andrew's Blog: Andrew talks about entertaining things. Andrew's Other Blog: Andrew talks about serious things. David&Kiko.com: My friends in Japan, with a blog. Dahlberg Central: Gus Dahlberg and his adorable family. Booklust: Toronto Illustrator commenting on books and illustration. Interesting stuff. The Torontoist: The Torontoist is a Toronto-culture blog, covering some of the more interesting goings on in the city (and doing it well). Sort of like a freebie-weekly paper, but it pays less and comes out more. Blog T.O.: Another great Toronto-centric blog.
Retired: All Ages: Scott Robins's blog about comics for young readers. A Bear In The City: Gay-comics linkblog, semi-retired. GutterNinja:
Steve Pheley's awesomely-named blog, full of snark.
For corrections or additions to this page, please contact me at cro2 at
212 dot net. All sites linked on this page are the copyright of their
respective owners, and no malice was intended in linking from this page.
Weblog courtesy of Blogger. Hosting
courtesy of 212.net. Comments courtesy
of Haloscan. Christopher Butcher appears courtesy of his parents, and