TANK TANKURO: PERWAR WORKS
by GAJO SAKAMOTO

Japanese Manga Classic Masterpiece!
Roots of Astro Boy!
The Pioneering Robot Manga from Pre-World War II Japan.
COVER DESIGN BY: CHRIS WARE
Language: English

$29.99. This Spring.

http://presspop.blogspot.com/

- Chris


Forgot I had a website for the last week. Lots of comments on my Tokyopop article (which, given the timing of Lillian leaving the company is kind of… ugh… now) which I just got to. Sorry if your comment was held in moderation for the past 7 days, I’ve had a lot going on.

- Christopher


“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 (http://www.tokyopop.com/TPHenshu/tp_article/3180353.html) 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


“As evidence of this, I might point out that we have the highest sales in individual distribution. I don’t mean highest sales in comparison to comics of another type. I mean highest sales in comparison to other horror comics. The magazine is one of the few remaining ? the comic magazine is one of the few remaining pleasures that a person may buy for a dime today. Pleasure is what we sell, entertainment, reading enjoyment. Entertaining reading has never harmed anyone. Men of good will, free men should be very grateful for one sentence in the statement made by Federal Judge John M. Woolsey when he lifted the ban on Ulysses. Judge Woolsey said:

‘It is only with the normal person that the law is concerned.’

“May I repeat, he said, “It is only with the normal person that the law is concerned.” Our American children are for the most part normal children. They are bright children, but those who want to prohibit comic magazines seem to see dirty, sneaky, perverted monsters who use the comics as a blueprint for action.

“Perverted little monsters are few and far between. They don’t read comics. The chances are most of them are in schools for retarded children.

“What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of our own children? Do we forget that they are citizens, too, and entitled to select what to read or do? We think our children are so evil, simple minded, that it takes a story of murder to set them to murder, a story of robbery to set them to robbery?

“Jimmy Walker once remarked that he never knew a girl to be ruined by a book. Nobody has ever been ruined by a comic.”

- William Gaines, Testifying before the Senate on behalf of comic books.

I cannot believe I’ve never read this before. Wow.

- Chris


Censoring Manga for Fun and Profit
Featuring Christopher Butcher from The Beguiling
Wed Feb 23, 2011, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
@ Lillian H. Smith Library, 239 College Street (just east of Spadina)
FREE, Registration required

There are the changes you know about, when Japanese manga (comics and graphic novels) make their way across the Pacific to North America–translation, localization, touch-ups–and the changes you might not. Beguiling Bookstore manager Christopher Butcher talks about the many surprising and unfortunate ways manga are censored in North America, as artistic integrity is sacrificed out of fear and a desire to maximize profit–and what you can do about it! The presentation includes ideas and images intended for a mature audience. Register in person or call 416-393-7746. A Freedom to Read week event.

Hi everybody! Chris here. As you can see above, I’m going to be doing a talk on manga censorship, why it’s done, and what you as readers can do about it (hint: the answer isn’t scanlations). I actually gave a short interview about the talk to Vit Wagner at The Toronto Star yesterday, and you can see it online (and theoretically in the paper–though I missed my chance to grab a copy) at thestar.com.

I just wanted to point out (as I will in the talk) that this event owes a huge debt to Jason Thompson, who has really pioneered this discussion and whose presentation I’m using as a springboard for my own. Jason has very kindly allowed me use of his research and images, and I’m extremely grateful. I highly recommend that you check out what he’s had to say on the matter of censorship at these links:

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/editorial/2008-12-11/christopher-handley/jason-thompson
http://www.tcj.com/manga/sakura-con-2010-censorship-in-manga/
http://khyungbird.livejournal.com/ – His Livejournal

…and to check out his weekly column House Of 1000 Manga every week at:

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/house-of-1000-manga/

As for my talk, it’s going to go after particularly heinous examples of censorship, get into some of the reasons behind the changes, and into a larger discussion about censorship and manga in regards to the new laws in Tokyo and with our own beloved Canada Customs. It should be a lively discussion. Oh, and there will be adult images shown, so get parental permission before coming out kids!

- Chris


Torontoist.com, a very good Toronto-centric blogging site (part of the Gothamist network) has moved from a full RSS feed to a partial feed over the past few years, and from a partial feed to a tiny-imaged, short-excerpt RSS feed as of Christmas this year. I hate this, and did my part as a good and loyal reader to inform the editors of my displeasure. They said that they understood and it wasn’t under their control and thank you for reading. Nice, professional, I bear them no ill-will, but it doesn’t really solve my problem.

BlogTo.com, their close competitor, offers a full feed of many of their articles, full-sized photos, and excerpts feature articles after 2 or 3 paragraphs. Enough to get me reading, and deciding whether or not I’m enjoying the piece. Big enough pictures to make me notice. In short, it is well designed.

I don’t mean to bring this up to slam Torontoist, it’s a great site and I enjoy reading it, but I subscribe to a few hundred websites, about 600 new articles a day appear in my RSS feed, and I try to read and enjoy appreciate anything that looks interesting. And so when going through my RSS feed, the image to the right depicts a BlogTo article in my feed (top), followed by a Torontoist article in my feed (bottom).

Which one of those articles, as displayed, makes you want to keep reading? Which one of those articles would have you clicking over to the main site, which would then get the attendant ad-traffic, viewership, etc.?

Both sites have been very good to me and I hesitate to openly criticize one, but I think this is what parents call a “teachable moment.” If you are running a website, ask yourself if you’ve got a full or partial RSS feed, and how your site is displayed, and whether it’s inviting and open and promotes your message, promotes What You’re Trying To Communicate, or if it… doesn’t.

And if you don’t know? Find out!

- Christopher


Skullkickers Volume 1: Coming in March to better comic book stores everywhere.

Unfortunately I ran out of time last month to talk about some of the very good books in the Previews catalogue, available for pre-order, and coming our way in March.

One of those was the very first volume of my good friend Jim Zubkavich’s SKULLKICKERS trade paperback, entitled 1,000 Opas and a Dead Body, being published by the fine folks at Image Comics. It collects the first 5 issues and some short stories that ran in Image’s Popgun Anthology, and it’s quite a bit of fun.

Just today I’d noticed that Jim had posted up the cover of the printed book to his Facebook page, complete with little spot-varnish skulls, and I thought that was a very cool deal.

It reminded me of how excited I’d gotten, seeing my first work in print, and then finally (eventually) holding the first trade paperback to feature my work in hand. For me it was seeing that first issue of Jimmie Robinson’s Evil & Malice, which I coloured from start to stop– that was the book that really made me well-up with pride (although kudos to J. Torres for getting me my first job on Siren). My first piece of published comics writing was Put The Book Back On The Shelf, an anthology of comics adapting the music of Belle & Sebastian, a band I adore. That was a book-book, a graphic novel, and it was my writing and not my colouring seeing print and that was a different kind of pride. Funnily enough, all of those works were from Image Comics too.

I mostly work in other disciplines now, organizational creativity rather than strictly creative, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it a little. Colouring, design, writing. I do use all of those skills in service to The Beguiling and TCAF and even occasionally the blog here. But yeah, seeing Jim talk about how happy he was to know there was a printed trade paperback of his work, a work he put a lot of effort into writing, designing, promoting, developing, even colouring and drawing a tiny a little of it, it reminded me of the thrill of seeing a new comic that I’d work on show up in the store. Kudos Jim, hope you’re enjoying it.

Skullkickers Volume 1: 1000 Opas and a Dead Body by Jim Zubkavich, Edwin Huang, and Misty Coats is 144 pages of over the top fantasy adventure retailing for the bargain-basement price of just $9.99. It will be on sale March 9th in better comic book stores everywhere.

- Christopher


Hi there! My name is Christopher Butcher and in addition to running this fine blog, I’m also the Director of the 2011 Toronto Comic Arts Festival, or TCAF as we call it. TCAF is an annual comics event held in Toronto, Canada, inside the massive Toronto Reference Library. It attracts about 12,000 people over two days, and features readings, panel discussions, interviews, gallery exhibitions, and a massive exhibition of talented cartoonists from around the world, selling and displaying their wares. The next Festival is May 7th and 8th, 2011, and you can find out more about it at http://www.torontocomics.com.

Earlier this week, it was my great pleasure to announce that TCAF will be welcoming acclaimed Japanese manga creator Usamaru Furuya to the 2011 Festival. Furuya-san will be on hand to support his brand new English-language manga Lychee Light Club, published by Vertical Inc. and which will be debuting at TCAF. Furuya-san’s series for VIZ Media‘s Shonen Jump Advanced line, Genkaku Picasso, will also be finishing its three-volume serialization in May with the third volume possibly making an early appearance at the show. We appreciate the support of Vertical Inc., VIZ Media, and Japanese publisher Ohta Books in making this appearance happen–it’s a rare and unique thing to have one manga creator at a North American event–last week we announced the fabulous Natsume Ono as a Featured Guest–but to have two such talented and Japanese cartoonists is frankly unprecedented.

I want to talk a little bit about Furuya-san’s work. First and foremost, he’s one of my personal favourite cartoonists. He’s a unique, compelling, and incredibly talented creator with a vivid back-catalogue of work. His manga is incredibly varied, first appearing in North America in the cutting edge manga magazine Pulp with the series Short Cuts, published by VIZ Media. This humourous exploration of Japanese youth culture, and where it intersects with the ‘adult’ world, moved rapidly between strips, and sometimes in the same strip, from outré to shocking to laugh-out-loud funny to bizarrely touching, and is fondly remembered amongst alt-manga fans… myself included. Quite honestly much of the deeper appreciation for Japanese culture that I’ve developed came out of Short Cuts and its serialization in Pulp, a fact which is doubtlessly horrifying several of the people who read this. It shouldn’t be so surprising though–Short Cuts engaged an emerging Japanese youth culture and also explained it to a larger Japanese audience, and to have something like that translated for a North American audience was about as ‘inside’ and ‘authentic’ as you could get. Floppy-socked Japanese school girls, taking paid dates and listening to the hottest visual rock bands, all of this is taken for granted as a staple of Japanese culture from a North American vantage point here in 2011; in 2000 it was revelatory for me. The serialization in Pulp and the two-volume collection published by VIZ Media were enormously affecting; I’ve read and lent the series out many times.

An excerpt from Short Cuts. © Usamaru Furuya

A page from Palepoli. © Usamaru Furuya. Click for full size.

His debut manga Palepoli ran in the seminal underground manga magazine Garo, and has been lightly excerpted in North America in the sadly out of print works Secret Comics Japan (an amazing anthology of alternative Japanese comcis featuring the likes of Junko Mizuno and others) and Tokyo Edge (a mostly-text guide to Japanese underground culture written by the Editors of Pulp). Furuya’s mix of surrealism, superior craft, and an unwillingness to be bound by social mores in Palepoli was instantly appealing to me, and repeated rereadings of those precious few pages have revealed even greater depth, meaning, and humour. I wish, one day, that the series would be translated into English.

And that was it for a while.

Pulp sadly folded, taking with it the majority of alt- and underground manga releases for a little while, and seriously stalled manga-for-grownups for a little while, and the industry became very focused on boys adventure comics and girls romance comics for a little while. Not a bad thing, but not generally where my interests lie. Luckily Furuya’s career continued unabated in Japan, and surprisingly, in France. Owing to our bilingual heritage we stock French comics (including manga) at The Beguiling where I work, and new works from Furuya would appear from time to time. His manga are championed by Nouvelle Manga movement originator Frederic Boilet (whose own comics have been published in English by Fanfare/Ponent-Mon), and consequently where anglophones had a 9 year gap between Furuya projects, popular series like La Musique de Marie, Le Cercle du Suicide, and the recent Tokyo Magnitude 8 have continued to impress French audiences. His work is also very popular amongst scanlators and the grey market, it must be said, though I feel like popularizing that fact will hinder future releases of his work.

On that note, it was on my trips to Japan starting in 2007 that I started picking up Japanese editions of Furuya’s manga. By Japanese language skill is still almost non-existent, but anyone who’s looked at one of Furuya’s manga will agree that you can get a lot out of the drawings. I own 10 or 11 of his works in Japanese, and I’d love for them all to be replaced one day with English editions. His 51 Ways To Save Her was one of the announced but unreleased works from the doomed CMX manga line. Will we see it one day?

Recently, surprisingly… almost bizarrely, Furuya showed up again at VIZ with Genkaku Picasso, a gloriously demented short manga series about the inner lives of teenagers, and a boy tasked by God with helping the lives of those around him using his profound artistic talent. One element of Furuya’s work I haven’t touched on is his incredible draftsmanship. His work has a clarity and skill that is above average even in Japan, and he’s an expert at the human figure (especially cute girls…). He’s also incredibly creative, drawing objects and situations that most people couldn’t conceive of… and when you’re drawing the dreamish, nightmarish inner worlds of teenagers, that is a skill that will serve you very well. The series looks great, and is hilarious and disturbing and entertaining… of much more interest to an older audience than the “Shonen Jump Advanced” tag might imply.

Which brings us to Lychee Light Club, debuting at TCAF from Vertical Inc. I’ve got the Japanese version, and while gorgeous it’s certainly bizarre–learning that the series is actually a comedy (a dark comedy), set against the beautifully rendered violence and gore of the original? Well that’s going to add a lot I feel. But really, let me say again, the book is gorgeous. I’m really looking forward to reading it in English.

It was also just announced that Vertical has picked up another 3 volume series from Furuya, debuting this September and being released every two months, so I have that to look forward to too! And quite honestly, so do you. I feel incredibly lucky to share the work of one of my favourite manga-ka with all of you, and for those of us who’ll be in Toronto this May getting to meet him will be an additional thrill. Even if you can’t come, make sure to check out Genkaku Picasso, track down the two trade paperbacks of Short Cuts, and pick up Lychee Light Club when it appears in stores this spring.

And learn French. Musique de Marie and Suicide Circle are highly unlikely to be released in English.

For more on Furuya, check out:

- Unofficial Website: http://www4.airnet.ne.jp/mikami/UsamaruFuruya/en/index.html

- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Usamaru-Furuya/204452936604

- Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usamaru_Furuya

- Lambiek (Short Cuts era): http://lambiek.net/artists/f/furuya_u.htm

- Anime News Network: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/people.php?id=7174

- Future Shipwreck’s Appreciation: http://futureshipwreck.com/2010/07/usamaru-furuya/

- Christopher