Hey everyone!

I got a comment on my blog that reminded me about something that I’ve been meaning to post. The Ghibli Museum, a must-visit spot for anyone going to Japan, is still an amazing space and incredibly inexpensive to visit, at only 1000yen!

However, JTB, Japan Travel Bureau, the only way to purchase Ghibli tickets from overseas, has taken to charging customers exorbitant rates, with a ridiculous currency exchange AND huge ‘transaction fees’! Basically that 1000yen ticket (about CDN$10.58 by today’s exchange rate) now costs nearly $40! That’s $13.00 +tax for the ticket, and a $25.00 transaction fee!

While I think this is unacceptable and plan on mailing off a letter of complaint to the good folks at the Ghibli Museum about what their business partner is up to, this is pretty much the only game in town for foreign visitors at the moment. So read on for my suggestions for a Japan-bound traveler on what to do.

Comment Submitted on 2013/10/09 at 6:49 pm

Hi,

I’ve been enjoying your blog as of late as I prepare for my trip to Japan at the end of October. I really want to visit the museum but was wondering about the ticket situation. To buy the ticket from the states, it would cost $40. To buy it in Japan, it would cost $10. I’m a bit of a cheap-arse. Kinda hard to swallow the markup. Do you think it’d be prudent of me to purchase the tickets in the states? How difficult would it be to acquire the tickets in Japan? Great blog! Thanks for the help.

- Jerry

Hey there Jerry,

Thanks for your comment on my blog!

To answer your question–yes, the new ‘transaction fee’ that JTB is charging is insane.  I don’t know that I can 100% recommend either the “buy early, pay through the nose” method, or the “take your chances in Japan” method as being a good deal though.

Here’s what you’re looking at:

Buying Ghibli tickets in Japan:
- Only 1000 yen!
- You can only buy them from a Japanese electronic vending machine, only at LAWSON convenience store, and the machine is Japanese-language only!
- The machine may or may not take your foreign Visa/Mastercard. This has been iffy for me in the past.
- Tickets bought in Japan have an “admission time” on them, meaning you MUST enter at that time or within an hour afterwards, or your ticket is invalid.
- Tickets sell out QUICK, so by the time you get to Japan, all the tickets for your dates may be unavailable.

Buying in North America:
- $40! Highway robbery! a 400% markup is unacceptable for an ‘administration fee’.
International tickets are good all day, no ‘start time’ so you can plan a flexible schedule!
- You can buy international tickets months and months in advance.
- It’s way easier to plan your trip when the tickets are confirmed early.

So! If you’re the type to fly by the seat of your pants, then good, go for the cheap option! Otherwise, swallow your pride (and $30 that could go towards 2 great bowls of ramen) and pay for the convenience. If you need to have your trip set in stone, pay the money for the peace of mind.

Though, frankly, the third option is the best: Beg a friend of yours in Japan to buy them for you!

Thanks,

- Christopher


I’m quite happy to note that folks that live around the above picturesque area, the Lakes District in England, north of Manchester, are holding a comic book festival. It’s called The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, and they’ve got a robust website at http://www.comicartfestival.com/. The show is just around the corner, scheduled for October 18-20.

The show is being put together, near as I can tell, by Sean Phillips, Brian and Mary Talbot, and some wonderful people who live in the Lakes District. The idea behind the show? It’s a little like TCAF in terms of scale (and name), and a little like Angouleme in terms of their desire to bring the whole town to life with the medium of comics (in this case, the town’s name is Kendal). I find this thrilling. One of my most fervent desires in administering TCAF since its second year has been to more thoroughly involve Toronto in the Festival and the medium of comics, and just in their planning alone these fine folks seem to be doing in their first year what we haven’t quite managed in 10. Granted, Kendal is beautiful and lovely with a population of 28,000, and the Greater Toronto Area is perhaps 100 times that big, but that’s still a hell of a lot of moxy and I’m impressed.

I’m happy to be travelling to Kendal to take in their first show and, where possible, offer any advice or assistance gleaned from running TCAF for the past little while. Mostly though, I’m excited by a strong slate of programming and I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with guests including the Talbots, Ed Brubaker, and Darryl Cunnighamn, and meeting some of their other fantastic guests including Charlie Adlard, Sean Phillips, Gary Pleece, Kurt Busiek, and more besides. Hell, I don’t think I got to meet their guest Glyn Dillon (The Nao of Brown) when he was at MY show this year!

Now, it’s probably too late for most of you to plan and book a trip to England in two weeks, but if you happen to be in the country I sincerely hope you’ll consider making the trip to see some of the many very cool events taking place, and meeting some of the exhibitors. That website address, again, is http://www.comicartfestival.com/.

If you do see me, feel free to say hello. I won’t be anywhere in particular at the event, just wandering about, but looking in the pub probably isn’t a bad idea. ;)

Best,

- Chris


From the Villains Month FAQ 2.0 that DC sent out yesterday:

5. Why didn’t DC print at least as many copies of each of the 3-D motion cover issues as they do on the regular monthly series?

Orders greatly exceeded DCE’s expectations. We did not anticipate that the demand for these covers would be as large – or larger – than the demand for each monthly series. The 3-D motion covers also required a much longer production time than normal covers, so we had to set print runs on these issues out of cycle. As more retailers saw sample copies, orders continued to build beyond the print runs we had set. There was also a physical limit to how many copies we could print due to availability of the special cover stock.

So there’s a few things in there worth unpacking.

- They printed FEWER total of the special issues than of their standard issues, which means, assuming that everyone who wanted Green Arrow #23 also wanted Green Arrow #23.1, there were always going to be cuts or allocations. This strikes me as exceptionally poor planning.
- This was their two year anniversary month for the new 52.
- This means that for their two year anniversary month, they deliberately planned to sell fewer copies than they normally would be able to sell, on their anniversary.
- And didn’t tell anybody beforehand.

Who goes into their anniversary month saying “Hey, I’ve got a great idea, lets sell fewer comics this month, guaranteed, than we did the month previous!” ? It strikes me as an exceptionally poor business practice from inception through execution, even with the higher unit-price on these books (Villains Month books were about a buck more than usual). If there were “physical limits to how many copies [they] could print due to availability of the special cover stock,” then they could have taken any number of steps to compensate, including fewer overall titles.

I tried to stay out of this because it seems like a pretty standard problem–retailers under-order on books all the time, and in this case, a publisher under-ordered. Fuck-ups happen, you take responsibility, and make it right. But what galls me is the complete lack of contrition, or of someone at DC stepping up to say “Hey, this was me, my fault.” is… it’s upsetting.

I respect people who make mistakes and admit to them. I make mistakes all the time, because I go out there and I try to do different stuff and sometimes it fails. That’s life, but more importantly, that’s business. Ventures fail, or are only partially successful (I guess). But this? Closing ranks and corporate speak? It’s disrespectful, it’s not what I want from a publishing partner.

- Chris

P.S.: If you don’t know what any of this is about, I apologize for not taking the time to create the proper context but you can Google this situation pretty easily. Also, I think the covers look super neat, and it’s a shame that everyone who wants them won’t be able to get them.


Congratulations to my very good friend Deb Aoki, previously of manga.about.com, on the launch of her brand new website today.

http://mangacomicsmanga.com/

Manga/Comics/Manga is where Deb will be continuing her interests in manga and Japanese culture, but not shying away from all of the other sequential narrative that she enjoys.

She’s even launching the site with an important license announcement, a particularly breaking news item that should be of interests to fans here! Seriously, go check her work out, and bookmark/subscribe to the new site however people do that sort of thing in 2013.

- Chris


Statement from Fantagraphics:

Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson died at 6:30 this morning, June 19. “He was my partner and close friend for 36 years,” said Gary Groth.

Thompson was born in Denmark in 1956. He grew up in Europe, a lifelong comics fan, reading both European and American comics in Denmark, France, and Germany. He was an active fan in his teen years, writing to comics — his letters appeared in Marvel’s letter columns circa early 1970s — and contributing to fanzines from his various European perches. At the age of 21, he set foot, for the first time, on American soil, in late 1977. One “fanzine” he had not contributed to was The Comics Journal, which Groth and Michael Catron began publishing in July of 1976. That was soon to change.

“Within a few weeks of his arrival,” said Groth, “he came over to our ‘office,’ which was the spare bedroom of my apartment, and was introduced by a mutual friend — it was a fan visit. We were operating out of College Park, Maryland and Kim’s parents had moved to Fairfax, Virginia, both Washington DC suburbs. Kim loved the energy around the Journal and the whole idea of a magazine devoted to writing about comics, and asked if he could help. We needed all the help we could get, of course, so we gladly accepted his offer. He started to come over every day and was soon camping out on the floor. The three of us were living and breathing The Comics Journal 24 hours a day.”

Thompson became an owner when Catron took a job at DC Comics in 1978. As he became more familiar with the editorial process, Thompson became more and more integral to the magazine, assembling and writing news and conducting interviews with professionals. Thompson’s career in comics began here.

In 1981, Fantagraphics began publishing comics (such as Jack Jackson’s Los TejanosDon Rosa’s Comics and Stories, and, in 1982, Love and Rockets). Thompson was always evangelical about bandes dessinées and wanted to bring the best of European comics to America; in 1981, Thompson selected and translated the first of many European graphic novels for American publication — Herman Huppen’s The Survivors: Talons of Blood (followed by a 2nd volume in 1983). Thompson’s involvement in The Comics Journal diminished in 1982 when he took over the editorship of Amazing Heroes, a bi-weekly magazine devoted to more mainstream comics (with occasional forays into alternative and even foreign comics). Thompson helmed Amazing Heroes through 204 issues until 1992.

Among Thompson’s signature achievements in comics were Critters, a funny-animal anthology that ran from 50 issues between 1985 to 1990 and is perhaps best known for introducing the world to Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo; and Zero Zero, an alternative comics anthology that also ran for 50 issues over five years — between 1995 and 2000 — and featured work by, among others, Kim Deitch, Dave Cooper, Al Columbia, Spain Rodriguez, Joe Sacco, David Mazzuchelli, and Joyce Farmer.. His most recent enthusiasm was spearheading a line of European graphic novel translations, including two major series of volumes by two of the most significant living European artists — Jacques Tardi (It Was the War of the TrenchesLike a Sniper Lining up His ShotThe Astonishing Exploits of Lucien Brindavoine) and Jason (Hey, Wait…I Killed Adolf HitlerLow MoonThe Left Bank Gang) — and such respected work as Ulli Lust’s Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, Lorenzo Mattotti’s The Crackle of the Frost, Gabriella Giandelli’s Interiorae, and what may be his crowning achievement as an editor/translator, Guy Peelaert’s The Adventures of Jodelle.

Throughout his career at Fantagraphics, Thompson was active in every aspect of the company, selecting books, working closely with authors, guiding books through the editorial and production process. “Kim leaves an enormous legacy behind him,” said Groth, “not just all the European graphic novels that would never have been published here if not or his devotion, knowledge, and skills, but for all the American cartoonists he edited, ranging from Stan Sakai to Joe Sacco to Chris Ware, and his too infrequent critical writing about the medium. His love and devotion to comics was unmatched. I can’t truly convey how crushing this is for all of us who’ve known and loved and worked with him over he years.”

Thompson was diagnosed with lung cancer in late February. He is survived by his wife, Lynn Emmert, his mother and father, Aase and John, and his brother Mark.

I only met Kim Thompson once, but we talked quite a bit over the last two or three years about TCAF things, and I respected what he had to say. My condolences to his friends and family.

I hope no one minds that I’ve reproduced Fantagraphics’ statement here, in full, as their site is understandably being slammed right now as people discover this terrible news.

- Chris


Very good catch and nice little report by Zainab Akhtar at The Beat on the new  Comme des Garcons X Katsuhiro OTOMO X NoBrow collaboration. Apparently NoBrow’s exact participation wasn’t made very clear, but Akhtar did some actual follow-up reporting and got the scoop. Head over there and check it out.

Tons of the actual collab images are currently circulating around Tumblr. You can find a bunch with this link, but feel free to explore as well. Some of my favourites below.

- Chris


Some good writing in my feed this morning, as three different folks (in two different articles) took time out of their days to talk about some comics that I really enjoy. All three are different in tone and style and execution, but all three are very much worth your time and money.

First up, at Manga Bookshelf, Melinda Beasi and Michelle Smith have a nice conversation about Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY and Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s LONE WOLF & CUBSunny recently debuted at The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and I was quite fortunate to be involved in that debut and welcoming author Taiyo Matsumoto to North America for its premiere. The book is phenomenal, quite possibly the strongest of his long career, and its surprising strength has pushed both Beasi and Smith to immediately want to go and read his other work, while they wait for volume 2. That’s high praise indeed, and Sunny is an extraordinary comic that is worth of the praise.

Smith and Beasi follow-up their discussion of Sunny with the impending re-release of Lone Wolf & Cub, now in an omnibus edition with a larger size and page count (volume 1 is 5″x7″ and 712 pages). I have a funny relationship with Lone Wolf & Cub, in that I absolutely love it but I haven’t yet finished the series. I stopped about 3 or 4 volumes from the end, despite being utterly consumed with the story and the world, because I wasn’t prepared for the series to end, and for the inevitable conclusion. I will probably finish it one day, and this re-release from Dark Horse may give me the impetus to do so… but I’m not there yet.

Finally, over at The Comics Journal, Craig Fischer writes an extended appreciation of the “Paul” series of books by Michel Rabagliati. The piece is very good at explaining what’s great about Rabagliati’s comics, and even better at explaining why it’s important to give his work a second or third look if you felt slightly unimpressed by it the first time around. I’m still working on my grand unified theory of why it’s so hard to develop a North American audience for French cartoonists, but Rabagliati is definitely on the list of folks whose work is extraordinarily popular and well-regarded in its native land (in Rabagliati’s instance that’s Quebec, rather than France) but has had difficulty finding an audience in English. I’m so happy to see articles like Fischer’s pushing for a reappraisal of Rabagliati’s work while it is still being published, still incredibly vital, and better-still, still in print. Go and track down Rabagliati’s catalogue at your earliest opportunity.

- Chris


Happy to hear Comics Alliance is back this morning. It’s a website that went away in the midst of a weird corporate reshuffle, and while I’m always happy to see an opportunity to remind people in the comics industry to own what they create so this sort of thing can’t happen, I think the site was more valuable than that.

Essentially, Comics Alliance’s greatest strength was the way it trained its readers to care about a wider medium.

All websites train their readership to expect things, and with enough time influence the way its readership views and understands things. Most comics related websites pull hard (HARD) for Marvel and DC, announcing literally every single piece of promotion from either company with equal or greater weight to legitimate news stories from the rest of the medium or industry. Marvel releasing a pictureless image with a piece of text on it for a second- or third-tier book is given the same ‘news’ weight as cartoonist imprisonment in Egypt, as a feature-length interview with a comics master, as a Hollywood casting rumour (when they bother to cover the middle two). This isn’t a direct criticism, just an observation. Today it’s “Villain Month” at DC, as if the other 11 months of the year were somehow “Villainless,” but that’s the game and that’s how sites choose to play it, all the luck in the world to them.

In running their content this way, sites have trained their readerships over time to treat all news this way, that what Marvel and DC are doing at any given time is equally as important as literally anything else happening in the industry or medium. And, very much for the better I think, Comics Alliance got in there and changed the focus significantly towards a much wider view of the medium and industry, and was very successful at it. It tackled gender and sexuality in a way that most sites did not, it tackled webcomics & tumblr comics culture (Adventure Time & pin-up art in particular) in a way that most sites did not. It was generally a fun site to visit, and the tone was consistent. Granted, it wasn’t perfect by any stretch–on the day the site went dark, only 1 of the 12 articles posted was actually about an actual comic book–a pretty poor send off for the site and an unfortunate billboard to leave up for critics happy to see it go. But generally half to three-quarters of the content on the site on any given day is about comics and their creators, which is a pretty good mix when you want those general-interest geek-culture eyeballs powering your ad dollars. Marvel and DC promo stuff gets a nod, but generally only when it is something largeish (reboot, multi-month marketing event), and apparently literally anything at all that Chris Sims wants to write about is given equal weight to that. It basically put forth a vision of “comics” that didn’t really exist beforehand, one that included young people and queers and webcomickers and ladies and POC, and that’s very much to its credit. That is a good thing.

It, understandably, doesn’t do much for people who have a deeply contrasting view of comics. Tucker and Abhay over at TCJ ripped Comics Alliance a new asshole last week on news that it would be returning, in the grand style of TCJ ripping new assholes out of things that it doesn’t particularly appreciate. With all due respect to Tucker and Abhay, I don’t think they get what’s important about what CA did, and will apparently continue to do. I mean, I don’t care about 75% of what Comics Alliance posts about either (gasp!). I don’t ever want to read a story about a Batman car seat, it’s a waste of where an intelligent article could go. But the industry and the medium needs that readership and the comics that Comics Alliance caters too–and most other sites ignore outright, TCJ included–just as much as it needs a regular column for people to be snotty about things that aren’t to their taste. Insert smiley-face.

So! Comics Alliance is now back online at http://www.comicsalliance.com. They’re currently undermining this entire post by running a review of a 2006 titty-movie based on a video game as their top post. Comics!

- Christopher