I can’t recall if this was a secret-secret, or a known-secret, but Jeff Smith and Cartoon Books just announced that they’ll be doing a One Volume edition of the popular Bone series, now in full colour (provided by the lovely Steve Hamaker, for the Scholastic editions). For format and details, head over to Boneville.com.

- Chris


This weekend we finally got through the 300+ applications for next year’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and picked our 2011 exhibitors.

This evening, I started sending out acceptance letters, welcoming cartoonists who were chosen to exhibit to the festival.

About a third of the way through sending out those letters, I realized that I would be sending out rejection letters tomorrow morning, 4 days before Christmas. Honestly, the date and timing did not occur to me until about 10 minutes ago, as like all things TCAF, we just work as fast as we can to get it all done, and we’re already a little late on sending out the notes.

But honestly? No one wants to get a rejection letter at Christmas. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, this can be a really difficult time of year and having that compounded by finding out that you won’t be getting to exhibit at an event that meant a lot to you? Awful. I don’t want to be the guy that does that to anyone. And so we’re going to delay sending out the rest of the responses until Monday, December 27th.

The worst part is, we’ve sent out about a third the acceptance letters, so lots of people already know that they’ve gotten in. Lots of people _don’t_ though, and I’m aware that I’ve succeeded in making the next 7 days more stressful for them. I am truly sorry about that, we don’t have very many major missteps with the Festival, but this is one of them and its squarely on my shoulders. And as stressful as I’ve made it for some folks, I didn’t make it _shitty_ for anyone, and that is a small comfort.

If you’re one of the folks who applied and is waiting to hear from us, again, I’m very sorry. Please know that we took the utmost care with your application, reading every biography, visiting every link, and experiencing as much of your work as possible. We will get back to you in as expedient and professional a manner as possible on the morning of the 27th, and we hope you’ll understand that waiting these extra days may have ensured a much happier holiday for many of your peers.

Sincerely,

Christopher Butcher, TCAF


UDON is not hiring. Not just because the portfolios sent to us aren’t very good, though the majority are very weak, but also because we’re at a point where we have more than enough artists on hand to take care of the work that comes in. I have some artists who I’d love to give more work to that I can’t keep employed full time because there aren’t enough projects coming in and out to keep them busy that whole time. These are people who have stellar quality, great work ethic and deliver on time.

We keep our core crew as busy as possible and then, beyond that, we have another tier of artists who I send freelance work to when the main gang is overwhelmed. That’s it. There’s no point in us bringing on even more people if we can’t keep them employed. No matter what else I say about your work, the reality of that situation doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.

Your artwork is not as good as you think it is.

- Jim Zubkavich. Click http://zubkavich.livejournal.com/317813.html for the whole piece.

My friend Jim Zubkavich does all sorts of things with his time. Currently he’s writing a very well-received series for Image called SKULLKICKERS, and the trade paperback collection of his Street Fighter: Ibuki mini-series comes out today. But he’s also a professor of animation AND the talent director for UDON studios, a creative studio working in comics, film, and television.

And so when a snarky up-and-comer thrusts his portfolio at Jim, Jim has every tool available to critique that work as honestly and thoroughly as the portfolio owner requests. The results are often not what they’re looking for (in that they’re honest and thorough), and the linked post is an accurate, no-punches-pulled assessment of not only the work of this creator, but the state of creative work in the comics industry. It’s very good.

More importantly, I think it’s a nice corollary to the Alex Toth/Steve Rude criticism that’s been going around the internet for a few years and was posted to “Letters of Note” today. You can be honest, even brutally honest, without being ajerk or using the situation to stroke your own ego. Good critics can do that.

- Christopher


The folks at Threadless, the indy-American-Idol style T-Shirt company are blowing out their entire stock at $9 a shirt, for one day only. That is an amazing deal, on some great T’s. See the selection at http://threadless.com.

I do hope that this sudden, intense sale isn’t indicative of any financial problems or soft holiday sales at the retailer, as they’re one of my favourites.

- Christopher


Just a quick note that I have an utterly not-comics-related blog at http://christopherbutcher.com and I’ve been talking about Christmas Music, which I love, over the past 5 days if you are interested. If you are not, do not worry. I will continue posting here too. :D

- Chris


Yes, the Japanese have a supermarket called FOO:Dmagazine (Foodie Magazine), an upscale grocery store in the massive SEIYU chain. I’m not going to lie to you: I love grocery stores. When I go I need to visit every aisle, I look at tons of items, I buy way more than I need because I don’t go to grocery stores often, living downtown… and hey, that’s why they’re called “non-perishables” anyway, right?

For more Japanese travelogues, please click here: http://comics212.net/category/japan/

All photos taken with an Olympus PEN EL-1 digital camera.

Just inside the front door is the produce section, which makes it… well, just like home really. Admittedly some of the produce is a little different, and differently priced.

85 yen (about a buck) for an Orange? That’s not too crazy. And $3-$4 for a bag of kiwis? Reasonable enough I guess.

Although the apples range between $1.30 and $4.50 a pop here. Still, not the most expensive apples I’ve saw on this last trip. I think the most expensive single apple was $10. :)

Or an anemic little basket of Strawberries for 12 bucks. Actually, these looked gorgeous, like illustrations of strawberries…

Or a tiny bunch of grapes for about $10 (Green, Seedless) or $8 (Red).

Bread? Not too bad, about 3 times what it would cost at home. But here’s a neat thing! The bread is 88 yen (about a buck-ten) for bread, whether you want to buy 4, 6, or 8 slices. Because the amount of bread is the same, it’s just sliced at different thicknesses!  And yeah, the four-slicers are ridiculously thick pieces of bread.

Click to keep reading:

Keep reading…


It occurs to me, this being a comic-book website, that not all of my readers may be familiar with club flyers, and may think them to be a mysterious gay-Japanese invention. Let me assure you–clubs all over the world advertise themselves and upcoming events with bright, colourful flyers. But the Japanese ones tend to use manga-style illustrations as a primary attention-getting tool in a way most North American clubs don’t, and that’s awesome.

What we have here is a big (8.5×11″ or so) flyer for an upcoming party at the gay club Arch, a surprisingly big club space in a Tokyo district where most bars comfortably fit 6, and max out at 12. You know it’s a big deal because I was there the first week of November, and they already had the glitz-and-glam advertisements out for a party happening December 11th…!

This is a party for “Gachi-muchi”, or chubby-muscly, a sort of Japanese-only gay subculture that’s kinda like bears but kinda not, too. It’s the type or look typified by the characters in Jiraya manga or in G-Men Magazine, and occasionally by notable names like Genoroh Tagame. The reverse of this flyer features all kinds of photographs–real life versions of the idealized figure shown here. But since there are no illustrations I left it alone. After all, some of those gents might want their privacy.

For more, check out http://www.clubarch.net/schedule/index.html.

Speaking of which, one of the sponsors of the Gachi-Muchi disco party is BIG GYM, a gay bookstore chain (!) specializing in gachi-muchi, bears, and manly men. As such, their stores aren’t generally found in the Shinjuku gay district, but out and about around Tokyo. This here is a free pamphlet they were giving away illustrating the proper way to tie and wear Fundoshi, or traditional Japanese underwear. Check out Big Gym online at http://www.biggym.co.jp/, they’re an awesome, awesome store.

This flyer was picked up from a tourist-friendly shop in Shinjuku ni-chome, and it talks about Rokushaku, a specific type of Fundoshi, and with English instructions…! Interestingly, while a chubby guy is shown here this shop was very ‘twink’ oriented (look it up if you don’t know), I dunno if they’d ever seen anyone this size walk through the door… heh. Until we showed up anyway.

Ah, I totally loved this flyer. This is for a bar in Okinawa called “clutch”, with accounts for the Pacific-islander theming. Basically just a great big fun party scene with all different kinds of guys, letting you know that everyone’s welcome. That’s the bartender, or master/mama, in the center there. I learned that owners of similar bars across the continent will send each other packages of flyers to display and distribute. It’s kind of confusing when you don’t speak the language and see an ad for a bar that you’ve never heard of before, and find out its a thousand km away. Still, it’s only ever a thousand km away…!

Here’s a picture of the flyer that Andrew took, hanging up at a bar. I think this was in a washroom, so… uh. This photo could be worse? :)

Finally, here’s a very cool thing. This is a free-giveaway from Big Gym (mentioned above) of an illustration by Gengoroh Tagame. They did this neat thing last year, where every month they gave away a free calendar with an original illustration by a famous gay manga-ka. It encouraged people to come back at least once a month, and hey, free calendar!

Totally gonna steal that idea.

Alright, that’s everything I grabbed on the last trip. Hope you enjoyed, folks!

Best,

- Christopher


In observance of World AIDS day December 1st, I thought it might be appropriate (and fun!) to dig out some of the “souvenirs” of my last trip to Japan.

I’m a comics guy, and if I’m out at a bar and see an illustrated club advertisement, I’ll grab it. I like illustrations, and I particularly like Japan’s specific brand of hot-chubby-bear illustrators, and so I came home with a treasure-trove of cool flyers and booklets. Unfortunately, new cases of HIV and AIDS are seeing a dramatic upswing in Japan right now (and amongst gay men in particular), and a number of organizations are doing great work to make people aware of the disease, how to prevent it, and how to live with it if you become HIV positive. And one of the many ways they’re doing so is by enlisting a huge selection of amazing gay comics artists, in a variety of different ways.

First up you see this collection of 9 illustrations and an info card called, so far as I can tell, “FACE TO REAL”, put out by the folks at http://www.hiv-map.net/. This was actually available as a bagged set of ‘postcards’ at a bar I visited (it was actually a gift from the bartender, once he found out I liked comics…!), and it features some of my favourite comic artists doing original pieces of work, including Jiraya (top left) and Sansuke Yamada (top right). You can click on the image for a slightly bigger-view, but to see the images in all of their glory, I strongly recommend you head to the Real Living Together portal at http://www.real-lt.net/dekiru/ and click on the image in the center. You’ll see an interactive Flash index of all of the images, and each image features information about HIV and AIDS. Unfortunately it’s all Japanese text, but the images are great.

I think it’s kind of amazing that this thing was mass-produced as a collectable, available at distribution points like bars! What a wonderful idea.

This next image is of the outside and inside of a little flyer with just the most adorable illustrations on it. Click to see it larger. Again, it’s a cool flyer with basic HIV/AIDS info on it, as well as a QR code that you can scan with your phone to get more info.  Unfortunately I don’t have any idea who the illustrator is on this one, and I apologize for the quality of the scan. If you can believe it, all of those illustrations are even cuter on the original. :)

For more information (in Japanese) and to see more of these illustrations, head over http://hiv-map.net/.

This last one though? This is utterly amazing. This is an HIV/AIDS info guide, but also a fully illustrated safe-sex guide. Better still, they enlisted the artistic skills of renown gay/bear manga-ka Echigoya Shinnosuke to illustrate the whole thing! Unfortunately most of the interior illustrations take this blog from “Not Safe For Work” right into “Oh, he’s posting actual porn now” territory, so I’m gonna err on the side of caution and stay away for now. Which isn’t to say that an instructional image of a little cartoon man rolling a condom onto his erect little cartoon dick is porn. It’s not. But the images of the dudes fucking is, albeit highly relevant and entertaining! So, yeah, until enough of you cry foul and demand scans, I’m going to hold off posting for now.

Did you notice the hole-punches by the way? This booklet is 30 pages (including the covers), with detatchable pages, and it’s meant to be inserted into a day-planner! Just because you’re a workaholic salaryman dropping by the gay bar on your way home from work doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a bunch of illustrated guides to putting on a condom, safe anal intercourse, and std info at your fingertips…!

Also? Printed in 1999. There’s no website info in the contact information. Pre-web!

I couldn’t resist, that image was adorable.

This is just one of the ways that comics (manga) and illustrated art are a part of daily life in Japan, in a way that they wouldn’t be here in North America. There’s a push-and-pull between fans who think the streets are paved with manga, and been-there-done-that-fans who insist that anyone who still likes comics, even in Japan, is a big old ostracized nerd (otaku), but the reality is somewhere between those two extremes. Comics are everywhere, illustrations are everywhere, and incredibly popular at conveying information in a direct and fun way.

And they make for some pretty amazing souvenirs! (Don’t worry, I made sure there were plenty of pamphlets left and got permission from the bartenders first).

So remember to play-safe out there folks, whether you’re in Japan, North America, or anywhere else for that matter. And tomorrow I’m going to post some club advertisements that also use illustrations.

Cheers,

- Christopher