It’s no secret that I go shopping in Japan, almost all of my travelogues have been retail oriented. But one of my favourite stores is a little boutique home goods/decor place called FrancFranc, located just outside the Shinjuku JR New South Entrance, the same pedestrian walkway and shopping promenade that housed Tokyo’s first, busiest Krispy Kreme Donuts. Its upscale, a mix of Euro and Japanese sensibilities, a chain of great shops found across Japan and throughout Asia, and I would basically decorate my entire home with this stuff if I lived in Japan.

…and they love Christmas. Seriously, we walked by this place on (I think) the first of November, and it was already splashed out with every manner of Christmas goods. For a Christmasophile like myself, it was like heaven. I wanted to buy everything, but sadly my luggage was reserved almost entirely for otaku-related-goods.

So I took pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. With that lovely Olympus PEN EL-1 Digital Camera. Incidentally I tried to get this up online before Christmas, but computer troubles tripped me up. Enjoy this late breaking Christmas spirit. :)

Can you believe that these are CHRISTMAS CARDS? They come flat in the envelope, and then you pop them out and decorate them and they’re amazing. I did pick up a couple of these actually, since they packed flat. If anyone knows if/where to get these in Toronto, I’m all over them.

Nicest. Disposable. Silverware. Ever.

Mini Abstract Christmas Trees, Mini Decorations, and everything sparkles.

Click the “Keep Reading” for all the rest of the sparkle….

Keep reading…

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

- 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.


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 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

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 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:

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

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, 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!


- Christopher