From a store just outside Harajuku JR Station, comes these socks. Mickey Mouse as Spider-Man, from July 2009… months before the announcement of the Disney/Marvel deal. Completely unlicensed, entirely prescient.

From my post on Harajuku, which I am working on at the moment.

- Chris



One of my best friends, Mr. Jamie Kirkpatrick, is particularly environmentally conscious. I was trying to figure out a way I could bring this back for him, just to watch him shake his head in disgust.

But I guess the photos will have to do.

Worth noting: The bananas were actually pretty good!

- Christopher


Giant Robot Magazine #49 Cover by Adrian Tomine.

I don’t really mention it on the blog here as much as I should, but my favourite magazine is probably GIANT ROBOT, an independently produced and funded mag out of California. I’ve been a fan for years and years now, spotting it on the newstands with a bold logo, great title, and an eye-catching photo of CK model Jenny Shimizu way, way back. #10! It’s a general-interest magazine covering art, life, and culture, but with a focus on Asian culture specifically… both here in North America and internationally. It’s well-written, informative, and a great education in all of the things you aren’t going to find just reading manga and watching anime. It’s also very current, very vital, and when it comes to art and film especially it’s like having a great inside track.

Maybe the thing I like about it the most is that it’s so personal–editors Martin and Eric have been there since the beginning. They open every issue with an editorial and a direct address to the reader that feels real and unrehearsed, unlike so many editorial notes that are perfunctory and exclamatory coming from people with a 1-year-contract, these guys have been there since day one, and each little editorial is like a window into a long distance’s friend’s life. What they’ve been up to over the past few months (had a baby! lost at softball!) and how that might tie to this issue’s stories. Even better through working at The Beguiling and visiting the San Diego Comic Con ever year, I have gotten to know Martin and Eric in person, and they’re smart, friendly dudes who love doing what they do.

GR gives me fantastic artist profiles, stories on food and food culture, even a little bit of politics… That’s great stuff. That’s not just worth paying for, it’s worth supporting directly.

In keeping with their editorial style, Martin and Eric have recorded a video asking GR readers and the general public to lend them a hand in a difficult time:

I don’t think they’ve mentioned it anywhere yet (brave face and all that), but in addition to the kinds of issues facing print these days (declining ad revenue, distribution, sales) they’ve recently been dropped from Diamond’s PREVIEWS catalogue, the only way to interact with the vast majority of comic shops who carry manga, anime and other Asian culture goods. Because of GR’s somewhat erratic publishing schedule I didn’t even notice for a little while–and I’m a fan! I’m not pointing at Diamond in particular as the culprit, just a symptom of lost ground. Print is a ‘war of inches’ right now, and if you lose enough ground on enough fronts, eventually you lose the war. This appeal is to help keep them in the fight.

Please go to http://www.giantrobot.com/donate, and you can read more about what they’re asking for, and why, and why it’s a good idea to help. In addition to just helping keep a great arts and culture magazine going, different levels of donation will net you cool stuff like prints, books, original art, subscriptions and more.

My friend Mr. Bryan Lee O’Malley auctioned off a piece of his original art, and raised $2550 for the cause. Which is awesome. I don’t have that kind of art (or that kind of scratch), so we worked it out and I can probably swing about a hundred bucks to directly support artists and work I appreciate, and it nets me a subscription which is cool. I’m hoping that some of you reading here can spare a few bucks as well, or failing that, maybe take me at my word that this is a great magazine and subscribe? Every issue I find something really great in it, and the re-read potential is high. For just $24 (or $30 CDN) you can get a year of great magazines. Failing that? Grab an issue from the newsstand, comic store, wherever you see it and check it out for yourself. And thanks for reading all of this, I don’t make public appeals like this a regular thing, but GR is worth supporting and worth saving.

http://www.giantrobot.com/donate

- Christopher



The official Kanji of the Year for 2009, as chosen by The Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society? Shin, or ‘New’. Chosen for lots of different reasons, it feels like a lot the end of the last decade was on people’s minds the world overparticularly in Japan where the ruling party since WWII was swept from power! For more on the Kanji of the Year see Wikipedia.

- Chris


Kirin Lemon Strong, 8% alcohol. It’s terrible. Like lemon-flavoured paint thinner. Bought on my first night in Tokyo. This is Chuhai, a sort of only-in-Japan wine-cooler type beverage made with Shochu, which is distilled from Rice, Barley, or Potatoes depending… Chuhai comes from “Shochu Highball”, which is basically a mixed drink made with Shochu. I really dig these chuhai beverages, but this one with the amped up alcohol and chemical lemon taste? No good.

White-Grape flavoured soda at Mos Burger. Really tasty!

“Organic Orange Juice” J-BIO. Tasted awful, like under-ripe oranges. Sitting next to a piece of cheese-twisty-bread. What is the most prominent flavour in the cheese-twisty-bread? If you answered “wasabi/hot mustard”, you’d be correct. Worst breakfast.

Later in the trip, on the way to Sapporo actually, Andrew woke up in the morning and had a regular-strength Kirin lemon chuhai. This was our go-to beverage for the trip, and it treated us very well. Refreshing, with a hint of tipsy.

Asahi Presents: Fruits Party Chuhai! Tastes like muscat (green grapes). Next to it is “Gyoza Flavoured Hokkaido Potato Chips.” Behind it evidence of the more than 20 hours of work I did on Beguiling stuff while on vacation for three weeks.

This is a drinks case in the far corner of the food bazaar underneath Sapporo JR Station. This is the only place in Japan I saw A&W root beer!

This drink case is in the 7-11 attached to the Post Office near Sapporo JR station. In the center near the bottom, you can see two bottles of Rei Ayanami-branded Cafe Latte, clearly the best-selling drink of the day.

Nother shot of the cold UCC Cafe Latte with sexy Rei on it. These are all cold coffees, usually with milk in them. Milk and preservatives.

This was in Kyoto. We ended up staying in a budget hotel right near the manga museum, with lots of residences (and hotels) around. Just north of our hotel was this little scene, 2 vending machines in the outer lobby of an apartment building, with another across the street. Lighthouses that dot the city, guiding thirsty travelers through the urban seas.

Only 100 yen! Deal!

After walking under the blazing sun in Shirahama on Izu for basically three kilometres with no breakfast, I managed to convince my husband that we needed to eat. My increasingly cranky mood may have tipped the scales. We ended up going to the first restaurant we saw, which happened to be a Nagisa beer-themed restaurant, with western meals and really great beer, all-natural, totally unlike the Japanese beers we’d been drinking. Andrew had a pizza for lunch, I had pasta alfredo. It was just us, two sweaty white guys, and tons of Japanese house-wives, all getting lunch. My mood improved considerably after lunch, and I heartily recommend Nagisa Beer.

Our at a proper supermarket in Shirahama, with tons and tons of drinks. Awesome.  Not more selection, but definitely an impressive display! Let’s go in for a closer look.

I bought this Collagen Water, because I heard that it was a thing but I had never seen it on store shelves in Canada. It’s a little like drinking watery lube, with a hint of lemon. So no, I do not recommend it.

In Japan the word “diet” refers to Japanese parliament, and not eating specific kinds of food. So there is no ‘diet coke’ for the most part. They’ve got Coke Zero, which is still Coke Zero, but Diet Coke is called a bunch of different stuff. Currently, it’s No Calorie Coca-Cola Plus! This was a limited edition Coca Cola Plus, with added green tea flavouring. It tasted nothing like green tea, but for a diet coke addict in a country without diet coke… It was basically methadone for my heroin problem.

This is the awesomest canned coffee, BOSS COFFEE RAINBOW. So far as I can tell it tastes like all of the other canned coffees, but it is called BOSS and it has that dude on it, and also a rainbow.

Asahi Cocktail Partner! Made with real fruit juice, and perhaps Vodka! I think vodka rather than chuhai in this one? We tried one, I couldn’t really tell the difference.

The only place in Japan that you CAN get Diet Coke (okay, so I fibbed earlier), is Mickey Ds. While this is basically the size of a Large Coke in North America, in Japan it’s such a freakish size that it comes in a one-piece, sealed container for easy transport back to your home, because you’re clearly not drinking it while out. Japan!

- Chris


Look, it’s a stunning photo of ME, taken by Charlie Chu, Oni’s newest employee (congrats buddy). That photo (or a crop thereof) graces an interview with me at Torontoist.com that went up earlier this week. In it I talk about comics and graphic novels and Canadian publishing and TCAF and The Beguiling and even this-here-blog. Thanks to Dave Howard for conducting the interview, and if you’ve been missing me here as of late you’ll probably get a kick out of the interview –it was taped rather than typed so I’m more off the cuff and rambly than usual.

On that note, my hosting bill came due at the end of January, and after a careful (slapdash) assessment of my finances, it looks like my advertising here at Comics212 over the last two years just barely covered my hosting here at Comics212 for the last two years. That’s the first time that’s happened, which is very nice and thanks to my many fine advertisers for that. Unfortunately, I should probably be doing a heck of a lot better after almost 8 years of blogging at roughly the same address, so more efforts to generate revenue from this site will be forthcoming. On the plus side that probably means I’ll write more…!

Actual blogging resumes later tonight.

- Christopher


From here:

“I worked for them as a letterer at an embarrassingly low page rate. I took it to get some more superhero style stuff under my belt, hoping that I could at least use them as a springboard to get better work down the line.

For the first two books, things went ok. However, on the next four, I had to send invoices up to six times with constant reminders in order to get paid. It was crazy how often someone could “lose” invoices or have them “caught by the spam filter”. After having waited about 6 months to get paid, I walked and stopped doing any work for them. They did eventually pay up, but it took a lot of effort to get them to do so.

During the above situation, someone who’d worked on one of the books that I worked on contacted me to see if I’d been paid. He’d taken a back-end deal and was told that the book hadn’t made any money. I wasn’t surprised, to be honest — It didn’t seem like it was going to be a big seller. The person didn’t know much about how distribution worked and thought that it was a lie that Diamond was only giving about 40% of cover price, so I kind of dismissed his claims at first. Then he sent me a spreadsheet of expenses and income that he’d been sent from Bluewater and asked me to look over to see if it made sense. I was shocked to find that the cost of lettering was listed at TWICE what I was paid.

Maybe there’s a logical explanation as to why the lettering cost was listed at twice what I was paid, but I can’t think of what it would be. What it looks like, to me, is number fudging.

- Ed Brisson, comics creator and small-press publisher

So to reitterate: Most creatives working with Bluewater only get paid royalties once a book is profitable. But the accounting to determine whether or not a book is profitable is done by the publisher, and has allegedly been rigged in the publisher’s favour at least once. So to those last, few, desperate people defending the business practices of this company, it’s not just that you’re working for free to ‘get your name out there’ which in this age of social media and webcomics is frankly ridiculous, but this publisher may actually be deliberately cheating you out of money that you would be owed. I would recommend, again, to any creator looking to ‘break into’ comics, to find other routes than through the gutter.

In a completely unrelated matter, in no way tied to the previous statement (particularly in a way that could get folks like Mr. Brisson in trouble vis a vis Bluewater’s constant legal threats), after consulting with my employer we’ve decided at The Beguiling to no longer carry Bluewater’s product. If a customer would like to pre-order Bluewater’s material with payment, we’ll honour that request, because we’re a full-service comic store. But frankly the idea of supporting this publisher with shelf copies (or making money ourselves off of these books) has become incredibly unappealing to us for a variety of reasons.

For more on Bluewater Comics, check out Simon Jones, Tom Spurgeon, Johanna Draper Carlson (2), and Heidi MacDonald.

- Christopher, “every bit helps,” said the old woman as she pissed into the sea.