It can be a little difficult to keep on top of Viz Media LLC’s various imprints and sub-imprints. The old PULP line became Editor’s Choice, Editor’s Choice became the Signature line, and now that’s just VIZ SIG. Unless a title being published in the line also made its debut in the pages of the Japanese alt-comix anthology IKKI, then it’s now part of the Brand New SIG-IKKI sub-imprint. And as fun as all of that was to type out, it’s really besides the point because all of those imprints and sub-imprints are just indicators of where the good comics are.

Now they’ve got a website where you can view a bunch of great comics for free. It’s http://sigikki.com/ and it’s a blog and culture website to promote alternative and unique styles of manga (that happen to be published by Viz), and to act as an online version of IKKI magazine, serializing manga series–for free!–to try and develop audiences for the books before they show up on store shelves. It’s also kind of unprecedented within the manga industry, an online version of a manga anthology complete with serialized manga, designed to develop a whole new audience. Hey Viz, THANKS.

So what were my initial impressions of their launch series? Why, I’m glad you asked and I’d be happy to tell you. Only thing is, I think the action of launching an online, alternative manga magazine is perhaps more important than almost any one (or 5) stories, so I strongly encourage you to go read all of these series and make up your own opinions. But here’s what I thought anyway… perhaps you will disagree with me.

children_of_the_seaChildren of the Sea, by Daisuke Igarshi: I’ve read three or four chapters of Children of the Sea and it’s great though I have to admit, knowing that there was a print version on the way (now available) I waited for that; I’m just a print guy. Sadly I forgot my English-language edition of the first volume at home so it didn’t end up being one of my read-on-the-plane books for my trip to Japan. Speaking of, that book is gorgeous, go buy it.

Oh yeah, Japan. Igarashi was everywhere in Japanese bookstores, with lots of particular focus on Children of the Sea. I assume there’s an other-media adaptation coming down the pipe, but it was strange and heartening to see something popular and highly touted and knowing that it was just about to be released in North America… rather than 2 or 3 years down the road.

bokurano_oursBokurano: Ours, by Mohiro Kitoh: Reminds me a hell of a lot of the creator’s previous English-language manga series Shadow Star (Dark Horse). It’s an interesting premise, at least from the first chapter, but it’s a little awkardly executed. Artless, maybe? Like “oh, here are all of you children, I will explain the plot to you! GIANT ROBOT!” If I remember correctly, Shadow Star also had to be heavily edited (and eventually discountinued?) due to sexual content and ultraviolence in its similar-looking pubescent young cast… This should be a fascinating series to watch.

It’s perhaps the weakest first chapter of the ones released so far on the side, but despite that I do want to see where it’s going in the second installment.

dorohedoroDorohedoro, by Q Hayashida: And now for something completely different: Insane Ultraviolence! If you like to see a dude with a lizard head bite another dude in the face before carving him–midair with a machete–into component chunks, while a sexy chick looks on? This is the manga for you. I’m willing to see if the story develops into anything… perhaps that’s missing the point though.

icangiveitmyall_tomorrowI’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow, by Shunju Aono: While travelling through Japan, in the “alternative” manga section of whichever bookstore I happened to be in at the time, this book had a prominent place with shelftalkers and even a floor-display at one place. It has a charming, lo-fi art style that was immediately appealing to me, and I would pick up the book, flip through it, chuckle, and then put it down… because so much of it seemed dependent on the language (which I could not read).  And then Viz went and translated it for me as soon as I got back from Japan (thanks again Viz!), so you could say I was predisposed to like it.

Yeah, I like it. Love it maybe. It’s clever, with a strange but relatable plot (middle-aged salaryman feels aimless in his day-to-day, tries to escape but has no real plan to do so…), and some truly what-the-fuck moments that push this one into “When are they going to upload the next chapter?!” territory. It’s also easily the most conventionally uncommercial release to date, so I hope y’all like it as much as I do. :)

saturn_apartments_headerSaturn Apartments, by Hisae Iwaoka: From the description I was worried about this one being maybe a little overly-cute or overly sentimental. I can deal with both in turn, but in my alternative manga anthology I was hoping for something more? Anyway, it turns out this is just really good, solid. A great introductory chapter, strong enough that it felt like a solid Sci-Fi short-story all on its own, but is full of promise for a longer series. The art too is quite nice, with scratchy lines and squat character designs, and beautifully rendered backgrounds and a strong sense of storytelling.

But like I said up top, don’t just take my word for it, the first chapters of all of these manga (and in the case of Children of the Sea, the whole volume!) are free at http://sigikki.com. Check’em out, tell your friends, and lets keep building an audience in North America for more mature manga.

Parting IKKI Fun Fact: I learned from a friend in Japan that IKKI the magazine was actually started as a creative showcase for one of my favourite creators, Taiyo Matsumoto. He launched the magazine with his awesome BD Sci-Fi-inspired series NO.5, which saw print briefly here in North America. Knowing that now, it does account for the varying art styles in these works, and also for the heavy predilection towards Sci-Fi storylines. Maybe the SIGIKKI site can serialize that great series sometime soon?

- Christopher


boycotthyattposterHey there,

Just remember that if you’re in San Diego for the big Comic-Con, and you’re on your way out to have a bit to eat or a drink later in the evening? Fuck the Hyatt.

http://www.boycottmanchesterhotels.com/

San Diego hotel magnate Doug Manchester gave$125,000 to Yes on Prop 8, the initiative constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California.

If you believe in equality, it’s time to fight back.

Please join Californians Against Hate in boycotting Manchester’s three hotels:

Please tell your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to boycott Manchester hotels. We do not want to spend our hard earned money at Doug Manchester’s hotels only to have him use it to take away our rights.

Together, we can stand for equality — and against hate.

Seriously, just don’t go. Quit rationalizing, quit pretending that writing something pro-gay on your $20 bill while you put it in his pocket does anything, just don’t go. There are hundreds of other bars, restaurants, and hotels not owned by a homophobe. Go to one of those instead.

Or, as my good friend Andrew Wheeler recently summed up it up at his blog:

“Most people don’t have what it takes to be a hero, and stand up when it’s difficult to do so – not when there are beers on the table and the company is buying. But these people don’t have to be villains.”
- Andrew Wheeler, The Post Game Show

There’s really no excuse.

- Christopher


So Heidi wrote this:

“From the other side, many con vets are just wondering when the Hollywood contingent of San Diego Comic-Con is going to do an “E3? and try to scale back. Our own concept of one possible course is that in a few years, Hollywood is going to wake up and wonder why they are spending so much money on giving fans tchatchkes and try to scale down to a press-only event, just like E3 tried to do.” – Heidi MacDonald

In case you’re not familiar, E3 is the electronic entertainment expo, and it’s been going on for 20+ years now, and it eventually grew to insane, mythological proportions. And then scaled back to a bland trade show that no one liked. And has in recent years started to ‘recapture’ a little of the old spend-like-money-is-going out-of-style glitz.

And, from everything I’ve heard from everyone who’s attended, Comic-Con already is the scaled-down, no one likes it that much version of E3. Seriously. It’s small-potatoes compared to the elevendy billion dollar a year video game business, in a convention centre it outgrew 4, maybe 5 years ago. In a city that fucking hates it. For the most part.

Go read this, it’s Jim Zubkavich’s (UDON) stunned reaction to his first visit to E3 a few years ago, which I believe is the last of the “big” E3 events. Jim is a guy who had been to San Diego, as well as tons of other big cons across North America, and E3 still blew him away:

http://zubkavich.livejournal.com/99785.html
http://zubkavich.livejournal.com/99931.html
http://zubkavich.livejournal.com/100132.html

Here’s a taste, for those of you reticent to click outgoing links:

“After hearing about how good the Sony party was each year at E3, I was eager to see it first hand. As it turned out, luck worked its magic and my boss had arranged a meeting for me with a Sony executive after a mutual friend recommended our studio for an upcoming video game based project. … The meeting went well. Feeling good about our interaction, I stuck my neck out a bit and mentioned the party. She had one invite left she could give me. She made me promise not to sell the invite or to try and bring extra people along. I agreed and she handed me a wristband. At that moment I wondered what the heck I’d gotten myself into.

That night, my media buddies who had invites of their own and I made our way to Dodgers Stadium. When we arrived, security checked our wristbands and gave us each a glass of champagne while they lead us to shuttle buses. We rode up the hill to a beautiful open field area decked out with giant colored circus-like tents. Our wristbands were checked again as we entered and they double-checked that we’d brought no recording devices or cameras. Once inside the grounds I got a real sense of the scope of this thing.

6 or 7 giant tents surrounding a large music area and stage made up the party grounds…

- Jim Zubkavich

The Sony Party rented Dogers Stadium and filled it with tents. And acrobats and performers. And grunge rockers too… go read the posts. It’s insane.

Even on it’s best day, the con parties at San Diego don’t compare to this.

And sure, that’s “just” the parties, that doesn’t say anything about the hall or guests or attractions or whatever. But really, what I’m trying to point out here is MONEY. How much do you think it costs to throw that party in a rented Dogers Stadium? 500 grand? A million? 2? Do… do you think people care? Do you think Sony cares? No, it’s 2 million dolars, Sony made a lot of fucking money last year. And as elaborate as the booths at Comic-Con get, not a one of them is even close to the cost of what companies spent on booths at E3. Those video game booths are almost a million bucks a pop at Comic-Con, and BIGGER at E3. What if the DC booth was 4 times the size it currently is, would it seem so fucking crowded all the time? What if Marvel actually put together a real booth one year? What if Sony spent the same on their Comic-Con booth as they spent on their E3 booth? HOLY SHIT.

I got news for you, for a major media conglomerate having a bunch of model/actors standing around handing out tchochkes for 5 days IS the chump-change. These people go to lunch and it costs $900. If no one drinks.

300,000 people show up over 3 days for COMIKET at Tokyo Big Sight, a fan-run and fan-oriented convention on an island floating in the middle of Tokyo bay. ONLY 150,000 people show up, over 5 days for Comic-Con, the biggest consumer pop-culture event in a country with over twice the population.

The reason San Diego is a crowded, sweaty, overpopulated mess is because they’re thinking small. In my ever-humble opinion, they really oughtta realize that they stopped being a Comic-Con a long, long time ago,  and move to accommodate the show that they’ve become. Because I can’t imagine ANYONE is happy with how things are going now? Fuck, where’s the grandeur, the innovation, the VISION? Make it happen people!

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So yeah, book that bullshit baseball stadium next door for the weekend for the nerds, figure out a way to put up tents and carpetting in their giant parking lot. There’s a park behind the Convention Centre that’s at least as big as the convention centre itself. TENT THAT SHIT. Run a ferry between the two points.

And if you think for a second, for a moment, that this is too expensive? Remember the Sony Party at E3 4 years ago.  And remember that someone, somewhere, is paying $2.2 Million for a private concert by George Michael. Those people HAVE MONEY, you just need to learn where they are and get them hooked on comics or video games. I can personally recommend Scott Pilgrim.

- Christopher
Seriously: Microsoft & NBC Present: COMIC-CON AT PETCO PARK! Featuring X-Box 360 and the casts of THE OFFICE and 30 ROCK. That’d fill a baseball stadium.


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So a few smart people at DC Comics figured out that a female character flying around in a skirt might develop a sense of modesty at some point, and now Supergirl’s costume has red spandex-looking bike shorts on underneath her skirt. Seems practical, logical, and like a tiny little change right? Not so much. Apparently it was much-discussed. I’ll stay away from characterizing the discussion as “APESHIT” but really, some folks got very upset. Heh.

I had heard a little about the change a month or two back, but didn’t really think much of it. So when a reporter for The Toronto Star contacted me last week while I was in Japan, I actually hopped online to check out the hullabaloo. Wow! People are nuts! When she asked to interview me? Sure, why not, this would be great.

The story by reporter Paola Loriggio went live yesterday, and it’s a good one. Sadly because I got my comments on the story in about 4 hours before she had to file (stupid flight delay…!) there’s only one tiny, pithy quote from me in there, when I sent her a few hundred words FULL of pithy material. So first, go read the well-written, balanced story on this change (followed by one awesome bent-out-of-shape comment) and then come back here to read the full text of my answers about this epic non-story, which I have provided for you behind the cut. :)

Keep reading…


Hello!

I am back from Japan. It was awesome. I actually woke up this morning and missed Japan, which matches my past record of it taking two days to miss Japan after I got back. Speaking of, the flight back was kind of fucked up. There were electrical problems with our plane (before take-off, thankfully) and so we ended up staying overnight at a mediocre hotel near the airport. We got a direct flight home the next day, which was a small consolation, but we lost a full day and it made us crazy-tired.

Which brings me to: Not going to San Diego. I’m skipping this year, for the first time in maybe 5 or 6 I think, because I’ve just been away for a month and I need to get some fucking work done. The guys did a good job of keeping the store from catching on fire while I was away, but I’ve definitely fallen behind on stuff, and another week away in a fantasy land isn’t gonna Get Shit Done here at home.

I’m a little sad to be missing it, the content of the show looks pretty amazing this year, but I have reconciled myself to the fact that it is all for the best.

…sigh…

Annnnnnnnnnyway. I think I’m going to hold off on blogging any more Japan stuff until after San Diego, lest my posts get lost in the maelstrom of S A N D I E G O B R E A K I N G N E W S ! ! ! ! I’ve got a few other surprises up my sleeve too, let’s say we’ll start on August 1st with that again? Give everyone a chance to chew on the big industry news for a while, and for me to actually stockpile some content. Until then I’ll just bitch about the comics industry and respond to the news of the day here at the blog.

Speaking of which! I gave a fantastically scathing interview to The Toronto Star the other day about Supergirl’s new costume. I’m pretty excited to see it in print. I’ll blog it when it does.

Until then, you can find me in this article that also ran in The Star about Viz’s sublime cooking/food/drama manga Oishinbo, Food For Thought In Comic Form by Corey Mintz. It is not as effusive about the series as I personally am, but it is hard for people to be as effusive about things as I am. Corey: I don’t hold it against you.

I really oughtta review Oishinbo, eh?

Hmm.

Anyway, content soon as I have 10 minutes to rub together!

- Chris


kinokuniya_manga_floor
So it looks like I went and disappeared for the better part of two weeks… Whoops! Hah, it turns out that being in Japan is just a great time, and walking around Tokyo for 14 hours a day (no exaggeration) takes a lot out of a guy. Ah well, if I wasn’t out having fun, then I wouldn’t be able to write about it… Eventually…

On that note, we ended up travelling within Japan for the very first part of our trip, and I ended up with a different “feeling” for this trip. Andrew was much happier–we saw nothing but sacred, irreplaceable things and places for like 10 straight days (occasionally stopping in at the Tezuka Museum or whatever), but I felt a little bit like I was waiting “for the good part”… despite the fact that everything I was doing was fantastic, interesting, and amazing. I can’t help it, I just really like otaku shit. :)

Because of that, I didn’t really take a ton of photos for the first part of the trip, and so rather than organize chronologically I’m gonna end up doing posts on places, people, or concepts, rather than a chronological recap. And I’ll probably start working on the first one on the plane, hopefully that means I post it in 24 hours or so. We’ll see how tired I am when we finally board.

On that note, I’m just about to board my flight at Narita. Gotta run, see you soon, Toronto.

- Chris
Photo: Kinokuniya Bookstores Flagship Store, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.


Hey there! The post is now at this location: http://comics212.net/2009/12/21/japan-2009-tezuka-world-installation-kyoto-jr-station/.

Please update your links.

- Chris


Hey folks, sorry the updates have been slow… Internet access hasn’t been that frequent, and we’ve actually been travelling quite a bit. So far we spent 3 days in Tokyo, went to Nikko (beautiful), up to Sapporo on Hokaido (awesome!) and I’m writing this from our hotel in Kyoto. It’s kind of an intense travel time. Anyhow, whilst walking around today we tripped over one of my fav stores from my first visit–Village Vanguard. It’s described as a “cool book store”, with lots of cool items, young-people culture, books, manga, and more. So I figured I’d just post the pictures I took there, today, and not bother with any sort of timeline this time out. I’m also going to try WordPress’ “gallery” feature here to save me some time… Let me know what you think!

Village Vanguard Kyoto: Photos by Christopher Butcher

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Click to view the gallery:

- Chris