I’m going to write a full post on this, but I wanted to get this out there early:

Diamond’s new order minimums increase is going to hurt the DM worse than Marvel’s Heroes World Debacle did. It is essentially the beginning of the end for the Direct Market, in my estimation. Specifically because Diamond Comics Distributors is a monopoly.

So, yeah. All the reasoning is coming later (like: Scott Pilgrim Volume 1 would not have made the new retail cut off, based on its original initial orders). This Is Not Good.

Fun Fact: Do you know what it costs to be a direct market retailer? $600 minimum order each month. A cost between 4 and 10 times less than what it costs to be a publisher, apparently. Figure that one out.

- Christopher


george_sprott

George Sprott
By Seth
Hardcover, 10 x 14 inches, 96 pages with gatefold, full color.
$ 24.95
ISBN: 978-1897299-51-7

The first major new graphic novel by Seth in 3 years.

Celebrated cartoonist and New Yorker cover artist Seth gives us the fictional life of George Sprott. On the surface George seems a charming, foolish, old man—but who is he? And who was he? Told as a patchwork tale, we come to know George, piece by piece, in a series of “interviews,” flashbacks, and personal reminiscences. George Sprott is a story about time, identity, loss, and the persistence of memory. Though, ultimately, this is the story of a man’s death, Seth leavens it with humor and restraint. Originally serialized in The New York Times Magazine, this greatly expanded and “re-mastered” version is George Sprott’s first publication as a complete work.

Note: An excellent companion to the Seth-edited and designed Collected Doug Wright.

********

collected_doug_wright_vol1

The Collected Doug Wright: Canada’s Master Cartoonist
By Doug Wright. Designed and Edited by Seth.
Hardcover, 9.5 x 14 inches, 240 pages, full color
$ 39.95
ISBN: 978-1-897299-52-4

A career-spanning retrospective of one of the masters of North American cartooning, featuring an introduction by Lynn Johnston

The first of a historic two-volume set, The Collected Doug Wright: Canada’s Master Cartoonist presents the first-ever comprehensive look at the life and career of one of the most-read and best-loved cartoonists of the 1960s. Compiled in cooperation with Doug Wright’s family, it draws from thousands of pieces of art, pictures, letters, and the artist’s own journals to provide a fully rounded view of Wright, both as a cartoonist and as an individual. Wright was a major figure in mid-20th century cartooning and his work was a major influence on the likes of Chester Brown, Dave Sim, Lynn Johnston, and Seth. From the 1950s to 1980, Wright’s weekly strip was read by over 2 million Canadians and was syndicated across the country. Designed by the acclaimed cartoonist and Peanuts designer Seth and featuring a biographical essay by journalist Brad Mackay, this lavish hardcover collection gives Wright’s career the recognition it has long been due. The introduction is by one of the most famous working cartoonists today, Lynn Johnston, of the syndicated heavyweight comic strip For Better or For Worse.

Note: An excellent companion to Seth’s new graphic novel, George Sprott.

********

Offered Again This Month:

Berlin Volume 1: City of Stones (New 5th Printing), by Jason Lutes
Berlin Volume 2: City of Smoke (New 2nd Printing), by Jason Lutes
Wimbledon Green, by Seth
It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, by Seth 

Product Information After The Cut.

Keep reading…


chrismal_trlMal and I at the Toronto Reference Library yesterday. Photo courtesy of the indomitable Eric Kim.

TCAF announcement next week, it looks like. :)

- Christopher


Mysterius The Unfathomable #1 Creator Signing
Featuring Series Artist and Co-Creator Tom Fowler
Wednesday, January 21st, from 5pm to 7pm
@ The Beguiling, 601 Markham Street, Toronto
FREE

The Beguiling is proud to welcome Ottawa cartoonist Tom Fowler, to sign copies of his new creator-owned series Mysterius The Unfathomable. Tom will be dropping by The Beguiling on the day of the book’s release, Wednesday January 21st, to sign and sketch for fans.

Written by Jeff Parker (X-Men: First Class, The Interman) and published by Wildstorm, Mysterius The Unfathomable is a neat-sounding series about a series’ of calamities that befall the new magical assistant to Mysterius, a washed-up stage magician who is secretly a sorcerer supreme… of a sort. Here, just check out this interview with the author.

It should be a fun series, and who doesn’t want their copy defaced by the artist, IN PERSON?

See you on the 21st!

- Chris @ The Beguiling


If I had a small banner ad (468×60) between every post on the site that was 1000 words or more (at the end of the post), how upset would you be?

1 is not upset, 10 is stop-reading-the-site.

Answer honestly, I can take it.

EDIT:

Hey, thanks for the support folks. It looks like, judging by people who bothered to respond, about 5% of you are going to end up annoyed with me. I guess we’ll find out soon.

And yeah, I have no plan to start using Google Adsense. The lack of control is really gross, I generally approve every advertisement that runs on the site, something I can’t do with Google. I know a number of my friends ended up with pro-Prop 8 ads through AdSense, for example, and I’d rather take my site offline then have something like that happen.

New post soon.

- Chris


kirby_prisoner_village

My latest post for Tor.com has gone live, about the very good news that one of the best pieces of TV of all time, The Prisoner, is now available for free streaming from AMCtv.com.

As a very unfortunate coincidence, Prisoner star Patrick McGoohan has passed away at the age of 80, just as I was writing my post, apparently. The Prisoner had a lasting effect on me, informing much of my teenaged (and later) rebellion. I think it’s a fine piece of work, and recommend it.

- Christopher
Image from Jack Kirby’s aborted adaptation of The Prisoner, from 1976.


Art by Derek Kirk Kim

That art right there is by Derek Kirk Kim, from the new graphic short story collaboration between Derek and Gene Yang. It’s called The Eternal Smile, and it’s coming this Spring from First Second Books. I bet you want it, don’tcha? (Edit: It’s too nice not to see it in full size, click on the image for really big version.)

Gene Yang’s previous graphic novel, American Born Chinese, has far-and-away been First Second’s bestelling graphic novel, and has done extraordinarily well by any standard–having won awards, been recommended by schools and libraries, and it’s even done quite respectably in the bookstores.  I keep seeing it Offered Again in Diamond’s Previews Catalogue, I can only imagine that there are more than a few comic book stores selling copies as well. So, yeah, it’s successful.

Quite a few people were surprised to learn that American Born Chinese was not Gene Yang’s first graphic novel… I actually started following ABC during its initial online serialization because I was already a fan of Gene’s work. Two of his previous releases actually have a lot in common with American Born Chinese, in that they:

- Deal with Asian-American issues
- Address the concept of being an outsider, and the difficult nature of friendship
- Discuss religion in a fairly prominent way

Do you know what those books are? It’s okay if you don’t, most people that have read American Born Chinese have no idea about Gene’s previous graphic novels. Which is really interesting to me, as a reader and particularly a retailer.

Gene’s previous two graphic novels are Gordon Yamamoto and the King of Geeks, and its semi-sequel, Loyola Chin and The San Peligran Order.  Both of them are currently in print, and available from SLG Publishing. I actually recommend them both–they’re not as strong as ABC, but if you liked that one, I’d be surprised if you didn’t enjoy those two graphic novels.

So, let’s compare the covers of those two books with ABC:

gene_yang_cvrsAll three have lots of negative space. All three feature very passive characters on the cover. But one of them is clearly more visually interesting than the others, and it just looks, pardon the expression, more professional. That’s the one coming from the graphic novels arm of a multi-national publishing corporation, but yeah, which one of those three books would you rather pick up off the rack? I’d be curious to know whether Gene Yang created the cover to American Born Chinese entirely on his own, as I believe he did the earlier two graphic novels, or if there was any feedback, input, or design at his publisher First Second. I’d probably lay down money on the latter.

Now, obviously success is not as simple as a cover design, when it comes to why one book hits when another doesn’t… Actually, that’s not always true, I’ve read lots and lots about authors who feel that their books were done-in by poor covers, never really giving them a shot. In fact, one of the funniest contests I saw on the internet last year was a “redesign the covers of classic books” based on this very issue. Check it out, it’s quite good. But in this case anyway, I think it’s some pretty-amazing press and good word of mouth (and all of the work that went into getting that press and word of mouth from First Second) that accounted for ABC’s success.

Let’s put the design aside for a moment and talk about what’s in between the covers… ABC is a full colour book, longer than Gordon and Loyola put together, with higher over-all production (french-flaps!) and weighs is roughly the same price as either book. It’s also just a stronger work overall. Add in beautiful design and a great cover and a strong international marketing force, and you’ve got a hit on your hands. And it might be clear why Gene’s work really found an audience more than 10 years after he started putting it out there.

But here’s the question I really wanted to ask all along: Will all of the new readers that Yang has picked up from American Born Chinese go back and discover his earlier efforts? I think so, and I think First Second are counting on it too.

eternal_smileYou see, as I mentioned up top, Eternal Smile is actually a collection of short stories, and that gorgeous piece of art is from just one of them. The other two stories are somewhat under wraps, but I can confirm that one of them appears to be a much older collaboration between Gene Yang and Derek Kirk Kim, a story originally published by Image Comics almost 10 years ago called Duncan’s Kingdom. By way of confirmation, according to Canadian bookseller Indigo, the one-time title of The Eternal Smile was “Duncan’s Kingdom and Other Stories“, just check out the address bar when you get to that page. Duncan’s Kingdom was a two-issue mini-series written by Gene, and illustrated by Derek Kirk Kim in and around the time that Derek created some of the short stories that make up his Same Difference and Other Stories.

Now, just as an aside (though an incredibly important one): Duncan’s Kingdom is fantastic. It might be my favourite work from Gene or Derek, just because of how funny, well-illustrated, well-told, and ultimately gut-wrenching it is. I am entirely thrilled that this little-known story will be brought back to print, and I can’t wait to share it with people. It’s just that well-done. I even raved about it online somewhere, a long time ago, and it was maybe how Derek Kirk Kim and I met. So, yeah, I’m on board.

First Second is bringing Duncan’s Kingdom back into print, and hoping that Gene (and Derek) have enough of a fan-base to make it a success where, originally, the comic industry pretty much ignored it entirely. Sure, they’re hedging their bets by including (beautiful!) new work, but it’s essentially a reprint of a previously-published North American comic book, and I think it’s the first such work that First Second has offered (if you don’t count their repackaging of Little Vampire).

The reason this is fascinating to me (and if you’re still reading here, thanks, I realize this is way more rambly and navel-gazing than usual) is that conventional wisdom in the publishing industry states that, with very few exceptions each work only gets one kick at the can. No one wants to spend money publishing something that the industry considers “failed”. I’ve heard stories of editors and agents being incredibly prejudiced against anything that’s seen print in any form before. Some of those B&W experiment Image Comics in particularly. Hell, some of my friends in webcomics have had a lot of trouble with publishers on this front, which is totally baffling to me, but then a lot of people just don’t understand webcomics. But I digress.

I think it’s great that the graphic novel industry has matured to a point where we can actually repackage good material that’s been glossed over, books that were ahead of their time, or got poor distribution or promotion. That the industry can breathe new life into work that deserves it.

If, of course, The Eternal Smile succeeds. I don’t know how it couldn’t, given the pedigree of its creators and just how absolutely beautiful it is, but stranger things have happened.

Still, if I were SLG Publishing, I’d maybe be calling up Gene Luen Yang about putting together an omnibus collection of his first couple works, with a new title (and maybe no one picking their nose on the cover), hiring a colourist and maybe even getting Gene to do a brand new epilogue to the stories, for Spring 2010. Maybe they could even spring for French Flaps?

- Christopher
(This post came about because people on my Twitter voted for me to write something about “Bookstore Publishers”, because I wanted to see if anyone was reading my Twitter or not.)


Since I’ve been asked about–and have been thinking about–manga since my post on the state of the industry in 2009, I wanted to follow up here with some more of my thoughts… I realized that I kind of glossed over a few sections, like OEL as a specific example, and while I feel I covered it I didn’t really touch directly on it. (Short answer: OEL is a talent/property farm for pubs, only moreso in 2009).

Around the time I made my post here at 212, Deb Aoki at About.com:Manga made a similar post there, about the “10 Major Manga Trends for 2009″ and “5 Burning Questions” for the same year. Deb did a great job poking her head into the areas I stood back from, so I figured the easiest way to offer my thoughts would be just to respond to hers, point by point. Obviously I’m not going to reprint her post here, so I invite you to open it up in a new window and read along, her thoughts and then mine. It’s almost like we’re having a conversation except it’s the internet, and it’s nothing like a conversation at all. 

Actually, my darling husband just came in the room and when I told him what I was doing, he remarked “That’s very… adversarial. Just so you know.” And I do, kinda, but that’s not my intent. I really enjoyed Deb’s piece for having a different point of view to my own, and wanted to send people that way and acknowledge where I got my inspiration. Hope that helps put this in context a little.

Alright, ready?

1. Manga Publishers Feel Your Pain

I think that the greatest skill that the current generation of manga and anime fandom could learn is empathy. I try to avoid generalising (I really do), but the one thing I’d like to see out of the discourse on manga and anime is for all areas of the industry to offer empathy, and the benefit of the doubt, elsewhere.

2008 was a hard year for manga fans, seeing their favourite series “suspended” mid-run, not knowing whether they would continue, let alone when. It’s hard when a series you like gets cancelled suspended, but it’s hard when staff at publishing companies are laid off, when bookstores close, when Japanese publishers just behave really friggin’ wierdly and cut you off for no apparent reason. I like that Deb laid it out directly, “bookstores ordering less means that publishers can only produce the best-selling books, and they aren’t kidding about this, because look: publishers went under this year”. Good stuff there. The only thing I’d maybe toss in a disagreement about is that the economic slump specifically led to the problems at Borders and B&N–those guys have had their troubles for years.

Also, you don’t know the heartbreak of series cancellation until you have to explain to a 7 year old girl that there will be no more Yotsuba. Like I did today. It sucked.

2. Can Scanlations Go Legit?

I think it’s important to keep reminding certain segments of fandom that human beings make the manga and anime they steal, and their livelihoods (and ability to make more manga and anime) rest directly on the shoulders of the consumer. So, good on ya Deb.

My own thoughts on this? Well, like I said, I don’t see an all-in-one digital solution coming this year, and I’m not really a fan of Crunchyroll’s comics reading interface. I don’t have a huge problem with grey-market scans, but the torrent stuff for commercially available material should just be stomped out as hard as possible. I seriously cannot understand why manga pubs are worried about ‘alientating’ readers by coming down on piracy, when these people aren’t their customers anyhow. I’m not a marketting major though, maybe there’s a great reason to be espoused by an agry person on a messageboard. 

Beyond that, the majority of the market for the most popular anime and manga is the same market that, for the time being, has the least access to digitial cash and credit. Even if there was an iTunes for Naruto manga and Anime, I’d be skeptical of the 12-18 year-old-demographic’s ability to use it. And with advertising taking a huge beating in 2009 (although moreso print than digital, but still), I have doubts about the “give it away for free online, ad-supported model”.

My money is on “No.” in answer to this question, but I’d be happy to be wrong.

3. Gotta Get ‘em All: More All-Ages Manga

I’m quite happy to see more kids manga in 2009. The Legend of Zelda and Pokemon were strong sellers for us this year, and it looks like there are more on the way. I focussed more on mature manga in my round-up, but if it’s handled correctly (and without incident…) I think that the availability, quality, and presence of all ages manga in 2009 could really open up the market even younger, which would be absolutely ideal. Do I think it’ll happen? Not this year. I predict a slow & steady build across all of the kids comics departments. Some strong recognition for Toon Books would certainly help, though I can’t help thinking that Francoise Mouly would absolutely hate every single manga for kids on the market today, and coming in 2009. :)

4. Manga Publishers Look to Europe, China for Comics

This is something I find particularly interesting, publishers licensing manga-friendly material from countries other than Japan or Korea. This should have been more of a 2008 story, but publishing cutbacks forced a delay in the rollout at Tokyopop. As for Fanfare/Ponent-Mon, they’ve been publishing non-Japanese “Nouvelle Manga” creators since their very first book, with Yukiko’s Spinach by Frenchman-in-Japan Frederic Boilet, so their acquisition of Ma Mamman (My Mommy) by Emile Bravo didn’t surprise me so much as it delighted me. 

One thing I’d like to address in terms of “European and Chinese Comics for Manga Customers” is the success of Marvel Comics’ partnership with French publisher Soleil. We’ve seen decent sales on Marvel’s English-language editions of Sky Doll, US War 1, and Samurai, thanks to lovely art, high production values, and decent-enough stories, particularly to an audience not normally known for picking up bande desinee. Perhaps manga readers can be as open-minded? Or perhaps instead manga readership has grown far and wide enough to accept work that, while not Japanese, is at least on par with their favourite material when it comes to both quality and production values, and produced in a familiar format. I have good feelings about this one.

5. Can Online Manga Show Publishers The Money?

No. 

6. Superhero Comics Try To Find Manga’s Secret Sauce

My friends Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier are writing the “manga” version of the X-Men that’s coming this spring, and so I’d be naturally inclined to be gentle on this one anyway. But seriously? It sounds neat. I used to have a fun idea about doing something similar, an out-of-continuity X-Men comic set in a manga-esque School For Gifted Youngsters, featuring an assortment of X-Men, New Mutants, X-Force, etc. etc. etc., all teenagers. I wanted Takeshi Miyazawa to draw it. It woulda been awesome. That Dave and Raina get to do their version of that? Fantastic! Go for it! If you don’t, someone else will.

As for the larger trend, it’s not about trying to sell manga to superhero readers, or superheroes to manga readers. It’s about trying to extend a brand–a Trademark–into as many arenas as possible, to make people fans of the brand. Wolverine is a movie and a video game and a cartoon and a toy and a manga and he appears in like 11 comics each month. It has nothing at all to do with reading, it’s merchandising. Which isn’t to say that Dave and Raina and AnZu and whoever aren’t putting a bunch of work in, but at the day it’s servicing a trademark (Ellisism, ironically enough) and building a brand. As long as the folks involved are building their own brands while they’re doing it, that’s great! But it’s hardly revoloutionary.

Speaking of which:

7. English Language Manga Looks For Literary, TV Tie-Ins.

As I said up top, the OEL/World Manga Movement was a con game. It’s a talent and IP-farm for publishing companies. You know when you’re not building your brand, OEL creators? It’s when you’re building it and then giving it away to your publisher. Always make sure your contracts have reversion-rights folks, particularly when those rights might actually revert.

I kind of feel like OEL as an idea is pretty-much dead in the water, thankfully, and that talented graphic novelists inspired and influenced by manga can balance their time between doing graphic novel adaptations of existing work and their own ideas. And that someone will be willing to publish them.

8. Manga Movies, Part Deux

So far the majority of manga’s promotional muscle has come from TV syndicated anime, followed closely by the manga itself. It’s not hard to look at something like Dragonball and see that it was poorly conceived, and will soon be a poor movie. But Astro Boy looks pretty good, and heck, I actually liked Speed Racer a lot. Shows what I know about movies. I’m just gonna pass here.

9. Experimental, Avant-Garde, and Edgy Manga Resurfaces

I think it’s kind of strange that Deb specifically chose to focus on the Avant Garde in a year that had some of the best straight-ahead mature manga releases ever (Good-Bye, Red-Colored Elegy, Disappearance Diary, Solanin, Monster, Black Jack) and a 2009 that promises a year that is perhaps even stronger (Too many titles to list, but David Welsh has the right idea here). That said, I really did enjoy Yuichi Yokohama’s Travel and New Engineering, and Tokyo Zombie is a hoot. I’m so, so, so looking forward to Monstermen Buriko Lullabye, which we haven’t gotten into Canada yet (customs!), but it was a good year for outsider-art in manga form. 

I do think 2009 has a lot of potential, though AX seems to be the only announced outsider release of the year. I can’t imagine PictureBox will be resting on their laurels in ’09 after producing such strong stuff this year, and who knows what other pubs might have up their sleeves.

10. More Manga As Art Exhibits

I’m pretty stoked about this. I think manga has become enough of a cultural draw to warrant showing original art and producing exhibitions here. One of my favourite memories of San Diego 2008 was seeing the original Bleach pages on display at the Viz booth. I’m all for this trend, and I feel like it has a good chance at continuing (even beyond the exhibits listed in Deb Aoki’s article, which I remind you you should be reading along with.)

Oh! Time to click the NEXT button!

11. Burning Question: What’s Up With Kodansha America?

I addressed this in my own wrap-up, but honestly, I’d really like to know myself.

12. Burning Question: Will Anyone Get Cell Phone Manga Right?

I predict: Yes. Apple’s app-store has made it easy to produce and distribute content on their phone, and all cell phone manga really needed was a consistant popular platform with a decent screen and interface. That said, the economics of cell phone use in North America (in particular in Canada) are RIDICULOUS, more than double the costs of Japan, and it doesn’t matter whether or not the manga finally looks great and is distributed well, if the buy-in cost is $600. It’s the same thing I mentioned up top, trying to monetize Naruto–the majority of the fan base is economically barred from participating. 

Also? The Viz Shonen Jump manga display I saw in San Diego was pretty tight.

13. Burning Question: What’s Goin’ On With VIZ’s Original Manga Program?

Everything I’ve ever heard about it mentioned that it would be slow, and steady, winning the race with this one. I’m not surprised that there’s been no formal announcement yet, although I would imagine something dropping at NYCC or San Diego this year. With NYCC in a month, expect an interesting announcement or two (remember, last year was Stan Lee and ULTIMO stealing the spotlight for all announcements.)

14. Burning Question: Where For Art Though, Yotsuba?

Hey, don’t worry. Yotsuba lives on in the hearts of little girls everywhere. Crying themselves to sleep at night. You reading this ADV?

Seriously, last answer I got? Not financially prudent to publish manga for a little while, long and the short of it. They’ve no reason to let the license go, they know it’s a fan favourite and did decent sales, but they can’t do anything with it for a while. 

But it, like Azumanga Daioh before it, is a quality title and a strong license. It’ll be back some day. Just clap your hands and wish as hard as you can.

15. Burning Question: Will Light Novels Hit the Bestseller Lists? 

No.

Well… no. Not happening. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has the best shot, it’s apparently well-written and enjoys huge popularity. I could see it cracking the top 100, maybe, but it’s really, really otaku-oriented. I can’t see how the property could have a wide appeal when it leans so heavily on otaku culture and tropes. But then how much Japanese anything makes any sort of mass-appeal, bestseller type lists? Isn’t part of the appeal of something like Suzumiya (dancing and all) its outsider nature? Part of what separates us, the true otaku, from the rest of the herd?

Am I wrong?

(“You’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole.”)

…and we’ve reached the end. Finally. The New WordPress is kind of annoying as it’s telling me I’ve written just-over 2300 words here, all in one go, after a long (long) day at the comic book store for new comic book day. Yikes. Maybe I should just spend all my time responding to stuff other people write on the internet? ;)

Thanks to Deb Aoki, whom I’m hoping is going to be a good sport about all of this. Go vote in About.com:Manga’s survey for the best Shonen and Shoujo manga of the year!

Best,

- Christopher