December 8, 2005

Ah, Comic Weblog Updates, it’s good to see you hale and hearty again. It’s also good to see the Second Annual Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Drive linked right up at the top. (My renewal went out in the mail this morning. I also had a tangelo and a multi-grain English muffin for breakfast, since I’m dishing out minutiae.) In celebration of its return, I’ll indulge in some linkblogging.

There’s a four-part interview with Viz’s sales VP Liza Coppola up at ICv2. She covers a lot of ground, including anime, shôjo, launch strategies, rollout schedules, and OEL. There’s lots of spin, obviously, but it’s still interesting reading, and kudos to ICv2 for asking a bunch of thoughtful follow-up questions.

There’s some cautious, numbers-free assessment of the performance of the Shojo Beat anthology:

“And a lot of people came up to us and said, ‘Thank you for putting out a version for the girl market.’ Librarians said, ‘We love Shonen Jump,’ but we had so many people come in from the libraries and say, ‘We need something that’s shojo related.’ We’ve also gotten tremendous response from consumers.”

There’s some cautious, official-stance-free discussion of Viz’s approach to more motivated fans (scanlators and fansubbers, in other words):

“There isn’t an official stance yet, but the unofficial stance is that it’s great that the fans love the property, it’s great that they support it, and we need to figure out a way to work closely with them. There are so many hits for We are looking for some sort of great gathering place for this property.”

Coppola mentions Viz’s new general counsel, Tonik Barber, formerly from the Lucasfilm camp. Honestly, I can’t be the only one who heard the Death Star theme music when I read that, can I?

Lastly, there’s the whole Original English Language manga issue. Unsurprisingly, Coppola is unimpressed:

“If you look at Bookscan’s top 10, I don’t think there are that many original English language books in the top ten… I think they should be clustered in with the graphic novels, but not necessarily with manga… It’s just interesting to see that both on the book side and on the animation side you have all these people that are trying to imitate anime or imitate manga.”

I guess Viz is undeterred by Tokyopop’s suggestion that trying to assign a country of origin to manga is racist. Coincidentally, there’s another (admittedly anecdotal) take on the OEL initiative in Steven Grant’s latest Permanent Damage column over at Comic Book Resources:

“Sure, all kinds of companies, not the least of which is TokyoPop, are trying to push Amerimanga, or nissei comi, or whatever you want to call it – in fact, most publishers just want to call it “manga” and hope for the best – but a brief sampling of manga fans at the local high school (not the most representative of poll groups, probably, but still…) indicates they are not fooled. Nor interested. Given the hundreds of officially Japanese (not to mention Korean and Chinese) manga series already available in the USA, I’m not surprised.”

Is it time for the next round of the “Is it manga?” discussion already? Do we have to?

The brave and the bold

December 8, 2005

I said the other day that I was looking forward to Brokeback Mountain. Then I read the article in this week’s Entertainment Weekly. Ye gods.

Let me just take a quick look at the calendar. Yes, as I thought, it’s almost 2006. And yet, it’s still apparently “daring” for two B-list actors to play gay.

Not to worry, though, as writer Christine Spines is here to provide all the evidence one could ever need of the devout heterosexuality of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal short of grainy video footage. Ledger waves his new baby around (conceived on location, one surmises, with co-star Michelle Williams). Gyllenhaal talks about how difficult it was to see Ledger and Williams gush and swoon, devastated as he was by his break-up with Kirsten Dunst.

And then there’s all the back-slapping over how risky it is for these two to take these roles. Asinine as it is to suggest that intelligent people can’t separate actors from their roles, neither Ledger nor Gyllenhaal are enjoying particularly meteoric career trajectories. Now they’re working with one of the finest living film directors (Ang Lee) on one of the biggest pieces of Oscar bait of the season. To my way of thinking, the only risk they run is of actually making it to the A list.

Gyllenhaal almost always provides some cringe-inducing quotes in every interview he does, and this is no exception. On the day the sex scene was filmed:

“What made me the most courageous was that I realized I had to try to let go of that stereotype I had in my mind, that bit of homophobia, and try for a second to be vulnerable and sensitive. It was f—in’ hard, man. I succeeded only for milliseconds.”

Boy, I hope those milliseconds show up in the movie! (Come to think of it, if he can only muster vulnerability and sensitivity for that short a span, it’s no wonder Dunst dumped him.)

But bless Lee’s approach to any actor anxieties:

“I didn’t care…. They know what they’re getting into. They’ll just do it.”

At least Entertainment Weekly is around to give them a big hug for being so darned brave.