They report, you decide

February 28, 2006

Here’s the second paragraph of the PW Comics Week wrap-up of the inaugural New York Comic-Con:

“For those who were able to get in, the show was profitable and enjoyable, despite the hassles and disorganization. The range of exhibitors—from comics companies both mainstream and independent to book publishers to manga and anime outfits—was second only to San Diego in terms of diversity. Not every segment had overwhelming sales success, but at least on Friday’s trade day, the mix of attendees and exhibitors mirrored the overwhelming excitement surrounding the world of comics, and made for a day of high-level networking for just about everyone.”

That strikes me as an unfortunate note to strike so early in the piece, but it’s not like PW is the only one staking out that ground, and lord knows they have their reasons to do so.

I’m rather impressed with show organizer Greg Topalian, who seems to realize that now isn’t the time to equivocate:

“He guaranteed that turned-away fans will ‘absolutely get their refunds within 30 days.’ Fans who had prepaid passes and did not get in ‘will get a full refund, and we will invite them back as guests next year.’ A notice will be posted on the New York Comic-Con Web site contact page today, he said, offering an apology and giving ‘clear directives’ about how fans who didn’t get in—but still have their tickets—can get their money back. Reed Exhibitions is also putting together ‘fan thank-you packages’ — ashcomics, posters and other schwag. Topalian said, ‘We know that some of the fans will never forgive us, but this is purely a gesture of apology. We know we have to try and make it up to them.’”

It might have been nice if PW had put in a link to the site, but it might not have been ready at the time of publication. Anyway, here it is.

PW goes on to declare the show “A Success Nevertheless,” but if you want a slightly different perspective, you might swing by Neilalien’s blog:

“One doesn’t have to be a self-loathing schadenfreuder Debbie Downer alarmist to be skeptical about labeling such a preventable crappy experience for so many people as an ‘overwhelming success’. This weekend was a massive disappointment for a lot of consumers- all those who didn’t get in and many who did- and they’re the opinions the industry should be caring about, much more than each others’ glowing ‘only the most cynical could declare the Con anything but a huge success’ assessments. Yet the comicbook industry toasts itself, confusing problems of incomptence with problems of success, confusing a poorly-planned fire hazard (crowded largely with itself) with generating a ‘hot scene’ reputation among the folks they allegedly try to reach and entertain for their paychecks.”

Okay, just one more quote from PW:

“Getting a bigger hall, much wider aisles and running the registration and badge lines smoothly will all need to be addressed for next year’s show, announced for February 25-27 at the Javits. However, having such a popular product that people had to be turned away is a problem that many people might wish for.”


The day after

February 27, 2006

I’m compulsively following the post-show coverage of the inaugural New York Comic-Con. Tom Spurgeon has a fine collection of links over at The Comics Reporter, and I agree with his perspective as well:

“What happened at the show is not a ‘but’ situation but an ‘and’ situation. A lot of people were frustrated and disappointed Saturday and a lot of people had a great time overall and enjoyed the energy and focus of the show. One doesn’t really have anything to do with the other; the negative doesn’t invalidate the positive and the positive sure as heck doesn’t make the negative dismissable.”

If you’re also making with the con clicky and need a breather, stop by the latest Flipped at Comics World News, where I talk about CMX titles that, for a change, aren’t Tenjho Tenge. Short version: Chikyu Misaki is awesome.


Mangathon

February 26, 2006

Okay, so David Taylor has already listed all of Diamond’s manga listings for March. I still feel compelled to trawl through for the debuts. It’s like what they say about flossing – if you do it enough times in a row, it becomes a habit where you feel strangely empty if you skip it.

Dark Horse: I admit that I’m not particularly inspired by a title with “Samurai” and “Executioner” in the title. It just doesn’t seem like my genre. But after reading the first volume of Kazuo Koike’s lurid and excellent Lady Snowblood, I’m intrigued by Path of the Assassin, by Koike and illustrator Goseki Kojima.

Dark Horse’s Harlequin line bustles along, with Pink’s The Bachelor Prince and Violet’s Blind Date. (Tony Salvaggio took a look at some other Harlequin offerings in a recent Calling Manga Island at Comic Book Resources.)

CMX: Toru Fujieda’s Oyayubihime Infinity debuts. (Speaking of CMX, why did no one tell me how wonderfully entertaining Chikyu Misaki is? Or why didn’t you make me pay more attention when you did?)

ADV: I guess there’s just no market saturation point for Neon Genesis Evangelion product. ADV debuts Angelic Days.

Americanime Productions: Tzvi Lebetkin and Stefano Cardoselli offer the first issue of Bushido, starring a cybernetic, solar-powered samurai. Environmentally sound violence!

Antarctic Press: There’s plenty of Gold Diggers to choose from, whether it’s Throne of Shadows or the Swimsuit Special 2006.

Boychild/Russell-Cotes Museum: Sakura Mizuki’s Japanese Drawing Room sounds kind of fascinating, a “true story set in Meiji era Japan, [which] combines the visual appeal of manga with a well-researched historical account.”

Century Comics: Japan? Yawn. Korea? Meh. Singapore’s Greatest Comics? Why not?

Del Rey: I’ve already mentioned the arrival of Del Rey’s first mature title, Masaki Segawa’s Basilisk. There’s also Fuyumi (Mars) Soryo’s ES: Eternal Sabbath.

Digital Manga Publishing: The yaoi just keeps coming from DMP’s Juné imprint, including Hinako Takanaga’s Little Butterfly and Keiko Kinoshita’s You and Harujion.

Dr. Masters Publications, Inc.: School, angels, demons, etc: Chan Wan Chum’s Stray Little Devil.

Ibooks: In Shinsuke Tanaka’s Wings, “a farmer finds an adorable, abandoned puppy. But this is no ordinary pooch, because this pup has wings!” Twist my arm, why don’t you?

Ice Kunnion: SoHee Park’s Goong asks the question, “What if Korea had continued monarchism?”

Seven Seas: Adam Arnold and Shiei’s Aoi House sounds like just the ticket for fans of seinen harem manga. Sarah Ellerton’s Interloch features wolf-people and elves.

Tokyopop: The manga revolution marches on. Here are Tokyopop’s firsts:

  • .hack//Another Birth, by Miu Kawasaki and Kazunori Ito
  • Devil May Cry, by Capcom, Shinya Goikeda, and Shiro Miwa
  • Angel Cup, by Jae-ho Young
  • Platinum Garden, by Maki Fujita
  • Beyond the Beyond, by Yoshitomo Watanabe
  • Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangu, by Saki Okuse and Aki Shimizu
  • Dogby Walks Alone, by Wes Abbott
  • Mail Order Ninja, by Joshua Elder
  • Secret Chaser, by Tamayo Akiyama
  • GTO: The Early Years – Shonan Junai-Gumi Volume, by Tohru Fujisawa

Blu: Have you been holding out for the boy-on-boy version of Guru Guru Pon Chan? Kazusa Takashima obliges with Man’s Best Friend: Inu mo Aruke ba Fall in Love. Okay, now say that title aloud after “Excuse me, do you have any copies of…”

So… tired… Must… nap…


Butcher blocks

February 25, 2006

The media run-up to the inaugural New York Comic-Con has been… well… irritating. Corporate cousin Publishers Weekly has been understandably enthusiastic, and paid con consultant and PW employee Heidi MacDonald has been blogging the hell out of it, but it would all be a bit easier to swallow with a bit of objectivity, even skepticism.

Oh, Christopher Butcher, it’s like you read my mind. Comics.212.net is indisputably the place to follow the con, and Chris’s dispatches have been wonderfully informative, smart, and just catty enough. It’s like the platonic ideal of con blogging. (He even switched from white text on a black background to black text on a white background, and my tired old eyes thank him.)


Marching forward

February 24, 2006

It’s Manga Month in the latest Previews catalog! The galas! The parties! The tiny little logos next to the manga solicitations!

Okay, so neither of the covers highlights a manga property or mentions this special focus. But there is an explanatory blurb in the Splash section:

“In short, manga has shown that it has a right-hand seat in the Western comics market, and many long-time readers are now convinced that what was once thought a ‘fad’ has now become a staple in the comics shop.”

Don’t worry, though. It’s still pretty much business as usual. There is a handy checklist of the month’s manga offerings. And one of the Gems of the Month is a manga title (Dark Horse’s Path of the Assassin). And Dark Horse moved its manga titles to the front of its section. And five of the sixteen Featured Items are manga, too.

It’s an odd bit of timing, but I find myself more interested in the Western titles this time around.

I really admire the work Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and their new book, De: Tales (Dark Horse), looks like it’s right up my alley: “Brimming with all the details of human life, their charming tales move from the urban reality of their home in Sāo Paulo to the magical realism of their Latin American background.”

I dearly love revisionist fairy tales, so I’m inclined to pick up Wonderland #1 (SLG Publishing). The fact that it’s got art from Sonny (My Faith in Frankie) Liew virtually cinches it.

I seem to remember David Taylor being very excited about the announcement of Basilisk (Del Rey). That’s always a good sign. Plus, it’s the first “mature” title from the publisher. (That means I’ll probably get it from a bookstore so I can mitigate the higher price point with my discount card.)

Del Rey also has the first softcover installment of Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha. I’ve been slowly making my way through the hardcovers from Vertical, and I certainly like the heft of them, but the $9 price differential does give the softcovers a certain allure. We’ll see.

Oh, and Del Rey prominently re-lists some first volumes of their more popular titles. I could throw in a joke about the out-of-sequence arrival of some of their books, or I could just congratulate them on giving a little more focus to the Direct Market. I’ll go with the latter.

To my complete surprise, Antique Bakery (DMP) apparently transforms into a crime drama in the fourth and final volume. Fumi Yoshinaga had better not skimp on the cakes, damnit.

Fantagraphics offers up a big hardback collection of Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting. This pleases me a lot, as does the rather significant discount being offered at Amazon.

Behold the power of the Featured Item! I probably would have skimmed right over Shinsuke Tanaka’s Wings otherwise. It sounds like a cute all-ages book, provided its release isn’t affected by the ibooks, inc. bankruptcy filing.

NBM has another installment in Rick Geary’s wonderful Treasury of Victorian Murder series, Madeleine Smith. I’ll probably hold out for the less expensive softcover version, but it will be mine eventually.

Neal Shaffer and Joe Infurnari’s Borrowed Time (Oni) sounds intriguing. In my experience, if an Oni title sounds intriguing, it usually is. Oni also offers an omnibus version of the first three volumes of Love as a Foreign Language for $11.95, which might annoy the people who bought them individually at $5.95 a pop.

Rabbits and robots might make me overcome my natural aversion to stories about “the disappointments of early adulthood” to give Jeremy Tinder’s Cry Yourself to Sleep (Top Shelf) a try.

So, to summarize: Previews celebrates Manga Month without really changing how they do things, and David gratefully learns about a bunch of comics that he wants but probably won’t buy from a comic shop because he’s too cheap.


From the stack: MOUSE GUARD: BELLY OF THE BEAST #1

February 23, 2006

When new issues of Paris (SLG) and Polly and the Pirates come out, I’m tempted to say the same things over again – that Paris is lovely to look at and Polly is an engaging, all-ages adventure. Both apply to this month’s chapters, too, but for variety’s sake, I’ll say that both are also true of the first issue of David Petersen’s Mouse Guard: Belly of the Beast (Archaia Studios Press).

Petersen has a wonderful premise here. The Mouse Guard protects the safety of the citizens of various mouse settlements, forging safe paths between them to allow trade and travel. Once soldiers, they’re more rangers now, though they’re fully capable of handling dangerous situations.

Petersen introduces the Guard with a minimum of fuss. There’s some introductory text that provides an overview, and it’s useful, but I particularly like the way he illustrates the Guard’s function in the story. It’s almost a day-in-the-life tale, showing members of the Guard investigating the disappearance of a grain trader. There’s very little exposition, with Petersen choosing instead to let action and character do the world-building.

It’s a nice balance between telling (the opening text) and showing (the story itself). Neither makes the other redundant, and they support each other very well. Petersen also uses the initial adventure to alert the guard to a larger danger, building interest in future chapters. It’s wonderfully modulated storytelling — a satisfying adventure that feeds into something bigger.

It’s also gorgeous. Petersen does a wonderful job with character design. It’s an appealing mix of realism (they look like mice) and fantasy (but mice with capes and swords). Backgrounds are lush, and action sequences are tense and imaginative. As strong as the illustrations are, they’re taken to an even higher level by Petersen’s use of color. Petersen uses a rich palette to help show the passage of time, from day to night to day again, grounding the scenes and contributing to mood.

Mouse Guard #1 is a really appealing introduction to this six-part series. It’s got the full package – solid story, wonderful art, and imaginative presentation.


Good “Timing”

February 22, 2006

I’ll happily admit that I usually read Newsarama when I need a good laugh, even if arrives through gritted teeth. Today, though, Newsarama offers something really interesting… entirely on its own terms! No ironic context whatsoever!

Joanna Estep, illustrator of Tokyopop’s Roadsong (written by Allan Gross) offers the first installment in a very engaging three-part look at “the design and manipulation of the mechanism of time in sequential art, and how it can apply to other media.” Think of it as a nice on-line companion piece for Matt Madden’s wonderful 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style, which arrives in comic shops today.

Estep also manages to take me back in time by mentioning her education at Ohio University. I went to a college in Ohio, probably many, many years before Estep did, and my classmates always had kind of an attitude about OU. They took the school’s “Public Ivy” designation way too seriously, clinking their wine coolers together, retying the sweaters around their necks, and thanking a higher power (probably the Republican National Committee) that they didn’t have to study in Athens, of all places.

Weirdest of all was that this attitude almost invariably came from students in journalism, theatre, and fine arts, in spite of the fact that everyone with a lick of sense knew that OU had better programs in all of those disciplines. (OU also seemed to be the educational destination of many of my more unfortunate late-adolescent crushes. That’s neither here nor there, though it does add to the mystique of the place for me.)


It feels like it should be Wednesday already

February 21, 2006

Oh, the ebb and flow of Wednesdays. It’s another hefty one, but it’s filled with all kinds of comic-y goodness.

The third issue of Andi Watson and Simon Gane’s gorgeous Paris arrives, courtesy of Slave Labor Graphics.

I’ve heard nothing but nice things about David Petersen’s Mouse Guard from Archaia Studios, and the preview images I’ve seen look really beautiful.

I’m looking forward to Put the Book Back on the Shelf: A Belle and Sebastian Anthology from Image (scroll down – quickly), even though I can’t remember ever actually listening to any of Belle and Sebastian’s music. Is that odd? (And yes, this could be construed as an invitation to make CD recommendations.)

Any week that includes a new issue of Ted Naifeh’s Polly and the Pirates (Oni) is a good week, in my opinion.

Viz’s Signature imprint begins with the arrival of the first volumes of Golgo 13 and Naoki Urasawa’s Monster.

It’s like there’s something for each of my multiple personalities.


Just another manga Monday

February 20, 2006

So I got my first copy of Tokyopop’s free Manga magazine in the mail the other day. Maybe I’m tipsy over the preview chapter from the next volume of Fruits Basket, but I think it’s a very nice product. I was glad to see a preview of Dragon Head included. It’s received a number of deservedly good reviews, so I’m glad that Tokyopop is giving it an extra boost in its freebie publication. (Kami-Kaze looks kind of horrible, though.)

I think Manga might be going a little overboard on the annotations they run with their sample chapters. It’s a nice idea to give some snippets on the creative process, quotes from the creators, etc., but the text can get a little purple. It was particularly noticeable in the Sorcerers & Secretaries preview. This looks like a fun, light story, but at times the crawl read like it might have been something out of the Absolute Watchmen collection. I think they should probably lean towards breezy and informative with the running commentary. What’s there ended up actually distracting from the preview itself, which probably wasn’t the intention.

There’s a short but nice interview with Mitsuzaku Mihara that actually makes me want to take a look at Doll. Am I making a horrible mistake? I’ll have to check the lists over at MangaTrade.

In other manga news, David Taylor taunts me with an example of why television is so much better in England. (Okay, probably not all television.) He also takes a look at the latest DM manga numbers. Yay! Death Note cracked the top 100 GNs!

And lastly, it’s Monday, so it’s time for the customary self-promotion. There’s a new Flipped up where I talk about how much I like Hikaru no Go.


Swimmin’ pools, TV stars

February 18, 2006

The last couple of weeks of insight into Marvel’s fascinating diversity policies have left me with an unhealthy interest in the Joe Fridays column at Newsarama.

What’s on tap this week? Oddly enough, it starts off with Newsarama asking essentially the same questions about terrorists as they asked about gays last week:

“That said then, would or did Marvel ever consider a project where the threat of Al Queda is handled so directly?”

And would it have to be a MAX series?

There’s also some discussion of just why some fans might roll their eyes when Marvel makes a big deal about hiring a writer from another medium like television or film. Quesada dons protective gear for a bit of spelunking into the mind of the disgruntled fanboy:

“So, recently I’ve seen this trend of guys coming from the ocean and into our pond and suddenly fans are getting testy about it. Okay, I understand, they feel like we’re being invaded unfairly in some way or perhaps these guys somehow have not paid their dues or their debt to the comic’s society – which I’ve never understood because talent is talent. Perhaps some of these fans have aspirations to become comic writers one day and they see this as hurting their chances. Well, if that’s the case then that’s just silly and selfish.

“So, here’s all I ask folks to think about before jumping on these new talents, regardless of who they work for. Why are they doing it? Every one of these Hollywood writers – I’m using the term ‘Hollywood’ here as a general catch all for movies, TV and novels – can make infinitely more money doing something else. The week that they spend writing an issue of Wolverine is a week they can spend writing a script for TV, etc. and get paid so much more than comics. So, why, why dabble in this small pond? Could it be that these particular talents have an insatiable love for comics? I mean I could see fans being skeptical if there was more money in comics than in Hollywood, then I could at least buy into the logic that, hey, these people are only coming to comics for the money! But, that’s not the case. Guys like Whedon, Meltzer, Stracznyski, Heinberg, Lindelof, Verheiden etc. are doing it because they love comics and they love the characters and they love the universes. What more can you ask from a creator than love for this medium that we all in turn love as well. Not only that, these guys come to comics in complete awe of guys like Bendis and Johns and Millar. Now, why you would be in awe of Millar is a whole other thing, but you catch my drift. So, they’re taking a pay cut to work in a smaller field and they have complete reverence for those that came before and the characters and universe, why are we giving them a hard time?”

Oh, where, where, where to start? It’s like the platonic ideal of self-serving spin.

  1. “They’re just jealous.” I’m trying to picture the individual who might actually think, “Damnit! They hired that scriptwriter from 24! Now they’ll never buy my pitch for an Iron Man/Punisher mini! Stupid carpetbaggers!”
  2. “We should be grateful.” See, this is a bit closer to the cause of the eye-rolling, I think. Usually, it’s just an undercurrent of low self-esteem when Marvel announces a Hollywood hire. This time, it’s stripped nekkid. “These good people are sacrificing money and prestige to work with us, because they love Wolverine.” Think about that for just a minute.
  3. “Not only that, these guys come to comics in complete awe of guys like Bendis and Johns and Millar.” And isn’t that just what super-hero comics need?