Manga Yente

July 20, 2008

As we near Comic-Con International, Variety has run a piece that reminds me strangely of an old-fashioned debutante announcement in a local paper. Film executives looking for your next super-hero franchise, meet Jason Hoffs:

“Hoffs will serve as a liaison between Japanese creative licensors and Hollywood, and the company will develop to produce some of the titles inhouse.”

Hoffs lists some of the more alluring properties, and, really, even if a live-action Hollywood version of Naruto flat-out sucks, it might still make its money back on its opening weekend.

And while the article never specifically says that Hoffs will be at SDCC, could the subtext be any clearer? Exploitable properties will be lined up like trust-fund babies at a private-school reunion, and an experienced movie executive is available to play matchmaker. And unlike publishers who have tried to line up movie pitches before they sent a single PDF to the printer, Viz has a catalog full of properties that people actually read.

Cold, Vulcan logic

July 18, 2008

Tom Spurgeon, for the win:

“I’m baffled why it should take anything more than prominent people in the comics industry declaring they’re uncomfortable with a business this year to make folks consider with seriousness and respect the courtesy of a bare-minimum effort to patronize another place until the situation shakes out. Instead, the response from many people seems to be finding ways to justify continued patronage as if this were a very, very precious thing. In fact, most of the rationalizing being done on behalf of continued patronage not only invests it with importance, it seems to presume one’s decision to hang out and drink in a certain location comes as the fulfillment of an expectation for received business that no entity on earth should get to claim or have claimed on its behalf. The end result: no one simply disagrees. Rather, there seems to be a compulsion that one agree with the spirit of the objection being made and explain why they can’t do anything about it.”

No birds were harmed in the writing of this post

July 17, 2008

Chris Butcher offers some excellent advice on nurturing the next phase of the manga industry:

“If you’ve got a store that believes in the material, and that keeps it in stock, not just makes it available for pre-order, then you can sell the material. In short, we have to invest in the industry we want, not just as retailers, but as journalists and pundits by covering the material we like, and as consumers by supporting the books we like with our dollars.

“That’s my prescription for the manga industry: let’s make the industry we want, do our best to convert fashion into function, and celebrate our successes where we find them rather than complain that we’re not quite successful enough.”

I’m all about combining errands, so here’s a possible way to kill two birds with one stone. (Sorry about the inherent animal cruelty of that phrase, but I haven’t had enough caffeine to recall a more benevolent alternative.) If you’re attending Comic-Con International and find some extra spending money in your pocket because you don’t feel like giving any to the Manchester Grand Hyatt, you could swing by the Fanfare/Ponent Mon booth (C04) and buy some of their lovely, lovely books. As Deb Aoki noted, Fanfare’s distribution system with Atlas isn’t quite 100% yet, so SDCC is probably your best chance to browse the publisher’s catalogue, gape in wonder at books like The Walking Man, Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, and Kinderbook, and to pick up a copy of Hideo Azuma’s nothing-else-like-it Disappearance Diary (which I reviewed here).

Now, as for “supporting the books we like with our dollars,” Brigid Alverson works in an excellent way to do that in a recent post at MangaBlog: ordering titles via your local bookstore, especially if they’re books that might not otherwise get shelved. This strikes me as a great way to put offbeat titles on a store’s radar, and I’ve heard from various people that many stores will order a couple of shelf copies of a title when they get a special order. Also, you don’t have to worry about potentially climbing shipping costs from online retailers, though you still have to pay for gas to get to the local big box.

At Comics Should Be Good, Danielle Leigh gives a fine example of “covering the material we like” with her latest Manga Before Flowers column on CMX, DC’s stealth manga division:

“But CMX made me a fan for life by bringing over really extraordinary titles that no one else ever has and published them on a very consistent schedule over the past few years (Even though three of four volumes of Eroica a year isn’t a lot, it is enough to make me happy).”

Reservations confirmation

July 16, 2008

Chris Butcher points out that the owner of San Diego’s Manchester Grand Hyatt made a substantial donation to efforts to pass Proposition 8, which would confine marriage in California to heterosexual couples. I guess that Hyatt property won’t be offering any honeymoon packages to same-sex couples either.

“The group’s message Thursday was to urge residents and tourists to stay at other hotels. The boycott call comes at the height of the summer and just one week before the start of the 2008 Gay Pride festivities in San Diego, during which 200,000 attendees are expected to attend, according to festival organizers.”

July is a good month for gay nerds in San Diego.

I’m not sure what I would do if I were going to the comic convention and had made a reservation at the Hyatt. I like to think I’d cancel my reservation and try to find other lodgings, but who knows if that’s even possible at this point? If at all possible, I try to do research in advance so I know that I’m not giving my money to a narrow-minded bigot. In this case, given the timing of the donation and the scarcity of lodging, I think I’d probably have to lump it. I know the climate in San Deigeo is supposed to be lovely, but I’m just not a camper.

Just out of curiosity, and knowing that the hospitality industry tends to be one of the gay-friendlier segments of the economy, I thought I’d see if I could dig up Hyatt’s non-discrimination policy:

“In addition, Hyatt abides by local equal employment opportunity policy to assure that all personnel related actions are administered without regard to race, color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, national origin, ancestry, age, religion, mental or physical disability or any other group protected by law.”

And I looked into their domestic partner benefits policy, which is quite inclusive.

I wonder what corporate policy is in regards to franchisees and their business practices, and how stringently they expect individual hotel owners to adhere to corporate policy? I doubt it would apply to a private donation made by someone who just happens to be a franchise owner, but I can’t imagine Hyatt is happy with the publicity.

Upcoming 7/16/2008

July 15, 2008

Just a couple of items jump out at me on this week’s ComicList:

I’m not generally part of the natural audience for competitive athletics, fictional or otherwise, but I won’t let that keep me from taking a look at Takehiko Inoue’s Real (Viz – Signature), about wheelchair basketball. At MangaBlog, Brigid Alverson picks up an intriguing press release from Viz about a joint PR venture to promote another Inoue hoops book, Slam Dunk. If there were a competition for “most athletic person at Comic-Con International,” there’d be a clear winner. I also wish there was a manga out about professional cheerleading so those poor Laker Girls could feel a bit more purposeful. (Have I mentioned that I can watch Bring It On as many times as it airs on television?)

Milestone alert! Our long, national disappointment is finally over as Tokyopop releases the second volume of Ai Morinaga’s Your and My Secret. Given the publisher’s ongoing cost-cutting measures, I suppose it’s possible that we may not see the third volume from them, but progress is progress. If only they’d gone with the alternate version of the title, My Barbaric Girlfriend.


July 14, 2008

It probably doesn’t matter what I think of Gantz, but if you’re interested, check out the latest Flipped over at The Comics Reporter.

Journey to the middle of the demographic

July 13, 2008

We went to see Journey to the Center of the Earth yesterday, though none of the cinemas in the area bothered with the 3-D version. It’s not going to change anyone’s life, but it doesn’t waste anyone’s time either. It’s paced well, reasonably charming, and exciting and funny often enough that I didn’t spend any time wondering if people in the other theaters were having a better time. (That’s partly because it’s relatively short.)

The 1959 version was one of the first movies I saw in a theater. (It was in its second release. I’m not that old.) I remember being very impressed, and the new version doesn’t replace it, but I like Brendan Fraser a lot, and I don’t regret the 92 minutes I spent. (How’s that for a poster blurb?)

One thing I did notice was how perfectly Anita Briem embodied what I would call “the new action movie girl.” Briem’s character, mountain guide Hannah Ásgeirsson, is attractive without being unattainable, witty without being castrating, competent without being threatening, and generally a narrative utility player of perfect reliability. I ended up wondering if the producers hooked test audiences up to electrodes to make sure they were getting just the right kind of stimulation from her, refining their new action movie girl formula as they went along. (To keep you from missing their hard work, the screenwriters have Fraser and Briem’s characters keep a non-hostile, running tally of how often they save each other.)

Briem is charming and works hard, and the new action movie girl paradigm is a lot better than the victim-bait construct that was in place for so long, but I did end up wondering how much fun it can be to play a character that’s been conceived so conscientiously.