Sporadic Sequential
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Dream Team Week, Day 1: Destructive Dinos

This week I'm going to be running "Dream Team Week," a look at some comic crossovers I'd like to see. First up:

Devil Dinosaur vs. Gon
The Basic Set-Up: Gon makes his way to the Savage Land and comes across Devil Dinosaur. Mayhem ensues.

Creator: Masashi Tanaka.

Format: Available in two versions. In the 200-page B&W manga-sized paperback, it seems as though Gon is the victor. In the oversized hardcover with glossy color pages, the ending is edited so that Devil Dinosaur appears to emerge triumphant. However, in both versions, every other living creature is clearly the loser.

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Friday, September 28, 2007
When Is a Manga-Ka Not a Manga-Ka
(But Still a Manga-Ka)?

In the book PulpHope, Paul Pope discusses his experiences working for Kodansha, sharing this observation about working in the Japanese manga market:
After a few years, it became clear to them, while the editors and the artists were happy, the manga done by foreign talent wasn't hitting a popular chord with the usual manga readers. It was just too different, too strange for the maddeningly conservative manga readership. The sales weren't equaling sales from new manga developed by home-grown talent.
I thought this was an interesting quote for a couple reasons. For one, it could be seen as a reason why Pope produced hundreds of pages of material during his association with Kodansha but only a handful saw print. (For an example of a page that was published in Japan, see below.) Secondly, it paints a different picture of the Japanese manga market than I'd imagined. I've always assumed the breadth of material in Japan is fairly wide and diverse, but Pope suggests it's much more narrow and limited. If others have a take on this (Matt Thorn, I'm looking at you!), I'd be interested to hear it: Is the readership in Japan really "maddeningly conservative"? (Or put another way, is it any more maddeningly conservative than the U.S.'s extreme antipathy to anything not adorned in spandex?)

Finally, assuming this characterization is correct, it suggests that there are manga conventions that resonate with Japanese readers, conventions that Western creators are expected to replicate in their work. Takeshi Miyazawa, another Western artist attempting to break into the Japanese market, had a similar experience, also with Kodansha. (Miyazawa later had a much warmer reception from another publisher, Shueisha, but he was still told to add more "manga-isms" to his art.) I'd be curious to hear what creators such as Pope and Miyazawa have to say about such "manga-isms." Pope has mentioned his experiences with Kodansha in various interviews, and even though the experience must have been frustrating, he still sounds upbeat and positive about what he got out of it, likening the ordeal to grad school. So let's have the dissertation, already!

And this is completely unrelated, but I thought it was amusing: How many other books about comics come with an endorsement from Penthouse?

According to Pope, even though the book's contents were toned down from what was originally planned ("we made a late-stage editorial decision to remove all images of sexual penetration and depictions of XXX sex acts (there were more than a few)"), the book was still shrinkwrapped to avoid legal troubles over nudity. I suppose showcasing a quote from Penthouse also helps signal that your book has adult content.

ELSEWHERE: PulpHope review. Another PulpHope review. A third PulpHope review. Paul Gravett on Pope. PulpHope rocks!: Part One, Part Two. The CBR interview. The TCJ interview (excerpt). Ninth Art overview. PULPHOPE (Pope's blog).

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Waiting For The (Digital) Floppy

After playing around with Amazon's new MP3 store for the past 24 hours (and purchasing far too many singles as a result), I find myself pondering that age-old question that perpetually haunts the blogosphere: When will comic publishers provide a legal means for digitally downloading their product? Just as MP3 downloads make the single a viable format again, digital comic downloads could save the floppy (AKA, single issue) from extinction. One of my main beefs with the floppy format is how awkward it is to store, but digital downloads would eliminate that issue. I imagine I'd be much more willing to try out comics I wouldn't otherwise read if I could download them quickly, conveniently, and cheaply. For example, I've heard good things about DC's new The Brave & The Bold series, and that's something I'd be willing to sample for a fair price (somewhere under a buck). As it is, I don't have convenient access to a comic shop, so it's not something I'm going to actively seek out. I suppose I could always check out the eventually collection from the library, but by then the buzz on the book may be gone and I'll probably forget about it. Which brings me to another point: allowing for digital downloads would be a great way to capitalize on fans' tendency to impulse buy. I know back when I did make regular trips to the comic shop, I always ended up leaving with more than I planned on getting when I went in, because who can resist all those colorful covers? Imagine how wild comic fans would go if a huge library of titles were only a mouse click away?

I'm sure there are several thorny issues that give publishers pause, but after gorging myself at Amazon's MP3 buffet, I really think the benefits would outweigh the risks.

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Monday, September 24, 2007
Death Note is Dead! Long Live Death Note!

Others have already noted that the Death Note anime and live-action films are making their way to U.S. shores, but browsing through Amazon today I noticed some upcoming releases sure to interest Death Note fans. The first is Death Note: Lethally Fun Facts, Mysteries and Secrets Revealed, an unofficial guide to the series put out by DH Publishing, who describe the book as follows:
In this first-of-its-kind guide to this exciting story, DHP's Japanese researchers have dug up little-known facts and behind-the-scenes info that are certain to surprise even the most ardent of Death Note's English-speaking fans.
According to the info on Amazon, the book was scheduled to come out on September 15th but it's still listed as for preorder as of today. [DH Publishing also puts out unofficial guides for a number of other popular manga/anime series, including Bleach and Naruto.]

Next up is something even more interesting: It looks like Viz will be publishing the 13th volume of Death Note, titled Death Note: How to Read. According to the description on Amazon, this book is "[a]n encyclopedic guide to the Death Note manga series, including character bios, storyline summaries, interviews with creators Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, production notes and commentaries, and bonus manga pages." Based on the price, this looks like it's only the book itself, not the deluxe collector's set containing: a case that doubles as a box for all 13 Death Note volumes as well as a diorama of the setting of the series' final showdown; replicas of Near's little figurines; and a number of other goodies. Perhaps Viz is planning on releasing that set as a separate special collector's item or as a deluxe version of the book.

According to Amazon, Death Note: How to Read will be released February 19, 2008, a date that will also see the release of Death Note: Another Note, a prose story detailing an earlier case of L's:
There’s a killer loose in Los Angeles and super-sleuth L is on the case. Along with Naomi, a former FBI agent, he helps the LA police solve the grisly crimes. In typical Death Note fashion, things get complicated. And there’s a big surprising plot twist at the end of the book.
Presumably Viz will be beefing up that release copy before the book is heavily publicized.

UPDATE: An old post on ComiPress has more details on the contents of the How to Read Japanese edition. I'm assuming all of the contents will be available in the English translation, which would help explain why Volume 13 is priced at almost twice as much ($14.99) as the earlier volumes ($7.99). I mean, isn't a special card revealing the true name of "L" worth an extra eight bucks???

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Riding Dark Horse

Some amusing & interesting bits in Dark Horse's latest Pony Express newsletter:

Dark Horse's Star Wars line of comics is having some sort of series-spanning crossover, but Dark Horse doesn't quite have the solicitation technique for these kinds of events down yet.
This promises to be one of the biggest events ever to shake the Star Wars galaxy!
You forgot to promise, "NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!!"

Self-deprecating humor or lack of self-awareness? "Ring ring!! Do I hear the tardy bell?" Well, you're Dark Horse, an expert on tardiness, so if you say it's a tardy bell I'll take your word for it.

Publisher Mike Richardson waxes philosophical on how to fix comic shops and comes to conclusions similar to those offered by other recent commentators. (Hey, is Richardson cribbing from the blogosphere?) Other insights offered by Richardson:
  • The success of shojo manga was largely an accident. I'm sure that comes as a surprise to publishers like Tokyopop and Viz, who actively courted female readers for years with titles such as Magic Knight Rayearth and Fushigi Yûgi. "I swear, we licensed the latest manga from Kazuo Koike, but the Japanese publisher sent us this girly stuff from some company named CLAMP!"

  • Richardson relates the story of what happens when one of their books received some notable media attention:
    A number of years ago, Dark Horse published a book, Another Chance to Get It Right, by mainstream author Andrew Vachss and artist Geof Darrow. The book was held up on screen during the Oprah show while a phone number was flashed for less than ten seconds. Over 150,000 phone calls were received by viewers attempting to order the book. Unfortunately, we received complaints for weeks afterward that the book could not be found in bookstores or comic shops.
    It seems like a strange example to use in order to discuss the supposed shortcomings of comic shops since retailers could hardly be expected to know (months in advance, no less) that Oprah was going to mention the book on her show. And even if they had, would Dark Horse have been able to meet demand? Given their spotty track record having enough material on hand for sure-fire sellers (e.g., Hellboy, Sin City, 300) when it's known well in advance that there will be media interest, it hardly seems like retailers are the ones at fault in this scenario.
Still, I do give Dark Horse credit for offering a diverse assortment of material that could appeal to varied demographics. And despite Richardson's odd, distracting details, I think the heart of his message still stands: More diverse material will attract a more diverse audience.*

*[Assuming adequate distribution, marketing, etc.]

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I ♥ Collen Coover

Dave Carter is pressed for time so he's running Colleen Coover Week. Let's hope his schedule stays hectic and it turns into Colleen Coover Month! (Yeah, I could look at Coover's artwork every day without getting tired of it.) And since Dave already posted Coover's wonderful interpretation of Mary Marvel, I'm going to post this oldie but goodie:

[Image from Coover's LiveJournal]

In other Coover news, I dug up the following tidbits from an interview on the site G-Wie-Gorilla:

Coover and husband Paul Tobin have created a new graphic novel titled Freckled Face, Bony Knees, And Other Things Known About Annah. According to Coover's LJ, the book is complete and they're just deciding on who to publish it through. Coover describes the book as follows:
It’s a character study of a woman named Annah, told from the point of view of people around her. Annah believes that she has a missing twin sister named Ginger who was created by her mad scientist father from the part of her brain known as the Penfield's Homunculus, which is sort of a map of sensory perception. She blames the loss of her “sister” for the fact that she is sometimes emotionally unstable, but her observers point out that the creation of Ginger occurred during her parents’ messy divorce, and may be purely a figment of her imagination.
Dare I say it sounds like a fit for DC's Minx line? (Although I can't remember whether the deals through Minx allow the creators to retain all rights, so maybe it's not a good fit.)

It sounds like my hopes for a Banana Sunday sequel have been dashed, at least in comic book form:
There are no plans at the moment for any more Banana Sunday comics, but Paul (who wrote Banana Sunday under the name Root Nibot,) has written a series of novels and is working on finding a publisher for them.
I'd be curious to see how the series would translate to prose, but I'd miss seeing the antics of Go-Go illustrated. Perhaps Coover could do chapter illustrations like the one below to tide over fans like me:

Speaking of Go-Go, Coover links to this sculptor (scroll down to about mid-page) who created a figure of everyone's favorite irrepressible id in the form of a gorilla:

I want one!!!

UPDATE Forgot to mention that Coover has put two full comics up on her ComicSpace page, T-Shirt Weather (originally published in The Comics Journal Special Edition Volume 5 2005: Manga Masters) and The Boogeyman (originally published in Dark Horse's Sexy Chix).

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Monday, September 17, 2007
Manga Mondays: Courting The Comic Book Fans

One of the blogging rituals I miss now that I'm not reading any superhero comics regularly is the monthly solicitation commentary. You know the routine: Marvel and DC release listings and cover images for all their comics coming out a couple months down the road and everyone in the comics blogosphere offers their take on the previews. After reading ICv2's interview with Viz's Senior Vice-President Liza Coppola where she talks about working more with the Direct Market fan base, I wondered why manga publishers don't release monthly solicitation information to comic book sites like Newsarama and Comic Book Resources (or even anime/manga fan sites like Anime News Network or AnimeOnDVD). Sure, Dark Horse and DC include their manga releases with their overall product listings each month, but I'm wondering why dedicated manga publishers don't release their monthly schedules to the fan sites. It's not like big publishers like Viz and Tokyopop don't already have that scheduling information available, so it doesn't seem like it would be a major effort to compile the info in a slightly different format for a different audience. I know the chances of getting superhero devotees to try something new are slim, but perhaps by getting the information out there in a format and cycle they're familiar with you might snare a few eyeballs while they're busy refreshing Newsarama waiting for the latest press release from Marvel or DC to go up. Plus, I know there are manga fans like me that still check the comic sites every now and then, and if we're blogging about your upcoming books and other manga fans join in, that's more free advertising for your books.

Anyway, here's some light snark about the manga solicitations that are available on CBR.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service heard that having your characters appear as zombies on the cover helps sales.

"Honestly, Doc, I don't know how that got up there!"

Yes, she shredded her own outfit with swords just so you could see a little skin, fanboy. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW???

This cover graphically depicts the relative popularity of cheerleaders (shown in blue) vs. marching band (shown in red).

"Gon hungry! Gon snatch!!"

Dear DC/CMX: Thanks for setting back by decades fans' efforts to convince people that manga's not about the creepy sexualization of minors.

This, on the other hand, is the good kind of manga creepiness. What's in that box? What does it smell like? IF I SMELL IT WILL I LOSE MY EYELIDS, TOO???

"Karnac sees all! Karnac knows all!!"
From DC's first Flex offering, Zombie Fairy, whose solicitation copy
reads like it was spit out of the Random Manga Cliche Generator 2000.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Flip Flop Flap

Over on the Studio Cutie blog, Susie Lee explains why the lettering for Oh My Goddess Volume 6 took so long, showing several examples of troublesome sound effects and signage. Then down in the comments, Susie and another old-school letterer reminisce on how things were even more challenging when lettering rework had to be done by hand:
I also remember working on stats. I used Pro White to white out the balloons and then draw stuff back in with rapidograph. It'd really blow when the Pro White wasn't completely dry. I'd end up digging a channel through my blob of White and it'd clog the pen. It was a bummer when the pages weren't completely cleaned of chemicals and the glu-stick I'd use wouldn't adhere.

Laying down tone was fun too. I'd get little pieces all over me and it'd show up at the weirdest places. Like in the kitchen.

I hated doing sfx too, but at the time I shrugged and figure that the books wouldn't be the same without them. Nowadays the kids wanna see the kana/kanji and don't mind little subtitles. I have to say, it makes localizing some titles much easier. I hate subtitles as a reader, but as a letterer, it's fine by me!
I find this kind of behind-the-scenes technical talk fascinating, so I'm always interested when Susie provides a peek into her process. And just for fun, I've added scans of what the two scenes discussed looked like in the old Dark Horse collections:

Original Japanese panel

Flipped English panel from
Oh My Goddess! Volume 6: Terrible Master Urd

Unflopped English panel from Oh My Goddess! Vol. 6

Original Japanese panel

Unflipped English panel from
Oh My Goddess! Volume 7: The Queen of Vengeance

Unflopped English panel from Oh My Goddess! Vol. 6

I like how other than translating the caption box the second-to-last panel with all the banners was left unflipped and untranslated in the old left-to-right edition. Saves time! It also shows how much work went into redoing the banners with English slogans. But won't manga purists be upset that the kana/kanji were removed??

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Monday, September 10, 2007
The Way We Were

On a whim, I decided to check out my archives to see what I was blogging about last September.

The first thing that appears is a post that still gets quite a bit of traffic, my (since abandoned) attempt to track the many delays in the Oh My Goddess! publication schedule. My apologies to all those who come here seeking updated OMG! release info, but now that I'm not following the series anymore, I have even less interest in updating that table. (There's still this handy list, though.)

Further down the page, there's more griping about Dark Horse's delays with OMG!; an attempt at Civil War-related humor; and several "fun with panels" posts. But the post that most interested me was this one, basically a shopping list of comics I'd ordered online. Examining that list, I know there are at least two books I haven't even started reading (any guesses? maybe I should send those books to whoever answers correctly, since I'm obviously never going to read them myself) and probably several more I'd started but never finished.

Going back even further, I took a look at the September archives from my old blog, Grotesque Anatomy. Interestingly, it was on September 10, 2003 that I started that blog, exactly four years ago at the time I started working on this post. Man, those September 2003 archives really take me back. Some highlights:
For September 2004, there's only one post, my announcement that I was closing up shop at Grotesque Anatomy. But I did find this bit prophetic [emphasis added]:
I toyed with the idea of keeping the blog going at a much more sporadic pace, but there's something inherently wrong with a blog that only updates irregularly and infrequently (unless the sporadic schedule is in your blog's name, of course).
Coincidence, or elaborately planned blog relaunch? YOU BE THE JUDGE!

So how about you? What were you blogging about a year ago? Has what you blog about changed at all?

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Manga Mondays: Last Week's News - TODAY!

ITEM! Via David Welsh comes news that the 20th volume of Bleach topped PWCW's comics bestsellers list last week. As David points out in the comments, it's not that surprising that Bleach sells well given its popular anime tie-in, but I still can't get over the odd feeling of having something I enjoy also being popular. This comes from years of watching series I liked (e.g., Chase, Power Company) cancelled out from under me back when I was a more regular reader of superhero comics. Also: can something so popular still be good? I feel torn, like I should be engaging in critical backlash to take down this empty, overhyped book.

ITEM! Via Ryan Lewis [via Brigid Alverson] comes word that Love Roma creator Minoru Toyoda is working on a new series, presumably for the Japanese manga anthology Afternoon where his other work has been published. No word on when the series would even start in Japan or how long it would run, so who knows when (or if) we'll ever see it released here, but it still made me smile to think that there's a possibility of more material from one of my favorite mangaka becoming available maybe someday.

From Minoru Toyoda's one-shot Flip-Flap,
published in the Feb. 2007 issue of Afternoon

ITEM! Via Dirk Deppey comes the crushing verdict that Tekkon Kinkreet is not, in fact, a mature work. Great, and right after I went ahead and ordered the book based on Christopher Butcher's heartfelt plea to support manga for grown-ups. (Team Adult Manga?) Oh, wait: One of my favorite manga is aimed at pre-teens (and "rotten girls," apparently), so I guess I'm not that devastated. (And really, if I were interested in buying Tekkon Kinkreet to support any cause, it would be the one whose goal is to get publishers to put out MORE FAT BOOKS OF LOTS AND LOTS OF MANGA!!! (I call it 'Team Mammoth Manga' and you can be a part of it, too!))

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Saturday, September 08, 2007
Superhero Saturdays:
In A Superhero State of Mind

Searching through Amazon's listings, I found something that may cause me to break my moratorium on buying Marvel's Essential volumes:

C'mon, how can you resist a collection containing comics like this? (Unfortunately, disputed rights to Rom prevent issue #73 from being reprinted, but even without it that's 25 comics (50-72, 74-75) of goofy "buddy cop" action.)

This looks like another superhero comic I'd enjoy:

I recall critical reaction to the story (originally featured as a backup in Tales of the Unexpected) being overwhelmingly positive, and I've always enjoyed Cliff Chiang's artwork, so I think this is something I'll eventually check out. Plus, the backstory behind just one panel makes it sound like the creative process for the book was a truly collaborative effort infused with a real sense of fun (as opposed to editorially-mandated continuity wank), so it makes the whole project seem like a labor of love. [Via Kevin Melrose]

Finally, a couple pin-ups for certain bloggers. (They and you! can probably guess who they are.)

By Cliff Chiang
From a proposed Wildcat miniseries

By Mike Miller
From Upper Deck Entertainment's Marvel Team-Up card set.
Hey, Doc's cloak shouldn't appear when he's in astral form, should it??


Friday, September 07, 2007
Whatever Happened To: Joann Sfar?

Seeing Bart Beaty's piece on Joann Sfar's new bande dessinée Greffier made me realize that I've been going through Sfar withdrawal lately. Aside from Sardine, I don't think there have been any new Sfar-illustrated works released this year. Which is especially tough considering last year was a Sfar bonanza in terms of the number of books then freshly translated into English. I do need to re-read The Rabbi's Cat again (I'd originally read the hardcover via the library but now own the softcover edition), so there's that to tide me over. And 2008 already looks promising, with Little Vampire (which I'm assuming will be a compilation of this and this) and The Rabbi's Cat 2 announced so far. (That April 1st release date for both books had better not be an April Fool's joke.)

And in other Sfar-related news, the artist himself was recently announced as the director for an upcoming feature film version of his Rabbi's Cat. According to the press kit (PDF), the film will be done in an ambitious new animation method: the drawings will be done by hand on location rather than in an isolated studio. As Sfar puts it, "It will be as if we were making a real film, on a real set with real props, but instead of filming, we'll draw." Sounds interesting (and reminiscent of Sfar's approach working on Greffier). Has anything like this been done before?

I do hope more of Sfar's work is translated into English. Greffier sounds simply fascinating to me, despite the possible bias and preachiness: after years of reading inaccurate legal drama in comics like Daredevil and She-Hulk, I think it'd be a kick to see a straight-up sequential art report of courtroom proceedings with no spandex in sight. I'd also like to see more Vampire Loves and Klezmer, of course, but I have no idea how long it will take to prepare the next volumes for publication in English. (I believe with Vampire Loves, the First Second versions collect two of the French Le Bestiaire Amoureux collections (which in turn collect two of the Grand Vampire books), so I think there's now enough material for First Second to do a second volume. With Klezmer, I think it's a one-to-one correspondence, so there are two other books available to translate.)

In the meantime, here are some images to enjoy, and there are many, many more wonderful samples of Sfar's artwork to be found on his website.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007
Now Taking Suggestions for Next Long-Delayed Comic To Gripe About

Yes, the long-awaited Akira Club finally arrived yesterday, six months after I ordered it. I hope to say more about it later, but my initial impressions are very positive: It's a beautifully-designed book with a wealth of interesting supplemental material. A big congratulations to Dark Horse for putting together such an impressive product.

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