Sporadic Sequential
Friday, December 14, 2007
Friday Frustrations: Anyone Else Having Problems with BN.com?

Has anyone else been having issues with orders from Barnes & Noble's online site lately? One of my favorite things about ordering through BN.com used to be how fast orders shipped: if items were listed as "Usually ships within 24 hours" they often shipped the same I day made my purchase, often just hours after I'd placed my order. But recently my orders all seem to run into "unexpected delays," even when everything in my order was supposed to ship within 24 hours. For example, on Tuesday of this week I placed an order for two items, Steven Weissman's Mean and the fifth volume of Banya: The Explosive Delivery Man, and everything was originally scheduled to ship by the next day. But on Thursday I received an email saying that both items had run into "unexpected delays." Checking the site, however, showed that both books were still listed as shipping within 24 hours. I sent an email to customer support asking what was going on but still haven't heard anything back.

This problem with delays seems to have started occurring right around the time Barnes & Noble upgraded their website, back in October. Searching back through my email, I found that 60% of my orders since the site upgrade have been delayed. I couldn't find any order delays prior to the site upgrade. (It's possible I deleted some old emails but I doubt it. Now that Hotmail and Gmail offer so much storage, I hardly ever delete any emails.)

Was something broken when the B&N site was updated? Is book availability not being updated or reflected accurately on the site? I know when the site redesign launched, members were asked to update their communication preferences in order to continue receiving coupons and there were problems with that: I would update my preferences and save them, but the next time I logged in they had reverted to the old settings. Which caused Barnes & Noble to send me repeated emails reminding me that I needed to update my account preferences.

And speaking of the site redesign, while I'm happy with some useful functionality that's been implemented (the search is much better than it used to be, and I like being able to add items to my wish list from the search results rather than having to click into an item's detail page), aesthetically I think the new look is worse than the old one. On the old site, the layout was clean and easy to navigate, while now it feels busy and cluttered. And I hate that stupid scrolling Flash ad on the main page — it takes up so much space! Apparently I'm not the only one less than enthused about the revamp.

So, what are your thoughts about the BN.com redesign? Let me know in the comments!

UPDATED 12/17: I just noticed this message for the first time tonight when logging in to check some delayed orders:
We are currently experiencing delays in updating order status. If your order is shipping later than we promised, you will receive an email providing a new delivery date. Otherwise, your order will be shipped within the time frame promised when you submitted your order.
Hmm. If this is on the level, I wonder if it's at all related to the recent site update? Also, I find it interesting that the message mentions an email providing a new delivery date. BN.com never guarantees a delivery date, only the shipping date, so it's an unusual slip-up..

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Shōjo WW Watch: One Year Later

Over at The Beat, Heidi MacDonald reacts to a recent article puzzling over why Wonder Woman just can't hit it big like DC's male icons by pointing out that perhaps putting out a "truly girl-friendly" version of the character would succeed where other approaches have fizzled. Heidi suggests a specific vision of WW that will be familiar to readers of this blog (heck, I just brought it up again earlier this week in response to the news about Marvel and Del Rey's manga X-Men deal), Tintin Pantoja's Princess of Paradise proposal. And judging by the responses in the comments so far, I'm not the only one who would love to see this project published:
I’m not a fan of the character, nor am I a girl, or even fan of manga for that matter- but I’d buy that Wondy comic by Tintin Pantoja- it looks interesting.

I would pay double, heck even triple, price for a Wonder Woman comic by Tintin Pantoja. Every time I see that proposal it makes me cry to think of what could have been. Maybe it’s time to start a letter writing campaign.

OOoh. Another voice speaking up for Manga Wonder Woman. I might actually buy it on a regular basis.
Also in the comments, Grady Hendrix, the author of the New York Sun piece, shows up to reveal that Tintin Pantoja was interviewed for the article but her quotes weren't used due to space limitations. He then shares her comments, which I'm reproducing here:
“I wore a Wonder Woman costume for my sixth birthday. Heh. Then in the late 1990’s I picked up some back issues of the relaunch of Wonder Woman written and drawn by George Perez, and fell in love with his version of the character. I particularly loved his emphasis on the mythical elements of Wonder Woman’s story, his situating her in an ancient-Greece-based culture, and his characterization of her as basically a young, innocent and inexperienced outsider with much untapped strength.

Later while studying at SVA, DC comics, through its Vertigo imprint, released a manga-influenced graphic novel featuring Death. I’d been getting more into manga at this point, particularly manga written by and for young women, and thought Wonder Woman would provide the perfect bridge between the DC Universe and manga. After all, Wonder Woman has many of the same elements you find in girl’s manga: magic powers, gods and goddesses, mythic struggles, a young and malleable warrior princess protagonist, and a vast historical universe. How about further examining Wonder Woman’s hero’s-journey, using a younger version of the protagonist to reflect the younger manga audience, against this huge backdrop of magic and myth?- I really thought teenage readers might enjoy it.”

Asked about pitching the project to DC:
“I drew up the proposal with help from some friends- among them Eve Grandt, who provided the comic tones- and showed them to a DC editor who also taught at SVA. I think he might have showed them to an editor at Vertigo as well, but I believe that’s as far as it got. I don’t think I expected much of a reaction, since it’s pretty tough to attract work from Marvel or DC, but the idea was so compelling I thought, ‘might as well go for it and see where it leads.’ With no reaction from DC, I just filed the project away and put the pages online as part of my portfolio, then forgot about them.”

When asked what she thought of Wonder Woman in general:
“I see Wonder Woman as a great potential role model and powerful symbol. She’s iconic, and she has all this symbolism behind her: freedom from bondage and from hate, the breaking of chains, the forging of bridges, the crossing of cultures, etc. I’m also intrigued by the universe George Perez helped re-establish for her: how did this young girl from a totally isolated society become a powerful hero?”
I blogged about Tintin's manga-inspired WW pitch quite a bit last year, and the last I remember hearing was that another publisher had expressed interest in publishing the project as a non-WW work. I haven't heard anything about the proposal since then, but I'd still love to see Tintin's project published in whatever form it might take. Here's hoping some smart publisher snatches up this great concept and helps it see the light of day!

UPDATE: Back at The Beat, Heidi points out that Tintin (AKA Maria Kristina) Pantoja has another interesting-looking manga-inspired reimagining actually coming out: Shakespeare's Hamlet, The Manga Edition! Twenty-five preview pages are up at Pantoja's website, and she discusses some of the behind-the-scenes process on her LiveJournal. I'm intrigued, so it's been added to the Wish List!

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Sunday, December 09, 2007
Well Played, Marvel Comics. Well Played.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Marvel actually impressed me with this announcement. Doing a manga version of the X-Men would be old news, but doing it as a shōjo series is genius. I wish I'd thought of that! (I'd say my suggestion for New Mutants was close, but still, that added shōjo twist is what makes it so brilliant. Now if Katsuhiro Otomo is announced as the artist of the OEL Wolverine book, then I'll go after Marvel for stealing my ideas.)

And it looks like artist Anzu's style won't be too jarring for X-Men fans. The character featured on her cover art to The Reformed Volume 1 is basically Gambit circa the 1990s, isn't it?

This may also be the first time ever where I'm hoping that DC steals an idea from Marvel. C'mon, DC! Get with the program already!!

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Friday, December 07, 2007
A Letter to Scott That Everyone Else Should Respond To Via Letters On Their Own Blogs.

So saying a comic is misogynistic is equivalent to claiming it's sentient? And people laughed when I tried to warn them about the dangers of Grant Morrison's mad experiments!

OK, seriously, yes, all the dictionaries I checked define 'misogynistic' along the lines of "of or characterized by a hatred of women." But I still don't think this supports your suggestion that calling a work misogynistic is really always a veiled attack on the creator's character. Consider similar statements people make about comics being "stupid" or "dumb." When people say those things, I doubt they're trying to imply something about those comics' ability to score well on the SAT. Nor do I think they're necessarily saying something about the creators' intellect. (Yes, there will always be those cranks who will blur or outright cross the line when criticizing a comic, using the work under fire to attack the creator personally, but I'm going to ignore such behavior as an unfortunate extreme.) People are simply extending a term beyond its primary meaning because it's useful and convenient. When I see people arguing that a comic is misogynistic, I don't interpret them as saying the comic itself (or the creator through the comic) hates women; rather, I read them as applying 'misogynistic' as a term to convey just how ugly the depictions of women are in that work. Yes, people could clarify long-hand what they mean by the term — "This comic is misogynistic, and by 'misogynistic' I mean that there are scenes in the comic involving demeaning depictions of female characters that are so beyond the pale that simply calling them creepy or offensive wouldn't effectively communicate my disgust" — but doing so repeatedly would quickly grow cumbersome.

Even if we stick with the strict dictionary definition, insisting that hatred is an essential element of something's being misogynistic, it's indeterminate just whose hatred is at issue. Critics may simply be arguing that the work reflects misogynistic attitudes towards women found in society at large, not that the creator him- or herself necessarily holds those views.

And I notice that you're still arguing that Karen Healey is an evil hypocrite because you believe that when she criticizes Bendis' work she's really attacking him (even though she repeatedly clarifies that she's only addressing his work). A couple points on this (I'll try not to repeat points I made already, even though you seem to be returning to the very same arguments I thought we'd covered three weeks ago):
  1. Why does your belief make something so when you criticize bad feminists for assering their beliefs without proof or evidence? Just because you believe you know why Karen wrote that post doesn't make it so, especially when you can't produce direct evidence of your claims.

  2. On a related note, why is OK for you to engage in long-distance armchair pop-psychology given that it's something that so rankles you about bad feminists? You accuse Karen of "trying to make [Bendis] look like an asshole for saying that he’s not a misogynist" but how do you know that that's her motivation? Again, I read the same piece and all I came away with was that she's calling his argument asinine.

  3. You seem awfully fond of the fallacy of the false dilemma. I know it makes your argument neater if you can reduce everything to two tidy options, but that doesn't mean that you've captured the reality of the situation. Specifially, saying that it must be the case that Karen is either defending charges of misogyny or engaging in unethical debate tactics hardly exhausts all the possible interpretations of her argument's ultimate strategy. Even if she is conflating two distinct arguments, she could be doing so based on possibly flawed assumptions rather than doing so with purposeful malicious intent.

  4. Also, arguing that a work is misogynistic doesn't necessarily impy anything about the origins of such offensive content. The work could have been crafted the way it is out of ignorance, laziness, a desire to shock, a desire to generate controversy, a desire to make the work apear "edgy" and "mature," or any other number of less spiteful motivations. But the result could still end up coming across as misogynistic to a large number of readers, even with non-misogynistic intentions behind the work.

  5. In general, your arguments against Karen seems as though they would benefit greatly from application of the principle of charity. Just as you want others to believe that your arguments are motivated by a desire to strengthen feminism, why can't you grant Karen and others the benefit of the doubt when they say they're simply trying to expose issues that exist within the comic industry regarding the depiction of women, not personally attack individual creators or fans?
And just to be fair: I think Ami is totally being an obnoxious troll regarding the issues between the two of you at this point. And, yes, Tim Liebe seems like a jerk engaging in childish taunts that would embarrass third-graders. But neither of those negative opinions means that I think you're being fair in your assessment of other's arguments.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007
Oh No, My One Weakness! A Good Bargain!!

Oh my god. I actually did it. I BOUGHT SOME MARVEL COMICS. Not only that, but I PREORDERED them. I was cleaning out old emails and found some old order confirmations from DCBS. For the heck of it, I decided to check out the site to see what kind of specials they were running. That was my undoing right there. Remember how I was kind of expressing interest in several Marvel comics a couple weeks back? Well, add the right discount and any resolve I might have had went right out the window. Here are some of the INCREDIBLE BARGAINS that pushed me over the edge into preordering madness once again:
  • CLANDESTINE CLASSIC PREM HC - 50% off! (And not only that, but it's 50% off the $29.99 price listed in Previews, as opposed to the $34.99 price tag places like Amazon are listing it for. Notice how Marvel's product page for the book has both prices listed.)
  • MARVEL FANFARE TP VOL 01 - 50% off!
  • HONEY & CLOVER GN VOL 01 - 50% off ! (I know the cover scares Mike Sterling, but both David Welsh and Dirk Deppey have raved about this, which is good enough for me.)
I also picked up a couple honest-to-goodness floppies, something I haven't done since my last order from DCBS:
  • CLANDESTINE #1 - 75& off! (Yeah, I'll probably get the eventual collection, but for 74 cents I figured I could afford to sample the first issue.)
  • SPIDER-MAN FAMILY #7 - 40% off!
And to round out the order, I got the latest volumes of two of my favorite manga series:
I was also tempted to get the ginormous RUROUNI KENSHIN VIZ BIG ED GN VOL 01 for half-off but then I remembered that I'd read the first small edition and it didn't really do much for me. (Thick + Cheap is almost an irresistible lure for me, but it appears reason can still win out occasionally.)

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Whatever Happened To: ADV's Sgt. Frog DVD?

Recently I'd been wondering what had happened to the US release of the Sgt. Frog (Keroro Gunso) anime. ADV announced they'd acquired the rights to the series over a year ago but then there was no news after that. Googling a bit, I turned up this forum where someone posted the following info:
Its still coming, but ADV Films are in the process of working out how best to release it.

At least, thats what ADV Films International head Hugh Davids said at the London MCM Expo today during the anime industry panel. This news applies to both the US and UK release obviously.
A little further down that thread, someone links to another forum where someone spotted the Sgt. Frog DVD listed in the November Previews for a January 2008 release:
NOV07 4721 SERGEANT FROG VOL 1 DVD (Net) (RES) (C: 0-1-3) SRP: $39.99 = $
And then even further down the TZ thread, someone reports that the English-language trailer is up on YouTube:

Of course, no info is to be found on ADV's own site, and it's not listed on Amazon, so who knows if it'll really come out in January or not. Until then, I guess I can just continue to watch clips of the fansubbed Japanese episodes on YouTube...

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Comic Math

Percentage of comic fans who read "One More Day" and enjoyed it:0
Percentage of those same fans who will stop reading Spider-Man comics:0
Amount of sympathy I will have when those fans complain about how bad the new Spider-Man status quo is:0
Monday, December 03, 2007
And Now, A Public Service Announcement from Tom Spurgeon:

And the Comment of the Week Month Year Decade Award goes to Tom Spurgeon:
Luckily, Mephisto popped up at my house on Veteran's Day and rebooted my own continuity so that I stopped reading Spider-Man comics in 1975.
Remember: Just because you've always collected a certain comic / character / creator doesn't mean you always have to forever and ever. If you're not enjoying something anymore, find something else that does tickle your fancy. Review your purchases over the past year and stop buying stuff that sucks. Focus on the many, many, many good comics out there and watch how your comic-reading and -reviewing mood improves almost immediately. It's easy, it'll save you time and money, and you don't even need to make a dumb deal with the devil for it to work!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
The Sensational Character Finds of 2007!

Found in The November 2007 issue of Nick Magazine [click for larger]:

Yes, that's by Steven Weissman, who signed the strip by "Ribs," a pseudonym / nickname / pen-name he's used elsewhere. I would definitely pay to see the further adventures of this sot-so-dynamic duo, but I'm not interested in subscribing to Nick Magazine to get my fix. Can anyone tell me if Weissman has contributed other work to Nick Magazine before (or any other magazine I might not be aware of)? And if so, have they been collected anywhere? (It looks like Nick Mag may offer their comics content online at some point in the future (including a blog by comic editors Dave Roman and Chris Duffy promising "[c]omics and cartooning tips, news, and contests from the Nick Mag Comic Book editors") but so far nothing's available on the site.)

Other comic artists contributing to the issue's comic book insert include Jef Czekaj, Sam Henderson, Johnny Ryan, R. Sikoryak, and John Kerschbaum (piece shown above). Who knew Nickelodeon was such a haven for indy creators?

UPDATE: Editor Dave Roman showed up in the comments to point out that there's a Nick Mag Comics Live Journal that has info about comic content in upcoming and past issues, and he also linked to a fun photo parade of a neat-sounding interactive presentation from San Diego Comic Con 2006. (Love the computer-generated comics. Extreme to the word!)

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