Archive for July, 2006

Sloppy Copy

So it’s been brought to my attention that I made a few factual errors in my manga/manhwa round-up in this week’s PW Comics Week.
Pata, of Irresponsible Pictures fame is ever on top of it and was kind enough to point out my blunders.

a) Kashimashi is yuri (girls love) and not yaoi (boys love)

b) Megami DX, DMP’s new “mook” (magazine book) is not yaoi or yaoi related at all, but an illustration book of girl characters from manga, anime and video games, as Pata correctly references.

Personally, my inaccurate reporting on Megami brought to the forefront my own bias in thinking of DMP as a yaoi/boys love/june publisher.  I didn’t even realize that I had Megami incorrectly pegged which stings because had I known that I was confused about it, I would have followed up with DMP when I visited their booth later that day.  Instead I got distracted by Range Murata’s Robot…Which proves that I can think of DMP outside of the yaoi box, but only if provoked.

Lastly, David Taylor of Love Manga also took issue with the schedule of Rush, DramaQueen’s original yaoi anthology by western artists that I had been told was going to start at 2x a year for the first year and then ramp up to a quarterly schedule.   A quick call to Tran Nguyen cleared that up.  Her words: “Honey, I’m so sorry!  I gave you the wrong information!”  Rush will be published twice this year (one issue for fall, one for winter) and then released every two months starting in 2007.

I have to say, though, the support and keen insight from the manga blogosphere is heartwarming (think warm fuzzies)  and is making me a better and more thorough reporter.  You may read that as: Guys, without you, I am nothing!  Without you I am nothing!

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From Taiwan with Love

In the middle of watching Fearless right now.
But before I forget, here’s another find from yesterday: Japanese manga IN CHINESE!

Japanese manga IN CHINESE!

Once I managed to tear myself away from the DVD and music section of the store I was in, I stumbled upon the comics section. Now, if you’re walking down the Bowery on any given weekend, there’ll be a bunch of table vendors selling books, comics, etc. But most of them are the girls comics (shojo manga) and none of it looks all that familiar.
What’s great about buying in an actual shop is that they have all the hot titles like One Piece, Full Metal Alchemist, and, holy shit! Is that GANTZ? IN CHINESE?
Naturally, I had to pick up a copy. GANTZ is a series that will never be released in the States. Or so goes the rumor. It’s a sci-fi story about the world beyond death that’s limbo if limbo were a hyper-violent live-action video game that took place in a neighborhood near you. There are elements of Battle Royale in it, an appearance by Angelina Joeli, er, Lara Croft, lots of action, a crazy amount of suspense, and quality (not quantity, but quality) sex.
My theory on GANTZ is that if CMX licensed this series, cut the cover page of the naked girls (that graces each and every volume) but otherwise kept their editorial mitts to themselves, and then just shrink-wrapped the hell out of it, they’d win back the readership that they lost with Tenjho Tenge. All while making a number of 15 year-old boys – I mean 18-year-old boys – happy in the process.
In the meantime, it’s being licensed for the Taiwan market (and probably making it to the Mainland) so Chinese readers rejoice! And if you can’t read Chinese but want to check it out (you know you want to) Omanga has a wicked scanlation of it.
But manga isn’t all sex and violence. Although, speaking of Tenjho Tenge, at the store they had up to volume 13 (or something like that) but by the time I got to it, I had run out of money. (!@#$% ATM’s! &*^%$# JPMorganChase!)

I also got Basilisk which I’m so excited to read in Chinese (not really since it makes the 30 minute reading experience into a 30 hour reading experience) and one of my favorite sports manga (second only to Inoue Takehiko’s SlamDunk!) EyeShield 21!
Yea, baby! But like I said, I’m watching Fearless right now.

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Recovery

Just sitting down to some coconut tapioca and perusing my finds for today.

Since I’ve been feeling completely geeked out from Comicon, I spent the day downtown, downing milk-tea and perusing movies and music along Grand St.

Lo and behold! What should I find: Shinobi, the movie adaptation of the manga and novel (to be released by Del Rey Manga later this year) by Futaro Yamada will be available on DVD tomorrow! I thought of saving my money and returning later this week, before I splurged on this:

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Fearless (Jet Li), Perhaps Love (Takeshi Kaneshiro), and Election 1&2. Election 2 just came out on DVD this weekend and there are musings on the internet as to whether Tartan Films will be acquiring the rights to this one as well – perhaps for a joint release with Election which they acquired the rights to this past spring. Election is the 2005 triad movie by Johnnie To that’s rumored to have given the HK film industry a hearty kick in the ass. I thought Infernal Affairs already did that….

Jet Li’s Fearless has also been acquired for release in the U.S. Grady Hendrix made a funny when he pointed to his own confusion about the title: is it a contraction (Jet Li is Fearless) or is it possessive? Regardless, I’ve got the DVD which, because the movie has been optioned for the U.S. market, has no subtitles. Given that it’s a period piece, I’m praying that it’s not heavily reflected in the dialogue. If the writing is anything like HERO, which used old, old, poetic and beautiful Chinese, I’m screwed. More on this movie once I’ve watched it.

Of course, no movie purchase is complete without some sort of romance/chick-flick. Kaneshiro Takeshi, I choose you! Perhaps Love is another 2005 release that again, revived the Hong Kong industry. Personally, I find anything that allows me to drown in the infinite sadness of the doe-eyed Kaneshiro to be quite refreshing. Although, I recently watched him in a Japanese movie, my first time watching him speak/act in Japanese, and that was rather unsettling.

I also happened on quite a bit of music which I’ll be checking out. Cecelia Cheung (who shares a same last name and similar good looks to another Cheung we all know – Maggie), one of my favorite pop/movie/actress/singer idols who I’m currently listening to, and KangTa&Vanness, the Taiwanese/Korean duo who are, I’m told, white hot and popular as hell.

I’m sure to have more once I’ve had time to process it all.

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manga dispatches

After a fierce struggle (that I almost lost) I’m finally back from my very first San Diego Comicon.  I have to say, I’ve been to conventions before but this thing was out of control.  My impressions of it all: huge, impenetrable, overwhelming.

I’ll admit that one of my downfalls is that I didn’t approach this convention with the same organization and drive that I approached the others, but it was still pretty crazy.  The level of celebrity was through the roof.  This was the year that publishers pulled out all the stops and brought over their most reknowned artists from Japan: Kazuo Koike, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Yoshitaka Amano, Nobuhiro Watsuki.  And there were more from Korea: JTK, Seyeong Won, Jae Hwan Kim.

As hard as I tried, I just didn’t manage to interview them all and after getting my ass severly kicked up and down the convention hall all weekend (which is quite large, I might add) and beating myself over the head with my laptop for not finding “the big story”, it was no wonder that early Sunday evening found me knocking back a few during the final meeting with my editors.  With PW buying the drinks, and later, the kind publicity team of DC Comics throwing in a round, my bad mood was finally over.

Until I found myself filing out of the San Diego airport, racing around the tiny Starbucks looking for wi-fi access, and almost missing my flight…again.

But despite almost missing my deadline, and my flight, and having a suitcase full of books to haul around…

Despite the fact that I was so exhausted from Comicon that I couldn’t manage sleeping vertically on the plane…

Despite the fact that I was so nauseated by my trip that I almost yarfed all over the man I was sitting next to on the LIRR…

I still managed to get home – in time to pick up my son from camp and play a few rounds of speed hide and go seek (you only count to 5); cook dinner and wrestle my little man into his bath; wrestle him into his pajamas and read to him from volume 4 of Jeff Smith’s BONE that I brought home for him (thanks, Scholastic!).

And now, I get to close my eyes and stay horizontal for more than 4 hours.  Ain’t no stopping me now.  If only I had this kind of determination at Comicon….

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A Funny Thing Happened While I was at Comicon….

This weekend, at San Diego Comicon, I found this interesting thread that both reflected on the state of the graphic novel/local manga industry and tied together the whole convention for me.

The graphic novel is a mysterious animal.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed Kazu Kibuishi, editor of the comics anthology Flight. He’s also working on, among other things, a graphic novel, Amulet, that will be published by Scholastic Books. If you check out his blog, he’s got running commentary on how difficult the process is for writing a GN, something that was also discussed during our interview.

At the heart of it is the obvious: graphic novels are incredibly difficult to make. And Kazu debates whether comics are meant to be created in a long, 200 page format when he’s found the short format, the 32 page pamphlet, to be the strength of this medium.

Which brings me to manga and Comicon. (Stick with me for a minute.)

Japanese comics (manga) are super popular with young people all over the U.S., Europe and South America. So much so that it’s made these readers want to use comics, specifically the Japanese format of comics, to tell their own stories.

I say the Japanese format but for most young artists, it’s conveyed in the art style of big eyes and school girl uniforms and the desire to focus more on conveying the emotions of their characters. Some artists are rather adept at using a cinematic style in their work that is one of the foundations of Japanese comics, as well as constructing a strong narrative that carries the plot. But then, there are a lot of American manga artists that are still learning this.

The interesting thing is that “manga” that is created outside of Japan (Original English Language manga – OEL manga) is being produced as a graphic novel, say 200-250 pages at a time, released in book format. This serialized novel format is what’s caught on outside of Japan

Meanwhile, back in Japan, the format that manga is released is similar to that of American pamphlet comics. No one (or very, very few artists) is creating graphic novels in Japan. Their stories are serialized in weekly Japanese comics anthologies. Once a certain number of issues have been published, the story is then gathered up and bound in book format.

One fan asked Rurouni Kenshin cartoonist Nobuhiro Watsuki (who’s series is all of 28 volumes) how he kept his focus and momentum in creating Kenshin. His response was that he creates for his reader, that knowing his work will be read and enjoyed by fans every week is what kept him going.

Which brings me to my real question: Why is OEL being created in a vaccuum? That’s not to say that editors aren’t hands on or involved in the process, but basically, OEL in America is being created without audience participation, a very important part of the development of a graphic narrative.

Creating a graphic narrative is so labor intensive that it seems counter productive to shut away an artist for 200 pages at a time with only the attention of an editor.

Another element that was brought to light was the way stories are conceived. In the Q&A with Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Tatsumi said currently, in Japan, stories are conceived by a team of editors. “These days, storylines are collaboratively developed in huge editorial meetings – not just by the author.”

Which means there is a certain focus and narrative in place that the writer/artist then executes. That means the difference between an entertainment industry run by a machine, and an entertainment industry that seems like it’s placing too much responsibility on one person: the author and creator.

Ultimately, I think this will be the downfall of OEL and why it will take longer than most publishers anticipate, for a strong demand for OEL manga to develop. In my interview with Kazu, who’s work I consider comics, not “manga”, he talks about how he’s had to go from cartoonist to writer, and from the sounds of it, it’s a difficult, difficult transition.

For me, I guess this post is a long winded look at the importance of serialization and the small steps that need to be taken to create something mamoth. The short form is short changed in many respects – it’s just not profitable. But without the short form, the long form is virtually impossible.

It makes me think that the graphic novel, as mysterious an animal as it is, has become this monster. Tatsumi, who is reported to have produced as many as 50 pages/day, says that for a long time, creating comics was like being in a war. I’m sure many, many young artists feel the same way.

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San Diego vs. Thai Rak

This weekend, I’m scheduled to be out in CA for the SD Comicon. But since I just missed my flight, it looks like I’ll just be hanging out at JFK…
Wouldn’t you know, this weekend also marks the opening acts of Bangkok rock like Modern Dog and Sek Lekso who will be playing at venues like The Knitting Factory and CBGB (Sat.pm). It’s all a build up to Ramakien: A Rak Opera which will be at Lincoln Center July 28th-30.

The opening party, which will feature cast members from the Rak production as well as local talent, is this Friday at Galapagos in Brooklyn – and sponsored by Singha – so it’s all about the beer, er, music. It sounds like a really fun event which at this point, has me cursing Comicon.

Curses to Comicon! I hate San Diego! I hate JFK! I just missed my flight!

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What’s Bad is Good for You: Dog Bite Dog

What’s raw and nasty and hits you in the face like a slab of concrete? Dog Bite Dog!

I’ve posted about Korean director Soi Cheang’s Hong Kong movie earlier this summer, soon after Grady Hendrix smeared the trailer all over his Kaiju Shakedown blog. Now, thanks again to Hendrix, who keeps a firm hand on the shakedown, we can all check out the official Dog Bite Dog website!

Oh yeah!

The movie is scheduled to release in HK on August 17 which means the rest of us will have access to it sometime this fall. Given how grotesquely violent this movie is, I’m kind of glad that I won’t have to watch this in the theatres, clenching the arms of my seat with my sweaty palms. Can’t wait to pick up the DVD on Canal St. come October and fast-forward through the entire thing.

(BTW, the website is in Chinese so if you want to check out the trailer, click on the red characters in the menu under the main graphic.  A mini disclaimer screen will pop up.  Then click on the character in bold on the left side of the mini screen – which basically means “yes” – and it will start downloading.)

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