Saturday, December 11, 2010
Somehow, the idea of Santa as a ninja came about during an online chat with my friend Aaron. It seems a little absurd.
But! When you think about it, Santa is kind of like a ninja, right? He sneaks around in the dead of night, undetected, slipping down chimneys and magically manifesting in houses that don't have fireplaces. He can’t run across water, but I’ll bet he can run across ice without skidding, which is, frankly, a more useful skill. And summoning presents with a ninja jutsu seems more practical than carrying several countries' worth of gifts around with him... Right?
Anyway. Merry Christmas!
WENDY! WENDY! I get to introduce Wendy-chan!
So this is how Wendy and I first met. I think that reading our books rekindled her interest in Japanese comics. She's more of an expert on our competitors than I am...
Anyway, Wendy is awesome. Sometimes she brings me delicious pineapple buns from Brooklyn! And she collects Be@rbricks! And she makes cute stationery, magnets, buttons, etc. with her own original characters! So everyone please root for Wendy in her new job! May her talent explode all over the sci-fi division!!!
Halloween! It's mah favorite!
This time was a major challenge. With most of our Japanese series gone, so too were the flashy, recogniable costumes. Here we have Kurt as Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl, JuYoun as Eron from Nightschool, Tania rocking it as Yui from K-ON!, Abby as Captain Aron from Aron's Absurd Armada, and Wendy as everyone's favorite cardboard robot from Yotsuba&!
I wish Bride's Story was in the magazine so I could have the excuse to draw Amir's intricately-embroidered clothing, but alas.
This was me responding to comments that we are selfish jerks who are only out to make money. Trust me, publishing is the last place you'd go if you want to rake in big cash. And it's true, no one is more concerned over the quality of our books than we are. The agony of catching a minor typo in a final book is indescribable. As is the thrill of holding a first volume fresh from the printer. Ah, books.
I think these show that my strongest impressions of the Internet are that it's annoying. Or maybe I was just subconsciously trying to stifle the bosses?! Stop that, Abby!
Poor Tania's didn't come out on the small scale. Was supposed to be ASCII art. Boo.
So. I was in a liquor store with Tania, carrying my Viz bag covered in popular Shonen Jump manga characters. Over walks one of the employees who strikes up a conversation about how awesome Naruto is, and how he bought sharingan contact lenses, and how he would be a member of the sand village if he were a ninja. And I just nodded and made appropriate comments of interest and wisely chose not to mention that I worked at a publisher. When we were ready to go, I excused myself and said, "Well, keep reading comics!" We were a few paces down the block when the guy came out of the store after us and shouted, "It's not a comic, it's mane-ga! Get it right!"
He butchered the pronunciation. And he brought up an issue that is causing much debate in the industry. "Manga" (mahn-guh) is simply the Japanese word for comic. Just as "manhwa" is the Korean word for comic. But it seems that people are basing their assessment of a work on where it came from rather than its actual quality. There are a number of "manga" fans who view "manhwa" as substandard because it isn't from Japan. And the vast majority of DC/Marvel fans tend to regard Japanese "manga" with similar disdain. I don't have a problem with people calling something a manga or manga-style to differentiate the art styles, but to assume that all Japanese comics are a certain way is wrong, just as assuming all American comics are a certain way is wrong. The different cultures have different ways of storytelling, but one is no more valid than the others, and it's ridiculous to rule out a really great book just because it's "manga." Let's all keep our minds open and embrace the wonderful world of comics, united!
And hey, I read Y the Last Man. It wouldn't kill you to read Death Note.
This is me venting about all the dumb submissions we get.
For anyone looking to get published in traditional publishing, the process is a little different. You need a polished manuscript and an agent if you're serious about getting your book in print.
And please, whoever you are, don't begin your pitch with "this is the most amazing thing you've ever read and trust me it's going to be a big hit and make you lots of money" when your story is unfinished and handwritten on notebook paper. Don't do it.
Who knew that Kim's introducing me to Sailor Moon would get me to where I am today? Not I, that's for darn sure.
I don't think I really took the plunge into Japanese anime/manga until a combination of Fullmetal Alchemist and Spirited Away swept me into the abyss...
Man, I hate doing mail. And to make matters worse, there isn't a scale near my cube, so I have to tote my boxes across the building to use the mailroom's scale, which is inconveniently situated and a shelf under a desk. But sometimes it does become a bit of a hazard, for me more than anyone else...
Hee hee hee...
My original concept was apparently kind of gross, so I axed the corpse and decided to just show the aftermath of Stein and the Undertaker's misguided efforts at sweeping a lady off her feet and making off with her heart.
Does it show that I'm kind of bitter on Valentine's Day?
I learned all kinds of things when I did this month's afterwords. I didn't know that the Sweethearts company picks a different theme every year for their line of slogans, and I never knew that the original printed hearts were more relevant to weddings than to Valentine's day. But in my Sweetheart research I also discovered something very sad: Necco seems to have changed the recipe! Normally, they taste just like those chalky Necco wafers. The pink ones were always a little icky, the white ones were minty, and the orange ones were divine. But the ones I bought this year were almost chewy, the texture was all off. And the flavor had lost all subtlety. Overpowering, artificial flavors that certainly weren't whispering "I love you" in my ear. And while I understand the changing times, I don't want a Sweetheart that says "tweet me." Any man who thinks twitter is a good place to cultivate a relationship is not someone I need be involved with.
So this afterword is my tribute to a classic. I hope they will bring back the original recipe. C'mon, guys. I'm single, buying candy for myself. You really gotta mess up the one good thing about Singles' Awareness Day for me?!
Please hear my plea. Before you write a letter of complaint, please take time to think first. The number of enraged, unreasonable emails we get is shocking, and every one of them is written by someone who thinks his or her opinion is the only one that matters and that we are personally trying to screw him or her over. We're not. Really. We don't have time to think up ways we can screw you over. If you pause to think about it first, your reasonably-presented position will carry much more weight, and it is more likely to be forwarded to someone with decision-making power than a death threat.
The girls on the train actually were singing this song, "Mata Ashita" from the Ouran High School Host Club character album, a regular favorite of the karaoke crew. Ah, the healing power of music. Or...nerdiness.
After I'd finished, JuYoun told me that the second strip doesn't make any sense unless you've read Azumanga Daioh. Possibly only if you've read the Yen Press version of Azumanga Daioh. Sorry, kids.
Korean and Japanese are interesting in that they have a number of onomatopoeic words for things that aren't actually sounds. Interesting, but hard to translate. I'm constantly surprised by the things we don't have words for.
The audio recordings are awful. Tania and I are always delegated the task of writing and recording the script telling sales about our new books. But two things have made the experience better. For one, they've moved us out of the intimidating professional audio studio and into a vacant room upstairs. And, we decided that since it's unlikely most of the sales team will listen to the recording, we might as well be silly about it. As I recall, Tania wrote a cheer to promote Dragon Girl, I impersonated Spanish soccer commentary for Sasameke, and we both make tummy-rumbling noises for Not Love But Delicious Foods.
Last season, I pretended that the zombie apocalypse had descended upon our offices and that I was hiding out in the studio to avoid the undead ravaging the children's division. I'm kind of glad I never got a copy to listen to.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Halloween tome again! Have I mentioned how much I love parody? This year it's Kurt/Dr. Stein of Soul Eater, JuYoun/exorcist Baek-On from Time and Again, Tania/Black Butler's Ciel Phantomhive, Abby/Taitou the hero of Hero Tales, and Kirk/Gil of Pandora Hearts.
In reality, not one of us dressed up for Halloween.
While part of my discomfort with long series comes from an unreasonable fear of the ongoing, I also think long series have a tendency to spiral out of control and be rather disappointing. In Japan, manga is serialized monthly (or weekly), and the development of the story is often dictated by reader response. If a story is doing well, the editors push the creator to make the series longer, add a new arc, add new plot elements, etc. But that can get a little ridiculous. One only needs to take a look at something like Dragonball to see what can happen. I'm not saying all long series are bad, but I find that they can get a little ridiculous as time goes on. And by the time it starts getting silly, you're so invested in the characters that you can't stop reading, even if it's completely lost sight of its original purpose.
On the flip side, some short series are serials that got cut because fan response was poor, so their endings are incredibly unsatisfactory. It's all about the happy medium, I suppose.
Yotsuba&! is one of the funniest, heart-warmingest manga you will ever read. It's about a spunky little green-haired girl and her day-to-day adventures. Yen Press was thrilled when we were asked to rescue Yotsuba after she was dropped by her former publisher. "Yotsuba" literally means "four leaves", referring to Yotsuba's characteristic hairstyle of four ponytails. So here we have Kurt/Hitotsuba, JuYoun/Futatsuba, Tania/Mittsuba, and Abby/Yotsuba2. And who knows what Kirk has under his awesome newspaper hat...
We didn't have any cake, but obviously the Yen Plus characters had a lovely time at the party that I invented for them. If you haven't read these books...I'm not sure if it's funny. Actually, I'm not sure if it's funny anyway.
Well, I love drawing these types of things, so...I had fun coming up with it.
My personal favorite is Jack and Fang singing the Backstreet Boys. ^_^
My new policy is to only buy volumes of series that I'm already collecting, none of this "I'll just buy this to see what it's about, it's only two bucks" business. But when series can be 20+ volumes long... That's still a lot of books. At least now I'm not sleeping on an air mattress and stacking my books on the floor!
Not long after this incident, I took a ball in the eye when I missed a throw coming in from the outfield. There's no crying in baseball, so I managed to hold it together, but as I wasn't insured at the time (yep, still an intern) I decided to sit out the rest of the season.
Since this strip was published, JuYoun has been nicer about sharing the freebies. Maybe I had something to do with that? I have automatic dibs on anything Fullmetal Alchemist-related that comes in the magazines, Tania gets Butler, and everything else seems to be divided based on enthusiasm.
Pandora Hearts wasn't the first new addition to the magazine, but the series' Alice in Wonderland overtones prompted this set of afterword pics. Also, I think we were just starting to see teasers for Tim Burton's take on Lewis Carroll around that time... They should be familiar faces, but in case you've lived under a hedge your whole life: Kurt and JuYoun as Mad Hatter and March Hare, Tania as the Cheshire Cat, Kirk as the Mock Turtle, and Abby as Alice. I have yet to see an Alice film adaptation that features the poor Mock Turtle.
The week of New York Comic-Con, Kurt told us that a Japanese TV crew would be coming to our offices film a segment on the American manga industry. Kinda cool, not a big deal, right? But what Kurt failed to mention was that the interviewer was a pop idol, Sho Sakurai from Arashi, a group whose songs come up at nearly every one of our karaoke sessions. Unfortunately, those karaoke sessions are my only real familiarity with their music, and with Kurt's "no fangirling" order looming overhead, it was a very tense encounter for all of us. But boy, is he pretty.
The truly tragic thing is that after Sho left, JuYoun and Tania couldn't help gushing over the experience, and the director told us that Sho would have been thrilled to find out that they were fans. So our forced politeness worked against us. Next time, we seize opportunity!
Cosplay... I've become known as the Yen cosplayer, though I've only dressed up twice on behalf of the company. I actually don't mind it, but making the costume is the most fun part of the experience, and in both cases I didn't really have to do anything. Ah, well. Maka is still in the works, so maybe I'll have something fun together for the next con...
Both of the bosses have a very distinctive, audible walk, so you always have warning when one if them approaches. Not that I'm ever doing anything I'd need to hide from them, but it's nice to be able to brace oneself for whatever task they may be bringing.
The second trip is sadly true. I've broken the habit of coming in on weekends for the most part, but even months later, it still feels odd to have time for myself. This is probably unhealthy.
I first discovered MUCC listening to the soundtrack for the Zombie-Loan anime. MUCC performs the end theme, Chain Ring, which quickly became a karaoke favorite for Tania and me. When we heard they were coming to New York, we immediately bought tickets. Coming early and waiting out in the freezing cold paid off, and we got spots right up in front. So. Amazing. I can't even describe. I've been to other concerts, but these guys put on the best live show I've ever seen. Nothing pretentious, no gimmicks, just awesome music. And really, that should be what it's all about. Unfortunately, I was left so speechless after the performance that I was unable to express my gratitude for their awesomeness. Them's the breaks.
For those not familiar with our series, I attempted to mimic the styles of some of our more distinct series: Hero Tales, One Fine Day, Time and Again, and Soul Eater. This is an unfortunate case where my practice sketches were much better. But it was fun to draw.
Ah, spring. Not much to be said about these. The Abby and Tania images pictured here never actually made it into the magazine. I drew these in the fall while JuYoun and Kurt were on one of their trips to Japan. Tania and I had just gone to see MUCC in concert and were still reeling from the excitement when magazine time came around. So in JuYoun's absence, we decided to break with the spring theme and use MUCC afterwords instead. Here we have Abby as lead singer Tatsu and Tania as guitarist Miya.
For the record, I have never seen anyone reading one of our books on the train. But there's a young guy I see regularly on the Jersey PATH who always has some super-hero comic with him, which makes me a little happy inside. Way to be bold, sir! Comics are valid reading material!
And if any of you can come up with a good justification for buying action figures, do please let me know. Unless you're itsjustsomerandomguy...I don't think it's possible...