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Legal | Anime and manga fans in Japan are raising concerns that a proposed provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership would threaten the existence of doujinshi, fan-made comics that are often parodies of commercial manga. Many established manga creators cut their teeth on doujinshi (and some return to it even after their series hit the big time), and the biggest comics expo in the world, Comiket, is devoted to doujinshi. The works are self-published and made in small batches, sold to fellow enthusiasts at large and small conventions, and Japanese publishers generally ignore them. Under current Japanese law, only the rights holder can bring a copyright complaint, but the TPP would allow complaints from third parties, including the creator of a rival doujinshi. “If creators can be prosecuted without complaints from rights holders, it could lead to some kind of snitching battle between fans,” said Negima creator Ken Akamatsu, himself a former doujinshi-ka. “Places for people to share their work will also disappear.” [The Japan News]
Graphic novels | BookScan’s list of the bestselling graphic novels in bookstores in March divides neatly into eight Image Comics titles (six volumes of The Walking Dead and two of Saga), eight volumes of manga (four Attack on Titan, four Viz Media titles) and four volumes of media tie-ins. For the second month in a row, not a single DC Comics or Marvel title cracked the Top 20, although an older DK Publishing character guide to the Avengers (not actually a graphic novel) came in at No. 11. The top-selling title was the 20th volume of The Walking Dead, and the No. 2 was the third volume of Saga. It’s also interesting to note that the first three volumes of Attack on Titan charted higher than the most recent release, which suggests new readers are still coming into the franchise in substantial numbers — and sticking with it. [ICv2]
Publishing | Comics sales were up 22 percent in the direct market over January 2012, and graphic novels increased by nearly 38 percent. This good news is tempered a bit by the fact there were five Wednesdays in this January (or 25 percent more Wednesdays, if you want to look at it that way), but that fifth week is usually a quiet one for new releases, so I think we can call this a win. The retail news and analysis site ICv2 credits Marvel NOW! and a strong backlist for the boost. [ICv2]
Publishing | Dark Horse’s video-game art book The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia last week was the No. 1 book in the United States, according to Nielsen BookScan — not merely in the graphic novel category, but in any category. The initial print run was 400,000 copies. (Comic Book Resources interviewed the book’s editor Patrick Thorpe last month.) [ICv2]
Conventions | Organizers of Tokyo’s Comic Market (aka Comiket), the world’s largest self-published comic book fair, have received a threat letter, leading them to consider their options for the planned Dec. 29-31 event. The preparations committee said it has been in contact with local police and the Tokyo Big Sight, where the semiannual convention is held. The incident follows a series of threat letters containing powdered and liquid substances sent in the past month to more than 20 locations linked to Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki. About 560,000 attended Comic Market 82 over its three days in August (that’s turnstile attendance, not unique visitors). [Anime News Network]
Creators | Patrick Rosenkranz catches us up on S. Clay Wilson, who suffered a massive brain injury in 2008 (the cause isn’t clear) and is still recovering. “Wilson’s favorite word is still ‘No!’ He used to be a motor mouth but now he’s mostly monosyllabic. After a long life dedicated to being the baddest boy in comix, he’s become a grand old man, but he’s no longer in his right mind. He used to be able to out-talk, out-booze, out-cuss, out-draw, and outrage almost anyone but he doesn’t drink, smoke, snort or draw dirty pictures any more. He doesn’t walk much either and seldom leaves the house, and only in a wheelchair.” [The Comics Journal]
Here’s a quick thought experiment: What would happen to you if you made your own Mickey Mouse comic and sold it online or at conventions? You would expect to feel the wrath of Disney pretty quickly, wouldn’t you?
Yet doujinshi, fan-made comics, are a huge part of Japanese culture, and many of them involve characters from existing manga series. And Ken Akamatsu, creator of Negima and Love Hina—as well as his own doujinshi—wants it to stay that way, which is why he is speaking out against Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade agreement would make copyright laws uniform among the nine signatories, including the U.S. If Japan signs on, Akamatsu says, the new regulations would have a chilling effect on the doujinshi market.
Japan’s current copyright laws allow publishers to tolerate a certain amount of remixing of copyrighted characters, although there are limits: In 2007, for instance, the publisher Shogakukan took legal action against the creator of a Doraemon doujinshi that not only perfectly mimicked the look of the original manga (one of the most popular in all of Asia) but also sold over 13,000 copies.
Jason Thompson has a column at Anime News Network called “House of 1000 Manga,” in which he rummages through what must be the world’s largest collection of interesting and offbeat manga and pulls out a few gems each week.
This week’s column looks at doujinshi, fan-made comics. Usually doujinshi are fan versions of popular manga, but apparently American comics are also fodder for doujinshi creators, and in an odd completion of the circle, several Western-based doujinshi were published in the 1990s by Antarctic Press. Justice featured Japanese riffs on American superhero comics, including Teen Titans, Iron Man and Batman, as well as critical essays by Japanese writers, whose take on American comics (and movies) is sometimes unique, sometimes straight-up fanboy. Star Trekker is just what you’d expect, a parody of the TV show with a mostly female crew steering the Constellation II through deep space. Apparently Antarctic released several issues of the comic as well as a graphic novel before Paramount, who owned the rights to Star Trek, noticed what they were doing and made them stop.
Thompson does a good job of dusting off these comics, putting them into context, and showing off the good bits, including selections from the essays. Mainly though, it’s just straight-up comics-fan fun.