Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Webcomics have been part of the strategy for manga publisher Seven Seas (home of Afro Samurai, Hayate x Blade, and Gunslinger Girl, among others) from the beginning, but always as a way to sell a print book. Now they have set up Zoom Comics, an ad-supported webcomics site that will run both homegrown and licensed manga, launching with four original English language series: Amazing Agent Jennifer (a prequel to their six-volume Amazing Agent Luna), Dracula Everlasting, Paranormal Mystery Squad (a followup to another original series, Aoi House), and Vampire Cheerleaders. Coming soon are two licensed series, both from Korea: Witch Hunter and Lizzie Newton: Victorian Mysteries
Seven Seas formed the site in partnership with Pixie Trix Comix, a webcomics portal set up by webcomics creators Gisele Lagace and David Lumsdon (Magick Chicks) that also runs comics by several other creators.
What’s interesting about the new site is that it looks a lot like a bootleg manga site: The comics are simply displayed in the web browser, rather than embedded in a Flash-based reader, and they are surrounded by ads. If you changed the banner, it could be MangaFox. And Seven Seas has something else in common with the bootleg sites, something traditional publishers tend to neglect: They do forums well, with editor Adam Arnold frequently dropping in to make comments or respond to questions.
The Dalai Lama has his own bio-manga, so it’s only fair that Pope Benedict XVI should get one too, right? Creator Jonathan Lin has already produced two biblically themed manga, one on St. Paul and one on Judith, and now he is turning his hand to a more contemporary story, that of Pope Benedict XVI, in a manga titled Habemus Papam! (For the uninitiated, the title is the Latin phrase used to announce the election of a new pope.)
One flaw with this plan, of course, is that Benedict has had a rather sedate life compared to the others. Judith saved her people by befriending and then beheading the general of the enemy troops. St. Paul had a blinding vision on the road to Damascus, which could be a real tour de force for a serious manga artist, and he traveled quite a bit, which opens the possibility of some action-packed, if uncanonical, adventures. And the Dalai Lama’s story is filled with battles and betrayal. The pope? Not so much.
This short story captures different moments throughout the Holy Father’s life – specifically as a cardinal working with the late Pope John Paul II, and culminating in the moments leading up to his election as Bishop of Rome. The story also shows how he grows into his role as pope.
So it’s one of those more contemplative manga, then. You can’t argue with the numbers, though: Lin, who has his own publishing company, Manga Hero, plans to print 300,000 copies, which places Habemus Papem! in the same league as Twilight: The Manga, although it sounds like many copies will be distributed for free during World Youth Day in Madrid this coming August.
Former Tokyopop editor Tim Beedle has a thought-provoking piece on his blog about the antipathy most publishers still harbor toward manga-influenced art. Back when Tokyopop was publishing global manga, it was fashionable in manga circles to pooh-pooh it on the grounds that it wasn’t Japanese, and some of the books were weak. However, many of the creators have gone on to do very strong work. Unfortunately, they have had to switch styles to do so.
Tim thinks that’s a shame (as do I), and here’s why:
At New York Comic-Con last month, I was introduced to a ridiculously talented manga-influenced artist. She showed me her latest comic (which she had self-published), and after seeing how skilled she is, I thought about a few of the projects I’m working on that are in need of artists. I asked her if she only drew in a manga style, and she said yes. It was the only way of drawing that she really felt passionate about. I remember looking down at some of the comics in front of me, shaking my head, and telling her that unfortunately, I didn’t have any opportunities for her right now. None of the publishers I’m working with are interested in publishing comics drawn in a manga-influenced style. She smiled and said she understood, and that it’s something she’s heard before.
Tokyopop’s original global manga didn’t sell well, probably because the publisher’s audience was only interested in Japanese works, and these books didn’t pretend to be Japanese. Unlike some other global manga, they were mostly set in the U.S. and didn’t pick up on cultural tropes like schoolgirls and ninjas. On the other hand, potential readers (indie and western comics fans) were put off by the manga label. These books probably would have done better if they were published by a Top Shelf or an Oni Press. Here’s hoping the creators get more opportunities in the future.
(Via The Manga Critic)
Yen Press editorial director Kurt Hassler unveiled the online version of Yen Plus magazine at Comic-Con last month, and it has given people plenty of fodder for discussion. The magazine is available in all regions (unlike other online manga sites, which are often limited to North America), and it will cost $2.99 per month, although Yen is offering a free online trial through September 9. What’s up at the moment is a mixed bag of old and new, Korean and original English-language manga—but no Japanese titles, although Hassler has hinted broadly that the all-ages favorite Yotsuba&! will be included in the mix in future.
Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the Japanese series Black Butler, Nabari no Ou, and Pandora Hearts, which had been serialized in the print edition of Yen Plus, are now up on a new online manga site from Square Enix, the Japanese publisher of those series. That site is also in a free-sample mode right now, with an online store projected to open in the fall. Hassler would not comment on the relationship between the two, but the Square Enix site is currently hosting the Yen Press editions of these manga.
I spoke to Kurt about the new Yen Plus, the recent removal of all the online manga from OneManga.com, and Yen’s new line of children’s books.
Brigid Alverson: How will the paid version of Yen Plus differ from the free version we have been reading?
Kurt Hassler: It’s really not going to be different. The experience you have now will be pretty much the same. The only different element will be the PayPal component for getting your subscription.
Brigid: What about the Japanese content?
Kurt: That is something we are working on. We have the first title, but finalizing the contract is always getting down to the wire. It is not going to be a ton of material initially; you are going to see material being added gradually over time as licensors get comfortable with digital distribution.
Talking to Strangers
Written by Fehed Said; Illustrated by Nana Li, Wing Yun Man, Faye Yong, Chloe Citrine, and Sonia Leong
The cover to Talking to Strangers shows a young girl with a Band-Aid on her cheek. She’s in a downtown area of a large city, but there’s no one around. Her expression is very passive. It’s so wounded that it’s not even sad; it’s lifeless. But she’s leaning forward at you and her hand is pulling back the headphones she’s wearing so that she can hear what you have to say. It’s a beautiful, haunting image.
There’s this theme that keeps coming up in movies and books that I’m experiencing lately. It was in Up in the Air and in a Jeff Daniels/Lauren Graham film I just watched from last year called The Answer Man. It’s an especially powerful message in these days of easy, long-distance communication. It’s about how we’re meant to connect with people. Not just to talk to them, but to share with them and laugh with them and cry with them. To reach out to those around us and help; not just with a charitable donation sent by couple of mouse-clicks, but with our hands and feet and hearts. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s a message I need to hear a lot and I love it when it’s delivered with enough power to push through my complacency.
Fehed Said introduces his anthology with a story about how reaching out and talking to strangers literally saved his life. The book itself is a collection of six stories, all written by Said, illustrated by various artists, and dealing with this theme.
How it does after the break.
The interesting thing about Gina Biggs is not that she is the creator of a shoujo manga webcomic. Lots of people do that.
What’s interesting is that she has kept her comic, Red String, going continuously for six years, growing the audience as she goes; that Dark Horse, a publisher better known for manly manga than for quiet romances, published the first three volumes; and that she is a key member of Strawberry Comics, a collective of like-minded female creators who promote romance comics online.
While almost all the early global manga creators signed contracts with Tokyopop, Biggs chose to put her comic online and build an audience that way. After three volumes she is now self-publishing Red String and she says she makes about the same amount of money and works about as hard as when she was with Dark Horse. And best of all, she looks like she is having fun.