I did not get into Doctor Who. Arriving early, I found myself at the end of a long line in a concrete bunker, and by the time I got to the panels it was very full. Sigh.
So I did end up seeing Yen Press after all, and they had some interesting announcements. Void’s Enigmatic Mansion is a new Korean manwha title that thy’re doing online near simultaneous with the release in Korea. By Ji Eun Ha and Hee Eun Kim (author of A Kiss To The Prince, which Infinity put out back in the day), it runs in Haksan’s Party magazine. It’s about a butler at a magical mansion, and will have color! Print will come later.
They were pleased to announce a new relationship with Kodansha, and three new Kodansha titles to go with it. Ani ga Imouto de Imouto ga Ani de (Ane-Imo) which has body switching, incestual subtext, and other things you’d expect from a skeezy otaku-oriented title… except it runs in shoujo magazine Aria. The author, Haruko Kurumatani, is better known for smutty Shogakukan shoujo. Also from Aria is He’s My Only Vampire paranormal romance with, as noted by Yen several times, pureblood vampires. Aya Shouoto, the author, has done some BL in the past as well. Meanwhile, gothic thriller shoujo writer Kaori Yuki gives us Demon from a Foreign Land. It’s a third Aria title, and is a wacky reverse harem com–no, no, ths is Kaori Yuki. It’s a dark period fantasy.
In non-Kodansha news, they have picked up the artbook/guidebook to Alice in the Country of Diamonds, which is filled with stuff – art, key visuals, interviews, a short manga, and all the game endings. It should be great fun for overanalytic Alice nerds like me. Lastly, High School D&D comes from Fujimi Shobo’s Dragon Age (don’t let the name fool you – it’s Kadokawa in disguise!) Based on a light novel (which was not licensed, disappointing to some), it’s a supernatural demon comedy with a lecherous protagonist. Which is admittedly better than a waffling good guy.
Question time. I asked about Square Enix titles on digital, and if there’s any progress. They said we should expect those soon! They noted the license of the light novel series recently, and said they like to take risks on titles they like, even if they’re “too many volumes”. I also asked about digital sales. He says they’re doing p;retty well, but notes digital is only about 10% of their market – they still do business mostly via print. Also, some companies and creators are reluctant to go the digital route right now. They discussed release schedules, and why releasing a book too fast can damage sales. Lastly, I asked about the Book Girl short story collections after the main series. Thery love Book Girl, but no news yet.
After this, I sort of realized Archie wasn’t going to happen – it was in 1A15, the tiny room of death. So I went to Wikia’s Animanga panel, with Kazuo Koike, Takashi Okazaki, Masao Maruyama, and Shin-Ichi Hiromoto, who not only had rock star hair, but whose photo showed one of the oddest looking persian cats I’d ever seen. The bulk of the panel was about their collaborative project with Western fan writers, who took the illustrations provided by these creators and made worlds from them. I admit I have not seen these works – they were given rules, a world, and characters, so it wasn’t just free form, but this really just sounded like an old-school round robin fanfic to me.
I was more interested in the Japanese creators, to be honest. Koike discussed his love of samurai manga, with heroes who are always prepared to die. Maruyama noted that vast imagination is welcome – he called the storyteller’s art “lying”, which I really liked. Hiromoto was asked about a “rat bomb” that apparently featured in his concept – getting ideas from real life, he had been dealing with a rat in his room. Okazaki talked about the two types of vampires he designed, one a cool, traditional vampire and one based more on street culture. He notes the fans had his idea of the hero and villain switched, which intrigued him.
Regarding collaboration, Koike is not a fan. He notes that for creative and legal reasons, he prefers single creator work, though he was quick to specify manga rather than anime. The big laugh of the panel came when Hiromoto was asked about the girl he drew – cute, not his usual thing – and he said Maruyama assigned it to him. When asked why, Maruyama said “I’m a pedophile.” (Actually, he said lolicon – the translator quickly amended.)
Koike did discuss a collaboration he did have with Yoshitaka Anamo on Deva Sun. Amano did all the art first, then Koike did the story based on that. Maruyama was asked about Dream Machine – things were complicated by the director passing away, but he definitely intends to finish it! And Koike told a wonderful story about taking his katana through customs in California – they all refused to let him through, till he mentioned he wrote Lone Wolf And Cub. He also discussed hormones releasing various chemicals in the body to govern emotions – something the rest of the panelists found very educational!
That did it. A good panel, and interested parties should go to the Animanga wikia site as well.
After this I ate lunch, then went to camp in 1A15, where Archie was ending. This turned out to be a good moe, as what was happening there was a panel by Perfect Square (formerly VizKids) on writing for children. These are titles like Ben 10, Monsuno, and Max Steel, as well as Hello Kitty and Mameshiba – licensed properties PS creates stories for.
The first thing mentioned about writing for kids was not to talk down to them – kids are clever enough to see that. Concentrate on engaging themes, such as (to paraphrase another company) friendship, hard work and victory. Stories for kids are more about black and white – less moral ambiguity and grey areas. Most importantly, as a writer YOU need to be excited by it and want to read your own work. By the way, just because it’s less ambiguous doesn’t make it simple or fluffy – the villains can be terrifying. One panelist mentioned The Secret of Nimh as a movie that scared him as a kid, but he loved it.
It was said straight out – the mainstream superhero titles aren’t for kids anymore. Instead, the panel discussed other things that may draw in kids. Humor – kids find humor in different things. The way kids’ books have evolved over the years and across countries – what’s for k,ids in Europe or Japan may not be for America, and vice versa. The Oz books were noted as being quite “intense.” Mad Magazine was also brought up as being alluring to kids – partly as when we were kids, it tended to be forbidden.
Working with the pre-existing projects that Perfect Square has can be a bit straitjacketing, but if you keep going you’ll been you share a common goal – inclusion and entertainment. Hello Kitty was noted as being particularly universal – the comic is wordless, as she has no mouth (but must scream). All Ages titles can also reinvigorate the imagination, as it does mean ALL ages – these should appeal to adults, to grandmothers, to kids. Kids have a boundless imagination, which needs to be lpayed with. Calvin and Hobbes was mentioned as terrific example.
I asked how they handle moral lessons in works, now that we aren’t in the age of Sailor Moon Says or One to Grow On. The lack of moral ambiguity helps here – they can afford to be more subtle. They agreed that they hated the whole “He-Man helps old women across the street” lessons of the 80s, which were tacked on and fake. Heroes and villains having a broader pallate was also discussed, noting that people can fight, be wrong, be arrogant. You are allowed age-appropriate dark themes. This was a surprise panel for me – I really got a kick out of it.
My last panel of the day was 2000AD. This was easily the funniest panel of the entire con – I was in hysterics several times, mostly thanks to the savvy of the PR person, Mike, who knows hnow to work a room. 2000AD is still a weekly in the UK, and IDW is doing a monthly release as well. It’s a popular proving ground for new writers – the cream of the Marvel and DC crop cut their teeth with Judge Dredd and the like. Andy Diggle, Al Ewing and Ian Edgington were the creators present. 2000AD has a very strong voice – it’s weird, it has black humor, it’s very anti-authority. This despite its poster boy being Judge Dredd, the ultimate authority figure. (It was noted many fans like Dredd TOO much, given it’s a satire.)
2000AD is a fun place as you can pitch original concepts and ideas, vs. “Here are the superheroes you will be writing” at the big Two. Their submission guidelines are clear and concise, as indeed are their comics – many fans find it disquieting how small a story in a particular issue can be – most run 4-6 pages. They mentioned several titles new readers might look into. Brass Sun is about a universe that’s actually a clockwork orrery, and what happens once the sun starts winding down. (Please, 200AD, don’t let the sun go down on me.) Stickleback sounded great to me, particularly a description of Adam Adamant walking down the street with Adam Ant. It also has a Pope of crime, with two ribcages.
They were asked about animating some of their properties – there have been projects, but they tend to fall through. They’re very careful with their properties – for the Dredd movie, it was written into the legal contract that he could not remove his helmet. I asked about budgets – they get a yearly budget, which they then have to divide among the various issues, and then among the artists/writers/letterers/cover artists, etc. There are Excel spreadsheets involved. It wqas also noted very firmly that unlike certain superhero companies, 2000AD lets people stay dead.
2000AD has an iPad app, and their wensite has CBR files to buy. Check it out – Dredd is a lot more complex than you think, and there’s far more to the magazine than just Dredd. Also, the creators are hilarious.
Tomorrow I only have one panel, in Main Events. Getting in will be tricky. Till then, as a fun exercise, count the number of times I said ‘noted’ in this post. Not including that one.