NYCC 2014 – Day 1

This is the first Thursday that’s been a real, honest-to-god full convention day, with all that is entailed. It’s traditionally the lightest day, but at NYCC that’s only a matter of degree. The place was jammed, from start to finish. This ended up being one of my busiest panel days, mostly as I was worried about the lines for the two big panels I needed to do, Viz and Shonen Jump. As a result, I did a lot of Room Camping, with the result that I saw many interesting panels I would not otherwise have gone near.

Therefore my first panel was a documentary on Superman Lives, the aborted Kevin Smith/Tim Burton movie that was to star Nicholas Cage. The reputation of the movie has been somewhat savage online, so it was fascinating hearing how it could have been tremendous. Holly Payne and John Schnepp are the filmmakers, and they were quite entertaining. John discussed how he had seen concept art online and began to get curious, hunting down more and more.

There was some discussion of how a small documentary project became larger and larger, with the addition of interviews with Smith and Burton. In fact, the documentary is still being edited, with an estimated release date in 2015. Burton has apparently said he didn’t want this movie to be what Batman was, and wanted a lighter tone. Also, at the time Nicholas Cage was still an A-list actor rather than the meme he is today.

We saw a 20-minute rough cut clip (which will be edited to about 5 in the film), mostly discussing the concept art and how they tried to make the suit look like real muscles and not a guy in a muscle suit. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the project all around, and it sounds like a great documentary for any Superman or Burton fan.

After this was the Mary Sue’s Fight What You Know panel, which had a few speakers who weren’t listed on the NYCC page. Susannah Polo was a good moderator. Brenden Fletcher writes Gotham Academy and Batgirl for DC. The big surprise for me was Amber Benson, who was there to discuss her new mythological fantasy novels. Wendy Xu writes books dealing with immigrant experiences, including the upcoming The Undertaking of Lily Chen. (There was a 5th writer whose name I did not get – Danica? Apologies.)

The panel discussed the oft-used “write what you know” cliche, and how it tends to be an excuse for white guys to write other white guys. It was pointed out that writers should write from empathy, and one of the first steps there is figuring out how to write what you don’t know. For once Google is your friend here – a lot of useful research can be gained by using not just the search engine, but also Images and Maps. Traveling to places you plan to write about was also discussed, and a Historical Society can be useful as well.

Then there’s just asking someone from another culture. This can be an issue for many writers, who might be introverts or nervous about someone taking it the wrong way. Email helps there, and Wendy also mentioned Tumblr as a good resource. A lot of the best info is simply getting anecdotes or stories about life in a culture not the writer’s own; even if it can’t be used in a story, the backstory possibilities help to enrich the character you write.

Admittedly, sometimes research can show you that the idea you thought of isn’t viable, but the beauty of it is that you get five more ideas along the way. You can either use this in your story later, or save it for the next one you write.

(At this point, the panel briefly detoured into a discussion of Victorian mummy pornography. Trying to describe this could not do it justice, but we did see Amber wrap her scarf around her face to stop herself saying naughty things several times.)

Critiques were discussed, and while they are valid and should be listened to, at the end of the day the writer has to write things they themselves like. Take the bad criticism equally with the good – don’t get a swelled head or get too depressed.

Questions asked included how to balance between representation and character – being diverse isn’t really impressive if it’s just tokenism. The character comes first, and hopefully diversity can build from there. Also discussed was the difference between the writer’s viewpoint and that of the lead character or narrator, and how to convey that without making it sound as if the writer believes everything that character says.

It was a terrific panel with a lot of active discussion, and Buffy wasn’t even brought up once. :)

Next up was the Viz panel, and they had bunch of free manga they were giving out around the room. They discussed new titles out in the next month or so, such as Kiss of the Rose Princess and All You Need Is Kill. (“If you want to see Tom Cruise die 100 times, go watch Edge of Tomorrow.”)

They also had two new licenses. So Cute It Hurts (aka Kobayashi ga Kawai Sugite Tsurai!!) is from Shoujo Comic, and is 7 volumes and counting. A gender-bender sort of title about twins who switch places (though not apparently bodies, for once) and get into all sorts of amusing and romantic scrapes. It sounds like a lot of fun. The author did a longer, 18-volume shoujo called Suki Desu Suzuki-kun I think I licensed recced back in the day.

The more popular title with the audience was Tokyo Ghoul, which had an anime air recently. Complete at 14 volumes, it ran in Weekly Young Jump, and sounds like it will appeal to those who like titles such as Gantz. It’s about a boy bitten by a ghoul, who thanks to SCIENCE becomes a unique, half-ghoul entity. Definitely more in the horror genre.

The remainder of the manga portion was devoted to talking up Viz digital releases, as well as the Jump Start program (see below). On the anime end, in among a slew of discussion of simulcasts, new Naruto and Bleach DVD sets, and Blood Lad’s box, we got a new announcement: Sailor Moon Box Set 2, with the last half of the first season, will be out on February 10th. There are lots of extras on it, mostly original to Viz and discussing the dub release. Any anime fan worth their salt should be preordering this.

I left during question time, which involved the standard “have you considered licensing this?” “We can’t comment.” rigmarole. After doing a brief wander, I decided to room camp again, and walked in in the middle of the Hatsune Miku panel. The virtual idol had just appeared on Letterman this week, and her popularity has never been higher. I will admit, the new song played to us was quite catchy, and the concert clip simply stunning. I’d never really paid much attention to Vocaloid before, but might look into it after seeing this.

Next was a definite room camp choice, as I’d never really enjoyed the movie Revenge of the Nerds, and had no idea it had been turned into a reality TV show. That said, Curtis Armstrong and Robert Carradine were enthusiastic, and the audience ate it up. They also had a professional cosplayer, Yaya Han, who had appeared on the show before and was cheery and personable. I still have no desire to see the show, but it looks perfect for its target audience.

Next was the Jump panel. The major guest here was Takshi Obata, artist on Hikaru no Go, Death Note, and Bakuman, as well as the new All You Need Is Kill. We also had two of his editors from Japan, as well as the usual gamut of Viz employees. There weren’t any new print licenses, but they did discuss Jump Start, which gives readers three chapters of each new series Jump debuts, as well as Jump Back, featuring classic Jump titles such as Death Note. (Any chance of Gintama?)

They then presented some questions to Takeshi Obata. When he was first presented with Hikaru no Go, he boggled – he thought drawing shonen battle go would be impossible. But he was drawn to Sai, and discussed the movement of the go stones as becoming almost Naruto-esque. He was asked about Ohba, and said he first saw him as a “cool, mysterious adult” but found him quite easy to write with – they editor says they had good chemistry, and he paired them for Death Note due to Obata’s love of the gothic aesthetic. As for his newer editor, when he first met Obata his hands were shaking he was so excited, but he’s resolved to make his titles Number One in Jump.

Obata came up with the designs for Bakuman, wanting to make it a deliberate contrast to the Death Note style. Then there’s All You Need Is Kill, which being a seinen title allows Obata to try things that would not be allowed in Jump – unfettered, as it were. He was then asked about various character designs. He used the word ‘hen’ (strange) to describe L about 5 times – I suspect no one would disagree. As for Ryuk, his appeal is that he looks scary but can act quite cute.

The Viz folks also threw in his portrayal of Yoshida, a Jump editor featured in Bakuman. He cheerfully said it was based on the Yoshida sitting next to him, who praised Obata’s ability to remember small details and bring them back later – things like what kind of wristwatch someone was wearing. We then saw even more of his attention to detail, as he did live drawings of Ryuk and L – with a sharpie, no less!

There were a few questions. He was asked about his heroes as a boy, and mentioned Sherlock Holmes. He has very little free time, like most Jump mangaka, though notes he does karate – even if he’s the weakest student at the dojo. Lastly, the whole panel was asked what they thought the future of Shonen Jump was, both in Japan and North America. Responses included keeping the artists competitive among each other, more originality and parity, and, naturally, we the audience were also the future of Jump.

After this, I was frotzed, so skipped the LBGTQ panel, which I had seen last year, even if I was curious it they had an answer to last year’s asexuality discussion. Instead, it was back to the hotel for a long-awaited dinner and typing this up in my postage stamp of a hotel room. What will tomorrow bring? Crunchyroll’s anime panel, Yen Press, and more Obata!

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