NYCC 2014 – Day 4

The final day of New York Comic Con had the fewest amount of panels I was going to, as usual, but was not without interest, particularly after I did some more room camping and ended up seeing panels I would not otherwise have seen.

The first ended up being a Doctor Who panel – I got there an hour early, which was fortunate, as the line was so big many were turned away. This didn’t have any of the cast or crew, however. It was a panel with several SF and fantasy authors discussing how Doctor Who influenced their work and what it meant to them. As I expected, most of the discussion involved the new series, though a couple of the authors noted experience with Classic. When asked about what they took away from the series, they mentioned the character-driven stories, the philosophy the program has explored, the ethical questions it finds itself embroiled in, and how it prefers cleverness over brute force. One author, Mike Cole, seemed to be only a casual fan, and in fact discussed how his dislike of chaos and love of efficiency has led to him siding with the villains much of the time!

After this was a panel run by Kickstarter, discussing how to crowdfund your comic book, with several people on the panel who had done just that. Kickstarter was emphasized as a place to build communities, and as an added bonus you can get publicity that isn’t all self-generated. Kickstarter by its very nature lends itself to comics and small press publications – there are 4700 projects that are comics related on the site. It also helps gain an audience of pros and editors, who do pay attention to things like this – new talent is appreciated.

When asked about advice, one point was hammered down over everything else – think about your shipping costs. When you offer stretch goals, think about what weight is added that may put your calculations over what you assumed. For that matter, think about your stretch goals, period – they can make or break a project. Most Kickstarter projects get their money in either the first or last weeks of the funding period, when it’s either getting new eyes or when people on the fence make a decision to pay. All the panelists were clearly enthusiastic about this as a way of getting their work out there and noticed.

After that came a panel that was more in line with my actual coverage, Kodansha Comics. They had four new titles to announce, all of which are exciting. I may have had my issues with Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, but if CLAMP can get past the morass of plot kudzu it became and make it more like the start of the series, then Tsubasa World Chronicle, coming out next year, should be a treat. As for Fairy Tail: Blue Mistral, it was a fairly obvious pickup as well, being a shoujo spinoff focusing on cute young Wendy and her magical adventures. There’s also a brand new series by the creator of Gantz, called Inuyashiki. It’s so new Kodansha couldn’t tell us much about it, but it comes out in Fall 2015. I wasn’t the biggest Gantz fan, but it certainly sells well, and barring Kodansha licensing Hen or HEN – both highly unlikely – this is the next obvious choice.

The big surprise for me was the pickup of L♥DK. Not really because I didn’t think it fit the company – after Say “I Love You” and My Little Monster it’s an obvious choice. No, it’s more due to the fact that it’s 15+ volumes. The author has had several other series in various Kodansha magazines over the last few years, mostly in Betsufure, which is also where L♥DK comes from. But I believe this is her first title over here. It did have a live-action adaptation come out this past year. The plot is not really anything new – school prince ends up being forced to move in with our heroine, a fact they have to hide even as she falls for him. If you like any of the recent shoujo Kodansha has done, this will be right up your alley.

My last panel of the day was Crunchyroll Manga, though sadly they were unable to announce any new titles, although they said it should be ready to announce in a week or so. So we got to see some of the editor’s favorite titles, including ones she wish got more clicks such as Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen. They’ve also recently updated both the web and mobile applications, making for a smoother reading experience. A relatively quiet final panel allowed me to duck out during questions (which tended to be of the “have you guys considered licensing title X’ variety) and head over to an amazingly packed Artist’s Alley before leaving.

NYCC has grown exponentially over the years, to the point where I think this year it passed 150,000. It’s not a con for the casual or the introverted. That said, it was gratifying to see they sorted out many of the tiny room issues (lines were still prohibitively long, but well-policed, and there were few arguments that I saw) from last year. The fans were enthusiastic as well – I had several long conversations about cartoons after the early panel Saturday, and spent Sunday talking with a 16-year old Doctor Who fan and a young woman babysitting her 13-year-old charge, a huge Attack on Titan fan, and had gone the extra mile for him by dressing up as a Survey Corp member herself. The con may have been packed, but everyone was having a lot of fun. And that’s really all that you can ask of a con this size.

NYCC 2014 – Day 3

Saturday was a day fairly light on manga, but that doesn’t mean there was not a great deal of things to experience at this third day of the con – and the busiest in terms of sheer bodies.

I began with Tom Cook, an animator who worked with Filmation in the 1980s, who was discussing both his career and the way Saturday morning cartoons worked back in the day. He’d grown up with early Hanna-Barbera TV titles – Top Cat was a favorite – and through luck and talent managed to get a job working for them as an animator, which was very much learn as you go. They started work at an airplane hangar in Burbank, as the regular building was still being built/renovated.

After a few years, he got wing of H-B threatening to move all their jobs overseas and switched over to Filmation, whose big selling point was they said they would never do that – it was all in the US. Of course, the drawback was they had to compete with larger budgets, and also do larger shows – 25% of each He-Man had to be recycled footage. Not because they were too lazy or had no budget – for the sheer number of shows they had to do, the budget did what it could.

After a discussion of how ACME came into being (it came from the peg boards used to hold down their drawings, made by a real-life ACME), he ended the panel by walking us through how a typical cartoon was made in those days. Mattel asked for He-Man to sell their toys, so a good script was essential. After that, they moved to voice recording, followed by storyboarding and the model sheets. From there the animation happened, followed by backgrounds, then the actual filming on a camera, then the editing, and finally adding the voice and sound to the film.

Next up I saw a panel discussing comics journalism, with several names familiar to the manga crowd, including Deb Aoki and Brigid Alverson. The panel discussed how each of them found themselves in the field, and what makes comics journalism so rewarding. Some of the topics discussed included misogyny and hate in the comments of blogs and message boards, and how moderating these has simply gotten too time-consuming and exhausting. Most sites have comments active as it fosters a sense of community, but you should never be afraid to ban jerks.

There was discussion of the recent debate about “is cosplay killing comics”, which the whole panel agreed was ridiculous. Comics journalism is also finding new competition these days, from sites like TMZ or Nerdist, and it can b e hard to make your own site known. Much like real life politics, the internet comics scene is dealing with polarization and fragmentation (Tumblr is a good example here), and you have to move with the times.

After a brief line wait, I ended up in the IDW artists panel. Much of this panel was used to plug the various artists’ titles, but each was given a good discussion and going over about why it was so popular and fun to read. Gabriel Rodriguez discussed Locke and Key, his co-created series, s well as titles based on old properties such as the new Little Nemo reboot, where all artists are nervous about following in the footsteps of Windsor McCay. He enjoys drawing licensed titles as well, and Sarah Gaydos, the editor and moderator, helpfully added with regards to what studios want: “They have to be realistic, but also hot.”

An artist who goes by Menton3 also does licensed work, and finds that the ‘original is better by default’ crowd gets too pretentious. He said the real danger was in being bland – both in licensed and original works. Menton3 also does a lot of oil painting and also meditates, which is likely how he’s able to get away with lines like “externalizing the internality”.

Derek Charm does Powerpuff Girls, and was also good enough to do the recent IDW crossover series, Super Secret Crisis Wars, which brought the PPG together with Samurai Jack, Ed, Edd and Eddy, and other CN creations. IDW also took the time to announce they would be doing anotehr of those soon.

Andy Price discussed My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, and how he had to argue to Hasbro to let him use his own, more ‘comics’ style rather than simply imitate the show. He enjoys making fun, experimental layouts, and says MLP is good for that as the show is already so fluid to begin with. He also had his range noted – we saw by some art of Hulk and Wonder Woman that he can draw more than just ponies.

Alan Robert got to talk about his Killogy title, which brings together characters from Goodfellas, Heroes and the Ramones in a horror comic title. He’s also done another popular series called The Shunned One, and said it was important for each title to have its own voice. After this, with minimal time for Q&A, the panel was asked to give comic advice. The best advice was Andy Price’s: draw everything. Don’t just stick with your favorites or what you’re good at.

Sailor Moon was in the same room in an hour, so I just stayed (which turned out to be a good idea – SM fans were getting turned away from the immense line). As a result, I saw Del Rey’s panel on the new Star Wars books. This really isn’t my fandom, so I didn’t get much of what they were talking about. The new book on Grand Moff Tarkin sounds interesting. And the Lords of the Sith cover was hilarious – the panel jokingly called it a “Darth Vader and Palpatine go on spring break” book.

As for the Sailor Moon panel itself, Viz played some dub clips for us – Stephanie Sheh makes a terrific Usagi, even to my dub-hating ears. We also got to hear the debut of Amanda Miller as Jupiter – this hasn’t been released yet. She sounded quite good. The other big news, which actually broke on Thursday, was the 2nd S1 box set, due out this February.

Lastly, Vertical played to a packed house, much to the surprise and pleasure of Ed Chavez. He went through some of their recent releases, then gave us the two big announcements, neither of which should surprise those who follow Vertical. They’re publishing Vols. 2 and 3 of Before the Fall as an omnibus together next fall, and this is the arc that was made into the manga Kodansha is releasing. They also have the brand new Harsh Mistress fo the City novel, which only has one volume in Japan, but will also be a 2-volume omnibus by the time it’s out here. It’s a good time to be a Titan fan.

The other big news was that they’re splitting the manga imprint into its own line, Vertical Comics, separate from Vertical Inc. which will continue to publish its non-fiction, crime novels, etc. Witchcraft Works and The Garden of Words are the first to bear that imprint, with more on the way. Ed is excited for this, as the separate focus will allow both Comics and Inc. to work harder at reaching out to their own distinct audiences.

This day wasn’t quite as involved as the previous two, so this writeup is smaller. Tomorrow will be smaller still, but both Kodansha Comcis and Crunchyroll manga should both have interesting things to say before everyone head home.

NYCC 2014 – Day 2

Friday was another busy, busy day. To be honest, there are no more light days anymore, now that this is an official Day 2. It began with the Crunchyroll anime panel (they have a manga one later). They rolled out cute chibi-art of the staff, along with the fan mascot, chosen from a contest. Then they plugged a few new announcements.

Future Diary and Switch Girl will both get J-drama simulcasts. Future Diary should be familiar to anime fans. Switch Girl is a manga title I’ve suggested before, with a premise similar to Kare Kano – a girl who is a princess at school but a slob at home gets caught one day. On the anime front, they had Bonjour Sweet Love Patisserie, an adaptation of an otome game with an all-star seiyuu cast; Ultraman Max, a new sentai incarnation of the beloved franchise; and Case Closed, the long running anime/manga series.

They reminded everyone they are still very much in startup mode, and they are hiring new employees – see their website. They also discussed the complications involved in licensing – there’s a lot of moving parts most folks don’t see or know about.

After this, I room camped again, and thus got to see the Image Comics panel. It was a lot of fun – Image has come a long way in the past 25 years or so. Much of the start was intros and plugging titles. There was Madam Frankenstein, sort of a pastiche between the classic novel and My Fair Lady. Ghost is dark and bleak, sometimes even more than the author really intended – he discussed a scene where he had added a few jokes into a dark scene and the editor asked him to get rid of them.

Umbral is a dark fantasy, with the interesting concept that the dialogue balloons for magical incantations are actually magic sigils/patterns. They wanted to convey the idea that it’s not something understood by normal people. The Fuse is a straight up police procedural, but with SF elements – “what if Homicide: Life on the Streets crossed over with Battlestar Galactica?”. Nailbiter is a series that was rejected by several other publishers before finding a home at creator-driven Image.

Rocket Girl was the title that interested me the most, a period SF piece which stars a teen, but is not really written for teens – the adults reading are to be reminded what the mindset was like back when they were that age. As for The Wicked and the Divine, it’s apparently quite popular, and the moderator discussed the idea of “pop comics” – like pop music, having a broad-based, non-genre appeal.

Question time. Many on the panel also did work for Marvel or DC, and the difference between work for hire and your own creations is considerable. With work for hire, it can be a job to find a way to make yourself care. With your own work, it’s inverted, needing to see it made broader and more accessible to others.

At this pointy, Chip Zdarsky walked in with his banner and joined the panel, naturally talking about his work Sex Criminals. Chip added many moments of levity to the proceedings, as both the panel and the audience felt free to mock him. Meanwhile, the panelists mused on what other title they would “cross over” with if they could – given my general lack of knowledge of Image titles, I missed the gist, but the crowd seemed pleased.

For manga fans, the most interesting question might have been talking about Print vs. Digital. Anthony Johnson noted that he feels the manga boom was a huge influence on the way people read comics, and that the manga readers looking for something else seem to turn to titles along Image’s lines rather than superheroes in spandex. The newer, younger readers are also more digital oriented, so naturally the market is adjusting. Though there can be issues – Chip noted his title was banned by Apple from the iPad for content reasons.

Other questions that sparked discussion included whether the time period you write in makes a difference (with a side discussion on the cliché of “I’ve got no signal” for cell phones in horror movies, now a hallmark of lazy writing), how to write humor into dark, serious works without having it come across as forced (make it come naturally from the characters you create), and finding time to write on a busy schedule (make time).

After that, Yen Press had its panel, and they had a slew of announcements, though for once none of them were light novels. They did have several LN adaptations, though. The manga of Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? runs in Square Enix’s Young Gangan, and just began last year. Index fans rejoice, the manga of A Certain Magical Index is finally coming to our shores. This is a Shonen Gangan title, and at 12+ volumes as much of an investment as the LN was – Yen is pushing Index hard.

Trinity Seven is a title from Fujimi Shobo’s Dragon Age, so expect a lot of fanservice. It also has a lot of fantasy tropes that may seem familiar to followers of the genre, but it got a huge crowd reaction. The artist is also known for Psycho Busters, an old Del Rey work. As for Chaika: The Coffin Princess, a Kadokawa title from Young Ace, I could not help but remark on its similarity to another Yen series – it was joked that they considered calling it Shoulder-a-Coffin Chaika. The author of this LN adaptation is best known for Scrapped Princess.

Kodansha’s Aria magazine has proven a fruitful shoujo breeding ground over the last year or so, and we have another new title coming from there, First Love Monster. A 15-year-old girl falls head over heels for the boy who saves her from death… only to find he’s still in 5th grade! The artist has also done adaptations of the Book Girl manga, though that has not yet been licensed by Yen.

The next license was the most surprising, as there was a lot of Twitter chat recently about how it wasnt going to be licensed anytime soon. Prison School is from the creator of Me and the Devil Blues, but goes in a very different direction – comedic fanservice galore, as it features five guys in a former girls’ school where they’re hideously outnumbered. At 14+ volumes, I was very surprised to see it myself. It runs in Kodansha’s Young Magazine.

Then there’s Kaoru Yuki’s latest, Alice in Murderland. It just began in Aria this year, but features plots very dear to North American buyers – Wonderland, survival games, etc. Lastly, and possibly the biggest news, they’ve license rescued Emma, the old Victorian Maid romance. It will be released in deluxe hardcover editions, and is an absolute must buy. (Oh yes, it ran in Enterbrain’s Comic Beam.)

One last title, an English-language one, is Svetlana Chmakova’s new work Awkward, which is about the titular awkwardness found in childhood friendships, and looks incredibly cute.

I missed a lot of Q&A due to having my own questions. I asked about the paucity of digital rights for the new light novels they’re putting out. They do try to get digital rights for everything they license, but it’s complicated – sometimes it’s the author blocking it. I also asked about End of the Golden Witch, the next Umineko arc. Still being discussed, so expect another break after Alliance finishes. And they have no comment about Durarara!! LNs or anything else they didn’t already discuss, of course.

My next two panels were more “casual” ones, with fewer notes. Bryan O’Malley was in fine form, and had a lot to say about Seconds, Scott Pilgrim, and being a famous Canadian. Also discussed was the commodification of hipsters, how to “turn dark thoughts fun”, when to visit Halifax (August – I have to agree there), the influence of shows like Sliders and Quantum Leap, and whether college is a necessary choice these days. Oh yes, and plugging the book Love: A History, complete with “ontological rootedness”.

I also caught half a panel discussing women in comics, from creators of new incarnations of Captain Marvel and Red Sonja. It was a very lively panel, with lots of good advice and quick wit.

Lastly was the Takeshi Obata panel, which did not have much overlap with the Jump panel from yesterday. He was asked about his start as a manga artist – like many, he began to submit works while still in high school, and won a Tezuka award, to his total shock and disbelief. His earlier series were also written by him, including his debut Cyborg Jii-chan G, a comedy manga starring an old man, unusual for Jump. This made him realize that he enjoyed writing with a partner much more, as he could concentrate on the art.

The editors were also asked how they got into the business – applying for a job and working your way through the ranks seems to be a good way, thought it was also noted that having no talent at being a manga artist might also nudge someone in that direction. One intriguing fact – Ohba and Obata rarely met in person for Death Note, as both are very reserved and preferred to give notes through the medium of their editor.

Obata’s art was discussed. His adaptability was praised, along with his arrangement of panels on the page. Obata is the sort who is a manga artist rather than an illustrator – and that’s definitely a compliment. The collaborative process was discussed – for Death Note, Ohba did a storyboard and sent it to Obata. Obata then did his own storyboard, got approval from Ohba, then spent 3-5 days inking it. He also brought out his materials, including the ever-popular G-Pen.

He designs characters after getting inspired by the writing. The initial image in his head, i.e. the instinctual one, is quite important, and he also likes to know what “color” they are – yellow for the star of Hikaru no Go, for example. Speaking of Hikaru no Go, it was mentioned that this was a more realistic series to him, but he said he was drawn to it by the supernatural aspects of the ghost. And yes, portraying Go that well involved an awful lot of research.

Death Note’s popularity stunned both him and his editor, as it wasn’t a “typical” Jump title. At the time, Jump was trying to reach out to older readers, but the title still had to be accessible to their normal kid readers. Amusingly, he’d had Light’s design in his head for years, waiting for a series he could use it in – he was delighted to finally break it out. L’s eyes were one of his best features, and in fact Obata calls L his favorite of all the characters he’s drawn.

Bakuman was a title that unnerved him a bit, as he was nervous about showing the “underbelly of the industry”. But it turned out quite well. He was also asked what in-series manga he would like to draw in real life – unsurprisingly, Otter 11 was his choice. They also briefly discussed All You Need Is Kill, and trying to adapt a novel by choosing which moments would best be shown off visually in a manga style.

After a brief question on what it was like being an assistant to Makoto Niwano (author of the infamous Bomber Girl), which he enthused about, the panel was called for time, and I got to make my trek back to the hotel to type up a very long day. Tomorrow gives us IDW, Sailor Moon, and Vertical, Inc. Halfway done!