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Autopsy of a Dead Project (With a Chance of Frankenstein)

For some time, I’ve toyed with the idea of setting up an online anthology featuring OEL manga. I’ve since fallen out with the idea. A number of factors came together to question the viability of the project. But, I think there are some good bits from the carcass of this project  that can be useful in other projects. 

What Was the Idea?

My idea took inspiration from Viz’s Shonen Jump (and by extension the source Japanese magazines like Weekly Shonen Jump and Weekly Shonen Magazine among others). What I wanted to do was gather manga inspired artists and writers together in a similar format. I know that Eigomanga (I think that is the publisher) had something similar with Rumble Park and Sakura Park. But I don’t know if those magazines are still in active publication. And I know of others that have failed. 

I think (and this is where things get nebulous) I would have gone with a donation model of funding like Strange HorizonsClarkesworld, etc. The actual making things work never got much past the idea stage. Certainly not into the research phase.

What Went Wrong?

As I mention above (and in several other posts), OEL manga in the United States is not very popular or viable economically. Readers just don’t want it, except in very rare cases, and none of them are even remotely as popular as authentic Japanese manga (baring tie-ins or adaptations like Twilight). So many attempts have been made to promote OEL and none have succeeded. So, it begs the question, why bother?

That said, to edit and publish an online magazine or anthology takes a passion for the material. But I personally have been ambivalent about OEL manga (what I’ve read have been largely terrible- Jason Thompson’s work comes to mind). And, to be honest, I’ve gradually lost my passion for reading manga, anyway. Baring Fairy Tail and a few others, that is. 

Besides my fickle nature, I don’t know the first thing about setting up an online magazine. I can research and learn what I need to do. Unfortunately, I’m not the most tech savy person. When I took a course on website construction, I remember struggling mightily. And I doubt I’ll have any better success now. 

Furthermore, I don’t know the first thing about editing a magazine. I guess I could learn by trial and error. But seriously, that seems to be a recipe for disaster. How would I attract talent? How would I keep everyone happy? And would I have to sacrifice my own creative ambitions? 

Cobbling Together a Monster

While I no longer have any interest in setting up an online OEL manga anthology, I do believe that there are some elements worth keeping and incorporating into other ideas. Perhaps just not a magazine. Seems to be enough of them, to be honest.

I can just transition between comics forms. Instead of working on OEL, I can work on American style comic books. It could be fun playing with a web comic series. And likely easier. 

Another idea I’ve had is to experiment with an online strictly prose serial. One that aims to mimic comics and television. This could be very fun and interesting. Although I did make a statement at some point that I did not want to write a very long series. But hey, I don’t remember making a promise. 

All this said, it will call for quite a bit of research. It’s been years since I worked on constructing websites. So, I’ll need to read up on the subject. I also need to gather more research on self publishing and epublishing. Plus, there are a few other issues that require research. 

Finally. . . 

In the end, it kind of sucks that my original plan went nowhere. But I can be glad that something of the project will survive. Even if it is cobbled together. However, if anyone reading this is inspired to try an online OEL manga anthology, please feel free to do so. Good luck. 

Next time: Learning from the library. 

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A Hypothetical: Making a Career in Manga (OEL) Style

I contemplated writing in a manga style for a time before settling on American style comics for those ideas of mine that demand to be comic books. But, Ihave never quite let go of ideas that could possibly help young artists (and writers) who want to work in manga.

The first question one has to answer is: Is there a genuine demand, a possible market, for original manga created outside of Japan that does not tie in or adapt other media? It is clear that any such demand is a tiny fraction of the demand for Japanese manga. The key, possibly, is to produce a series that is compelling and accessible that creates an increased demand.

So, there is a young artist who wants to get into manga. What should she/ he do? There is always art school. Now, I won’t pretend to know what type of education beyond just art a typical art school provides. But, I suspect going to a traditional university may be a better bet for a burgeoning manga artist. Now, if doing only art is the goal, art school may be the best option.

But to be a manga artist also means that one has to be able to tell a story (unless there is a writer collaborating). So, I would recommend majoring in art and minoring (or double majoring) in creative writing. While I’m at it, ask around and see what types of business classes would be good for artists to take. A tragedy of arts education is that the business side of it is typically neglected.

Once that is out of the way, what should our hypothetical artist do? Well, getting one’s name out there is certainly key. So, be willing to work on adaptations and (maybe) super hero comics. Have a web presence that showcases your work. Maybe just samples or an entire web comic.

Now, what to do when it comes time to create one’s own series? Right now, the manga market is rather depressed. While this means that it is unlikely that any of the major surviving manga publishers are actively looking for “home grown” manga talent, it does not mean that one cannot get lucky (and it does not hurt to submit a proposal). But, I think there may be another option.

Part of the problem with self publishing is that, often, it comes across as  having poor quality and polish. Now, there is a trend for self published writers to take the time to make their work as professionally polished as possible. This is a great development, but I do not know how long it will be before the stigma is eased.

So, here is my idea. Take a page from creator owned comics and work on producing your own publishing company (or group). Find like minded manga enthusiasts and artists and create a webzine similar to Shonen JumpWeekly Shonen, etc. There are a number of excellent web magazines in existence that can provide inspiration (like Clarksworld and Lightspeed). Focus on web and e publishing before taking on print. And finally, do not be afraid to market outside of manga fandom.

So, this is my, perhaps, dumb idea on how a manga artist could break into the industry. So, I wonder, can it work and be a success?

Breaking In, Hope, and Anxiety

Getting published, in any form, is fraught in equal measure with hope and anxiety. Hope that you’ll make the sell, and anxiety that all you’ll get is rejection slips. As any writing website will tell you, it helps immeasurably if you can follow the preferred submission method. If a magazine wants a submission formatted a certain way, format it that way. Otherwise the editor will reject your story, no matter how good it is, outright. The key is researching what the agent, editor, or whoever decides wants.

A few days ago, I watched Cartoon Block’s video of a Marvel Comics panel at Wonder Con (I think). There, they answered questions about how an artist can get a job at Marvel. And, if you check out the DC submission page, much the same is true with them. Essentially, the various comic cons act as a form of job fair. The key is, again, to know what works best. Personally, I really liked Joe Quesada’s portfolio recommendations.

The convention or trade show as job fair is equally true with video game developers. The key thing is to make contacts in the industry and to really understand what their format is for hiring new writers. This is still an area that I’m unfamiliar with, but from everything I’ve read, it is highly recommended that one goes to trade shows and conventions to get noticed.

It also helps to have your name and your work out there. If you have previous publishing credits or say a Deviantart account, you may have more of a leg up in some instances.

That was breaking in, now lets talk about hope and anxiety. Working in comics, either traditional American style or Manga style, is fraught with problems. Like the Comicvine Podcast mentioned last week, it is rare that creator owned works will become wildly successful. That is not to say that every one should just go work for DC or Marvel. Just be aware of what the risks are and be prepared to deal with the issues that will arise. Much of this is also true of OELs. I will admit that I’m not as familiar with OELs as I should be, but it is clear that they are nowhere near as popular (or as respected) as their Japanese counterparts.

That said, a new writer does not need to have a spectacular, career defining idea or work right off the bat like JK Rowling. LB Gale on her site has an interesting look at George RR Martin’s career. It was twenty or more years after he started writing professionally before he started on A Game of Thrones, the first book of his A Song of Ice and Fire. Now, which works of his are going to be remembered? You got it, A Song of Ice and Fire.

At the end of it all, writing professionally is hard work. You never know when you will make a sell. But, in the end, it is important to keep trying. Persistence does pay off.