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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. 

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?

200: A Potpourri of Writing, Comics,Texas Politics, and Current Children’s Cartoons

I had intended this post to explore my love for Fairy Tail, but I decided to wait until I read volume 19. So, it could be a while. Instead, I have a potpourri post up tackling some issues that have been bugging me over the past week or so. Let’s begin with:

Texas Politics

I’m dejected right now. Seriously, should I even bother to vote? Yeah, I could just vote for President Obama and the democratic senate nominee then ignore the rest of the ballot. But still, this is depressing.

What I find so distressing is the real weakness of the Texas Democratic Party in my area. I’ve checked and no Democrat is running for our congressional seat, or state house seat, or seat on the state board of education. Who am I to vote for, the Libertarian candidate if he/ she is less egregious than the Republican candidate?

Well, I guess that is what you get for having a one party state…

Next topic is . . .

Current Children’s Cartoons

This is an example of me putting my foot in my mouth. I had, for years, believed that PBS’s children’s shows were the best. But having watched many cartoons geared at children with my niece, I have come to the conclusion that I am wrong.

Dora the ExplorerGo, Diego, Go!Ni Hao, Kai-lanPocoyo, Yo Gabba Gabba, etc. are all very good. And they’re all on Nick. That’s not to say that PBS’s offerings are any worse than I remember. But, PBS is not the only show in town anymore when it comes to excellent and educational children’s programming.

It is always nice to be proven wrong.

Moving on to . .  .

Comics of two subjects

The rumors are true, Alan Scott is revealed to be gay in Earth 2 #2. Personally, I love this development. Reading James Robinson’s interview about his processes in making the decision is highly informative and, I think, paints DC in a much better light than a number of fans seem willing to grant. Unlike Northstar’s wedding next month, DC had not intention of announcing it. Dan Didio answered a question at a convention. The media (both comic and not) took it from there.

Despite the fact that gay and lesbian characters are becoming more common in all sorts of media, the inclusion and introduction of gay characters still draws media attention, however the company approaches the issue.

One aspect of this whole event is how much it reveals about the relative ignorance of how the creation of a comic book actually works. Robinson has been planning this book for at least eight months. And the same is true of Marjorie Liu’s run on Astonishing X-Men. Comic books are not produced on the fly. It takes months of planning, editorial input, rewrites, artwork, etc. to produce a final product.

Speaking of writing, I’m wondering if one of the problems with global manga may be issues of writing. Whenever I read articles on creating global manga, I mostly see it discussed almost exclusively in terms of art  rather than writing.It is important to remember that sequential art tells a story. And that story requires some form of writing. To be a successful manga artist, one needs both excellent art skills and strong writing skills.

But regardless of my own feelings on the matter, I look forward to Deb Aoki’s look at ways to correct the sorry state of American manga.

Now finally. . .

More writing

As I have stated before, it is important for writers in this day and age to be willing to produce works in multiple formats. From novels and short stories to video games, comics, movies, etc all should be on the table at least in the contemplative stages. Now, some of these formats are harder to break into than others and all have their own intricacies when it comes time to shop your ideas and work around. And, at the end of the day,  you may find yourself preferring one or two formats rather exclusively. The key thing is, I think, to explore one’s options to the fullest.

And this is true of how one publishes. I’ve gone on record that I prefer a more traditional approach to publishing, but I also think that all writers need to be aware of what e-publishing offers. Personally, I would feel like a hypocrite if I rooted exclusively for self e-publishing. How can I write about this subject when I don’t have an e-reader?

Anyway, that’s it for my 200th post.  I’ll try to get a few more posts up later this weekend.


New Directions and the Approach to Two Hundred

So, I was planning on getting a comparison of the novel and film versions of Howl’s Moving Castle posted. But, as with much of this blog, other events have preempted it. In addition to the Howl post, I was thinking of writing my thoughts on the role of the critic. However, I think I can actually incorporate that post into the present one. So, what is this post about?

Well, it’s about taking stock of things. Of analyzing where I’ve come and where I’m going. It’s about questioning ideas and directions. It is, largely, about revising.

For one thing. I’m not going to do a post, an essay, a research paper, etc. on the grimdark in fantasy. I’m interested in the topic. But, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to waste my time reading books that I don’t like several times to make sure I don’t mess it up. I certainly don’t want to waste my time reading a bunch of secondary sources and texts of influence that will bore me to death.

The simple fact is that I really don’t want to be a critic. I’m not a scholar. I don’t have the credentials or, honestly, the wherewithal to do it. For a while, I wanted to be an academic. To be a professor of English. But not any more. So, why should I beat a dead horse anyway? I shouldn’t.  Time to buy the damn thing.

And, finally, wasting my time with all of these genre fights takes time away from me doing what I really want to do. Which is writing fiction. And I don’t need distractions.

As many of you who read my blog on a regular basis know, I am keenly interested in writing comics. Lately, I’ve taken a harder look at that interest.

My harder look has convinced me to pursue both novels (prose) and comics. Some of my ideas clearly make better novels than they would comics. And some of my ideas positively demand to be comics.

For a while, I toyed with the idea of writing a manga influenced series. But I’ve changed my mind on that. For one thing, Deb Aoki’s recent posts on About Manga have explored the problems of “original English language” manga publication very well. To be honest, unless something changes, it is nigh impossible for “OEL” to even begin to gain in popularity. I hope that is not the case, but I’m not sure how the situation can change.

Another problem with me doing manga style is that I’m a writer not a drawer. I wish I could draw, but I don’t have the talent. My lines are crooked and never look right. I’m not very good at it, period. So, I’ll need actual artists to work on the art side of it. And manga style is largely a melding of the role of writer and artist.

Finally, the more I think about the differences between manga and American comics, the more I’m convinced that I’m split. I like the storytelling style of manga. But I love the artistic style of American comic books more.  And when I envision my embryonic comic book series, I see it being a series that would be carried in a comic book shop.

Now that I’ve got all of this hashed out, where do I go from here? Well, there is publication. I’ve looked into traditional publishing in addition to self publishing. Honestly, I don’t think self publishing is the way I want to go. If I were to go the route of self publication, I would demand of myself as nearly professional level of editing, book design, etc. that a traditional (and more experienced) publisher can bring to bear. Honestly, I don’t have that kind of money. And I don’t have a sense for business (yet). So, I think a more traditional publisher is the way to go, at least for now.

So, that’s it for now. There’s a few things I want to do before I go to bed in an hour and a half. But there is one thing I want to  do before I leave: a taste of the posts coming as I march to our two hundredth post. Next time will be the Howl post. Then comes a post on research. And I’ll cap off with Post 200- Why I  love Fairy Tail.

Well, since it is so near my bedtime, I’ll leave you with a goodnight.

Another Post of Random Thoughts

Thought 1: The television adaptation of The Walking Dead is better than the comic book.

Thought 2: What does the title “Sins of the Star Sapphire” mean? I cannot find anything resembling a sin (either present or past) that the Star Sapphires committed. So, did the alliterative title sound cool? Is that why it is used?

Thought 3: I’m getting tired of the whole Bakker fracas. But I’m also fascinated by it. I get that Bakker feels that he is being grossly and unfairly criticized. But, does his intentions really matter. Is he, as the author, a determining factor in how his work is interpreted by others?

Thought 4: Hell no. Remember- the author is dead. A work of literature does not have a single reading, a single  meaning. There are countless readings and interpretations. Now, Bakker’s intentions, influences, etc. can play an informative role, but Bakker himself does not own the “right” interpretation.

Thought 5: Maybe getting rid of my Lit Crit books is a bad idea. Damn it, I really need to do some research papers here.

Thought 6: I read “7 Reasons Why OEL Manga Falters in the US” by Deb Aoki for (July 13, 2009). On the whole, the panel synopsis is very interesting and illuminating. To a degree, I think the problem is how Japanese comics are marketed in America. Is there a fetishization of Japanese comics that prevents non Japanese series from succeeding? Also, the argument that publishers mishandled (and abused) young artists is on the mark. The Japanese comics industry is built around apprenticeships (what the assistants are). Editors actively work to foster talent. Now, traditional American comics utilizes art schools in a similar fashion, but there is a demand for immediate return on investment. How many series need to build up before they become successful? Are comics companies (particularly those focused on “OEL”s) really patient enough for those series to be successful?

And as an aside, I find that the argument that young manga style artists are little more than fan artists more than a little insulting. If they are that bad, why even accept them for publication? The issue is marketing.

Thought 7: And damn, maybe I need to do a research paper on this subject, too.

That’s it for today.