Art Attack: Joost Swarte covers The New Yorker

Until a bigger version of this shows up, it will have to do. This is, to our knowledge, the first New Yorker cover to feature a cow’s bung emitting greenhouse gases front and center.

More on Viz and the future of manga


Ever since the cutbacks at Viz on Monday, the online chatter has been surprisingly quiet. People close to the situation have mainly been in shock, and while the idea that Viz is “too big to fail” has been foremost among American manga commenters, we’re sure we’re not the only ones whose thoughts — after sending best wishes and job leads to those laid off — was “NO YOU CANNOT TAKE MY 20th CENTURY BOYS!” Viz released a slightly expanded statement yesterday that suggested they will not be cutting titles:

VIZ Media is in the process of refining its focus and is restructuring to adjust to changing industry and financial market realities.

As part of the restructuring the company had to refine its workforce by eliminating certain positions and making cuts in other areas.

We are of course saddened by these departures, and sincerely appreciate the hard work, passion and dedication of those that have moved on, but we feel confident that with these changes VIZ Media will be more streamlined and able to withstand the climate of the economy at this time.

This restructuring was not insignificant; however, this was primarily an internal reprioritization to build toward our future. We wish to apologize to our wonderful fans if this news has caused you concern. Be assured VIZ Media remains committed in its obligations to you. We have no plans at this time for drastic measures such as product cancellations or business line closures. Your favorite series are not going away.

While that is greeted with some relief, there’s still much grief about the people who were let go. PW’s Rose Fox updates the situation a bit:

Jane Lui at Viz confirms that Haikasoru is sticking around and says, “We have no plans at this time for drastic measures such as product cancellations or business line closures.” Another source inside the company tells me the New York office is still open: “Apparently someone decided ‘not picking up the phone’ means ‘closed forever.’” Whew!

Fox mentions Haikasoru editor Nick Mamatas as still being employed. Other editorial cuts aren’t known. However, the Marketing department has been confirmed to have been drastically cut. VP of sales and marketing Gonzalo Ferreyra is gone, as is Sr Director of PR, Evelyn Dubocq and her assistant Kara Brodksy. Jane Lui is still with the company however, and dealing with press inquiries.

While we’re grieved by ALL the cuts, we have to give a shout out to Ev Dubocq who is one of the most awesome people we’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. If we know Ev at all, she’s certain to not only land on her feet, but hit the deck running and wearing ruby slippers.

Obviously, it’s been a bad couple of years for manga – sales were down over a third since 2007, according to Milton Griepp’s white paper. Since the heyday of manga, there have been lots of graves along the roadside — ADV, CPM, Gutsoon, ComicsOne/DrMaster, Yaoi House, and now Go! Comi. (Also, has anyone seen Go Manga/Seven Seas lately?) Over the years, Tokyopop has had MAJOR cutbacks, Yen Press just canceled their print anthology and Del Rey has cut back on their manga releases. Aurora is in flux. DC is still running a manga line although they seem to be too embarrassed to ever mention it in public.

Kai-Ming Cha mentions the problems in Japan as part of the problem that flowed forward to Viz:

Last week, Anime News Network reported that 30% of manga from Japanese publisher Kodansha was rejected from Apple’s iTunes store. (Largely due to depictions of “excessive cruelty” and a bath scene where a character is topless. I guess most Americans bathe in their underwear.) While this news is sad, it does point to the fact that Japanese publishers are on their way to digital distribution, something that (given the number of pirated manga scans/fansubs online) publishers in Japan were wary of and resistant to. Which is not to say that Japanese publishers are open arms about digitizing their content.

Shueisha, Kodansha, and Shogakukan, as well as 31 other publishers in Japan, have organized to form the Electronic Book Publishers Association of Japan, largely, as it’s reported in the story, to regulate and slow the expansion of the e-books market in Japan. At the same time, 2010 has been dubbed the inaugural year of the e-book, especially with Amazon’s Kindle now available in Japan. As one of the above article points out, Japan has no lack of content with approx. 80k new titles published per year. (links via Anime News Network)

Wow, where have we heard that story before? “Regulate and slow.” Battling the digital menace. Coming from a society that has consistently pioneered the gadget-filled lifestyle, this attitude seems suicidal. Any publisher who hasn’t figured out that digital is now the major medium for entertainment distribution — anyone still fighting that notion — will be sitting there wondering where it all went in a few years. We hope you like spending time with the grandkids, y’all.

Or as Douglas Wolk wrote regarding the shotdown of the other day:

You can buy a new issue of Brightest Day or Siege in the same format the comics industry has been selling for 70 years, but you can’t buy them for any price in any digital format, even though that’s the way a lot of fans prefer to read them. It’s as if Marvel and DC had carefully studied every mistake the music business has made in the past 15 years, and resolved to make them all over again, but worse.

pluto1.jpg The manga slowdown is the answer for all the traditional Occidental comics publishers who asked anxiously and hopefully year after year “Is the manga fad over?”, wishing it was true so that the comics industry could be devoid of troubling tween, teen and girl readers once again. If manga in America wasn’t and isn’t a “fad” precisely, it was and is more of a “trend” and the trend was one of the things that will define the Aughts in the costume parties of nostalgic millennial’s 30s as Narutos, Hellsings, Priests, Afro Samurais and will define an era. Milton Griepp theorized that for teenaged girls, Twilight had moved into the slot previously reserved for shojo — and with its awkward, self-imageless heroine and irresistible, diffident love interest, Twilight hits the heart of the same demographic 2010-style.

With manga seemingly just another category now, and not an invincible superhero of sales, the Great Recession seems to have caught up with the comics industry. Our inbox and chatline is full of vague rumblings of belt tightening at other companies and it seems that the American graphic novel business has finally found a seat at the publishing table only to see the table upended, and smashed to kindling by digital axes.

The picture is sad but hot hopeless. Kai-Ming Cha notes that the three publishing giants who co-own Viz are unlikely to give up on America as a market for their products whatever form they take — so although Viz has had the fat trimmed right to the bone, they still have products to sell and PR is going out. We’re all moving on. New business plans will emerge. But unless current publishers actually adapt their own business plans, the future is going to belong to someone else.   

Corey Lewis’s SEEDLESS


Image has just released information on a new Corey Lewis concoction — this time a saga of garden fruits and the aliens who look like them:

Just when you thought it was safe to go to the supermarket for a bag of grapes, Corey Lewis (Sharknife, Peng) reminds us that aliens could be anywhere in his new one-shot from Image Comics, SEEDLESS. In SEEDLESS, grapes come from another planet, battle for freedom, and take a young girl on the adventure of a lifetime.

“I consider it like the movie BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED meets the video game MEGAMAN,” says Lewis. “Originally, SEEDLESS was an online comic supported by Seattle-based video game store Pink Gorilla. The grape characters in SEEDLESS are from one of the first comics I created when I was twelve years old. The story is a bright and colorful, action-packed adventure for kids and adults!”

In SEEDLESS, Harmony Treblecleff is the daughter of an eccentric inventor, but she thought she led a pretty normal life. Normal, that is, until the grapes she grabbed from the kitchen came to life! Suddenly, Harmony is being attacked by a rogue Grape Tyrant from a distant planet (aptly named Crazy) and his many tiny minions. Her only hope is the intervention of a new special breed of heroic grape warriors — ones that are SEEDLESS!

SEEDLESS, a 128-page full-color trade for $12.99, will be in stores August 4, 2010.

Video moment: Bronte Sister Power Dolls

If I lived in a world where this was real, I’d be so happy. In truth, it is a fake commercial by Phil Lord and Chris Miller made in 1998 for a series of educational shorts about action figures based on historical figures. It was never aired. Thank god for YouTube.


Notes from all over

• Frazetta department:

The accolades and appraisals continue to pour in for the irreplaceable Frank Frazetta. Spectrum’s Arnold Fenner pens a remembrance that’s more balanced than most.

He struggled. He had self-doubts. He had more than his share of disappointments in his life and every decision he made wasn’t the right one (and a few blew up in his face). By his own admission he was lazy and played more than he painted: contrast his body of work with that of his peers and his contention would seem to be true. Frazetta’s virtues were contrasted by his failings, his generosity sometimes blunted by his callousness. He masked his sensitivity with macho bravado, but when he hurt, the pain cut deep. As he said once, “When I’m down, Jesus, it’s hell.”

Viceland has a nice suite of appreciations from the punkier elements, including Johnny Ryan

Judging from the cover this had to be the most amazing album ever made. I imagined that this rock group Molly Hatchet must have recorded this album in a medieval dungeon, dressed in chainmail that was caked in dragon blood. I was expecting to hear songs about slaughtering goblins and dodging wizard lasers. I spent my meager allowance on this record and ran home. I couldn’t wait to hear it.Unfortunately, what I got when I finally played the record was a diaper-load of confederate ass rock.

…and Benjamin Marra

When I was in the 5th or 6th grade I was introduced to Frank Frazetta’s paintings through the Ballantine softcover-edition art books from the 70s. Looking at the reproductions of his paintings brought about a feeling of unidentifiable euphoria. It’s a feeling one only experiences as a youth, learning more about the world’s offerings. And it’s a feeling that exists only as a memory because as we age we experience it less and less.

§ Artist Jesse Hamm’s technical analysis of Frazetta’s genius sums up a lot of the things I was trying to get at the other day and shows how he pretty much owned Pyle and Wyeth for dynamics.

Frazetta would place the starkest light-against-dark contrast at the painting’s intended focal point (or, he’d closely surround that point with a handful of such contrasts). Then he’d lessen the contrast gradually throughout the rest of the painting, right out to the edges, where there was almost none at all. For balance and variety, he’d place a few spots of secondary contrast here and there, in orbit around the high-contrast focal point. And generally, he seemed to rely on a principle referred to by painter Greg Albert as “mostly, some, and a bit” — which is to say that the painting is made up of “mostly” one value (dark, medium, or light), “some” of a second value, and then a tiny “bit” of the third value, with unequal ratios between each amount and the others (e.g., 80/15/5 or 70/20/10, instead of 60/30/15), for maximum variety.

As Lance Laspina noted, had Frazetta lived in 16th century Italy, we’d be studying him today as one of the greatest biblical dramatists.


§ This post from Golden Age Comic Book Stories showing Frazetta’s covers for Edgar Rice Burroughs novels is pretty much ground zero for me; it’s my primal scene. I inherited my uncle’s collection of paperbacks swhen he went into the Army, and these didn’t just fire my youthful imagination–they set it ablaze with the white glow of a thousand bottle rockets exploding at once. Take this one — floods, dinosaurs, mammals, something huge slithering through the scene, a gibbous moon, the barbarian, the maiden…what a panoramic “Land of Terror” indeed. As so many have said, it didn’t matter what was between the covers wsith something like this on the front. I am not embarrassed to say that there are several covers in this post that I literally stared at for hours, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

• Viz division

Kai-Ming Cha and Simon Jones weigh in on the Viz implosion. More to come.

• Neil Gaiman division

Gaiman responds to the ruckus over his library fee here, and as pointed out in the comments here and elsewhere, between putting his speaking fee high to discourage people and the amount of charity engagements he does — and heck, let’s throw in the fact that he’s one of the current era’s most beloved authors and a hell of a nice guy, too — and I think this case is closed.

• Kibbles ‘n’ Bits division:

§ G. Willow Wilson spoke recently about the different threads of her work — as comic book writer and as a Muslim essayist:

It’s very difficult to balance different audiences and talk to each one without selling the others short. There is no universal literature—or if there is, I don’t know how to write it. Comic book readers tend to be pretty secular and anti-authoritarian; nothing is above satire, in their eyes. Muslim readers tend to have a very narrow, precise idea about what constitutes acceptable art. Then there are readers of mainstream lit to whom both religion and comics are like foreign countries. My career is a black comedy of sorts. I spent a lot of time explaining myself to various different groups. But more and more I’m finding that the desire to communicate, which all these audiences share, is a powerful thing. I’ve gotten a humbling amount of support from people I never thought would reach out to me: conservative Muslims on the one hand, atheist artists on the other; people who would hate each other but don’t hate me. I try very hard to deserve that mutual confidence.

§ Joe Rybandt went to the Barcelona con and his liver barely escaped with its life.

§ On Twitter, the other day there was a big, raging discussion over whether colorists should get royalties, which David Pepose boiled down (how do you boil down 140 character discussions anyway?):

I know that writers, pencillers, and inkers do get royalties (and I do believe that colorists get royalties at Marvel as well), and I have heard that for some companies, editors get royalties as well. I do completely subscribe to the maxim that good colors can elevate (even bad) art, whereas nasty coloring can absolutely tank a book. And when it comes to deadlines, colorists and letterers get absolutely hammered, often pulling heroic hours without nearly enough thanks from the fan community.

201005130147.jpg § And then….quick as a wink! — Marvel announced that colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser was going exclujsive! (IThose are her excellent colors over Mitchell Breitweiser, above) It’s not royalties, but it’s nice.

§ Many DC trade paperbacks that you would not think are out of print….are out of print.
§ Marc-Oliver did a fine job of summing up the latest tell-all Joe Casey interview, but I imagine it will be a cold, cold day Buddha’s eight hot hells before Casey works at DC again…

This was a DC book that DC can’t do now because they moved too slow. When shit like this happens, they should be fuckin’ embarrassed. Now, that might all be changing with the new regime…I hope so, anyway…but we’ll have to see, won’t we? On the other hand, with my books at Image, I can have an idea one day, contact an artist the next day, and on the third day we’re rolling. We’re working. We’re creating. It’s the greatest buzz you can imagine. It’s why I wanted to do this for a living in the first place. Comics are supposed to be an immediate art form. Developing them by committee for years and years is just goddamn ridiculous. For Christ’s sake, the entire Marvel Universe was thought up on the fly by three or four guys in about two years, total…!

…and we’re guessin’ everyone’s just fine with that.