Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Random Page...

Here's a sneak-peek at another random page from my upcoming TOKYOPOP manga, Battle of the Bands. Please to enjoy...

I was going to mention some 'interesting' factoids about this particular page, but on second thought, I think I'll keep 'em to myself for now. I don't want to release any spoilers before the book comes out.



UPDATE (25 minutes later): Hey! I just noticed that TOKYOPOP has on online preview of the new book available HERE. Anyone can see the first few pages, but if you register with their website, I think you can read the whole first chapter. Neat.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


So, who watched Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed on The History Channel last night? Obviously a good way to spend Memorial Day; Remembering of all the valiant rebel Soldiers and Jedi that died during the Clone Wars and in the struggle to liberate the galaxy from the Empire.

Actually, I quite enjoyed the program, which illustrated the mythological and historical basis for the Star Wars saga, even though most of the references were old hat to a Star Wars Scholar like myself. Joseph Campbell=duh.

In some ways, more interesting was another program called Star Wars: Tech that discussed the “science” in the Star Wars films; what was reality-based, what was impossible and what real inventions are on the horizon. Some amazing stuff in the robotics and bionics field. And who knew that plasma was a fourth state of matter? In any case, it’s always a riot to hear scientists complain that there is no sound in outer space, or speculating how a light saber could possibly work.

Star Wars. Hard to believe it’s been 30 years. Yeesh.

Speaking of war, I’m currently reading an interesting book about a soldier who died durring the Battle of Arras in World War I. The book is called To Arras, 1917 and is written by Walter Reid, who is the nephew of the soldier in the story, Ernest Reid. I’m a bit of a WWI buff—well, an interested amateur, to be honest—but what I find riveting about this particular story is that while it chronicles the life & background of Ernest Reid in particular, it also focuses on the broader questions of WHY that particular generation was so gung-ho to enlist and serve in that war. There really was so much enthusiasm that is difficult for people to understand today. Especially since the First World War was much less of a clear-cut “moral” war than WWII. The youth of that generation seemed to relish in the ‘adventure’ of the war, treating it as a rite of manhood, and a solemn duty to God and Country. Anyhow, I’m still reading, but I’m impressed with the author’s take on the subject, and how he personalized the story using his uncle’s experience.

I’m reading the Arras book in preparation for a vacation to France this summer. We’ll be spending a couple of days in Arras, and so I naturally want to know more about the region’s history. Also, as I mentioned, for several years I’ve been fascinated by The Great War. One of my ‘dream projects’ is to do a graphic novel in that setting. I have many ideas, but nothing concrete yet. One day, I will do it, though it will be daunting task. I don’t know how I—or anyone else--can compete with the art in Jacques Tardi’s C'√©tait la Guerre des Tranch√©es: 1914-1918. The visuals in that graphic Novel are simply amazing. Tardi is, perhaps, my all-time favorite comic book artist.

It was only by coincidence that I happened to be reading the Arras book on Memorial Day, but it did make me take some time to think about those that have given their lives for the great cause of liberty, from which we all benefit. As well as those who have died for other ideals we may or may not agree with. In either case, the individual soldier has a special job that makes all our lives possible. It is only just that we have a holiday to honor the memories of those people that have made that sacrifice. I hope that this weekend you all took a few minutes between the barbecue and the History Channel to think about that.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Am Still Alive / Harem Manga As I Understand It

Hey all you blog-readin’ people! (Is anyone still out there?) It’s been a while and I’ve left you blogless, and for that, I apologize. God only knows what blogs you’ve been reading in my absence. Probably more interesting ones, so maybe you should THANK me!

Well, Hot Bliggety Blog! I’m back!

Last week I finally completed my book. If you’ve forgotten what that is, here’s a shameless plug: Battle of the Bands is the title of my new harem manga from TOKYOPOP, and it will be on sale this JULY!

What’s a “harem manga?” Good question. It’s kind of a sub-category that is popular in some Japanese comics. Basically, regardless of the genre, the story involves a male character in a situation where he is surrounded by women who alternately love and hate him. Popular harem manga titles include Love Hina by Ken Akamatsu and Girls Bravo by Mario Kaneda.

Just to give an example, Love Hina is about an insecure loser named Keitaro, who has been trying to get into Tokyo University, in order to fulfill a promise to a girl he knew as a small child. Fates conspire to make him the manager of an all-girl dormitory owned by his grandmother, and hilarity ensues. As you might imagine, there are plenty of opportunities for hapless Keitaro to stumble upon the female characters while bathing & such. The plot element that hooks the reader is the mystery of the childhood friend; Keitaro doesn’t remember who she is—could it be one of the girls living at the dorm??? Maybe…

When I set out to create my own harem manga, I studied several different books and Love Hina in particular. I think what makes it work is that beyond the titillating scenarios and “fan service,” are scenes of real tenderness. The interaction between the main characters is believable and they are, therefore, sympathetic. We care what happens to them and hope that the destined couple will get together.

In Battle of the Bands, there were many challenges for me to overcome. At 182 pages of story, plus covers & supplemental pages, the book was a HUGE undertaking. The art style was an important factor, and I did what I thought necessary to give fans of harem manga everything they would want in a book whose back cover claims, “If you like Love Hina or Girls Bravo, you must not miss this harem manga bursting with comedy, romance and fan-serviced-filled fights!” But, the challenge I took most seriously was to try and infuse the book with as much HEART as I could. And, no, I don’t mean the band “Heart.” If I did my job correctly, Battle of the Bands is much more than “fan-service-filled fights,” and contains a moment or two of well as a rollicking good romp! This July…YOU BE THE JUDGE!!!

The overt gratuitous nature of the harem manga, means it isn’t for everyone. In fact, I will readily admit that I did not write this book for ME.* At first, I worried that this meant I was a big sell-out. But, in the end, I think it’s a good thing. Battle of the Bands is not a self-indulgent vanity project, but one that is designed to appeal to a specific audience. Believe it or not, comics is serious business, and I did my homework, so it is my sincere hope that I did, in fact, create something with that appeal, and that readers will embrace it as an “authentic” harem manga.

To see some preview pages of Battle of the Bands, you can follow these links to my page ComicSpace and at TOKYOPOP.COM. In the next few weeks, TOKYOPOP will be revamping their website, and there should be even more good stuff available as the July publishing date approaches.

Now that I’m back blogging, you can expect to hear more from me about various topics. I’ll be writing more about Battle of the Bands, and my experience creating it, and I have some other topics in mind, such as what I learned about self-publishing Comiculture Magazine. Yeah, I’ve a few things to get offa my chest. Hope you’ll stick around and humor me!

* Or Becky Cloonan, whose work I so admire, but who apparently is NOT a fan of Love Hina! Sorry, Becky! Can’t please everyone, I guess…