Tagged: Manga

Ed Catto: Teaching The Teacher at the Bergen Arts Festival

Teen Arts Students in Class

Teen Arts Freida CryingKids these days… they’re all irreverent slackers, consumed in the little bubbles of social media and self-absorption, right? Not so fast! That’s not what I just experienced at all.

Each year, Bergen (County New Jersey) Community College is the site for the Bergen Teen Arts Festival. This impressive event invites outstanding high school students to participate in a daylong celebration of creativity, youth and the arts. It’s packed full of live performances – music, theater and more. An art exhibit showcases impressive drawing, painting and sculpting talent. The Festival offers more creative workshops than any student could ever attend in one day.

And the weather gods must support it, because it always seems to be held on a gorgeous, sunny day.

Evan Cooper, the Teen Arts Administrator is a focused and supportive guy with a great skill for setting the stage and then letting the students and teachers shine. Three years ago, Evan, along with creative writing expert Jim O’Rourke, recruited me to teach a class on creating graphic novels.

Teen Arts Superhero GuitarIt’s been a fantastic experience. For my part, I try to distill some of my best (art) life lessons, learned from the likes of everyone from Scott McCloud to Joe Kubert to all my own art teachers. My goal is to help spark an interest in kids for the art form of comics. We have a lot fun in these classes, and if you’ll allow me to brag, they are always SRO.

Newsflash – they don’t really need me. They already get it. They’ve already earned their pilots licenses, or are in the process. I’m just the airport runway.

So, in fact, as the teacher, I have the opportunity to learn a lot in these classes. Here are some of this year’s observations:

Teen Arts Student Manga SketchbookManga is a Second Language to Many – If you attended the Book Expo and talked with bookstore retailers, they might have told you that the Manga craze (i.e. Japanese Comics) is dead. That’s not what I saw at all. So many of today’s high school students, presumably having enjoyed manga in their formative years, love this style and love to express themselves in this style.

Today’s Cool Kids – Years ago, when I was in high school, I made the mistake of wearing Batman apparel and was mocked (by one of the school’s prettiest blondes, no less) for my absurd, immature pop culture tastes. Today it’s so much the opposite. This isn’t a newsflash to anyone who’s been paying attention, but it’s still just incredible to me.

In each of the three classes I taught that day, there were one or two kids who wore superhero shirts and they were instantly the experts. They’d talk about the recent Captain America: Civil War movie, or Steve Ditko or digital comics or AMC’s new Preacher series. They knew their stuff and everyone respected them.

Lots of Talent – These kids were good! One student had already had his work accepted onto ComiXology’s Submit program (click here for more details) there was such a wide range of imagination and creativity.

What a day! Can’t we just fast-forward to the near future when these kids are published and see what they have to say?

The Point Radio: Talking Green And Scarlet With Elizabeth Olsen

A new take on GODZILLA hits theaters in a new days, and director Gareth Edwards and star Elizabeth Olson fill us in on the road they took to get the popular franchise rebooted. Plus Elizabeth talks about her prep for the role of Scarlet Witch in AVENGERS:AGE OF ULTRON. Meanwhile, out looks like comics will dominate the TV nets next season with no less than five news series!

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

REVIEW: 47 Ronin

47 RobinProperly channeling Japanese culture for American audiences has been a challenge given how different our tastes and expectations are. We find the content of much of their Manga and anime either not to our taste or outright incomprehensible. So, the challenge of adapting their bushido Edo-era and adding in some powerful fantasy into [[[47 Ronin]]] was going to be a challenge. Mix in American performer Keanu Reeves as a half-breed you have an uphill challenge in making the film palatable to enough moviegoers to justify the $170 million budget.

It has some terrific concepts and incredible visuals but it’s a mess of a movie, with a long, sluggish middle that loses the audience. Even amazing CG and a strong Asian cast can’t support a messy script.

The story, in short: Lord Asano Naganori (Min Tanaka) is disgraced after the efforts of Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), conspires with a shape-shifting witch (Rinko Kikuchi). He commits seppuku and Kira takes charge of Asano’s family by arranging for him to marry Asano’s daughter, Mika (Ko Shibasaki). She agrees to the marriage but extracts a promise to have a year to mourn her father. Asano’s 47 samurai has acknowledged the deviltry that befell their master and they become ronin, masterless samurai, vowing revenge. Enter Kai (Reeves), who just happens to be in love with Mika, who partners with Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the ronin’s leader.

While the action is swell along with some stuff I have not seen before, the characters are flat, one-dimensional. There are the brooding glances, clichéd dialogue, and predictable character beats that spoil the film’s potential. Much of this is a result of delays in shooting, studio interference and an emphasis on visual wonder and not enough on content. The film was a major bomb in the United States, bringing in under $40 million. As a result, you likely missed this last winter but can make up for it now with the Blu-ray release from Universal Home Entertainment. The video transfer is stunning with equally strong sound.

Clearly, the studio gave up on the film and went with a perfunctory suite of extras including four Deleted Scenes (8:00), which are interesting but easily excised; a brief Re-Forging the Legend (7:00); Keanu & Kai (4:00); Steel Fury (6:00), which looks at the film’s training, swordplay and battles; and Myths, Magic & Monsters (8:00).

The film is a curiosity and there are glimpses of what it could have been.

Marc Alan Fishman: Marctaku – A Study In Anime

Fishman Art 130713This past weekend, Unshaven Comics took a leap of faith. We attended our very first Anime Convention. To be honest, we had little expectation. The Samurnauts, while well-rooted in Sentairoots, isn’t Manga in any sense of the word. It’s pastiche. It’s homage. For those not initiated, it appears only to be tongue-in-cheek. But I digress.

We purchased a table at the third annual Anime Midwest show, now in the lovely Hyatt Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. Considered perhaps to be the little brother to the now monumental A-Cen show from a few months back, we were unsure if the show would be heavily attended and how we would strike the fancy of a fan-base we as a creative unit are only marginally related to.

Oh, how surprised we were. But first, a bit of backstory.

Speaking only for myself, my relationship to the Japanese comic/movie/TV Show empire was one of tepid acceptance. Shortly after meeting Matt and Kyle in 6th grade, it was clear that I would need to get on the Manga train. By 8th grade, Kyle and his brother had a basement full of VHS tapes (both booted from Japanese TV, and purchased at Suncoast Video), and a near encyclopedic knowledge of dozens of series, both in print and on screen. Matt was a longtime fan of Guyver and Neon Genesis Evangelion as well as dozens of other giant robot animes. Just as when your girlfriend decides to be a vegetarian begets your becoming a vegetarian, so too did I find myself sampling several series from across the pond.

I found several that I genuinely loved. The gritty Angel Cop with its leather, boobs, and super psychics. Record of Lodos War, homage to Tolkien with a Japanese twist. Akira, of course. And a smattering of others. I found most Anime to be kindred spirits to the comic books and super heroes I held dear, but with a foreign (natch) and mature manner about itself. Sitting down to a marathon of Evangelion left me both emotionally drained and completely inspired.

Unlike American action, the Japanese love (even in animated form) to let action unfold without a shaking camera. They like to pepper stories with emotional breaks and pauses. Every so often they even let complete sequences go without dialogue, letting the artistry on screen do all the communicating necessary. Their stories tended to be more complex, and with more expansive universes (albeit rarely shared like the DCU or 616). In simplest terms? Manga and Anime represented to me a world and culture that could easily be obsessed over and beloved by a sect of nerd-culture. Me, perhaps, if only from afar.

We were told by many friends that Anime Shows tend to be “friendlier.” Upon entering the hotel, I immediately recognized why. Comic book fans share a love of a wide-berth medium. Anime fans tend to be closer knit. While there are just as many genres, styles, and sub-sub-cultures within the Otaku world, here I noted that the relative age of the fan was younger than I’d been used to seeing at comic-cons. The show itself was also more akin to what comic-cons used to be like. Here was a convention that was built in celebration of the medium, not just vapid promotion. The brunt of the show attendees were there to view episodes, attend panels, contests, discussions, and enjoy the company of their brethren. The dealer room we sat in was merely one small hall amongst several others. Not the star of the show, just another part of it.

It was perhaps this that made things so lucrative for us. With fans able to attend so many different things while at the convention, our little dealer room was there for them to explore and to discover. When we made our pitch, much like at comic-cons, we were met with laughter, and quizzical looks. But unlike comic shows, we rarely heard the all-too-common “I just got here, and I’m making some rounds. I may be back.” Instead, we were given a “yes!” or a very polite “no thank you.” Matt sold 10+ commissions. I sold a few Domos. It was, for all intents and purposes, one of the most profitable shows we’d ever attended.

Beyond simple dollars and cents though, I come out of the experience once again inspired. Here this group of fans still celebrate their medium more than they snark at it from a far. Here cosplayers dress less to impress and more to get hugs and high-fives. Here is a convention more attuned to the type of event I long for (and will see again first hand in Baltimore – which still stands as the most comic-booky con I’ve had the pleasure to attend). I tip my hat to the Otaku. Anime and Manga is a once forgotten love-like of mine that I think I’ll have to revisit. Sometimes all it takes are a few pairs of enormous eyes to open our own, no?

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Martha Thomases’ Japan

Our columnist Martha Thomases has spent the past two weeks in Japan with her son, Arthur Tebbel. By all reports, they’ve had a swell time. Here’s some of it, in her own words and pictures:

m1Kyoto is a city I have always wanted to visit.  The traditional Capitol of Japan is known for its beauty and history, its cultural importance. Naturally, the first place I went when we arrived was the Kyoto International Manga museum. The building, a former elementary school, has a collection of more than 300,000 volumes, as well as a great deal of original art.  In addition to the permanent collection, there are special shows as well. This is the current show.  Not really graphic story, but an assortment of panels by international artists.  I am embarrassed to say that the only name I recognized was Mike Mignola.m2


Everywhere you look, there are books.  The shelves on the walls are higher than you could possibly reach.


m3The permanent exhibition shows the history and techniques of the form.  This, I believe, is the “Biff! Bam! Pow! Comics Aren’t Just for Kids!” of Japan.


Here is some original art, I think.  Really pretty stuff.m4


They consider cosplay to be part of manga.  This is a current exhibit linking these two powerful cultural exports.



SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander



Sony closing PSP Comic Store at end of October

Sony shuts down PSP Comic Store after October 30th, leaves North Americans in the lurch

Sony is telling PSP owners that its comic book portal is shutting down after October 30th. Users will then be unable to download the necessary app or buy additional titles. Any currently owned comics will be available to download again until mid-January, but readers will be on their own to preserve existing comic collections after that. According to Engadget:

Outside of Japan, that creates significant problems for literary PlayStation fans: while PS Vita owners in Sony’s home country will get a Manga store and reader in October, there’s no equivalent crutch for other countries (or any PSP owners) at this stage. The console maker is non-committal and says there’s nothing it can discuss “at the moment,” which to us is a hint that we shouldn’t plan our reading hours around a PSP or PS Vita in the near future.

Of course, those of us old enough to remember Sony’s Bookman and Reader, or those of us who saw royalty statements for the PSP platform, aren’t surprised by this in the least. Just remember Sony’s current slogan: Make. Believe.

Manga Friday: CBLDF Contributes Additional $10,000 to Ryan Matheson’s $75,000 Legal Defense Costs

Manga Friday: CBLDF Contributes Additional $10,000 to Ryan Matheson’s $75,000 Legal Defense Costs

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is pleased to announce that thanks to the support of its contributors, the organization has disbursed an additional $10,000 to Ryan Matheson to help pay off the $75,000 legal defense costs that he incurred defending himself against false charges brought by Canada Customs in a case involving manga comics on his laptop computer.

Earlier this year, charges against Matheson were dropped in a case where Canada Customs illegally detained and wrongly charged the American with importation of child pornography for humor and fantasy manga on his laptop. The CBLDF came to Ryan’s aid in 2011, providing substantive and financial support for his case, including arranging expert testimony that contributed to the charges being dropped. With this most recent disbursal, the CBLDF has provided $30,000 to Ryan’s $75,000 legal defense costs. Last year, Canada’s Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund contributed $11,000 towards Ryan’s defense. CBLDF seeks contributions to help pay off Ryan’s remaining $34,000 in legal expenses.

In a message to CBLDF supporters, Matheson says, “Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the CBLDF! The donations raised so far have given me enough financial stability to finally get back on my feet and live my life normally instead of worrying about money so much. It’s really encouraging to know that there are so many people out there that want to help stand up for comics and manga. I used to feel so isolated and alone but now I’ve realized that the comics and manga community is definitely one that cares about the things we love and is willing to stand up for our rights. Your donations really do help a lot and I am so grateful for all the support I’ve received so far. Thank you!”

After a search of his laptop in 2010, Canada Customs wrongfully accused Ryan of possessing and importing child pornography because of constitutionally protected comic book images on that device. This case represented a severe disruption in his life, including a two-year period during which he was unable to use computers or the internet outside of his job, severely limiting opportunities to advance his employment and education. Ryan suffered extreme mistreatment at the hands of Canadian authorities, and was subjected to abusive treatment by police. Matheson’s cruel and unusual punishment included being denied food and blankets, and not being allowed to contact the American Embassy. Matheson was even told by police transporting him to prison that “if you get raped in here, it doesn’t count!” The defense detailed these and other abuses and outlined that the comics at issue are constitutionally protected in the United States, the client’s home country, contributing to the charges being dropped earlier this year.

This summer, Matheson will be appearing on panels at San Diego Comic-Con and Otakon to discuss his case, where CBLDF will also be distributing literature advising convention goers of their rights.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein says, “The CBLDF is elated that our efforts have made a difference in Ryan’s case, and we’re grateful that our supporters have generously contributed to our efforts to pay off expenses tied to his legal defense. We are moved by Ryan’s courage in speaking out on his case, and look forward to working with him this summer as we go on the road to help raise awareness of how comics and manga are still being targeted by the authorities. We’re glad that his case had a positive outcome, but comics are still vulnerable to attack. It is our hope that our efforts will help prevent others from suffering the same fate that befell Ryan and his family.”

Please make a donation to CBLDF to help the organization continue to pay off Matheson’s legal defense costs and to support their important work raising awareness of the rights facing comics and manga readers. To learn more about Ryan’s case, please visit the CBLDF Case File R. v. Matheson, which includes the original defense documents, and special advisories for travelers crossing borders with comics books.

REVIEW: Americus

REVIEW: Americus

by Sam Kusek

Neil Barton is your quintessential bookworm. Happiest when his nose is buried in the middle of his favorite young adult fantasy series, Apathea Ravenchilde, Neil is not looking forward to his transition into high school. Like many of us at that tender age of 13, Neil doesn’t exactly know who he is yet, having little means of self-expression in his quiet and very religious town of Americus. It isn’t until a local church activist group deems Apathea Ravenchilde “unfit for souls of our youth,” and his best friend is sent off to military school, that Neil has to take a stand and find out exactly what he’s made of.

What I enjoyed most about this book was Neil’s journey from young, unsure child to young adult. His experience is like so many of our own, making it extremely relatable. Throughout the book, Neil is influenced by a number of older men and women, from vegan librarians to punk music enthusiasts and begins to see a world outside of the scope the dreary small town he and his single mother live in. To further emphasize the point, the book is interspliced with scenes from the young adult novel (Apathea Ravenchilde), which features a big reveal about Apathea’s origin and family relations and the rising tension between the library committee and the activist group, providing a wonderfully complex sense of balance and allows the book to touch upon a number of the issues of young adulthood, such as relationships with lovers and parents and often feeling trapped by the society around us.


Manga Friday: ‘J-Pop America Funtime Now!’

Manga Friday: ‘J-Pop America Funtime Now!’

The Saturday Night Live title card as featured...

We haven’t done a Manga Friday post in a while, but this is just a bit too accurate to brush off. From Saturday Night Live with guest host Anna Faris, two college students celebrate their love of Japanese culture with their TV show “J-Pop America Fun Time Now!”

Warning: ComicMix Management takes no responsibility if the %$#@! theme song gets stuck in your head.

First Comics, First Second Books, First Comics News, and firstcomics.com — Confused Yet?

Before the panel starts at San Diego Comic-Con, we hope somebody addresses the issues of potential for confusion in the marketplace and possible violation of trademark.

To start, we have First Comics. First Comics was a publisher co-founded by ComicMix’s own Mike Gold in 1983, notable for series like GrimJack, Jon Sable Freelance, Nexus, Badger, Whisper, Dreadstar, Shatter, Munden’s Bar, Classics Illustrated, and American Flagg! It published early work from John Ostrander, Timothy Truman, Norm Breyfogle, Mike Saenz, Mike Baron, as well as the first color appearance of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It went out of business in 1991, and has published nothing in the twenty years since. Some of the series previously published by First have found their way to being published elsewhere, including ComicMix publishing GrimJack, Jon Sable Freelance, and Munden’s Bar.

It has been announced that will be a panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con heralding the second appearance of First Comics, which will be starting in a few minutes.

And speaking of second, we have First Second Books, a publisher of graphic novels, and an imprint of Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, one of the largest publishers in the world. Since it started publishing in 2006, First Second has published a number of acclaimed titles including the Eisner and Harvey Award winning [[[American Born Chinese]]] by Gene Luen Yang, The Black Diamond Detective Agency by Eddie Campbell, [[[Tiny Tyrant]]] by Lewis Trondheim and Fabrice Parme, [[[Life Sucks]]] by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria, and Warren Pleece, [[[Little Vampire]]] by Joann Sfar, and Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. They’re up for four Eisners this year.

Then just to add to the confusion, we have First Comics News, which has been running for a little over a year, and which is using a logo that’s very similar to the original First Comics one.

Incidentally, I’d link to First Comics as well as the other two publishers, but they don’t seem to have a web site– for that matter, they don’t even seem to own the domain: firstcomics.com is for sale for just under $2000. The current owner has had it since 2007, but since First Comics hasn’t published anything in that time, they will have a very hard time getting it back under domain squatting rules since they haven’t done anything to hold onto the trademark. It’s a bit surprising, considering the way the industry has been stampeding to digital, that this hasn’t been locked down yet.

And now we’re hearing whispers that because of the potential for trademark confusion, Diamond will not be carrying their titles– which is not unlike what happened a few years ago when there were two companies laying claim to being the heir and name rightsholder for Valiant Comics.

So with this many potential trademark pitfalls, one has to ask: can the name First Comics be resurrected? Can there be a second First if there’s already a First Second? And where should we go for First Comics news?

We look forward to any answers the panel might provide.