Monthly Archives: December 2010

Webcomics Wednesday/Guest Post: 10 Tips for Beginners

Today, Tamar Curry is filling in for me with a fantastic list of basic tips for anyone thinking of starting a webcomic. Tamar has been creating webcomics since 2002 when he and some friends began Blue Zombie, a tale about adorable undead assistants. He then went on to briefly draw Silent Journey, which I wrote, and now works on Lumia’s Kingdom, a story about a girl who suddenly finds out that she is royalty and will be crowned as the first queen of a very  dysfunctional country. I promise you that despite the fact we’re dating, I didn’t force Tamar to write this post. (Or even suggest that he should.) He’s just awesome like that.

Take it away, Tamar!

~~~

So you say you want to do a webcomic?  Been kicking around this awesome story idea in your head for a few months?  Okay, a few days… Dare I even ask, more than an hour? Well, regardless, you can easily Google lots of info about what to expect when you start.
But I figure I could give you a bit more advice.  Cuz, ya know, maybe it’ll help you out a bit.
So, here are some things to keep in mind when starting a webcomic:

1) Draw as often as you can.  Comics are a visual medium and you need to be able to convey that through your art.  Your art doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be consistent (and trust me, if you put effort in and draw frequently it WILL get better with time). Also, don’t get overly detailed with your art because you have to be able to draw scenes and characters over and over and over again.  Is your lead female wearing a very pretty and ornate dress to a dance? To start, make it look like an actual dress that a girl would want to wear, but don’t need draw evenly spaced patterns on every inch of the fabric.

2) Let people know when you’ve posted an update. Ideally, it should happen on a regular basis, but life doesn’t always go that way. In which case, you have several tools at your disposal for spreading the news when a page does get posted: Facebook, Twitter, email lists, etc. RSS feeds are a godsend.
3) Don’t let bad comments (or lack of comments in general) get to you. Lack of feedback doesn’t mean your work sucks and even if you get an email that says otherwise it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world. Also, just let things simmer down a bit before you send a reply to that guy who claims you have no sense of pacing and that your art makes his eyes bleed. The war of words ends fastest when you simply choose not to respond.

4) Have a backup plan.  Seriously, shit happens. If your site is hacked or the service goes down, have a way to communicate with your readers to let them know what’s happened. If you are collaborating and one person can’t pull through or leaves, it’s up to you to pick up the pieces (assuming you still want to continue the project).

5) Know the ins and outs of your hosting services. What you may be able to do on Comic Genesis might not be as easy to tackle on Drunk Duck or vice-versa. If you’re just starting out, it may help to first try a service that caters to webcomics and make sure to read the fine print to see if there’s any restrictions. If you’re more experienced in web technology, you may want to purchase professional hosting. In any case, know what your getting into and what you are capable of doing with your website and if you’re allowed to do it.

6) Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Please don’t add “awesome” javascript-driven effects when I click on links. And no, I don’t care if it *is* the official soundtrack for when your work is turned into a movie, I don’t want to hear music play when I load up your site.

7) Design your website so that people can find what they want easily. When searching for links to pages becomes a scavenger hunt, you’ve failed. I will dedicate more of my attention to a webcomic with minimal page design  than one with an ornate website if the former is easier to navigate.

8) Tools do not make the artist. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need the latest version of Photoshop and a Wacom Cintiq tablet to produce a webcomic. You don’t need Dreamweaver to construct a decent website. The things you will definitely need in abundance is patience and persistence.

9) Choose the scale of your comic wisely. Many people start theirs with the intent of telling a grand epic stretching some 500+ pages long only to find themselves quickly bored with it and finding excuses to pursue other projects. If you have a similar problem, it might be better to do short gag-a-day comics or something relatively non-sequitur.

10) Finally, keep in mind that you are making a webcomic for yourself as much as (or even more so) you are making it for others to read. If you find that putting out content is becoming more of a chore than you’d like it to be you need to step back and evaluate the situation. Perhaps you need to change it up a bit or go in a new direction. Perhaps you need to take a break. Either way, remember to have fun with what you’re doing. How you feel about what you do will be reflected in your work.

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Traveling With Manga

As I leave for my trip tomorrow, I find myself with a bit of a dilemma. Do I pack manga or not? I wish I could bring enough for the entire trip, but doing so would probably mean packing more than one suitcase and nowadays that’s going to cost a lot of money.

Still, I’ve tried really hard to bring a good library to keep me entertained. Once I did it for a month I spent studying Spanish in Havana, Cuba. I wound up giving half of my library to a Cuban comic book fan in desperate need of more current material and the other half got ruined by rain leaking into my bedroom. If I’m lucky, I’ll stumble upon manga during my trip. I remember when I went to Argentina and wound up stumbling upon Cardcaptor Sakura being sold at ordinary new stands in the street. But I’ve tried to stop bringing much manga on my trips because it’s simply tough to bring so many heavy books when your trips are as active as the ones I usually go on…

Nevertheless, It’s tough to go without a manga fix for a long period of time, so here are my suggestions. I’m going to base them on the length and nature of the trip, but first, a suggestion that covers any sort of traveling you might do:

If you have an e-reader or other device that can play anime or allow you to read manga (without wireless handy), load it up and USE IT.

Man, I wish I had an e-reader. Maybe next year.

Now then!

For most trips, but especially if you’re flying:

-Try to avoid bringing more than 5-10 manga if you can manage it. Manga is heavy and airlines like to charge for luggage when they can. Domestic flights are usually the worst culprits, charging for every piece of luggage check, but international flights will also charge if you go overweight. You’ll also want to pack light if you expect to be doing a lot or expect to be shopping. You’ll want room in your luggage for all your goodies.

-Try paperback light novels. They’re lighter than manga, but are written in similar style. There are more than a few out in English including Twelve Kingdoms, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and the more mature Haikasoru line from Viz.

-Heck, try reading normal novels. There are a number of splendid books out there. I’m particularly fond of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series at the moment, so I’ve gotten a bunch of his novels for my trip.

-If you’re studying Japanese, bring your dictionary and a couple of tankobon. It takes a lot longer when you’re trying to comprehend something in another language, so your entertainment value will be stretched further and you’ll improve your vocabulary!

For trips to conventions:

-I really only have one suggestion for this one- just bring some magazines for the trip over and then buy your fill of entertainment for the trip back. I always like to pack light for conventions anyway.

For boring trips to grandma’s:

-If you’ve got the space to do so, bring as much as you’d like to keep yourself entertained. But, if you can, see if you can’t get someone to take you to a local bookstore so you can stock up and only have to haul a heavy load one way.

-Sneak over to your cousin’s place, borrow their computer and read some digital manga. Oh, hey, look, here’s a bunch of FREE and LEGAL manga to read online.

That’s really it, there’s not a lot to packing manga for trips beyond common sense and a bit of cleverness.

And with that I’m off. You can look forward to a few guest posts in the next two weeks and perhaps a quick word from me when I can fit it in. Perhaps I’ll go looking for the Thai manga scene (I’ve been told they have one, but I’m not sure if Laos does) in between riding elephants and looking for tigers. :D

(Yeah, I’m excited for the tigers and the elephants too.)

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Square Enix Launches Online Manga Store

Hey everyone, I just got this press release from Square Enix and thought I’d share. Normally I wouldn’t post just straight PR copy, but I don’t have the time to really sit and analyze it what with deadlines looming and packing for my trip tomorrow.

What I can comment on is that a) the price seems a little high to me, although I feel like $5.99 is around the digital manga industry standard price…And it’s only a SALE price? You mean it’s going to be higher than that normally? And b) you have to install something onto your computer in order to view the  e-books, which just seems very old-tech to me.

But still, this is just their launch, so perhaps Square Enix will figure out that perhaps they need to make some more changes. Like making the manga available on e-readers for that price…I hope manga publishers will soon recognize that manga buyers are going to want to KEEP their digital copies around.

Please let me know what you think in the comments section! (It looks like they’re bringing Pandora Hearts and Bamboo Blade out in January.)

SQUARE ENIX LAUNCHES ONLINE MANGA STORE

Market-leading titles including Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater

Now Available Via Digital Distribution

Special Sale Price Now Available for a Limited Time

LOS ANGELES (Dec. 17, 2010) – Square Enix, Inc., the publisher of SQUARE ENIX® interactive entertainment products in North America, today announced the launch of its online manga store, where users and fans can view electronic editions of popular Square Enix manga series, such as Fullmetal Alchemist® and Soul Eater®. Users can access the store through the SQUARE ENIX MEMBERS website, a free-to-register membership site operated by local subsidiaries of Square Enix (http://publications.na.square-enix.com/na/us/top).

Through the new service, SQUARE ENIX aims to provide a global audience with easy access to localized versions of its popular manga titles through streaming. Also, through cooperation with regional localization/publishing companies, SQUARE ENIX will endeavor to promote both print and online versions of its manga titles globally. Furthermore, it is the company’s aim for the official online distribution service to serve as a deterrent against illegal downloading and piracy.

Anchored by established series in the United States, the online distribution service will continue to provide manga titles that will appeal to readers of the region (further details outlined below). Starting today, the initial lineup in the United States will be four titles, including Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater, available at the special sale price of $5.99 for a limited time. The first update is scheduled for January 11, 2011. New titles will be added bi-monthly after January.

The community services offered through the SQUARE ENIX MEMBERS website will not only allow members to enjoy manga titles, but also supply a public forum where fans can provide commentary and exchange opinions about their favorite series. The site will also have special offers where members can download free wallpapers. Non-members can get a taste of the Japanese manga experience as well through free previews of the first chapters from each of the available titles.

Square Enix is dedicated to creating new entertainment experiences via online communities, shopping sites and other Internet-based business operations, and digital distribution of manga is one such endeavor toward that goal. The company plans to continue delivering a wide variety of content to an expanding global customer base through numerous outlets and multiple forms of media.

For details on the manga distribution service in the United States, please refer to the following:

Online Manga Store Details

Service Launch December 17, 2010
Fees and Pricing Special Launch Sale Price: $5.99 Note: Access to the online manga store requires registration with the SQUARE ENIX MEMBERS service (registration free of charge). Current membership: over 1,700,000 members worldwide (as of December 1, 2010).
Access to the free previews available on the preview site does not require SQUARE ENIX MEMBERS registration. Payment method is credit card only.
System Requirements Supported Operating Systems / Browsers Windows XP / Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 or above, Firefox 3.x Windows Vista / Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 or above, Firefox 3.x, Safari 3.x Note: The newest Adobe Flash Player plug-in (version 10 or above) is required for all browsers. Display 1024 x 768 resolution or higher Internet Connection ADSL or faster
Official URL http://publications.na.square-enix.com/na/us/top

About SQUARE ENIX MEMBERS

SQUARE ENIX MEMBERS is Square Enix’s free-to-register membership website. It currently has over 1.7 million members worldwide (as of December 1, 2010). Members have access to various contents based on Square Enix titles. Members can create their own profile page and interact with other members. (http://member.square-enix.com/na/)

About Square Enix, Inc.

Square Enix, Inc. develops, publishes, distributes and licenses SQUARE ENIX®, EIDOS® and TAITO® branded entertainment content throughout the Americas as part of the Square Enix Group. The Square Enix Group operates a global network of leading development studios and boasts a valuable portfolio of intellectual property, including: FINAL FANTASY®, which has sold over 97 million units worldwide; DRAGON QUEST®, which has sold over 54 million units worldwide; TOMB RAIDER®, which has sold over 35 million units worldwide; and the legendary SPACE INVADERS®. Square Enix, Inc. is a U.S.-based, wholly-owned subsidiary of Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd.

More information on Square Enix, Inc. can be found at http://www.square-enix.com/na/.

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Wrap Up: The 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide is over!

Wow, isn’t this time of year busy? Everywhere I turn, people are preparing for various holiday festivities. It almost makes me happy to have gotten Hanukkah and my own gift guide out of the way earlier this month.

Still, a lot of manga bloggers worked long and hard on gift guides for a wide variety of manga lovers (or anime lovers, or comic book lovers, etc.) and we had a great turn out this year. You can check out the complete list of participants here. There might be some gift guides popping up, so if there are a significant amount, I’ll add a late-comers section.

Here are some of the gift guides that have been added to the list in the past week and a half:

Our latest contribution is from Jason S. Yadao of Otaku Ohana in the Honolulu Star Advertiser. I have no idea what his gift guide is like because he passed me a preliminary link for when the post goes up later tonight. Someone PLEASE tell me if the link doesn’t work. Knowing Jason, it’ll be a fun gift guide.

Next up is a gift guide for yaoi beginners from the Red Queen. I’m not sure I’d want to try and sneakily get someone into yaoi like that,  but I’d recommend reading a good number of manga on this list for sheer literary value and because I love them dearly myself.

Linda over at Anime Diet has a fun gift guide focusing on the recipients’ interests. Got a foodie or a pet lover? She’s got a few recommendations for you based on what your friends like reading.

Over at ComicAttack.net, Kristin has a gift guide that includes some of my favorite new manga of the year, including Twin Spica, The Story of Saiunkoku and Grand Guignol Orchestra.

Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf focused on only on manga and manhwa that debuted in 2010, but her list is also full of great choices for the manga-loving ladies on your list. In case you were totally stumped on what you should get your gal pals.

On the other hand, Alex Hoffman of Manga Widget has a list full of selections good for manga-loving guys, but he doesn’t leave out some of the year’s top shoujo manga either.

Got someone who disses manhwa or OEL manga? Lori Henderson of Manga Xanadu has just the gifts to change their minds on her list as well as a few other choices that your recipients might have missed on the bookstore shelves.

That’s it! It’s only minutes until 12/16/10 and no one’s passed me a new link to share with you in a few hours.

The reason I volunteered to host and organize the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guides this year was because last year it was such a fantastic boost for my newbie little blog that no one knew about yet. I hope that in addition to getting great suggestions for your holiday manga shopping, everyone has found a new blog to read and love or felt the holiday spirit while participating in the Great Manga Gift Guide!

Happy holidays and here’s to another year full of great new manga to read!

Additional links:

Announcing the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide

Week 1

Week 2

Complete Archives

My Shoujo Manga Gift Guide for 2010

 

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2010 Great Manga Gift Guide Ends Tonight

Just a quick reminder: the 2010 Great Manga Gift Guide is going to end today at 11:59 pm PST.

If you’ve got any Great Manga Gift Guides in the works or if you already have one that hasn’t been linked in the archive, please get it into me by 11:59 pm PST (11 pm PST if you want to be included in my wrap up post.)

Thanks to everyone who has participated so far! We had an excellent turn out again this year!

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Kodansha USA Becomes More Than a Deadbeat Publisher

It was made public a few days ago that Kodansha USA would be having a launch event today at the NYC Kinokuniya store. Manga fans across the internet were abuzz with excitement and demands that the publisher print what they want or else. I personally set my licensing announcement bar pretty low. All I hoped for was a new volume of manga that had never before been published in English and I’m happy to say that Kodansha  USA delivered that and more!

Lissa Pattillo of Kuriousity has a great comprehensive post up, but I’ll give you the basics. (Also, Scott VonSchilling did a great job of livetweeting the event.)

Kodansha USA will be publishing these former Del Rey titles beginning in May 2011:

Arisa, Fairy Tail, Negima!, Ninja  Girls, Shugo Chara!, Air Gear, Negima?! Neo, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, The Wallflower, I am Here!

Many of these titles already have another volume listed for release later in the summer, so if you’re particularly worried that Kodansha USA is going to publish one volume more and then ignore the series to focus on others, that won’t be the case. It seems like Kodansha USA has carefully prepared which series it was going to focus on first and will be devoted to giving them a bi-monthly release schedule.

On top of that, Kodansha USA listed a small wealth of new titles to be published (also following a bi-monthly release schedule) including: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Monster Hunter Orage, Deltora Quest, The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Mardock Scramble, Animal Land, Bloody Monday and Cage of Eden.

Kodansha USA also rescued two titles- GON from CMX and Until the Full Moon from Broccoli Books. Both are series I’ve heard good things about, so I am excited to hear that I’ll get to try them out. Another interesting announcement was that CLAMP favorites Tsubasa and XXXholic would be continued to be published under the Del Rey brand. Perhaps a concession to Del Rey for handing over their entire manga publishing line?

Michelle Smith of Soliloquy in Blue said on Twitter that this is probably the best manga industry news we’ve seen all year. I’m inclined to agree. Hearing that Del Rey’s manga line up was lost to a sort of deadbeat publisher was awful news, but Kodansha USA has now delivered and is on it’s way to becoming a more serious manga publisher. With the loss of multiple other companies this year, the Del Rey/Kodansha USA switch has now turned into a win. In six months, there will now be a bevy of new manga on the shelves and that’s more than enough to make me happy. I’m not terribly interested in any of the titles announced yet, but there is hope for the future and I will be sure to take a look at what’s coming out once I start seeing Kodansha USA at my favorite booksellers.

You may remember that I commented about what Kodansha USA should do next to turn mistrustful fans back into loving fans a few months ago. I asked simply that Kodansha USA hold some kind of informational event ASAP, that they at least publish one new volume of never-before-been-published manga, that they license something big and that they blow our minds. They’ve now delivered on three out of four of those requests. (Kodansha USA rep Dallas Middaugh, formerly of Del Rey Manga, said that they had nothing to say about Sailor Moon yet.) Once again, I’m awfully pleased with them, but I still have some potential next steps:

1. Shape up the website:

This isn’t a potential so much as a necessity. Right now Kodansha USA’s website is one page. To say it is sparse is a vast understatement. Now it’s been updated with the news, but it looks very unprofessional. Once cover designs start coming in, build a proper website with listings of the summer releases and a company news blog. Once that’s done, start on social media, get a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Even if there’s nothing to post now, at least it’s there to play with in the future. Kodansha USA also might want to start looking into digital publishing

2. License something big:

So far, a few of the titles taken from Del Rey have hit the New York Time’s best sellers list, but it would really help establish the company further if an extremely popular title was published. Again, Sailor Moon is a prime candidate, but something already popular amongst U.S. fans would also work. Something with a large enough and loving enough fanbase that there will be sales despite pre-existing scanlations. There are too many well-known titles in Kodansha’s catalog to really pick a few myself and it’s difficult to determine what will spur good sales, but I’m sure Kodansha USA can fish around for something good.

3. Keep announcing licenses:

I imagine the next reasonable time for license announcements would be summer, right when big cons like Otakon, Anime Expo and San Diego Comic Con roll around. Having Kodansha USA at any of these events would be ideal, not only to promote the company and the new releases, but to assure fans that the company isn’t just sticking to what it’s already picked up. Plus, it will be good for Kodansha USA to keep its name in the news. If they could do something like bring over a popular mangaka, that would be even better. (Although I wouldn’t count on it.)

Best of luck to Kodansha USA. I can’t wait to pick up some titles and check out their editorial style!

What are you hoping to see from Kodansha USA next?

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Going Digital: Three Things Every Manga Publisher Needs

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about what goes into publishing manga, mostly because I would love to begin publishing books on my own, but mostly because I feel like the market has begun to totally change. E-readers are becoming more prevalent for serious fans and even a number of the less serious fans have iPhones, Droids or other smart phones that make viewing manga on the go a lot easier. Of course, the manga industry, and the comics industry in general, has been a bit slow to fully embrace digital. Whether their reasons be because companies still favor print (and so do their readers) or because rights holders are still hesitant to give digital rights, I honestly don’t think the industry can turn away from digital comics any more. Sooner or later, almost everyone is going to own an e-reader just like suddenly almost everyone owned an mp3 player.

Of course, the future is unknowable to us mortals and we can’t predict what will change the industry next, but here’s a few things I think manga publishers need to adopt now to be prepared for the onslaught of fans who no longer want print copies.

1. Offer dirt cheap manga for just about every platform imaginable:

This one should be pretty obvious. The music industry survived it’s piracy wars by letting songs go for 99 cents a pop, the same thing should be possible for the comics industry in theory. Of course, 99 cents is a little low, but prices should be as low as feasibly possible. Why? Because the pirates don’t value manga now, just like pirates didn’t value music then. There will still be piracy, of course, but by taking a big gulp and doing whatever is possible to make prices low for readers, it might be possible to begin attracting some of the casual pirates back.

This, unfortunately, is made difficult by the e-reader wars going on. The best strategy is to just offer the manga on any platform that’s humanly (and financially) possible. Sites like ComiXology are obviously a great go-to site for multiple digital platforms and manga publishers like Viz, TOKYOPOP, DMP and Dark Horse are already there. Plus, you can read on the web in case you don’t have an e-reader, which solves the problem for that side of the market who hasn’t been able to buy the expensive gadgets yet.

2. Regular Online Serialization:

Oh man, do I think this is a great idea. A bunch of SigIkki series and Rin-ne became instant favorites when I discovered I could get chapters online for free. It was a ton of fun to get Neko Ramen strips in my mail box each day. But other than the Viz titles, I can’t think of any publisher who is doing regular online serialization with a large number of series. It’d be great to have more pubs jump on to give those people who want to “preview” their manga before they buy what they want. Solving the problem of people just being able to read a series for free all the time, Viz just pulls the chapters once a book goes out, leaving nothing but the first chapters of every volume for those “preview” pirate types.

There are a number of publishers who serialize online, but I find the problem with them is that they do so too infrequently to hold the attention of readers who are devouring manga at the pace of scanlation readers normally do.

3. An open mind and a better website:

It’s no big secret that most manga publisher websites suck. If they aren’t too busy and overwhelming, they’re hard to navigate and it’s difficult to find the information you want. Minimal web design is popular now for a reason- the faster users can find what they want, the faster they get gratification. I’m not saying that manga publishers can’t add flourishes here and there, but unnecessary content, tabs and whatnot should be taken down. We don’t need manga companies to be our social network stand-ins anymore, but every company should run a blog that publishes a bit more than just PR copy. I particularly like some of Viz’s blogs for Rin-ne and SigIkki and TOKYOPOP has some fun cultural content every week in its newsletter. (I used to write articles for it as an intern. It was great fun.) But there should be a blog and it should be the publisher’s hub for getting information out to the masses. And, most importantly, it should not  be written like a press release.

Technically having a open mind should be a fourth thing on this list, but it’s something that really applies to it’s predecessors on this short list. Without an open mind, publishers are going to want to give up and just stick to print. But that’s not going to fly anymore. Publishers need to realize that experimentation is going to be necessary. If a digital publishing venture isn’t making money, it might be best to drop it and turn to a new idea. Internet culture changes so very quickly and there’s always some new device, technology or service out there and surviving will definitely go hand in hand with the ability to be nimble and able to adopt new things.

Is there anything else you feel that publishers should think of when working on digital publishing? I admit, it’s late at night and I might have missed something. Share what you think manga publishers should be doing to accommodate online readers.

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