Dispatches from Kumoricon 2009 – Day 2

Alright, I’ve gotten back from Day 2 of Kumoricon (a little early, there weren’t any other panels I wanted to go to today, and I’d spent all I could afford in the dealer room). Now that I can get online, here are my thoughts on day 2. Oh, and for those who are hoping for photographs and other pictures, I’ll get those for you later.

The first panel I went to today was to the Dark Horse panel with Carl Horn. This morning was definitely quieter than yesterday morning. Just about everyone was checked in already, so we didn’t have the hordes of people trying to get to opening ceremonies, or to the check in area. In addition to Dark Horse manga editor Carl Horn being present, there was also Phil Simon, who edited the translation of several specific manga titles, including Blade of the Immortal. and Michael Ganers (I didn’t quite catch his last name – they weren’t using mikes) who is a translator and handles some of the licensing.

They started off the panel with a list of upcoming titles. There weren’t a lot of new licenses on here, which wasn’t surprising, so I’m just going to go with notable titles which have books upcoming, such as Kurosaki Corps Delivery Service, Much more Berserk, a new Evangeleon manga, a romantic comedy subtitled The Shinji Ikari Raising Project.  They had sample pages available and I was able to read those, so I could get a glimpse of the content. Much of the Eva content is pushed to the background, with the Eva units themselves not appearing in the first few volumes, nor the Angels (at least not obtrusively), SEELE getting a name change, NERV being a bit less overt – oh, and Rei talks, and Shinji is a bit more cheerful at this point in the series. It could get grimdark later on, but it’s a change from the start of the series, where Shinji is what has been described as “a whiny bitch” at the start of the series, and it stays that way until the end of the show.

Anyway, we’ve got volume 4 of Gunsmith Cats Burst coming up. I really should get the other two omnibus volumes of the first series, since it’s one of my favorite manga. Speaking of which, as an aside, and skipping ahead in the presentation, Dark Horse will start doing more of the Omnibus volumes they’ve already done. The reason for this is kind of two-fold. 1) Omnibus titles can work better for shorter stuff (2, 3, and 4 volume series) as people are more inclined to buy a complete of that. 2) They’ve got the licences for everything that CLAMP’s previously finished, and this is an easy way to get the books back out there, in a format people are more likely to buy. Thus, over the next year, they will be releasing omnibuses of Chobits (split into 2 volumes), Magic Knight Rayearth (with, they hope, the essays from the Japanese volumes about CLAMP’s D&D campaigns), and Card Captor Sakura (split into 4 volumes).

Additionally, there will be more Gantz, more Blade of the Immortal, the conclusion of Hellsing, and Oh! My Goddess, which is the longest running manga under one publisher in the United States. As an aside, if you’re watching the manga that Dark Horse is putting out in the Diamond lists, you might have noticed how it keeps alternating between a more recent volume and an older volume, pre #20. This is because as of volume #21 they stopped flipping most (if not all) of their manga (with the exception of Lone Wolf and Cub and it’s spinoff Samurai Executioner, whose fans apparently don’t like reading manga flipped), following the successful examples of Viz with DBZ, and Tokyopop in general.

Anyway, we continue with an announcement of a Dark Horse, under it’s novel line, releasing a translation of the first Blade of the Immortal light novel, which I caught as being titled Sword of the Immortal – an adaptation of the first few volumes of the Manga, with the introduction of a new character and some new plot points. We’ll also have some additional Vampire Hunter D light novels. There are also two new announcements of upcoming titles. First is a US release of Yoshitaki Amano’s new artbook, with a collection of his Vampire Hunter D and Final Fantasy art, including 32 new pieces that weren’t in the Japanese version of the book. The second is a new English language novel titled Shinjuku. The novel is set in the Shinjuku district, and follows an ex-special forces soldier who ends up taking on a group of gangsters after they start getting into the occult, when his sister gets drug into this mess against her will. Why am I bringing this up here? Because the book(s) will have around 120 brand new pieces of art done by Yoshitaki Amano just for this project. Because of Amano’s art contributions, as well as the fact that this reminds me (favorably) of Demon City Shinjuku, I’m going to pick this up when it comes out.

We also get a few Q&A kind of things and other general notes. You may have noticed that Dark Horse manga volumes can, at times, differ in size, in terms of their dimensions. This is deliberate, as they’re trying to preserve the page dimensions of the Japanese editions of the comic. Not only does this preserve the artist’s original vision of the comic, but it avoids any problems with images not looking right when it’s blown up or made smaller. They also try to work with the original artwork whenever possible – not just the Japanese tankobon editions, but the original art, either with digital files, or film sheets. This allows them to get the best quality picture, which in some cases can surpass the Japanese editions (in some cases they manged to avoid some moire problems the Japanese version had – they then let the publisher know and the publisher fixed it in later printings. Also, Dark Horse is the second of the only two manga publishers who will be publishing more titles next year than they were this year (the other being Viz). There were a few other things, but they were involving stuff that Dark Horse was planning to get licensed for Japanese release, so I’m not going to jinx it by mentioning it any further than that.

After the Dark Horse panel I went on to check out the Dealer Room. While things were running more smoothly today, and Hotel Security, which I complained about at length yesterday, was much less obtrusive – there was one problem with Hotel Security of note, which I personally observed. When I emerged from the Executive Tower, I noticed that there was  Voodoo Doughnut Wagon (a van, basically), next to the hotel, selling doughnuts to con goers. For those who haven’t been to Portland, I should explain – Voodoo Doughnuts is a Portland fixture… one whose doughnuts I haven’t eaten. However, I intended to get one, as by all accounts, they’re a part of Portland culture. Unfortunately though, they drew the attention of Hotel staff by the clump of people who had gathered by their van to get doughnuts… so Hotel security dispersed them and then spoke too the Voodoo Doughnuts people at length some length, through which the V.D. people packed up their napkins and other stuff and left. So, while the hotel people apparently did ease off somewhat, they didn’t entirely ease off. I’m not going to totally let them off the hook, and if the Kumoricon staff speaks with the hotel staff at great length after this con and before the next con about what happened this time, and brings up the shortcomings of Hotel Security, and the Hilton Hotel staff are receptive, things could go better next year. I’m not going to hold my breath, but (again) today was a marked improvement.

Anyway, the Dealers’ Room, as it was at the last Kumoricon I went to, was in the hotel parking garage. The dealer room seemed much smaller, and it looked like there were less artists in the Artist’s alley – less people in general. I’m not sure if it’s because the garage was smaller, or because of the economy. I also got an opportunity to get a better grasp of the cosplayers at the con, and what characters there were more of. There wasn’t a lot of Gurren Lagann, which surprised me, because the show had a heck of a following. There were a few Yokos and a Lord Genome, but no Kaminas, no Simons, no Kittans, no Leerons, none of the other cast members. There were a few Final Fantasy VII cast members (mainly Cloud, Zach, Vincent, and Yuffie), and a lot of Kingdom Hearts characters, particularly Sora (both Kingdom Hearts I and II versions), and a lot of members of Organization XIII from Kingdom Hearts II. Anyway, from the Dealers’ room I picked up 3 poster prints from artist alley, one of Kamina, one of Jinpachi from Bleach, and one of Kakashi from Naruto done by Kevin Yan. I also picked up most, if not all, of Viz’s 9 issue run of Justy, a space opera manga, that Viz released back when manga was released in a flipped comic book format, instead of the format we’re used to today.

After stowing my gains in my car, I went to Svetlana Chmakova’s panel. Svetlana is a Russian woman who immigrated to Canada when she was 16, and has gone on to put out 2 OEL manga series, Dramacon – a romantic comedy anime set around anime conventions which has completed, and the urban fantasy series Night School, which is ongoing in Yen Press’ magazine. Svetlana got into comics through Wendi Pini’s Elfquest (which was, in turn, inspired by the manga Kamui). Upon graduating from high school she went on to Sheridan College, where she majored in traditional animation, which, in turn, helped improve her skills in making comics (she’d worked on comics before, but nothing major). She did work for various role playing magazines and trading card games (as well as doing some work on Marvel’s Mighty Beanz line of toys, notably the designs on the Fantastic Four characters for the line).

Through all this she was also doing various web-comic stuff, which got the attention of TokyoPop. She pitched her DramaCon comic, which was approved, and did very well. It did so well that it got a Japanese release. There were a few questions about the technical aspect of her work, in terms of how she does it. Particularly, she does a detailed script first, then thumbnails it, pencils it in the computer, inks it on actual paper (since inking on the computer doesn’t work so well, and finally scans it back into the computer to do gradient work.

I had to, rather quickly, dash out of this panel (as it ran long) to go next door to the Girl Genius panel. This one was a Q&A with Phil and Kaja (pronounced Kai-ya). We had a lot of good questions here, and I wrote down as much as I could.

The inspiration for the comic was in 1992. Phil was working on the Buck Godot comic, and Kaja was doing work on Magic cards. Both of them decided that they wanted to do something very new, new characters, and a new concept. So, Kaja went through Phil’s collection of commissions he’d done for past conventions, and found a lot of stuff in there that would become part of Girl Genius – stuff which was also things Kaja liked and which was radically different from what both of them were doing – enough so that they got into creating the storyline.

The end of the storyline has already been plotted out and hasn’t changed since they started. However, the route they’re taking to get there has changed over time. For example – the Jagermonsters came about almost by accident. Phil created the first jager to fill a hole a group of characters in the first chapter, and wrote him with the accent because it amused him. Since then he’s kept wanting to write jagers thus, for example, the Three Jagers (Maxim, Oggie and Demo).  The concept of The Spark was basically inspired in the course of long walks Phil and Kaja would take, during which they’d talk about (among the other things) the comic. Over the course of these walks they came up with being a mad scientist having a root cause.

Also, Lars was originally supposed to live, and he was also supposed to be a jerk. Instead he became a nice guy, and ended up having to die for the sake of the story. Klaus von Wolfenbach, on the other hand, was supposed to die at the beginning of the story, with Gil taking over and becoming a bad guy to keep up appearances. The Muses were introduced to the story practically on accident, but ended up becoming very important to the story. Othar Tryggvassen (Gentleman Adventurer), was directly responsible for the destruction of Oslo due to one of his inventions, and this was the tipping point that lead him on his quest to destroy all the sparks in the world, and then to kill himself. As far as Barry Heterodyne… he’s somewhere, and he’s not dead.

Anyway, the favorite characters for the Foglios to write are the Three Jagers (who are apparently also known as Da Boyz), and Agatha, Gil & Tarvek (when they’re togeather). Krosp is the easiest character for Phil to draw, and with Zeetha being the most difficult, due to the swords. They’re near the halfway point in the comic (maybe), and though they have a few side stories in mind (including a comic explaining how Maxim got his new hat). They’re also planning on doing a costume book for people who like to dress up as the characters. Speaking of which, we get an explanation of the Jagers love of hats – basically, during Bill & Barry Heterodyne’s day, there were a lot of Jagers which didn’t get an opportunity to rampage around, looting towns – they were expressly forbidden from doing this even. Consequently, this lead to a lot of bored Jagers. Their way of passing the time – hats. Particularly, making hats, wearing cool hats, and occasionally beating people up and taking their hats. This goes the wame way with Jager uniforms, and the fact that they’re not uniform. They take uniform pieces off of fallen enemies if they think they look cool (or they’ll go well with their existing ensemble). In general, this panel was hilarious, and Phil and Kaja are a great comedy team.

This leads to the next panel I went to (after eating lunch and killing a bit of time in the AMV room). This was the Girl Genius Radio Theater panel. They (the players, which included Phil and Kaja, with Kaja as Agatha) performed all 3 episodes of “Sleepy Clank”, and the first episodes of 2 new stories, “Agatha’s Big Date”, and “The Mimmoth Hunters”. Both are absolutely hilarious, and I look forward to hearing the rest of the shows.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to get some of the pictures my sister and I took during the con, unless she gets her views on the con written up, then I’ll post that first.

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