1.25.2007

Just got back from a very thought-provoking and inspirational meeting with editor E-san and my buddy Ryusuke. Like, holy shit. I dunno where to start. From the beginning, I guess.

Last week, Ryusuke asked if I'd like to sit-in on one of his monthly meetings he has with his editor to watch them discuss plot points and other business related things. I've learned that it's standard practice here to meet once a month in person to go back and forth over scripts and breakdowns. A practice which I quite dig, to be honest. It's a lot more personal than e-mail and allows for more interaction than a phone call. No wonder most manga-hopefuls move to Tokyo.

We met at a nice coffee shop in Shinjuku and after the formalities E-san and Ryusuke did there thing. I've never written a script for Marvel so I'm don't know how much input the editor has in terms of plot or dialogue but I was amazed to see these two tossing around ideas while agreeing and disagreeing but never arguing. Ryusuke described it as being told what was weak with his ideas but in a manner which allowed him to reassess and improve. He also mentioned that one of the crucial steps in becoming a successful creator is being paired with a successful editor. One that you can get along with and understands you as well as having a strong enough spine to openly state what's yay or nay with follow-up suggestions. So, in a way, he's like a therapist.

They continued to talk about a potential signing event and other tie-ins and how his comic should end. They stressed that they plan stories with the trade in mind since weekly and monthly magazine sales have been steadily dropping and that it was a growing trend in Japan. Sounds familiar. They wrapped up their business talk and then we discussed my situation and offered me advice. I showed them my sketchbook, some BFX pages and a few original MJ pages. They were both really into the MJ pages saying that they rarely see anything in pencil anymore. It's usually either inked or digital print-outs. Anyway, the jist of what E-san told me can be broken down into 3 points:

1. Understand j-storytelling, modify my pages for right-to-left reading and compose the layout for a spread. Not a single page.

E-san mentioned that he loved Hellboy but a direct reprinting of the material in a j-magazine would never fly. The merits of decompressed storytelling have been debated to death over the net but when it comes down to working in Japan, the work must be told in a visual manner that readers here are accustomed to. It's as simple as that. I feel I've been able to sustain a more j-friendly style during my time at Marvel and, at the same time, experiment with things through BFX. I'm about 80% confident. When I first began drawing sequentials it was right-to-left so I don't think I'll have much trouble with that but I'll see how it goes once I start thumbnailing. Composing for a spread is something I failed to consider, though. How dumb is that, eh? I'm used to having Chevy ads on every second page. I've stuck with square panels throughout my career but I may have to rethink this.

2. Find a magazine or publication that will accomodate my work whether it be look or genre.

With dropping sales, many publications have resorted to specializing. So, a magazine geared towards 30~40 something males will only have comics with themes relating to their needs and lifestyle. Salariiman Kintaro is a good example of a specialized comic. Same goes for comics geared towards housewives or cooking fans or pachinko fans but think of a magazine with nothing but. The reader must be thought of first and foremost over creator wants or ambitions. This is not a universal rule since many breakout titles don't fit formulas but, they too, have a solid grasp of who is or isn't reading. E-san mentioned the recent influx of gentsuke comics which are comics with an attached and established property. Many new artists are going this route or are even suggested to begin this way since it alleviates much of the writing and allows for more drawing. A number of books done in this manner sell purely through the strength of the art and are supported by the artist's fandom. The downside to starting this way, though, is that you run the risk of not being accepted otherwise.

3. Unfortunately, I forget this last point. I recall it having to do with the above somehow. I should've been taking notes...

We headed for some yakiniku (j-barbecue) afterwards and talked about life and stuff which was a perfect way to end the evening. I've been very fortunate to meet so many generous and supportive artists and editors so early on in my stay. I've been asked to produce a short thumbnailed story with text so that will be what I'll be doing from here on in. I was convinced I'd have to have a finished and polished product but I've been told my experience at Marvel is a definite asset and gives me a leg up compared to an average rookie. Kudos once again Marvel.

So, yeah. The gears are in motion.

TAK

11 Comment(s):

Blogger kelvingreen said...

That sounds like a good start to things. Well done!

2:50 AM  

Anonymous Don Van Horn said...

Far out man! I love reading about your experiences and remain positve that things are gonna work out for you.

8:56 PM  

Blogger C.B. Cebulski said...

That was a fascinating read, Tak. Kick ass, bro!

12:54 AM  

Blogger francis said...

nice post. bummed to hear that comics are on the downturn there - i kinda figured europe and asia were healthier comics markets overall compared to the u.s.

3:03 AM  

Blogger ADC said...

I love how you call yourself a "rookie". Sure, it's a whole new industry out there, but you've got a ton of pages under your belt!

Also,the visual story telling is a good point. I read an article stating that the culture in general is more intune to visual cues when compared to North America. The exact example eludes my memory at this moment, as it was quite involed, but it explained how cities are laid out, and that addresses are formulated in such a way that finding a specific address in a major Japanese city without a map is extremely diffcult, in comparison to American cities...

Seriously, it was interesting when I read it. ;)

But at any rate, I do think you've got the leg up on many artists out there, in terms of visual storytelling. Could you imagine Bendis trying to get work in Japan?!

8:16 AM  

Blogger kelvingreen said...

I think Europe and Asia do have healthier comics markets than the US, but that doesn't mean that they're not also seeing a decline. Still, I can't imagine that in either territory that the top seller only sells 200,000.

6:17 AM  

Blogger Danger said...

That's awesome to hear that you're getting off to a great start in Japan. Be sure to come back home to Vancouver soon!!!!

8:46 AM  

Blogger Danger said...

Oh yeah, Spiderman <3 MJ won't be the same without you man! Good luck in Japan!

8:47 AM  

Blogger PMBQ said...

Hi Takeshi! PMBQ here. I know it's been a long time since we've spoken, but I've always been keeping tabs on your work. Just thought I'd drop a line to say hi, and thanks for posting your experiencees online. I was in Japan last year doing some research on the same thing (but in a less formal way), so it's really great to be able to compare my theories and conclusions with what you're going through. Best of luck to you and I'll keep my eye on you :)

10:51 AM  

Blogger dustin said...

soudsn like youre having a great time over there man, rock on!

3:54 AM  

Blogger TAK said...

Hey. Thanks, all. I appreciate all the support. Seriously! Hopefully, my typing this shit out will help some kidz in the future. I've realized publishing really ain't "that" different than backhome. Just lots and lots of competition.

1:24 PM  
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