Comitia 113 (aka Selling TCOM)

This past weekend, I participated in my first ever Comitia, a convention focused solely on original works — no established anime/manga characters allowed. I’ve attended this event as a guest for over a year now, but this is the first time I actually got a table, bringing along my first-ever doujinshi/minicomic.

As you can imagine, visiting and attending are a very different experience, each one rewarding in their own way.

Registering for Comitia was incredibly easy. I had previously registered a circle at the circle.ms homepage, which serves as the registration platform for Comiket, Comitia, and several other events. The registration procedure was simple, requiring not much beyond name, address, genre and such. I had to submit a thumbnail for the catalog, for which the registration website provides templates. It was crazy cool to see my art in the catalog!

Finally, the big day arrived on Sunday!

Here’s my experience from the show:

9:00am
Circle admission begins. there are two other doujinshi events being held today, one of which seems to be drawing a major, and mostly female, crowd. I smell BL…
The line for Comitia is moderate. It only takes me a few minutes to get registered (a simple process of handing in the circle ticket that came in the mail, and receiving a different one for re-entry into the hall), and enter the hall.

9:15am
I reach my table. It’s the usual bare folding thing, with a pipe chair placed on top, and positively covered in promotional flyers.

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The promo goods also contains a large, sturdy paper bag from Tora no Ana, which turns out to be a godsend since the one I brought my equipment in (the big yellow promotional one from Dark Horse they handed out at SDCC) couldn’t handle the load and tore on the way in.

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9:30
The “wandering registration” (巡回受付) begins. A friendly, bespectacled lady stops by my table, and collects my book sample and registration card. This completes the registration process. I am now officially a Comitia participant!

10:10
I finish setting up. I brought a nice big tablecloth made from Yukata/Hanten material (purchased from Yuzawaya), a little shelf and some display stands from the 100 Yen store. My poster stand is constructed from plastic pipes from the hardware store, costing below 1,000 Yen (as compared to the “proper” poster stand everyone is using that costs an outrageous 5k!)
I realize that I should have made my “menu” bigger, and brought more decorative stuff, as the table actually offers much more space than I had anticipated. I’m still well within the norm of Comitia booth presentation, but I can do much better.

I also decide to make the poster bigger (It’s A2, but I could’ve easily gotten away with A1 size), and find some cloth to wrap the little wire shelf in next time.
The table next to me is a girl selling cute fantasy-themed illustrations, and has a guy helping her out. Two chairs make the 90cm wide space quite crowded. The person who reserved the space on my other side stays empty, giving me room for my bag.

10:30
Circle admission ends, and we brace ourselves for the spectacle to begin. I make a quick run to say hi to friends like Torimura, Miki Usami, and recent acquaintance Ichigou.

11:00
Doors open to the public. Applause. I see people streaming in from the main door, but they do not make their way into our aisle until quite a bit later. I assume a lot of them are heading towards the most popular circles first, which are located in the big aisles and have the most pull (=are the most likely to sell out).
Usami stops by my booth and I wonder if she’s ok leaving her own table so early in the game (She does have someone helping).

11:20
People start finding their way into the minor aisles. Most are headed somewhere, others are browsing cursorily, but nobody stops. My neighbor starts getting visits from established fans, and sketchbook requests (lots of artists in Japan accept requests, and spend a lot of their time during conventions drawing them). A lot of the fans have a clipboard where they note down which booths to visit, and where their sketchbooks are.

I start greeting and encouraging people to take a look when I see their gaze linger on my table for longer than a second. Most walk on, some start to browse. I have a note on my book rack saying “reading is encouraged” (立ち読み歓迎), and a few people take me up on it and read the whole thing.  I also encourage them to take my free 1-page comic about visiting SDCC. (I realize that I forgot to put my Twitter account or URL on it – oops)

11:35
My first sale! One of the readers liked it enough to buy. I remember telling someone I would be happy if even one person felt my work was good enough to spend 500 Yen on, and that holds true. I am pretty ecstatic.
Shortly after, a woman zips straight to my table and asks for a copy. I wonder how she found me.

I start to realize that having something to convey the genre of my book more clearly might be of help – since my illustration skill isn’t up to the level of most of the artists here, I have a much harder time getting people to take a look in the first place. (I do think the cover of TCOM #1 does a fairly good job of invoking a Sci-fi feel though, the circuitry background was a wise choice in hindsight.)

12:30
Noticing a steady increase in traffic past noon. People are done getting the stuff they were actively looking for, and spending time just wandering the hall.
A customer, after flipping through the book and checking out my menu, purchases the only Japanese/English set of the day.

At some point I notice that Takeshi Miyazawa and Ken Niimura are only about 5 booths away and stare at their backs for a bit.

People are starting to pay with coins. Up til this point it was all 1000 Yen bills, so I am relieved I’d prepared so much change. (I saw a guy who used a roll of packing tape as a container for his change, I liked that idea)

13:30
The organizers announce that the catalogs (which double as tickets) have sold out, so anyone can enter the hall.
I cannot tell if it has any effect on attendance.

A dude in a Mad Max shirt picks up my SDCC comic, and I thank him with a V8 sign.

13:50
Mangaka and friend Tateo Retsu stops by and takes over the booth while I take a quick break. I get a fresh bottle of water and visit some friends I hadn’t gotten to in the morning. Attendees are getting visibly more tired, and harder to talk up.

I stop by the editor’s outpost (a section of the hall exclusively devoted to pitch reviews by editors from roughly 100 publications. They look for pitch-ready sequentials rather than a portfolio of works). Beside this, there is a really interesting exhibit of scenario, roughs, and inks process from several published manga, including Saint Young Men (which is really funny).

Back at the table, I chat with Tateo for a bit. She’s a cool lady, very knowledgeable about comics and the only person to notice my BPRD T-shirt.

A girl stops by to pick up my SDCC comic. She’s really into Marvel movies and dying to go to comic-con. Hasn’t looked into the comics.
I am at about 10 sales so far.

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Snacks friends brought to the table for me!

15:00
More and more sellers are packing up and going home. The shipping agents getting really busy at the end is a factor in this. I have decided not to pack up until the closing announcement.

15:30
Very few people looking at books anymore. The event is effectively over.
I sold 14 books, which, considering that it was my first time, and reported sales numbers from the event, I consider a success! I made the registration fee back, plus enough for a couple of beers 🙂

16:00
The organizers announce the end of the event. Applause. I pack up my stuff (my box is noticeably emptier, but with the handful of books I bought or received from friends, it’s about the same), fold up the chair and put it below the table. Folding up the table is optional but encouraged – at Comitia, sellers, just like attendees and organizers, are considered “participants” responsible for making sure the event goes smoothly. There are no guards shooing people out of the hall. Whoever remains is expected to help clean up, and the hall empties amazingly efficiently.

Yasuaki Funayama picks me up for an evening of Yakitori, really random drinks, and lots of taking about comics. Should be enough to get me into his next Comitia report comic! (Check out the one for Comitia112 here – it’s really funny.)

TO BE CONTINUED
(at the next Comitia and Kaigai Manga Festa in November!)

 

San Diego Comic-Con 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015! I’m back again, for the third time, after skipping last year’s. I haven’t written a con report since the Livejournal days, so I’ve been looking forward to this. This is a purely personal, journal-type post, so forgive me for being very self-indulgent!

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Pandemonium.

We had an exceptionally great flight into San Diego this year. Direct from Tokyo to San Diego, decent movies (I watched Chappie and The Secret Service, both of which I enjoyed quite a bit), fricking MOS burgers for breakfast! SAN was so much more convenient than LAX too, no line, no nothing. Smooth.

We got into San Diego just around noon, so we had some extra time to walk around San Diego and get some sightseeing done! Funny thing, I never got around to doing that before. Comic-Con is always such a frantic blur, I never go outside the convention center/gaslamp/seaport area. This year, we took that first afternoon and walked to the Midway museum!

 

Maaan... This stuff just really gets me starry eyed.

Maaan… This stuff just really gets me starry eyed.

We spent about an hour and a half on the Midway, which felt much more like a building than a ship, because it’s so massive and solid. I distinctly remember gushing about how beautiful the rectangular jet intakes of that F-14 were.

Sexay.

Sexay.

After a quick stop by the Cheesecake Factory, and some scrambling to get our badges from the person that had arranged for them, we were finally ready for the main event. Well, technically Preview Night, but even that’s not nearly the quaint, quiet time it used to be. It was pandemonium right from the get go, and I chose to start slow by just strolling through artists’ alley (the quietest part of the exhibitor floor… which is awful if you think about it).

I said hi to a whole bunch of artists, including Laura Martin, Dustin Nguyen, and Richard Friend (whose Youtube Channel I’ve been enjoying). I used to be really conscious about browsing at tables where I know I wouldn’t be purchasing anything, but recent conversations with artists have led me to change that — nowadays I’ll at least say hi and tell someone when I’m enjoying their work.
The absolute highlight of preview night was when I was at David Mack’s booth, confessing that I had never read any of his work, and we talked a little about the books on his table — he had these amazing art books of his work on Kabuki — when Todd McFarlane walked up and just randomly joined the conversation. Viva Comic-Con (or viva Preview Night?)!

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Whoa, look at that weird shit a swing panorama does to moving cars…

On Thursday, I filled nearly the whole day with Panels. Meeting and talking to creators is one of my favourite part of comic conventions, but unfortunately oh so many of the creators that I would’ve loved to hang out with (Becky Cloonan, Faith Erin Hicks, Brandon Graham, Karl Kerschl, Chris Bachalo, Amy Reeder, etc etc) were skipping San Diego. So I made sure to study the panel list extra closely, and made a pretty tight schedule to fill:
11:00-12:00 Behind the Pages with David Aja
12:00-13:00 Editing Comics with the Oni Press Editorial
13:00-14:00 Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way
(14:00-15:00 Image Comics: Where Creators Own the Mainstream)
15:00-16:00 Powers: Ordinary Heroes, Extraordinary Possibilities: A Deeper Look at the Hit PlayStation Series
17:00-18:00 Making a Living in Manga: Japan Creators, Editors Talk

I actually ended up walking out halfway through the Marvel panel and skipping the Image one, because I absolutely wanted to be in the Powers one — I’d read the first few arcs right when they came out, and really enjoyed the show — and I knew how crazy the lines for anything movie- or TV related were. I ended up comfortably reaching the room in time for the panel before Powers, which turned out to be The Last Ship, a post-apocalyptic Navy show I hadn’t heard of. They name-dropped the Navy at every chance and dealt out a few “Thank you for your service” es, so the crowd was pleased. (the clip they showed was unfortunately rather bland)

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Susan Heyward was totally checking me out.

Anyway, Powers was fun. I’d met Bendis once at SDCC 2001, which I believe is when the series had just started, so it was cool to see him again (even if I didn’t get a chance to say hi). they didn’t have Sharlto Copley on stage, but honestly Susan Heyward is way cooler anyway, and they announced that one of my favourite characters from the comics — Supershock — was going to be in season 2. I’d lined up to ask a question (and get some free swag), but unfortunately too late to make the cut.

The Making a Living in Manga panel was a first for me: I was actually on stage for this one!

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Deb Aoki had asked me along with my friends Makoto Nishi, Philip Tan, Akihide Yanagi, and manga artist Kamome Shirahama (who brought an amazing fan art book) and agent/translator Yukari Shiina to talk about our experiences with the manga industry in Japan. I interpreted for Makoto, and chipped in some of my experiences with doujinshi events and some random publishing facts.
I feel we might’ve spent a little too much time on comiket and doujinshi, but apart from that I think it was a pretty balanced panel about the work of manga artists both Japanese and foreign, viewed from almost all possible angles. I’m hoping there will be a transcript or recording made available later on that I can share.

I started Friday with another panel: Marvel’s Secret Wars, where I ended up asking two questions, annoying the heck out of Tom Brevoort and John Hickman… Quoth CBR:

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I actually got applause from the audience for that one. Plenty of unhappy X-Men/FF fans there…

After the Marvel panel, DC took over the room with the big Geoff Johns/Dan Didio one-on-one talk. I don’t read a lot of DC these days, with exceptions such as Gotham Academy, but I did enjoy some of Johns’ stuff (Blackest Night), so I stuck around and watched it with my friend Sen (who should have a Shazam book at DC aaaaany day now).
It actually turned out to be a really good time. Both of them, and Didio in particular, seemed like pretty cool dudes who cared a lot about what they’re creating. I’m glad I watched this panel, as I actually ended up meeting both of them again when we got the DC office tour on Tuesday.

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Didio mentioned he had been looking forward to this panel for years.

And that was it with the panels for a bit, I spent the afternoon cruising the floor, but did manage to get a spot in line for a signing of the Batgirl team, who I think are all fantastic people, so it was great to meet them.
The day was rounded out by a fantastic deep-dish pizza dinner with Philip, his wife, and his agent, after which we completely collapsed.

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The next morning, I woke up to a tweet from Faith Erin Hicks, saying:

Hoo boy, would I have hated myself if I’d missed that. So that was my first order of the day! I got there half an hour early, there were already 10 people in line, but amazingly First Second was giving away 50 of the books. Which were actually properly bound, nice books, and given that this is one of my most looked-forward-to books of the year (2016!) I was suddenly extremely happy I’d attended SDCC!

I can die happily now.

A post shared by Phil Knall (@philknall) on

 

My main order of the day, however, was a signing by illustrator legend Akiman (who created a lot of the classic Street Fighter II characters) at Udon. It was sort of my reimbursal for Udon getting me into the show. I had no idea what to expect, how much conversation there would be with the fans, etc, so I was super nervous. Luckily, Akiman and I have some friends in common (such as cosplayer Iiniku Ushijima, who accompanied him), so at least he knew who I was.
It was an overwhelming experience — apparently 200 fans had lined up and purchased the $50+ limited edition book that served as the ticket to the signing. The line was so long we repeatedly got issues with security, and had to find ways to speed up the process. Hope the fans weren’t too inconvenienced, we did try to make as much time for everyone as possible. I think Akiman was thrilled to see the fans bringing vintage games or toys, and just the overall excitement about meeting him.

Weekly Famitsu had an article about the signing online, which was pretty cool!

Weekly Famitsu had an article about the signing online, which was pretty cool!

I had actually previously obtained a ticket for a signing of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s, which overlapped with this one, so I was super bummed… Thankfully, the Udon guys arranged for him to stop by the booth just before the Akiman signing, so I finally got to meet him! I forgot to take a picture together with the two of them, I am just sooo bad with selfie culture. Huge missed opportunity 🙁

Fortunately, I found some other creators to take pictures with that day: Adam Warren, who was signing at the Udon booth, and was super cool to talk to (He gave me the honor of taking home one of my TCOM books!), and Bengal, who was signing at the Magnetic Press booth. We’d been in contact about some unrelated stuff, so it was great to get to say hi!

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I got Bengal to draw me a Batgirl, so that was super cool. Also, I really regret not cutting my hair before the trip.

Last but not least, I caught up with Christopher Butcher, who for the first time was not with us in the Udon booth, but had a corner of the Drawn & Quarterly booth — which also gave me some hands-on time with the Eisner Award they’d won for Showa!

(I faintly recall making that same comment two years ago, after holding Faith’s Eisner… I’m horrible)
I also stopped by the BOOM! booth to pick up a The Spire variant cover (if you haven’t read it, you are seriously missing out. It is incredibly good), and congratulate one of the Lumberjanes creators (probably? I’d never met them before) on their many Eisners. I’ve only just started to read it (I always meant to! Also Nimona), but it’s bonkers and colorful and an absolute delight.

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Much like everyone else, I was getting a bit tired by Sunday. The crowds seemed even crazier than Saturday (last-minute shopping?), so I took it slow and just wandered about for the most part. I hadn’t managed to meet up with old internet acquaintances Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen, creators of the fantastic The Wicked + The Divine, so I decided to try and get into their signing, but barely an hour in Image was all out of tickets. They told me there might be a chance if I came back half an hour after the signing started, so I did… and there was a huuuge line. They hadn’t capped it, but after a while an Image employee came back to tell us we would have to give up because Kieron was up for a panel. About 5 of us (I’d befriended a store owner and a girl who’d started reading comics because of Jamie and Kieron’s work) decided to wait it out, and lo and behold: we got in! Aaaand that is why Kieron was late for the Image panel afterward, sorry guys!

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Said Image panel was the last thing I really did at Comic-Con. It featured a good selection of writers and artists whose work I enjoy — Ivan Brandon (Drifter), Dustin Nguyen (Descender), Kurtis Weibe (Rat Queens), Jim Zub (Wayward), Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose), and Kieron Gillen. Apart from stuff about their current projects, they talked about what what got them their first comics jobs (Tula started out as a convention organizer, and attending pros noticed her art online; Jim worked in animation and did a net comic that got noticed; Kurtis pitched to folks at comic-con and got rejected 50-60 times before landing a gig; Dustin carried samples around cons until a Wildstorm editor noticed him; Ivan was friends with Michael Oeming, who asked him to write a script for an idea he’d had), and adapting to working with different artists (Kieron: “I analyze the artist’s previous work to see what kind of script works for them — so for Tula, I basically just ripped off what Warren did on Supreme: Blue Rose” (slightly paraphrased)). Kieron mentioned some fun “soft connections” between WicDiv and Phonogram, which I definitely need to go back and find now.

Some of the amazing cosplay!

Some of the amazing cosplay!

Finally, in the very last hour of the show, I found Bill Sienkiewicz’s booth and got a sketch from him! Of course it’s Warlock. What else would you ask Bill Sienkiewicz for 😉
Given his professional status and price his art commands, I was expecting a haughty, cold welcome, but he turned out to be the nicest guy! Comics just never fail to surprise me with how nice pros are.

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I managed to lose a different sketch that had been wedged into the same sketchbook at his table, and Bill was so kind as to put it up on his facebook and twitter to try and find me… Another testament to what a nice guy he is!

And that was it, Comic-con closed with the usual announcement and applause, and we made our way towards the exit. On the way, we saw the news that Nintendo President Satoru Iwata had passed away at 55, which was a definite down note to end the event…

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Fortunately, we still had the Udon “victory dinner” to look forward to, where we downed a metric tonne of Bucca di Beppo, and I had some more time to talk to Akiman and the other guys. A great time was had by all!

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And that was my San Diego Comic-Con 2015. Much has been said about Comic-Con’s shift in content, about it not being the same anymore, etc, but yet again, even as someone purely there for the comics, I had the best of times. I was able to meet up with a lot of people, acquaintances both old and new, had a great time watching (and talking at!) panels, and even did a little shopping. It’s just a fantastic, crazy place to be in.

I’m contemplating going to Emerald City Comic Con next year, which seems to get a super good rep from artists as well as fans.. But that’s all up in the air for now.
For now, I’m gearing up for next month’s Comiket and Comitia, where I will be selling my TCOM doujinshi! I have added some preview PDFs to my Making of post, make sure to check them out!

Comiket Special 6 – Otaku Summit 2015

This weekend brought with it the 6th Comiket Special, also titled “Otaku Summit.” Comiket Special is an event held every 5 years, in addition to the bi-annual regular Comic Market, and, contrary to the regular events, has an overarching theme. This time around, recognizing the growing international participation in the Comiket events, the organizers worked with the organizers of several overseas anime- and cosplay-themed conventions to put up a joint display for the Japanese fans. In reality, this was executed via booths much like the “corporate” part of a regular Comiket, and reminded me very much of the booths that schools and smaller companies put up at Tokyo Game Show. Which is in the same venue, so it’s not all that surprising.

The venue, unlike the regular Comic Market events, was at Makuhari Messe. This is actually rather significant, because it makes the Otaku Summit the first time a Comiket event has been held since the infamous “Makuhari banishment incident” in 1991, when the venue’s operators revoked the permission to use it’s facilities on extremely short notice. Comic Market has ever since been held at Tokyo Big Sight, which is scheduled to be part of the 2020 Olympic plan, and might not be available for years in order to adapt the facilities. So the Comiket Organizing Committee is short-pressed to come up with an alternative venue, and Makuhari is the only one in the area that’s comparable in size.

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View of the “Otaku Expo” portion of the event

 

Otaku Summit was free to get into – for the “Comiket Special” sales and exhibition area you were supposed to purchase a catalog (which is your “ticket” for most shows of this type) for 1,000 Yen. I can only assume the border between these two areas was the white wall visible in the picture above, because nobody asked me for my catalog even once on at least 3 trips back and forth. In all, the event used 5 halls of the 11 available, a little larger than Comitia but nowhere near as huge as Comiket. It was also much less densely laid out than the usual shows.

I got there at around 1:30pm, which is rather late considering that most Japanese comic events close at 4 (because they need to be out of the venue before 6), so I did not expect too much congestion.. Even so, I was a bit taken aback by how thin the crowd was. Either it wasn’t very well publicized (there were no signs outside the venue, so you’d never find it if you weren’t looking for it), or the theme just didn’t appeal to people a lot. Which is a shame, especially considering that a good portion of the event was completely free.

The first section of the show floor, the “Otaku Expo” (too many names for one event!), started with an exhibition celebrating the 40-year history of Comic Market. This was really, really cool to see. The exibition had reproduction of nearly all of the catalog covers, official bags, leaflets, and other goodies, and an extensive (even for statistics-obsessed Japan, this was impressive!) history description spanning 14 A0 (?) sized panels of text. Someone better extend the Comiket Wikipedia page to keep up!

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The Comiket History exhibition was super cool to see.

This was some intriguing and fun stuff, so I uploaded a lot of these to a Flickr album check them out if you want to see more of the history panels in particular.

Possibly the most complete collection of Comiket catalogs in existence?

Possibly the most complete collection of Comiket catalogs in existence?

Also in the Otaku Expo were a surprising amount of regional tourism boards, trying to make their towns appealing to otaku tourism with original anime-style “image characters,” or tie-ups with anime series set in the area. This has been a noticeable trend: LovePlus fans traveling to Atami with their virtual girlfriends, Lucky Star fans doing their new years’ prayers at Washinomiya shrine, etc.
Notable tourism exhibitors at Otaku Summit were the famous Fushimi Inari shrine, Kanda Matsuri, and Soccer team Kawasaki Frontale in a joint booth with Doujinshi printing agency Neko no Shippo.

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Kawasaki Frontale & Neko no Shippo booth

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A girl in Miko costume distributing flyers for Kanda Matsuri

I ended up getting a souvenir bag of various forms of Natto from Mito – Not something I expected to bring home from Comiket!

Past these tourism board booths, I finally found the international Otaku event booths. Overseas events and schools often have these showcases at Tokyo Gameshow, but I don’t believe I have ever seen them at a Doujinshi event – Barring Kaigai Manga Festa, obviously. 10-odd events from Rome to Thailand were exhibiting, so if you’ve ever been to an anime con overseas, there might be some familiar faces here!

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Anime North and Sakura-Con were among the names I recognized.

 

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As a native Austrian, I was delighted to see AniNite represented! Unfortunately, they didn’t have a booth and I couldn’t locate any of their staff 🙁

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The Kaigai Manga Festa booth featured video of their panel discussions, as well as works from their past guests. The organizers mentioned they would be announcing the date for this year’s Festa very soon!

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Each of the exhibiting con organizers was given some time to talk about their event – I saw some of the Toho Project related presentation.

The next area was the corporate booths – very much what I have come to expect from the top floor at Comiket, however the crowds were much more thin (I’m tempted to say it was half empty). As usual, these were present more for goods shopping than anything else, but it was nice to look at them without being shoved past for once.

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One of the many apparel and goods shops. Not having half of the lineup sold out by 2pm is very uncommon, once again attesting to the poor attendance.

Goodsmile Company's Nendroid display, commemorating their 500th figure in the series, was rather impressive!

Goodsmile Company’s Nendroid display, commemorating their 500th figure in the series, was rather impressive!

Finally, across an aisle reserved for cosplay, there was the more conventional Comiket part of the event the rows of fold-up tables occupied by doujinshi of all sorts, cosplay DVDs, crafts, photobooks… A lot of the more popular anime/manga properties had been moved to the second day, so the Otaku Summit had more of the crafts and reality based (railway paraphernalia, history, etc), as well as SciFi/Tokusatsu. As you can see in the pictures, the layout was more spacious than usual, making it feel much less crowded.

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The Doujin and craft area of the event.

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Medieval swordplay!

Medieval swordplay!

Model Trains!

Model Trains!

Truth be told, I found this part of the show a bit lackluster, there weren’t a lot of Doujinshi available, and the show lacked the usual bustle Comiket normally has. I expect that a lot of that might have shifted to Sunday, which also hosted the Kuroket, a convention solely devoted to Kuroko no Basket.
However, the Otaku Expo part of Saturday’s show was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had at a Comiket event. I hope they keep this kind of thing up, and I’m looking forward to the next Comiket Special!

International Manga Festival 2014 & Publishing a doujinshi in Japan

As I mentioned last week, I helped out my friend Philip Tan in getting a book printed in time for International Manga Festival. I figured it might be interesting for doujinshi fans or aspiring creators to hear how it happened, so here’s a little writeup.

With thousands of publications being printed and sold, Comic Market and similar events are big business for printing agencies, and several of them have specialized in this type of book. There’s plenty of on-demand printers that will get the book to you within 4 business days, at extremely reasonable rates. We chose to go with Taiyou Shuppan, which offers packaged deals at set rates, each with a few different paper or finish options (matte or glossy, coated paper or newsprint, a few weight options, etc). Even if you don’t know anything about printing or paper material, going with the recommendations will produce a nice book unproblematically.

We opted for the “Sun Bazaar PP set”, with a 220kg matte coated 4-colour cover, and 90kg black&white interiors. The inside cover pages are usually blank in doujinshi. Possible page count runs from 12 to 300 pages (including covers), we went with 34 (9 story pages+21 sketch pages).
Printers generally accept almost every file format you’d normally use – in our case, they list Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Corel Painter, Comic Studio (Manga Studio), Comic Works, and PDF.
For illustrator data, I was required to create outlines for all text, flatten layers, embed images and save as eps… But I didn’t check the instructions well enough so I didn’t embed the pictures, left the layers in, and handed it in as ai files. Guess what, they accepted the data anyway. They also remarked that we should’ve numbered the pages as they would not be able to guarantee page order (remedied by writing the numbers on a printout), and helped us add a little bleed to the cover, since Philip had signed it to the far left, in the bleed area.

Philip works analog, so I had him scan the images at 600dpi at the intended print size, which we’d decided on B5 (182 × 257mm). Doujinshi are usually in B5 or A5, which is 148 × 210mm. Philip wanted the option to go edge-to-edge with his art, so we added 3mm each as bleed (188 × 263 mm in total).

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I decided to letter the book in illustrator, since it helps being able to edit and resize without making the lines fuzzy or screwing things up. Scott McCloud ‘s tutorial on lettering in illustrator gave me a great entry point into the process, and most of the balloons are done in the way Scott suggests (except the ones for the villain, which felt like they needed a different brush stroke). Unfortunately I couldn’t find good custom fonts in time, so that is definitely something to keep in mind for the next one.

Note that dialogue is usually lettered vertically in Japanese, and right to left. It helps to leave a bit of additional vertical space when laying out the page. Additionally, the art or dialogue should not go too close to the “throat” of the book, so I tried to keep at least 1cm free from the inside edges. We had the book square bound (no staples), so this was extra important. (I got very, very close to failing to do this)

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Doujinshi are also expected to have a section for the small print at the very end of the book, including contact info (twitter handles or websites are fine for this), copyright declaration, and (usually) the name of the printers. We included a line that says “do not reproduce without permission,” as well as a thank you message to the reader, Philip’s wife, and, well, me for helping get it done.

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The printers specialized in doujinshi are extremely accommodating to artists’ needs. The deadline for data was on Tuesday morning, or even afternoon if delivered in person. Books are then scheduled to be delivered directly to the event, an immense perk of using a doujinshi-specialized printer! Payment is usually done via bank transfer, but recently a lot of places have started accepting credit cards (the one we used accepts them if you show up in person, which was very practical).

When we arrived at the venue around 10am (about an hour before the event kicked off), the books had been safely delivered directly to our booth, and were waiting beneath our table. Amazingly efficient!

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If we’d opted for another printer, we would’ve had the options of carrying them ourselves (a lot of people do this with a simple wheel carrier, kind of like a suitcase without the shell), or having them sent to the temporary Yamato station at the venue – be warned, there is always a long line for this one.

For Comitia and Comiket, creators are required to hand in a sample of each book, and have it checked for content (mostly important for pornographic books). International Manga Festival does not have this requirement, so we were set to sell it right away.

Contrary to Comiket or Comitia, International Manga Festival is similar to a American or European convention. There’s plenty of publisher and retailer booths, a stage featuring panel discussions, and an “artist’s alley” area for individual artists. This area consists of plain tables for the artists to put their wares on, just like Comitia (which IMF is held in conjunction with).

Here’s a great video on International Manga Festival. I’m in there for about a second, see if you can spot me!

Our table was shared with a few other artists invited by Akihide Yanagi’s Amecomi Night, so there were some other products on the table, and signings scheduled (which enabled Philip to take some time off and wander the hall).

People started lining up to get Philip’s book right away, and there was a pretty impressive line as soon as they noticed he was also doing sketches for anyone buying the book. Setting rules for this might be a good idea before setting up.

Comitia/International Manga Festival wraps up at 4pm (yes, it’s only 5 hours), and teardown occurs incredibly fast and efficiently. You take your stuff off the table, move out, and an hour later, the hall is completely cleared out. We had a decent amount of books left, so I packed them back into one of the boxes and carried it out to the temporary Yamato station. They have shipping slips ready, but my advice would be to grab one in the morning and have it already filled out, which would enable you to skip the line for the slips after the event is over and EVERYONE needs one.

We still have some of these books left, so I am going to try to get them up for sale on Comic Zin and other doujinshi stores. I’ll make sure to put together another post about that once it’s done!
As always, make sure to let me know if you have questions, and make sure to hit the like or reblog button if you liked this post 🙂

Comitia time!

Last week, I wrote about Comiket, Japan’s largest doujinshi market.

Believe it or not, this week, a mere two weeks after Comiket, we’re having another similar event. It’s called Comitia, and unlike Comiket, this one is all about original books and items, no commercially available properties allowed!

This year is the 30th anniversary of the event, and this week’s is Comitia #109. It’s held in the same venue as Comiket, on a smaller scale, and of course there’s going to be a lot of the same people and even books, but it’s all original and that’s awesome! I actually like this more than I do Comiket.

I’m going to have very little time at Comitia this year, so I decided to actually get the catalog (“Tia Magazine”) in advance and try to prepare. Here’s what it looks like:

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It’s a flipbook, this side being a magazine-style layout with a few essays and introductions of a few notable books, and the other side being the actual catalog. By the way, the catalog actually acts as the ticket to the show, and unlike Comiket they do check for that.

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The first thing on the catalog side is the floor map, I’ve translated the categories so you can get an idea of what’s on display: (click to enlarge)

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(JUNE, by the way, is the “official” term for Boys’ Love, or male x male romance books)

After that, an introduction to the event (by way of a manga from artist Kumichou), an overwhelming index list of all participating circles and their booth no., an intro of which editors are available in the review area, ads for books and seminars being held at Comitia, intro to exhibiting companies (they get little booths at the outskirts of the hall), and then of course 150 pages of….

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Yep, that’s all circles get to try and grab your attention! I’m going to put a few hours into this and see if I can figure this out! I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ll leave you with this gem I found in the catalog at lunch. Definitely going to have to check this book out.

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Comic Market 86

Last weekend, I spent a few hours at the famous Comic Market. It’s a huge, confusing event, but it can be a lot of fun, so I decided to write up a little post about what I know, so you can skip some of the figuring-it-out stage if you intend to visit, or just imagine you were there.
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Comic Market, abbreviated Comiket or コミケin Japanese, is Japan’s biggest comic convention. Calling it a convention, however, might create some confusion for people who are familiar with American or European comic cons… There is no big, elaborate publisher booths, panels, or signings with creators.
In fact, the japanese term for this type of event is 即売会, which loosely translates into “on-the-spot sale meet.”
The entire event is essentially what is known at conventions outside Japan as artist’s alley. Exhibitors attend it mainly to sell their doujinshi, amongst some other goods and apparel.
doujinshi sold at Comiket can be anything from a few copies stapled together, to full blown artbooks, but the vast majority are leaflets of about 30 pages or so, with a full color cover and black & white inside pages, in A5 or B5 size.
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This is my haul from Sunday. The small (A5) books in the upper left, which amazingly have about 80 pages, cost 400 yen, or about $4. The bigger (B5) ones with about 30 pages were still only 500, and the one in the top right, which has full-color insides, was 1,000 Yen. These B5 books are from Serial Experiments Lain and Haibane Renmei creator ABe Yoshitoshi, some samples from the insides are up on his Pixiv account if you want to check them out.
There’s a lot of on-demand printing services that are very easy to use and dirt cheap. Depending on the paper quality and amount of copies you produce, it’s entirely possible to make a beautiful 30+ page book for not much more than 100 Yen per book.
Some relatively unknown creators I talked to mentioned they had done a print run of about 200 copies, while superstar creator Akamatsu Ken of Love Hina and Negima! fame mentioned selling about 8,000 copies before 1pm.
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Comiket is held at Tokyo Big Sight, a huge convention hall with an exhibition space of 80,660 square meters (868,217 square foot) For comparison, the dealer floor at San Diego Comic-Con is 460,000 square feet = 42,700sqm. It’s held twice a year, typically in August and December
This year’s summer Comiket claims to have had 550,000 visitors. I’m not entirely sure how they count that, since there are no tickets (just gigantic open gates), and rumor has it they keep the numbers artificially low to avoid problems with fire protection law and the like. Either way, it was a madhouse.
An official report said there were over 10,000 people camped out overnight for the first day this year.
But of course it wouldn’t be a convention without exhibitors – this year, the official Comiket publicity twitter account reported around 35,000 circles were attending. That’s mindblowing, considering that the chance for winning the attendance lottery is supposed to be around 50-70%.
What’s a circle, you ask? Circle, in this context, refers to a group of people who share a passion for a subject (such as an anime series or a videogame), enough to band together and produce doujinshi together.
As you might have heard, the term doujinshi, spelled 同人誌 in Japanese, literally translates into “same people magazine.” For years, I just assumed that this referred to a book featuring characters from an established property (thus the “same people”). But then I found out that there’s lots and lots of original properties being told in the same format, and they’re also called doujinshi. So I put the question to Twitter, and one of my Japanese acquaintances explained that the “same people” doesn’t refer to the characters, but the people comprising the circle, who share the same interests. Mind blown!
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Each booth, or “space” as it’s called at Comiket, comes with a narrow table, and two chairs. Most exhibitors do little to spice up their booth, some add a table cloth, maybe a little standee banner, but nothing too fancy. Obviously, the books are the main attraction here.
There is very little aggressive selling. Very few people will ask you to take a look at their books, and asking someone to buy is actively discouraged.
Which brings up the question, how the hell do you find anything in this huge place, when there’s so little clues?
Obviously it’s easier if you know a creator that you want to go visit. They’ll have announcement up on their blogs, Twitter, or Pixiv (the Japanese equivalent of Deviantart). A lot will even change their Twitter handle to include the booth number, like so: 安倍吉俊/3日目東A41a,b “Abe Yoshitoshi, 3rd day, East A41a,b.” So Abe Yoshitoshi can be found on the 3rd day of the event, in the East hall, A41 a and b. Note that while the event is 3 days, each circle is only represented on one of them.
What if you’re not looking for a specific creator, but a genre, for example, say, a Naruto fanbook? The halls are divided by genre, 42 rough categories, and similar books will usually be grouped together. The category for Naruto and other Shounen Jump books will be FC(少年).
So you know the category now, and if you’re only there for one category you might as well just go to that area of the event and browse. But say you want to narrow it down a little more. There is a catalog available before the event, sold at book- and anime stores etc. for about 2000 Yen. As you can probably imagine from having seen manga magazines, the catalog is pretty close in dimensions to a phone book. And the insides look like this:
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Yeesh. This is a page in the Kancolle section, featuring doujinshi of the popular character Shimakaze. It has the row number (ソ, note that there will be alphabet, hiragana and katakana row numbers), and then a single image for every circle to present their visual style, with the booth number and circle name. That’s all the hints you get. If you find one that piques your interest, it can’t hurt googling the name and see if they have a twitter or Pixiv account which might feature some more samples of their work.
It’s a pretty daunting task.
Here’s a look at one of the halls’ floor plans:
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Notice how the “A” section is hugging the walls, with a broad-ish corridor between it and the rest of the tables? This is where the bigger, well-known circles get to exhibit. They tend to draw larger crowds, so they are positioned in ares where they can form lines (which usually extend out of the huge gates) without blocking the other exhibitors’ booths. The ends of the rows are similar, as they also offer more space and a clearer view of the booth.
As you can imagine, a lot of the Shimakaze books on the catalog page above are adult books, which is something that doujinshi are very commonly associated with. And rightly so, this is definitely a big part of Comiket’s wares.
But there is so much more to be found. Obviously there are other, non-adult themed fanfiction doujinshi, but there is also a ton of other content. A small list of things I discovered in my very cursory browsing of this year’s Comiket, after I was done checking out the creators I had planned in advance, directly from my twitter updates:
Travel essays, train photos, anti-TPP propaganda leaflets, screenplays… this is #comiket too. UFO magazines. Tons of them for the believers. Restaurant review booklets. Recipe collections. Flute playing instructions. Stickers. Charms. Papercraft. Handmade dolls. Handmade bags, purses and earrings. T-shirts. Rubber stamps. 
 
The above is from a span of about 20 minutes of my tweets. There is a vast amount of content to be found for all tastes, if you manage to find it in the limited amount of time available: Comiket opens at 10 and closes at 4pm. As I mentioned above, over 10,000 people spend the night in the parking lot overnight and flood the venue all at once, so even entering before noon is literally impossible.
I usually try to be there about 12:30 – 1pm. The crowds are still absolutely crazy, but there’s no wait to actually enter the venue, and it’s possible to navigate without getting squashed. Popular books start selling out around 2-3pm, at which point the exhibitors pack up and go home, so some research into what you plan to look at is a must.
Also, there’s two areas of the event that I haven’t touched upon: The commercial booths and cosplay areas. The commercial booths, 企業ブース in Japanese, are put up by publishers, anime companies and apparel/goods vendors.
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Unlike the publisher and TV booths at an american convention, there are no talkshows, meet-and-greets, or any activity other than sales here. All there is are limited edition goods (anything from printed tumblers to the notorious 抱き枕 – long pillows with a print of an anime character on them) to be bought, and people gladly line up for an hour to get to them. Honestly, even going up there isn’t worth it. There’s too many people, and very little to see.
The cosplay area(s), on the other hand, are a different story. There’s tons of really elaborate, great cosplay here, but the thing is that it’s separate from the dealer floor (aside from a select few people wandering around in costume, and a few aisles of cosplay photo books and DVDs being sold). The Comiket rules dictate that cosplayers need to change into their costumes on site (there are dressing rooms available), and cosplayers then pose for photographers in a roped-off area outside specifically reserved for that purpose. It’s huge, and there’s like 20 photographers with huge DSLRs crowding around each scantily clad girl, but I can tell you little else because I haven’t really bothered to go in myself. My understanding is that you actually have to get a permit on site to take pictures (a result of Japan’s rampant trend of taking unwanted pictures, and extreme protectiveness of ones portrait rights, and generally personal information). So I’ll leave that up to someone more in-the-know to describe.
That’s it! Pretty much all I know about Comiket! Let me know via Disqus or the Ask me feature in case there’s anything you want me to elaborate on. I’ll be happy to help!
(ported from my tumblr)