Sunday, December 31, 2006

Not the best way to start the new year...

We celebrated New Years Eve here last night in the traditional Japanese manner with Mutsumi's family. It was a lot food and fun... until I got violently ill from possible food poisoning at around 2:30AM. Me, Mutsumi and her brother all got sick. When my leg muscles started cramping up, I was convinced we were dying from fugu poisoning! Uggh!! We're all doing OK now as the worst has passed, but are trying to figure out what caused it as Mutsumi's mom and sister-in-law didn't get sick even though we all ate the same foods.

Not sure how much of the New Years meal her mom prepared we'll be able to enjoy now though. :(


Well, here we are. December 31st. New Years Eve. The last day of the year.

I'm usually not one to look back and get all reflective and emotional on the past 12 months, but 2006 was a pretty damn good year for me. X-Men Fairy Tales came out to critical acclaim and beat sales expectations. Ultimate Alliance became one of the best selling and best-reviewed video games of the year. My first creator-owned comic, DRAIN with Sana Takeda, was released. I got the chance to work with good friends like David Finch, Skottie Young, Paul Azaceta, Jon Luna, Tommy Ohtsuka and Kei Kobayashi, to name a few, on projects we couldn't be happier with. And I lined up a hell of a lot of new projects for 2007, which promises to be an even better year as I look ahead to the future.

So thank you to everyone who believed in me and supported me this past year. I couldn't have done it without the help of all my friends, family, fans, editors and everyone else who was there for me! I owe you all more than you could imagine for helping me make so many of my dreams a reality!


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Since a number of people e-mailed over...

...asking for a picture of the cover of the Hiroaki Samura artbook, here you go...

Pop Culture Crossover

I love it when different parts of popular culture cross over, and here's the latest example... Gundam Pocky.

Basically, it's just a Gundam model packed with a box of Pocky in a custom box, which isn't all that exciting, but there's a special variant version that has a different hand that can hold a Pocky, and it comes with original stickers that combine the Gundam and Pocky brand logos. Sorry for the blurry picture but this camera blows...

I opened up this one I bought and it's the special version!

And yes, it's for you, Tom.

My Morning Ritual

As most people who know me know, I'm a creature of habit, even when I come here to Japan. I fall back into patterns and rituals I've been following for years. Every monring when I get up, it's the same thing...

I drag my ass out of bed, pop on the computer and TV, then check e-mail and the net while catching up on the Japanese news. Then I get dressed and head out for my morning walk. I hit the local train station where they sell English newspapers and pick up the Japan Times and the Daily Yomiuri, which offer differing perspectives on the news. The Japan Times tends to be a more international paper, catering to English speakers from all over the world, while I find the Yomiuri to focus more on Japan and the States. I then hit one of the local convenience stores and buy a bottle or two of iced cafe au lait before heading over to my favorite bakery, L'Ours Blanc. There, I usally buy two things, one is a pretzel-like roll with pieces of spicy sausage in it, seen on the left in the picture, and the other is a longer bun stuffed with potato salad and peppered bacon. Both are out of this world!

I've been doing this same thing for about five years now which I was reminded of yesterday when I walked into the bakery for the first time since last year and this girl shouted, "I remember you!" in English. I quickly realized she wasn't singing along with Skid Row when she started pointing at me. "You come when big building in New York fall.", she continued. And then it hit me that she was talking about the time I started frequenting the bakery, right after it opened, shortly after 9/11. Mutsumi and I came to Japan about a week after the Twin Towers fell and this girl was working there back then. I guess her and I used to speak on a daily basis when she sold me my breakfast as she even remembered I worked in comics. She explained she's been studying English for the last three years but doesn't get the chance to speak with too many foreigners, so I ended up helping her practice for about 20 minutes yesterday. Turns out she's a big movie fan and can't wait for the release of Spider-Man 3 next year.

I got a free cake out of the deal.


It's 7:30 AM and the apartment already reeks of fish. My mother-in-law got up early to get a jump on all the New Years cooking and decided to start with the "bodara" fish. Not that I don't like fish, but it's not the greatest scent to have flood your senses when you open your eyes...

Go Gaijin

Seems like my bud Takeshi Miyazawa is also having some luck breaking into the Japanese manga market!

He notes an increasing awareness for international creators here in Japan as well.


Two people have already e-mailed over that they're surprised I've been here a day and haven't been to a comic shop yet. Well, so as not to disappoint anyone, I went manga shopping today. However, I was having my glasses fixed and couldn't see too well, so I ended up just popping in for a quick look around. I did buy one thing though, Hiroaki Samura's new artbook, Hito De Nashi No Koi, or The Love of the Brute, which is its given English title.

Now Hiroaki Samura is probably one of my top three favorite artists in the world. Blade of the Immortal and Ohikoshi are manga masterpieces in my book. So needless to say, I was psyched as hell to find this artbook. However, when I opened it up and started reading it, my jaw dropped. It's a collection of hardcore bondage and S&M art. And when I say "hardcore", I mean HARD. I like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for sex and violence, but the imagery in this book is pretty freaking distrubing. It's downright sick and twisted, to be honest, taking things to the point I worry about the mind that came up with this stuff. The look of shock on my face must have been pretty apparent as Mutsumi asked what I was reading and I didn't want to show her.

Usually I would be the first person to push Samura's work on anyone, but while the art in this collection is quite beautiful, the subject matter makes me hesitate recommending this to anyone. Purchase at your own risk.

Back from some holiday shopping

Kobe Beef... Check out the marblization of that fat!

Fugu... Choose carefully or it may kill you!

O-Toro... Top of the line tuna!

As my mother-in-law says, I have expensive taste! :)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Pic of the Day

Found this at the local convenience store yesterday, "In Case of Emergency" water...

I guess the fact that it comes in a can wasn't a topic of discussion at the design and marketing meetings.

Since folks have been asking...

The cats are fine. I dropped Lotto and Clyde off in CT at my parents place before I took off. They're starting to like it there and can finally relax a little in the oudoors...

Willie's gotta keep his guard up though...

Back In Action!

I made it. 25 hours door-to-door. Uggh!

The flight was uneventful. I got moved to an exit row so I had leg room the whole time, which is key on a 14 hour flight. I was offered a standby upgrade which I almost took. The deal was I had to give up my economy seat on the flight I was booked on in exchange for the chance to fly first class that day. However, if the plane ended up filling up I would have to wait a day in Detroit and fly out he next day, guaranteed a seat in first class. I thought about it, but really just wanted to get Japan. Then a friend also reminded me that Detroit is a bitch of an airport to get out of to begin with and that a killer snowstorm was about to hit the Midwest, so I ended up declining.

I slept most of the flight. They showed five movies, but I had no interest in Lassie, The Lake House, Super Ex-Girlfriend or whatever other two winners they showed. Only had one meal, chicken in BBQ cream sauce, which wasn’t worth waking up for.

Immigration, baggage claim and customs in Osaka were a breeze this year. I didn't get asked one single question, they just waved me through. Took a bus from the airport to Kobe where Mutsumi met me. Reunited and it feels so good!

My mother-in-law seemed happy to see me. She always makes the same joke about me looking like I’ve lost weight, where Mutsumi then chimes in that she should stop being nice to me and my fat ass. She liked the chocolates and Zabars’s coffee I brought for her.

I was starving, so after a quick shower, we headed out to my favorite restaurant, Aidoru, which is where I’d have my last meal before I died if I had a choice. I’ve been going to this place for the last 15 years and know the mother and daughter that run it very well. They were excited to see me as it’d been about a year since my last visit. They love the fact that they can tell other customers that they’re so popular they have customers who come all the way from New York just to eat at their shop. It’s a small okonomiyaki place, which some people call Japanese pancakes, but basically it’s a big open grill where they cook up meats and noodles and all kinds of different foods. Only about 10 people can fit in the joint and you all sit around the counter and talk as you eat. I ordered my usual favorites: grilled octopus and squid legs in garlic and oil, peppered chicken wings, pork with kimchi, fried chicken gizzards, a sinew omelette, beef ribs in spicy sauce, yakisoba, grilled sliced garlic in butter, and of course, three ice cold Kirin drafts in these huge frosted mugs. Pics soon…

My brother and sister-in-law stopped by to say hello and it was nice to see them. My brother-in-law just got promoted and transferred, so he’s up in Ibaragi near Tokyo now but home for the holidays. He bought a nice, new BMW SUV which he was proud to show off. Then we went home, unpacked, checked my e-mail and crashed. It’s now 5:15AM and I can't sleep.

So that’s my first update. Could I be any more boring?

Shots From A Plane

Taken somewhere way the hell up North, four hours outside of Osaka...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Detroit Rock City

So here I am in Detroit. I'm halfway through a six hour layover on my way to Osaka. Yes, it's that time of year again... I'm making my annual pilgrimage to Japan. It sucks I can only really find the time to go once a year these days. I used to love going 4 or 5 times a year. You get used to the flights and it's always a good time over there.

This time around, I'll be visiting family over the New Years holiday for the first week, hitting a spa with Mutsumi for a few days after that, then it's off to Tokyo for business. But when you work in comics, business is really pleasure.

I'm actually really excited for the Tokyo part of the trip this time as there are some very interesting opportunities afoot. A recently approved project for a major U.S. publisher has put me in contact with some big name manga-ka and I'm going to meet with these artists whose work I've admired for years! The list would surprise even the most jaded manga fan! And maybe even more exciting is the fact that I've been asked to visit one of the biggest Japanese manga publishers to actually pitch a few series!! An extremely globally-minded editor recently reached out and is actively looking to bring more internartional creators into the manga market in Japan, similar to some of the attempts that were made in the 90s. At first I thought he might be kidding, or maybe just humoring me, but after a few initial spitballing sessions, I've been asked to come in and present my ideas to the entire editorial group at one of the main monthly mags. I'm not sure what will come of it, but even being let through the doors to meet with these folks is an honor for me.

From what I understand, the Japanese editors have been keeping more of an eye on the whole "global manga" movement happening here and in Europe these days. It seems they're not really interested in licensing titles that have already been published elsewhere for reprint in Japanese, but are up for taking a shot at it on their own by teaming foreign creators with Japanese artists for more of a "fusion manga" program. I know one other non-Japanese writer who's already had his story outline approved and is in the layout stages with his Japanese artist now. Fingers crossed that maybe I'll be one of the next ones...

I'll also be throwing my third annual Chesterfest Tokyo bash in the beginning of January, so e-mail me if you'll be in town and would like to attend.

And much like last year, I'll be doing my best to blog daily while I'm there, to give you a glimpse into my time in Japan as I go about my days. Expect goofy pictures and personal updates, as well as manga and anime news and gossip.

There's much more to come from me...

Friday, December 08, 2006

More Marvel Fairy Tales Coming...

I wasn't expecting Marvel to announce one, much less both of these new series this early, but Editor Molly Lazer talks about two new projects she's working on with yours truly, Spider-Man Fairy Tales, launching in May 2007, and Avengers Fairy Tales, coming after that next fall. You can read all about them and check out some preview art here...

This time around we'll be working to adapt a few more modern fairy tales with the Marvel twist, like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Wizard fo Oz, Cinderella, Pincocchio, and a few more. The artistic line-up is incredible, but you'll have to wait for more details on that, I'm afraid. Sorry.

However, I'd like to post a clean version of the incredible cover to the first Avengers Fairy Tales issue that Claire Wendling did here, so you can see it without all the cover guidelines pasted on it. Her work is simply breathtaking...


Interior art will be done by the equally amazing Joao Lemos. Check out his Lost Boys...


International sensation Ricardo Tercio will be providing the art for the first issue of Spider-Man Fairy Tales...