Comic Picks By The Glick

I went to the Dark Horse Panel at Anime Expo…

July 8, 2013

After years of not going to North America’s largest anime convention, I dropped by for a day yesterday after some friends said they were going and wanted to know if I’d be interested.  I figured that regardless of how the day went, it’d be worth it to hang out with them regardless of how my con experience was.  Save for this panel, the short version is that I’m glad they were there.  In stark contrast to everything that I/we tried to check out at the con, the Dark Horse panel wasn’t completely packed and even though I lined up for it, I could’ve gotten in if I’d shown up when the panel was scheduled to start.  As for the panel itself, it wasn’t bad and I did get some interesting tidbits from one of their editors afterwards.

The panel was led by Carl Horn with editor Philip Simon (“Blade of the Immortal,” “Eden!  It’s An Endless World” amongst others), Ed Chavez of Vertical, and Charles Browenstein of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund seated next to him.  As this is Dark Horse’s 25th anniversary in publishing manga, the majority of the panel was a look back at their history in that regard.  Horn’s slideshow was a very comprehensive look through the company’s manga history, starting off with their earliest efforts, “Godzilla” and “Outlanders,” all the way up to... “Oreimo,” a.k.a. “My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute.”  There were lots of interesting facts along the way, like how their first manga collection, of the aforementioned “Outlanders,” didn’t have a barcode or ISBN number since it was only stocked in comic shops and they didn’t use those back then.  Other, “lost” series that were serialized in single issue form, such as Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s “Rebel Sword,” and Mamoru Oshii’s “Hellhounds:  Panzer Corps,” were also mentioned and give me a reason to get back on Ebay one of these days (or just see if someone has scanned them online).

It was fun looking back and Horn and Simon kept things interesting with their commentary and anecdotes.  Their discussion of future projects didn’t have a whole lot of new information, though there were a few new tidbits.  “New Lone Wolf and Cub” and the “Hatsune Miku” anthology are still slated for next year, though Kazuo Koike (creator and writer of “Lone Wolf and Cub”) will be attending Comic-Con in a little over a week.  Though I gave up on “Oh My Goddess!” a while back, vol. 45 will contain tributes to the late Toren Smith, who brought the manga over here, and that at least makes me want to open up a copy of it to read them if I see it around.  “Blade of the Immortal” will also be wrapping up with vol. 31 as their serialization of the Japanese edition is off by one volume.  “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” vol. 14 is still slated for November, and they also played us a promo clip that the Japanese publisher put together for the series.  Though it was cool to see something like this done for such a low-profile title, the clip itself tried for a horror vibe without really acknowledging the bizarre humor that also defines the series.  Also “The Shinji Ikari Raising Project” will be back in December with vol. 13.

Though I was wondering what Browenstein and Chavez were doing up there for a good portion of the panel, it was eventually revealed that they were there for the new “CBLDF Presents Manga” book.  The publication was made in order to fight ignorance and censorship of manga which is more of a threat than you’d think for the medium at this time.  It features contributions from librarians, publishers, editors (including Chavez), and more about what manga is and many of the terms that are associated with it.  It’s a great idea on their part and I hope that the book gets circulated to the right people, particularly customs officials in Canada, to let them know that manga does not equal porn.

Then things opened up for Q&A and I asked them the first question.  Now, if you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve been VERY critical of Dark Horse’s publishing efforts when it comes to manga.  Specifically that they’ve been continuing to focus on media tie-ins of somewhat questionable artistic merit and titles from established authors rather than trying to broaden their lineup with works from new authors.  So I essentially asked them this in the best way I could.  Horn and Simon’s response was that they’re continuing to look at new titles regularly as they get shipments of manga every month from Japan.  They try to pick out the most interesting ones, forward them to Asian licensing director Michael Gombos, and see what they can do from there.  It was said that it has been difficult for them to launch new series even from their established artists, but they were going to keep trying.

So yeah, that was it.  I wished I could’ve worked in a, “How about trying to find the next ‘Blade of the Immortal?’” in there, but I wasn’t slick enough.  As for why I didn’t harp on the many titles they’ve put on “hiatus” or channel some of the vitriol you see in my posts... well, I wanted them to answer my question.  Catching flies with honey rather than vinegar and all.  Plus, there’s a time and a place for that kind of thing and this wasn’t it.  I doubt I could’ve forced it to be even if I wanted to.  Another person in the audience did ask if Dark Horse was planning to release more works by Koike and his “Lone Wolf” collaborator Goseki Kojima.  Horn mentioned that there were three other works that they were aware of and that hopefully the release of the “New Lone Wolf” series would spark more interest in bringing them over.

The panel wrapped up after a quick raffle for swag they’ve accumulated from Japan and we were encouraged to check out the Dark Horse booth at the dealer’s hall if we had further questions.  I did just that later in the afternoon and got to ask Simon a few questions.  On the possibility of speeding up releases of “Blade of the Immortal,” he said that it’s something he’d like to do but it’s complicated at the moment.  The book’s English adaptation is currently co-authored with Tomoko Saito, who also does its lettering and retouch as well.  She’s also Toren Smith’s widow and Simon said that working on the book has been difficult for her at this time and that they wanted to accommodate her as well.  I think that’s noble of them and it’s not that much of an issue as I was already prepared to wait until 2015 for its completion.  If they can get it done sooner, more power to them.

I also asked him if the third volume of Kohta Hirano’s “Drifters” was going to be released, since it had just been published in Japan back in March.  This wasn’t one of Simon’s titles so he couldn’t offer me any specific information about it.  He did seem fairly certain that it would be released, and to keep watching the solicitations for an exact date.  I thanked him for his time and it wasn’t until I was driving home that I realized I should’ve told him that if they ever decided to bring “Eden” off of hiatus, that he’d have my money for it.  So Phillip Simon, if you’re reading this then you should know that you’ve got at least one rabid fan ready to pay good money for the best science-fiction manga on the market.

Jason Glick

Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App