TONY'S ONLINE TIPS From COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE #1441 (06/29/01)
"He was not found wandering the streets of London as a child during the winter of 1864, unable to say anything more than Powerful big rats, gentlemen.'"
Neil Gaiman on Neil Gaiman, THE QUOTABLE SANDMAN
June is coming slowly to my hometown of Medina, Ohio. When I walk across the driveway to get my morning newspapers, I can see my breath. My daughter Kelly is playing softball in weather that is often cold and damp. My son Eddie has had his first three baseball games canceled due to a combination of heavy rain and a home field which apparently doubles as a tidal basin. I can only imagine how bad things could get if global warming weren't just an absurd myth discounted by those dedicated scientists at Exxon.
But I digress.
In the midst of this June dreariness comes to me a letter and a gift from JEFF MICHAELS of Toledo, Ohio. Better yet, both items fit squarely into this week's anime/manga theme
I've been meaning to write to thank you for quite a while now, not realizing that "quite a while" has suddenly become two years! Where does the time go?
The "thank you" is for your glowing review of MAGICAL PROJECT S back in CBG #1330 [May 14, 1999]. I had been a big fan of the TENCHI MUYO English-dubbed anime, but found the three Pretty Sammy OVA special pretty bad. Based on the money I wasted on these three tapes, I decided to pass on Magical Project S. However, after I read your column two years ago, I bought the first tape.
Let me tell you that I fell as much in love with this charming series as you had! The next day, I bought tapes two through six. I'm not sure if you ever finished the series, but tape six ends with a huge cliffhanger that had me pacing the aisles of my local Media Play until tape seven arrived!
When I was introduced to anime, I preferred the English-dubbed because subtitles were something I wasn't used to. A friend of mine loaned me a series called ALL PURPOSE CULTURAL CAT GIRL NUKU NUKU. (That's really the title!) It's only available in Japanese, and I grew to love subtitled anime from it. The inflections of the female voice actors were hysterical, adding an energy lost in many of the dubbed tapes.
This paved the way for Magical Project S. I couldn't believe how sharp the humor was, and the depth of the characters was also amazing for what appears to be a Sailor Moon spoof. Here I was, a grown man of 30, totally addicted to Pretty Sammy!
It's gone on to become my favorite anime title of all time, followed closely by the above-mentioned Cat Girl and the excellent COWBOY BEBOP. If it hadn't been for your review, I probably would not have tried the series.
The last two tapes in the series are particular stand outs and I only wish that more people would give this series a try.
Pioneer has yet to issue Magical Project S on DVD. One can only hope they are working on an English translation with the original English voice actors of the Tenchi Muyo series. This series could easily thrill kids on Cartoon Network since they have already fallen in love with Tenchi.
Tell your readers not to let the neon pink boxes scare them! Don't let the sugary cute graphics on the box turn them away! If they enjoy good-natured humor and side-splitting comedy, then this series is for them. If they're currently hooked on the excellent Card Captors series-the uncut Japanese DVD, not the crudely-dubbed Saturday Morning WB version--they'll love Magical Project S.
A warning. Magical Project S may be hard to find because most retailers are pulling the VHS anime tapes and stocking DVDs only. If they do find and like the series, they should e-mail or write to Pioneer Video and ask the company to release a DVD version. Okay, that's the end of my plea.
Thanks for letting me try to take over your column this way. I hope that, even if you don't print my letter, you will mention the series again. Some people feel the subtitles move too quickly for children, but the kids to whom I've showed the series love it because it's different. The subtitles force them to pay attention!
They can't run around and scream and fight if they're glued to the set trying to read the subtitles. That alone should make any tired parent check the series out.
Magical Project S is also safe for children to watch. So many Japanese series start off okay, then get darker and bloodier as they go along, as was the case with NEON GENESIS.
Magical Project S isn't pure fluff; it has serious moments which may make kids a little misty. But it all works itself out in one of the most clever endings to an anime series I've ever seen.
(Unlike most American cartoons that continue forward with no ending in sight, anime usually has a set story to tell and the characterization, even in a kid's show, is held to high standards. I'm not putting down American cartoons, but I like the structure of telling a specific story.)
That's enough Pretty Sammy. If you don't remember, I was also the guy who wrote you a terribly crabby response to a negative review you gave Ron Marz's GREEN LANTERN. I hope all is forgiven for that. Please accept the enclosed CD as a token of my respect for you as a writer and as an excellent judge of anime character.
In closing, there are a few things I'd like to see you touch on in future columns. I was wondering what you thought of Judd Winick's take on Kyle Rayner in the recent issues of Green Lantern. I also wondered what you thought of Buffy's send off in the season finale of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
I hope you enjoy the CD. Again, thank you.
Some notes and responses to the above completely unsolicited testimony to my reviewing brilliance
1. Dad, Eddie, and Kelly Isabella will likely finish watching the MAGICAL PROJECT S series this summer.
2. I was happy to let you take over part of my column, even though it pains me terribly to get someone else to write half of it for me. By the way, my fence needs whitewashing.
3. Don't worry about your earlier letter. I don't sweat the occasional negative response to my reviews. I knew the job would be dangerous when I took it.
4. Thanks so much for the Pretty Sammy CD. If I could read Japanese, I'd recommend it to CBG's readers by title. Four of the song titles--Double Mind, Persona, Magical Blue, Dear Miss Lonely--are in English, which may help interested parties find it at their local comic shop, at a convention, or online.
You'll be pleased to know your kind gift has restored music to my writing routine. Over the years, I had increasingly found any music to be a distraction as I wrote because I was paying too much attention to the lyrics. Even instrumental and jazz music started to become a problem for me.
However, I can write to music sung in a foreign language. I don't know what the singers are singing, so my mind tends to tune out all but a very pleasant background awareness of the music and the songs. Emboldened by this discovery, I've found the same holds true for Spanish music radio stations. Needless to say, I plan to experiment with other foreign-language music as well. Leave it to an ugly American like me to find an upside to my ignorance of other languages. Again, I thank you for the CD.
5. Since I owe you for the above, I'm going to try to catch up on my GREEN LANTERN reading before the end of the summer and do a column on the title and its various spin-offs.
6. Buffy rules! I thought both BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL were especially strong this season, fleshing out the various characters and delivering some of the most exciting and horrifying moments on television. And, at the risk of slighting some of the best performers on the small screen, it is an affront to the acting profession if James "Spike" Marsters doesn't at least get nominated for the "Best Supporting Actor" Emmy.
Kudos to Buffy creator Joss Whedon and the entire Buffy/Angel companies. The enjoyment I get from those two shows alone would be enough to justify my monthly cable bill.
Since I quoted from it at the start of this column, I figure common courtesy demands that I say a few words about THE QUOTABLE SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman and an artistic "ensemble" of breathtaking ability. The Vertigo/DC hardcover collects 45 quotes from Gaiman's Sandman tales in a cute little 5-1/2" by 6-1/2" format, pairs them with wonderfully eerie and often amusing illustrations by the likes of Dave McKean, Jill Thompson, Charles Vess, and others, and sells the whole thing for a very reasonable $9.95.
The good: just about everything about this book. Gaiman is a wise man, as witness quotes like...
"Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot."
"It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak."
The artworks accompanying these quotes are as profound as the quotes themselves, here a Glenn Fabry shot of Destruction with eyes that speak of anticipation, there a Richard Case image of Delirium in all her child-like madness. The illustrations are as worthy of contemplation as Gaiman's quotes.
The not-so-good-but-not-so-bad-either: I would have preferred having the art credits and quote attributations on the same page as the quotes. All that going back and forth between the quotes and the end pages adds to the wear-and-tear, a consideration even with a book as well made as this one.
The recommendations: If I were single and playing the field, I would be buying this book by the dozens to give out as presents to my sweethearts of the moment. Romantic poems? How passe. Give their minds something to think about and the hearts and souls will surely follow.
Since I'm not single and playing the field, even if I weren't happily married, the games would doubtless be canceled on account of rain, I'll restrain myself and simply recommend this book to all of you who love Gaiman's words and the expressive art they inspire. It is a small book that will bring you much pleasure.
I don't have anything to add to the above, so, before I dive into my vast files to see what else I have for you this week, I'll mention I took Eddie and Kelly to see SHREK on Eddie's birthday. It's a laughing-out-loud kind of movie and we did just that pretty much from start to finish. Go see it.
A while back, I ran a quote by Annie Besant at the start of a column, then followed that up with a few notes on the lady. This, in turn, inspired my pal E.J. BARNES to send me more information on Ms. Besant. She writes
Annie Besant, in addition to all you say, was a Fabian (i.e., non-revolutionary) Socialist and George Bernard Shaw's lover before she became a Theosophist. Yup, not just a theosophist, but a Theosophist.
The methodology and belief system of the Theosophical Society, founded in the 1870s by Russian expatriate and fellow wild-woman Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, was, and, to some degree, remains, a hodgepodge of Western and Eastern mysticism, with a heavy dollop of American table-rapping Spiritualism for good measure. Blavatsky wrote huge, dense books which were later found to have swiped heavily from earlier sources. Atlantis and Lemuria figure big in the Blavatskian model of world history.
Besant took over the leadership of the Society after Madame Blavatsky's death in 1891. One of her colleagues "discovered" the "boy prophet," Jiddu Krishnamurti (born in 1895), whereupon Besant adopted him as her son and promoted him heavily as a "World Guru" whose charismatic wisdom would change history. It is very telling that, in his later years as a mature writer and lecturer, Krishnamurti, at least publicly, disdained the notion of guru and followers.
Colin Wilson, in his book THE OCCULT, has a nasty little anecdote on page 337
"...It would not be inaccurate to say [Besant] became a Theosophist on the rebound from Shaw; the recent end of their affair had hurt her deeply. Years later, when her adopted son Krishnamurti met Shaw in Bombay, Shaw asked how she was.
"'Very well,' he said, "but at her great age, she cannot think consecutively.'
"'She never could,' said Shaw."
I've got more on Annie (also from E.J.) in my files, but I'll save that for some future column. In the meantime, it seems to me like Annie should have made an appearance in some Vertigo comic by now. She certainly is a fascinating character, which just enough of the "strange" in her life to make her fair game for HELLBLAZER or some such title.
I've written somewhat extensively about Marvel's latest plans for the bookstore market. A recent column drew this response from ALVIN SCHWARTZ, my esteemed fellow columnist here at World Famous Comics, writer of so many great Superman and Batman stories in the 1940s and 1950s, and author of the just-republished THE BLOWTOP, "the book that sparked the beat generation." He writes
I especially enjoyed your business-like analysis of Marvel's projected venture into real bookstores with a graphic novel arsenal. One thing all comics publishers should keep in mind is, that as C.S. Lewis pointed out, there's no good kid stuff that isn't also good reading for adults. That's when they're aiming for the juvenile market. But the adult market is something else again. Since film can do far better today in showing things like flight and super-hero razzmatazz, the only advantage the adult comic novel has over film would be in special scenes of powerful emotion (horror, fear, transfiguration, etc) in which the reader can stop and pour over the graphic element and absorb it fully and repeatedly. That also means getting rid of all those long continued stories where the reader is always catching up (and getting fed up), instead of building whole stories each time, around one or a very few well developed and basically unchanging core characters. But, the way the business is set up, they keep trying all sorts of new things, impatiently, unwilling to build that core center and hoping it may be possible to find the one shot that will kill the whole army.
It can't be stressed often enough that there is no one way to raise the comics industry to the popularity it once enjoyed. This is a battle that has always needed to be fought on many fronts and, as such, I'm delighted whenever some savvy creator or publisher is willing to open up a new front.
WANTED! MORE READERS LIKE...
...comics fan STEVE KRIOZERE, who has the back-breaking job of writing scripts for Pamela Anderson's VIP, and, when not hunched over a typewriter, hanging out with Anderson, her co-stars, and some guy by the name of Mark Hamill.
Krozere told me that this photo is from the set of an episode wherein Hamill played a Royal Canadian Mountie, a visiting relative of Anderson's character. He also said that Tyler "Sabretooth" Mane was slated to appear in the next episode and that he hoped to get a picture of him that we could run here.
When I pressed for details, Krozere wrote
I wrote the episode with Mark Hamill. It's called "The Uncle from V.A.L." and it will be on this fall. As you probably know, he's the voice of THE JOKER from the Batman Animated Series. He told me he also returns as the voice of the Joker in the new Justice League animated series.
I co-wrote the Tyler "Sabretooth" Mane episode, which starts shooting Wednesday, May 9. As always, you're welcome to visit the set. Warning: you may never return to Ohio.
I'll throw a warning right back at you. By hook or by crook, I want to start making at least two trips a year out to Los Angeles and thereabouts. I've got too many friends out there that I never get to see, save for a few moments here and there at a convention. This must change.
The too-few times I've watched VIP, mostly Steve's episodes, I've gotten a kick out of it. I'm going to make an effort to see it more often. If you'd like more information on the series, check out the official website at.
Someone posted the following questions on Usenet, addressing them to the pros who visit there. In copying the questions, I must have zigged when I should have zagged and, in doing so, didn't get the name of the poster. However, I did answer his questions and, since I don't have his name or e-mail address, I figured I would run them here. My apologies to this unknown poster.
QUESTION: "When someone from this newsgroup says something about your work in a negative note, how does that affect your work?"
ANSWER: It only affects the work if the poster makes a criticism that has some merit to it. One of my CBG readers pointed out a stylistic thing I was doing badly and frequently. Now that I've been made aware of it, I'm trying to avoid it.
Q: "Do you take it as constructive criticism?"
A: Depends on the tone of the post.
Q: "Do you go back and take a look at what it was they didn't like and try to think of how you could have done it different?"
A: If the tone is constructive, I'll maybe give the criticism a second thought.
Q: "Or do you just take it in stride and go on?"
A: I may be bummed for a bit, but I always go on.
Q: "Are you open to ideas and suggestions from the fan base or do you prefer to go out and do things your way no matter if anybody likes it or not?"
A: I'm open to ideas and suggestions as long as they aren't in the form of "I have a great idea for a story..." I NEVER read unsolicited plots or scripts, or listen to reader ideas for books, features, whatever, on which I might one day work. That's for my protection and the fan's. Generally speaking, I go my own way because it's my name on the story or the column.
That's all for now, my friends. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and I'll be back next week with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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