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An Anime-ted Report

Dear Elf friends,

My gosh, it’s been months and months since my last WendyWords! Well, blame it on Masque of the Red Death. (It’s so convenient to blame stuff on that bad pretty boy these days *wink*). The web comic – which will soon be describing differently because it’s so much more than that – launched in July and has been steadily gaining momentum. (450,000 hits in November! Clocked!) None of us at Go!Comi knew Masque would turn into such a cinematic viewing experience. Feedback is coming from all sorts of unusual sources suggesting that, in addition to publishing Masque as a graphic novel series, we should also make the collected episodes available on DVD as a semi-animated movie with music and voices. We’re in discussions about that exciting prospect right now, so who knows?

Since my association with Go!Comi, I’ve stepped up my attendance of anime-related conventions. Because such great emphasis is placed on costuming and fashion design, anime cons are very different in tone from your average “meat and potatoes” comic con. Normally, over the years, I’ve tried to put a touch of elfin magic in the way I dress for con appearances. But since the debut of my Edgar Allan Poe tribute Masque, I’ve adopted a look I like to call “Edwardian Chic.” (Click on the teeny icons for the big photos.) It’s tremendous fun to have a venue where elegant, velvet togs are considered casual dress!

This past weekend I was in chilly, wintry New York City to attend the first annual New York Anime Fest at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The great angel that greeted us at the escalators was actually the herald for a Magic the Gathering convention with which Anime Fest was sharing space. (Though the world of manga and Japanimation is not Richard’s cup of tea, he graciously showed up on Saturday and took most of the following fabulous pics – some of my all-time favorites from any con!)

It’s always neat to be in on the first day of anything new. Attendance on Friday was surprisingly strong given that it was both a school and work day. Saturday was a full goose bozo madhouse complete with deafening noise levels and a bizarre confluence of odors.

Go!Comi’s booth, inherited from Warp Graphics, was in a prime location seeing lots of traffic from the get-go. Their main promotional focus, this time, was to celebrate the release of Aimee Major Steinberger’s Japan Ai: A tall girl’s adventures in Japan – an absolutely adorable illustrated journal that I’m convinced will generate a huge crossover readership. What a cute stocking-stuffer! For more info on Japan Ai go here.

Here’s Audry Taylor, Creative Director and all-around dynamic force behind Go!Comi the Soul of Manga. Looking vibrant in red, she’s not only someone whose friendship I cherish, but someone with whom I thoroughly enjoy brainstorming because we think a lot alike. Masque and I take nurturing and support from her as the plotline heads toward increasingly risky (risque?) territory.

Speaking of cherished friendships, Sonny Strait was there, appearing at Funimation functions and also promoting his first new manga-style graphic novel We Shadows published by TokyoPop, for which I wrote the introduction. As my former assistant on Elfquest, Sonny has gone on to master an artistic style and voice all his own. However, as a faerie in human guise he’s not above manifesting Goat’s horns on his sensei’s head, as you can see!

*sigh* We creators do dote on our fictional offspring… …absolutely dote! By the way, here’s a full-on view of the Go!Comi booth’s beautiful Masque banner. We’re almost up to twenty episodes now and, more importantly, almost up to the first kiss. It’s a stolen one…but I’m not giving away who does the stealing!

Making your way down the aisles of any large anime/manga con you’ll find your senses assaulted by confetti-like colors never seen at your average superhero con. . Traditional comics are occasionally represented, but it looks a bit stodgy and out of place if you ask moi.

Amy Major Steinberger, animator/author/illustrator/doll enthusiast/costume designer and Anime Fest Guest of Honor, describes herself as a “six foot cupcake.” Never have I felt more like a Hobbit than at this con, surrounded by so many lovely, statuesque cosplayers. Here, wearing one of her dashing, hand-beaded masterpieces, you can see why Amy towers above them all both physically and in terms of her many skills.

What the hey! Wasabi peas are funny! I don’t know why, they just are.

What would we do at these chaotic events without our cell phones? “Hey, Sonny, meet us for fresh sushi at the “Maid Cafe” where pretty girls mill about dressed up in frilly aprons and tight corsets!”

Uhhhhh…guess maybe after that much sushi a tight corset is out of the question!

Back at the booth Go!Comi CEO David Wise, originator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ “cowabunga” war cry, demonstrates the suave sophistication for which he is so justly famed.

Thank goodness the power women have things under control. Flanked by me and “Pirate Audry” is one of my new favorite people, Svetlana Chmakova. Creator, writer and artist of the hugely popular manga series Drama Con and the upcoming Night School, Svet has a commanding, fluid drawing style that reveals her animation background. She’s one of the very few western mangaka whose work I’ve initially mistaken for pure Japanese. Pardon if I do a little crowing, but both Audry and Svet say they discovered Elfquest in their early teens and, for many reasons, it had a strong influence on them. Never mind awards and accolades, this is the sort of thing that puts thirty years of hard work in the “worth it” category. A little sketch of Steffan was my way of thanking Svet. Audry got a sketch of Anton (nothing like buttering up the boss a bit *wink*).

Cosplay seems to be the top creative outlet of most manga/anime enthusiasts. At the con there were many booths devoted to different fashion fetishes from authentic kimonos to kinky corsets and Goth weeds. Even a few elves, obviously from an entirely different mythic universe than Elfquest, snuck in. But by far the most widely represented fad – the one ignited in Japan years ago that’s rapidly catching fire in the states – is the Gothic Lolita phenomenon.

The Japanese tolerance for “cute” is well documented. But this Lolita thing, with its seemingly unwholesome connotations, really turned me off until I got an education from Amy Major Steinberger and some of the Go!Comi staff. Lots of girls, they say, are into Lolita cosplay because it’s pretty and sweet and it makes them feel like princesses – nothing more sinister than that. Well, there’s no question it’s pretty when it’s done right as demonstrated by Go!Comi administrative director Christine Schilling and her twin sister (while Madame Masque is once again relegated to Hobbit stature!).

TokyoPop had a huge booth at which they sponsored a Gothic Lolita costume contest. Competitors of all ages turned out for it. One of the coolest props was a rose-garlanded swing which I took advantage of. (See? You can be approaching sixty and still be a hot elf-mamma!) The comfy perch got somewhat less respect from a foot-sore attendee toward the end of the grueling day.

As night fell even Go!Comi’s staunchest booth beauty, promotional director Mallory Reaves, was showing signs of con fatigue. Elsewhere at the TokyoPop booth I was invited to sit in on a panel about “Fantasy in Comics” – something I know just a tad about. While Sonny cast a suspicious glance I modestly announced myself as “the one who started this whole thing.” And you know? Everyone applauded and no one disagreed!

After thirty years Elfquest is finally getting acknowledged in a big way as the first creator-owned American comic series influenced by manga and anime. I suppose that’s because manga and anime are now so firmly entrenched in American pop culture that everyone in the comics industry, publishers and press alike, are at least a bit knowledgeable. Heidi MacDonald of Publishers Weekly even observed, “Hey! You were the first with this, weren’t you?” You betcha, Red Ryder!

Now that Masque with its even stronger anime sensibilities is out, the inevitable comparisons between it and Elfquest are starting to happen. That’s cool by me. The only thing I haven’t liked hearing now and then in various forums is that I don’t love Elfquest anymore or that I’m no longer giving it my best. Some use the work I did for DC Comics as evidence, but I’d proudly turn that around to prove just how much I did and do love Elfquest! We’ve only let you in on a smidgin of our problems with DC. That one of my personal most fun and favorite tales, The Searcher and the Sword, got done under those conditions shows just how love can get a creator through the most trying of situations.

Masque will take a couple of years to finish. Thank goodness I have it to keep me busy as the elves make the rounds, yet again, of writers’ strike-clogged Hollywood. You can help by sending supportive energy out to the Universe. Tell it you’ve wanted an Elfquest movie for a long time – that you’re removing all conditions, fears and “It better be perfect“s and replacing them with “Magic, do as you will!” To that all we can hopefully add is, “Let’s see what happens this time.

Meanwhile we all have Tim Bruckner’s (by way of Dark Horse) breathtakingly antique-painted Cutter figurine to enjoy for the holidays.

Hope you enjoyed the con report. Warmest wishes for a tranquil and reflective year’s end and for a dazzling 2008.



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