The Japanese manga themes of Tokyopop join our comics lineup
Sunday comics readers, welcome to the manga revolution.
Over the past few years, manga -- a term that used to refer to translated Japanese comics but is now growing to include American comics drawn in the Japanese style -- has steadily boosted its presence in bookstores nationwide.
Today, the home of "Get Fuzzy" and "Sherman's Lagoon" -- the Star-Bulletin's comics section -- makes room for the manga-influenced "Peach Fuzz" and "Van Von Hunter," serialized strips from publisher Tokyopop that will take turns in our Sunday lineup.
"I think they were chosen because they are very funny and are created by Americans," Tokyopop representative Susan Hale said. "Being as we are so U.S.-centric in this country, the fit is perfect."
Here's a look at what to expect over the next few months from this new comic.
It is rare in the world of journalism that an interview is not possible due to a ferret's illness.
Yet that was the case with Florida artists Lindsay Cibos and Jared Hodges, creators of the ferret-filled "Peach Fuzz," which debuts today.
"Unfortunately, Lindsay and Jared, the creators of 'Peach Fuzz,' have had a family emergency and are not available for interviews," Hale said. "Their pet ferret, on which 'Peach Fuzz' is based, is really sick. It's so sad."
According to several entries written by Cibos on her Internet blog, the ferret in question, Elf, was recently diagnosed with an advanced case of lymphoma.
"Just a week ago, Elf, the younger of my two ferrets, at just over 4 years old, went from being playful and bouncy to very sick," Cibos wrote in a Dec. 12 entry. "I took him into the vet on Friday for a checkup, where X-rays revealed a large unidentifiable growth in his abdomen. ... I feel so bad for him. He's been spending his time mostly sleeping, and the rare times when he's awake, he can barely walk and tires easily. He's on three types of medicine right now, but they just treat the symptoms, not the growth."
Fortunately, Elf is on the mend after an initial chemotherapy treatment, but Cibos has put out a public appeal to help pay for the medical costs, which she estimates at $1,200 for the surgery and $300 per chemotherapy treatment. (To help, a link can be found at www.livejournal.com/users/ minakokenshou/88919.html.)
Were it not for the real-life adventures of Elf and the artists' other ferret, Momoko, there would be no stories from which to draw the fictitious adventures of 9-year-old Amanda Keller and her pet ferret, Peach.
The concept of "Peach Fuzz" grew from Cibos and Hodges' grand prize-winning entry in Tokyopop's second "Rising Stars of Manga" competition. "Peach Fuzz" has since been fleshed out in an ongoing Tokyopop manga miniseries.
Amanda is an enthusiastic yet insecure fourth-grader given the chance by her mom to choose her first pet -- after months and months of begging, pleading, cajoling and general whining.
But forget the usual pets that children want at that age, such as dogs, cats, fish or hamsters -- Amanda wants a ferret. She eventually manages to win over her skeptical mom on one condition: If her precious Peach bites her, the ferret goes back to the pet shop posthaste.
The problem is that Peach is a furry prima donna who believes she should be treated as the princess of her ferret kingdom. Ferrets eventually are going to take over the world, after all. And she would still be the ruler of her domain if not for the continued meddling of the Handra, a hissing five-headed abomination of pure evil. (It's actually just Amanda's hand, but ferrets can have wild imaginations.)
Thus begins a battle of wills, with Amanda's desire to keep her new pet in line -- and keep her pet, period -- constantly clashing with Peach's longing to escape from the Handra's tyranny and resume the regal lifestyle to which she believes she is entitled. Whether Amanda is taking Peach on a road trip or trying to give her a bath, everything turns into an adventure, told from both perspectives.
"Van Von Hunter"
'Van Von Hunter'
Admittedly, a fuzzy ferret with a princess complex might not be everyone's cup of tea. Perhaps some out there would prefer something a little more action-oriented, but with a heaping helping of humor on the side, such as a story about a wandering adventurer out to thwap the Forces of Evil on their keisters.
"Van Von Hunter," scheduled to debut in June after the first "Peach Fuzz" story runs its course, will fill that craving. This creation of Ohio-based artists Mike Schwark and Ron Kaulfersch follows the titular Van, mighty hunter of Evil Stuff and smiter of all that is smitable, as he journeys through the land of Dikay with his beautiful sidekick named ... umm ... well, she would have a name if she could ever remember it. Recurring amnesia at the most inopportune times can wreak havoc on a person's identity, after all.
"Probably the single closest thing to a direct inspiration for 'VVH' is the 'Castlevania' series of video games from Konami," Kaulfersch said. "But honestly, anything stupid can inspire a chunk of 'VVH.'
"Ultimately, the premise of 'VVH' is just there to give us a way of pulling all of our gags together into some semblance of a story," Kaulfersch added. "The rampant silliness of the series is drawn from a lot of different sources. We do poke fun at ideas from anime series like 'Inu-Yasha' or 'Rurouni Kenshin,' but we've gotten our share of jokes from things like 'The Lord of the Rings,' too. It needn't just be fantasy, either. Anything that features clichés and glaring plot holes, be it a movie, video game or TV show, is fair game."
The comic was published weekly on the Internet before moving into the traditional print realm, originally as an entry that won first prize in Tokyopop's first "Rising Stars of Manga" competition, then in two volumes of an ongoing Tokyopop miniseries.
Kaulfersch explained that the story that will run on Sundays will serve as a prequel to the story ongoing in the Web comic, detailing how Van Von Hunter and his sidekick first meet. The "Rising Stars of Manga" story took place in the middle of the Web comic's story arc, while the ongoing Tokyopop series, in which Von Hunter has to find his sidekick so he can confront a new evil, takes place three years after the Web comic.
As 'VVH' has grown from its Web comic roots, Kaulfersch and Schwark have taken the accolades in stride.
"We do tend to be very levelheaded about this sort of thing," Schwark said. "Even when we were told about winning first prize in the 'Rising Stars' contest, the people at Tokyopop were a bit surprised that we weren't jumping up and down and screaming our heads off. But that doesn't mean we weren't excited about it, and we're certainly interested in seeing how 'VVH' will fare in the newspapers."
As for women dressing up as Von Hunter's sidekick and throwing themselves at their feet?
"No Sidekick cosplayers, although I wouldn't mind seeing firsthand if any show up at Kawaii Kon this year," Kaulfersch said. "If you could see me right now, I'm giving one of those really conspicuous 'wink wink, nudge nudge' signs."