What Wonderful Toys: Upcoming Merchandise

Several interesting comic-related books and toys and videos have been announced recently. Here’s some of them.

Diamond Select will be putting out Mouse Guard toys. I’m a little concerned that they’re being described as “collectibles”, but we’ll have to see what they look like after next month’s Toy Fair. I’d like to see plush instead of hard plastic, myself, but that might make the little warrior mice too cuddly.

Also in February, the Train Man: Densha Otoko DVD will be out from Viz. I’ve enjoyed the various manga series enough that this might be something to look for.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something manga-like, fun, and frothy, check out Kamikaze Girls. I just watched this, and it’s a feast of visual imagery. Two teenagers learn more about themselves through an unusual friendship, since one’s into frilly little-girl clothes and the other is a motorbike-riding gangsta gal. There’s direct-to-viewer narration, a little anime, odd camera tricks, goofy supporting characters, and a refusal to take anything seriously that makes it worth the hour-and-a-half.

In other DVD news, there’s another volume of She-Ra, Princess of Power due out in April. Why is this comic-related? Because one of the writers of the show was J. Michael Straczynski, currently best known for his infamous comic work, including Civil War-related stories. He provides episode commentary. The box set also comes with art cards by Mike Wieringo and Jock. Bit odd that the title character isn’t shown on the package, though. Still, she got the first set all to herself.

In books, you may recall me mentioning that there was a Hot Gimmick novel. I’ve been sent a copy of Hot Gimmick S, and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

It starts out being told by Hatsumi in a style consisting of “and then this happened and then and then…” The simple language suggests that it’s aimed at younger teens, and having the whole manga series told in short bursts makes it feel abbreviated and rushed. (Shoving 11 volumes into 2 chapters will do that.)

Ryoki’s written out early on, and the book then becomes the story of how Hatsumi falls in love with her adopted brother Shinogu. At that point, she becomes a much more insightful character than the manga girl. If you can get past the innate creepiness of a love relationship with the boy raised as her brother from the time she was three, then it’s much more rewarding than the manga — even if all the drama consists of the characters sitting around waiting to hear news updates.

TwoMorrows has announced that they’re publishing a history of Image Comics at the end of May. At $35, it’s a tad pricey, especially if it turns out to be company-approved, i.e. overly favorable. For instance, the promo copy says “Image would finally give creators full ownership of their properties” — but that’s only true if you’re a partner. If you’re just an artist working on one of their studio titles, it’s still work-for-hire, and you may end up having to sue MacFarlane to get what you own.

Anyway, TwoMorrows promises “the most honest exploration ever taken” of the company, so it’ll be interesting to see what winds up in print.

This one isn’t comic-related, but I’m excited none the less: one of my favorite science fiction novels will be a Sci-Fi channel miniseries.


  1. Johanna, you don’t have to be an Image partner to have full ownership of your property if you do a book at Image. I own all the books I’ve done there. In some cases, my collaborators are work-for-hire, in other cases they’re co-creators (and share ownership). But none of that has anything to do with being an Image partner — or Image at all. They have no interest in what sort of ownership I’ve arranged for my books.

    I understand the point you’re trying to make — that work-for-hire still exists at Image. And it does. But the way you’ve phrased it isn’t really accurate.

    And, at the risk of protesting too much, Image still does have — in my opinion, at least — the truest form of creator ownership out there.

    ~ Jay

  2. Oh, I definitely agree that they’re the best of the lot in terms of established publishers. And thanks for clarifying what I was obviously having a hard time saying. I was thinking mostly about “classic” or “first-life” Image, since that seems to be what the book will cover, not what they’ve become in the years since. I was trying to get at that with “studio titles”, but it didn’t work the way I hoped.

  3. Edward W Sizemore

    Johanna, I read the Kamikaze Girls novel about a year ago and just put the film on my Netflix list. I really liked the novel and how it treated each girl as real person inside of a subculture. It was interesting to see their friendship blossom and to see how they each matured because of that friendship.

    I have preorder the Train Man DVD and can’t wait. I hope there are some good extras.

  4. Yep. Kamikaze Girls/Shimotsuma Monogatari indeed is one fine little movie. Saw it at a festival for asian cinema in 2005 and bought the DVD immediately when it came out here. Some great comedy and visuals and so many fun little details.

    I just wish they wouldn’t have had to change the title from the original “Shimotsuma Story” for the international release (or at least that they could’ve found something better suited to the film).

  5. Ed, ooh, I hadn’t thought of that, whether the discs have extras.

    Sebastian, I agree, I didn’t understand the title and think it could have been better.

  6. I’ll be interested to know what you thought of the TRAIN MAN movie. I saw it myself when it screened in NYC and enjoyed it quite a bit. Still, even with this film, and all the manga versions, (ours and others’) and the upcoming novel, I’m often amazed as to what she sees in him, but I just may be jaded and in need of a second (or third, or more) opinion…
    Ali Kokmen
    Del Rey Manga

  7. Ali, I think Hermes sees a very sincere, kind and honest person. Train Man is definitely a diamond in the rough, but somehow she gets a glimpse inside past the otaku exterior. Remember she sends a very extravagant thank you gift that starts the whole relationship rolling. So something in his actions on the subway must have moved her deeply.

  8. Ali — are we supposed to even ask? I thought the message was a very typical one, that the quiet boys can be better choices, once they’re spiffed up a bit, because they appreciate having girlfriends so much more.

  9. Ed, Johanna: You’re probably right. All I know is that I’m constantly grateful that my wife married me, and there are times when I just don’t see why. ;-)

  10. Ooh Diamond Age miniseries news is great to hear! The Sci-fi channel has been doing a really good job lately on stuff (Eureka for one) and hopefully this will be good too.

  11. […] been quite impressed with the movie releases I’ve seen from Viz Pictures: Train Man, Kamikaze Girls, and Linda Linda Linda (even if that last one was confusingly direct). Ping Pong […]

  12. […] called Shojo Manga, Ranma 1/2 fan fiction (is Ranma really shojo?), comparing The Stepford Wives to Kamikaze Girls (with absolutely no pictures, a terrible lack for an essay about doll-like appearances), and a yaoi […]

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