Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why I Twitter

A couple of manga bloggers have recently posted on why they Twitter. I didn't join Twitter to set the comics world ablaze. In fact, I joined for the goofiest of fangirl reasons.

I joined Twitter because of a house.

Her name is SARAH, the Self Actuated Residential Automated Habitat, if you must. She was posting fun and sometimes cryptic little updates about upcoming episodes of Eureka. She’d reply to your questions. She was even interviewed on Twitter.

I had heard about Twitter before that of course. You couldn’t be in Stargate: Atlantis fandom without hearing about David Hewlett’s posts.

I resisted the urge to join immediately. Twitter sounded like a lark, more geared for people who sent text messages to each other than someone used to Livejournal and blogging. Who can communicate in 140 characters or less? Who would enjoy having real conversations that way?

But I was obsessed with Eureka and SARAH was so friendly and welcoming.

So what David Hewlett couldn’t do, a smart house accomplished. There’s some irony working there.


I admit it – I didn’t expect to like using Twitter.

Initially I was content to just read along. I didn’t feel comfortable replying to people out of the blue yet. I posted occasionally, but nothing earth-shattering. I think my first Twitter was some random comment on gymnastics leotards in the summer Olympics.

Gradually I added friends from other places. And I started to talk. And talk.

I Twittered the November election returns curled up with my laptop.
That was when I saw the value of Twitter. It’s been described as the world’s largest rolling cocktail party. You can literally add your pithy two cents into any conversation. You can argue with some fan halfway across the world and get a reaffirming “Me too” from someone else. You can get a response from a favorite celebrity. Replies and retweets are still odd. I’m always blown away that people want to hear what I have to say, much less forward it to someone else.

When I started having the same sort of rolling discussions about comics and manga, I finally got it. Whether chattering about comic book news or important elections, the conversations and interactions are the real heart and joy of Twitter. I enjoy interacting with other comics fans and hearing what they’re reading and enjoying. I sit back and take in all the manga discussion. I’m still more of a reader than a critic, but I envy the bloggers and reviewers.

To a degree, my experiences on Twitter made me realize I did have something to say as a blogger. Up until then I thought I couldn’t add anything new. I’m not so sure about that now.

Nearly five thousand updates later, I think I’ve figured out this Twitter thing. You wouldn’t think it would take that long to figure out how to talk, would you?

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Psychic Girls and Superdimensional Fortresses

Up until now my blog posts have focused on American comic books and animation, but there was something else I discovered back then – Japanese manga and anime.

Like others, I rushed home to watch the continuing story of the Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. I even collected all the Comico issues of the Macross Saga and the novels and the art book and even the original LP soundtrack. (I wasn’t nearly as fond of the other parts of the Robotech series.)

I was dimly aware that there was an original Japanese version, but I was too young to know about anime clubs or fansubs. The closest I came to the anime clubs was the George Mason Anime Festival. For the whole day, they would take over a big room at the university and play anime all day. I saw all kinds of odd programs at those festivals, like Black Magic M-66, Dirty Pair and Bubblegum Crisis.

A little after my initial interest in Robotech, manga came into my life by way of Eclipse Comics. As a test of the market, they released three manga series -- Area 88, Legend of Kamui and my favorite Mai the Psychic Girl. I can hear the purists groaning and sighing already, because these were not the standard little squarebound paperbacks we’re used to seeing today. These three titles were released bi-weekly in standard comic book format, their contents “flipped”, so American readers didn’t have to learn a whole new way to read. These days most stuff is unflipped in Japanese format so you get those cute “You’re reading the wrong way” pages stuck at the front/back of every manga.

I do think it’s a little ironic that the first manga I picked was basically a girl superhero title. (I also note with amusement that Mercedes Lackey’s “Arrows of the Queen” was released a scant few months earlier, so maybe it’s not so surprising I picked up Mai.)

Mai was a very reluctant heroine though. Gifted with telekinetic abilities, she was drawn into a great conspiracy when she comes to the attention of the Wisdom Alliance. They want to control the world, using other gifted children. Mai spends a good chunk of the series fighting off other psychic attackers, including a very prepossessed German girl named Turm Garten. She was lovely and blonde and Western and utterly evil, reminding me a little of Heroes’ Elle. She had none of Mai’s compunctions about using her talents. I recall hating her when I was younger, but she was a fascinating character. I do wonder if I’d think differently of her now.

The series was anything but sanitized. There was plenty of violence and destruction. But perhaps because it was in black and white, or maybe I was too young to really get it, it didn’t bother me so much. I do have an easier time with comic book violence, compared to the movie equivalent, too. While they didn’t tame down the violence, they did take out a shower scene in the first or second issue of the series, mostly innocent in of itself, but the heroine was a teenage girl, so I suspect there was some concern. I also remember they had a hard time creating standard comic book covers. Only a certain number of color Mai art pieces existed for them to use, so they wound up refitting some of the artwork from the series. It made the covers very stylish and easy to spot in the stores.

Aside from Robotech, Mai the Psychic Girl was one of the earliest complete stories I remember reading. I was used to the American model with the endless adventures of superhero characters. The idea that a comic book could have a set conclusion and there was no more was rather novel.

Other manga series soon followed, including Nausicaa and Appleseed. I even wrote a high school English paper on Japanese manga & anime using Frederick Schodt’s “Manga! Manga!” as source material. I missed the whole “magical girl” phenomenon with Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura that came a little later. And nothing really prepared me for the explosion of manga and anime choices that came later. Before I’d have to scrounge around in odd places to find anything anime/manga oriented. Now I could walk into the average book/music/dvd store and find a dizzying array to choose from.

But nothing quite captured the magic of those original months back when a teenage girl could dream of having special powers.

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