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Interview with Brigid Alverson of Manga4Kids & MangaBlog (May 27th 2006)

Backstage: Do you have a favorite manga series & mangaka?

Brigid: I really like Fruits Basket--that was my gateway drug. I just started reading Death Note and got dragged right in. And I really like the artist--can't think of his name, but he does Hikaru no Go as well...

Backstage: Takeshi Obata?

Brigid: Yes, that's it. But I read a lot of different things...I'm reading Bleach at the moment. I started out not liking it much but it's grown on me.

Backstage: What do you think of American manga (a.k.a. OEL or World Manga)?

Brigid: Mixed bag. I really like The Dreaming, but it reminds me more of British girls' comics, which I used to read when I was a kid, than Japanese manga. Sometimes it seems like "manga" refers to a format, not a style. If it's the right trim size, and black and white inside, it's manga. I know that's not really true, but it is odd that Scott Pilgrim gets shelved with manga, or that Tokyopop regards "Roadsong" as manga. I guess Japanese manga are a starting point for other artists--they are going to turn it into something else. But as one who works with language, both as a writer and an editor, I know that you can't fight popular usage.

Backstage: If you were to suggest a manga to parents, what would you suggest?

Brigid: I really like Hikaru no Go. It's a good read for all ages, well drawn, and interesting. Fruits Basket and Yotsuba&! are good too, but a bit weird for your first book. And for grownups--Monster!

Backstage: Yes! Monster is definitely a great manga!

Brigid: One thing is that a lot of manga deal with issues that kids are really having--like Life. I think it's good for kids to be able to read things like that. Sometimes seeing a fictional character deal with the same issues you are having helps you sort them out. I try to pick up on stuff like that on Manga4Kids--this is a book that might be good for a kid that has confidence issues, or is being picked on...

Backstage: Okay, now that all the unconditional prerequisite questions for any manga-related interview has been asked, let's move on to some (hopefully) more interesting topic. First, any interesting stories you would like to share with us regarding MangaBlog?

Brigid: Well, I lead this very mature and responsible life, I do a lot of volunteer work and I'm a writer. So when I tell people I blog about manga, they are usually surprised. But I'm afraid no particular incidents spring to mind!

Backstage: Any advice to all the fans out there inspiring to start their very own manga news blog/site?

Brigid: As for advice to fans, I would say, post every day and keep it short! I was a newspaper reporter for four years, and my editor would cut off my story halfway through if it ran too long. He always said no one would read it anyway, and he was probably right. So I try to avoid long, rambling posts. Not that I always succeed! Also, have a focus. People should be able to say in a sentence what your blog is about.

Backstage: What's better: an article with more opinions/discussions, or one with more facts/lists/charts?

Brigid: Depends. I'm a big believer in giving people the facts. So I suppose that's the most important. But undigested statistics are meaningless. I think it's a real service to gather facts and statistics from different sources and put them together in a meaningful way. David Taylor was an absolute genius at that!

Backstage: If there was an controversial topic in which you are against or dislikes, would you rather not report it, or just report the facts and let the readers decide what to think?

Brigid: I just ran into that with the San Bernardino Library thing. I had a strong opinion on that, and I was up front about it from the beginning. But I regretted it later. As a reporter, I kept my opinions to myself, in print and in the rest of my life. Consequently I could talk to all sides of an issue. When I was blogging about the library, I realized that I was comfortable talking to the librarians, but I wouldn't be comfortable talking to the politician who had the books pulled. If I had been more objective, I might have called him and tried to do an interview. The blog is more informal than a newspaper, and I do let my opinions show more.

Backstage: that was some great coverage on the library deal, by the way.

Brigid: Thanks!

Backstage: alright, now that everyone knows how to make a successful manga news site, let us move on! Want to share with us your bookmark? What other sites do the author of one of the most successful manga blog visit everyday?

Brigid: Well, Manganews, of course! And MangaCast and ICv2. On my RSS feed I have Anime on DVD, Anime News Network, Irresponsible Pictures, Precocious Curmudgeon, and Comics Worth Reading, along with a lot of individual blogs. Plus I really like Coffeeandink and Telophase, and I check the creators on my blogroll regularly to see what they are up to.

Backstage: It seems there are many comics/manga blogs out there that are not as well know as some others, care to suggest a few quality ones that nobody knows about?

Brigid: Tomo Kimura's Translation Notes is great. I just discovered that. I like Tangognat, Manga Punk, and Completely Futile as well.

Backstage: if you had a chance to rename MangaBlog or Manga4Kids, would you give it a different name?

Brigid: I'm happy with MangaBlog--it's basic and to the point. When I started, I was so naive I didn't know about 4Kids Animation, so I probably would choose a different name for Manga4kids. I was going to call it Manga101, but that domain name was taken. In fact, we went through several dozen names before we found one that was available.

Backstage: What were some names you had in mind when you were trying to come up with names for MangaBlog? Or did you hit the jackpot on first try?

Brigid: Actually, MangaBlog was the first name I thought of. It's a blog about manga. Sometimes a blog name is so clever you don't have any idea what it's about. Anyway, Manganews was taken. ^_^ I want my blog to be accessible to newcomers as well as serious manga fans. It could be your starter blog! So I try not to use too much jargon or to get too technical.

Backstage: If you can change/add/improve any aspect of the current manga scene (including the internet manga scene), what would you change?

Brigid: I would make the publishers improve their websites. Especially Tokyopop and Viz. It's hard to find an individual book, and they don't post press releases very often. Usually the blogsphere is ahead of the publishers on news.

Backstage: Who's your favorite publisher? Why?

Brigid: I would like to see more serious manga, like Monster and Death Note I like the way Go! Comi and Del Rey put so much extra effort into their books. But when you come down to it, I read a lot of Viz. They have some great titles. But with the smaller publishers you can really tell that they love their product. I worked in publishing and I know the difference. It's partly quality--better paper, better covers, and better translation and editing. You see that with Go! Comi and Del Rey. Viz uses cheap newsprint. And some of it is the choices they make. If you only have four books in your catalog, you can't afford a dud. I like the way all the publishers seem to have a lot of enthusiasm for their product.

Backstage: If you had a chance to make an annual online manga award event, what would you call it?

Brigid: I have no idea! The Chibis? Or maybe The American Academy of Manga Awards.

Backstage: Chibis as in small?

Brigid: And cute and emotional--the way people get when they win!

Backstage: What do you hope to see in the future of the U.S. online manga community?

Brigid: I hope to see it grow. I hope it also stays as friendly as it is. I think there is room for a commercial centralized manga service, like ANN or AoD.

Backstage: What's your views on scanlation?

Brigid: But the heart of it will always be individual bloggers writing about their favorites. I have mixed views on scanlation. As a writer, I am opposed to theft of intellectual property. But realistically, scanlators are not stealing if they don't scanlate licensed material. I do think they do a valuable service, so I guess I don't think it's the worst thing in the world. In fact, I have a lot of respect for scanlators because they work so hard. Of course, I'm talking about peopel who do it for love, not pirates who do it for money.

Backstage: Any shout-outs to our readers?

Brigid: Ed Chavez and Jarred Pine, who are awesome. I love Manga Curry No Maki. David Welsh, who always makes me laugh. And Telophase, whose manga analysis is just awesome. Also I have a regular cadre of commenters on MangaBlog now Tivome, Jack, Mike, Lyle (of Crocodile Caucus) Sometimes the comments are more interesting than the original posts!

David Taylor and Immelda Alty were among the first commenters on my blog, which was very encouraging when I was first starting out. Also, much of what I know about manga and about blogging I learned from reading Love Manga. I'm hoping it will be back before too long.

Interview with Pata of Irresponsible Pictures (May 30th 2006)

Backstage: When and how did you first find out about Manga4Kids/MangaBlog?

Pata: Probably when it first showed up on the Comic Weblog Updates page ... so, maybe around spring of 2005? I guess it was shortly after the blog started up.

Backstage: Being the owner of another manga blog, what's your view on MangaBlog?

Pata: Right now, it's definitely one of the pillars that holds manga-internet-discussion together. Brigid is doing an excellent job of what I used to do, which is to find the latest links and articles about manga and manga-related culture, and put them all in one post on a regular basis. Basically, when trying to keep up with everything got too much for me, here comes MangaBlog to help us all keep in touch with what's going on.

Backstage: What's your view on the current status of the manga blogsphere? Is it more of a competitive atmosphere, or more like a tag-team experience?

Pata: I think we're much more co-operative than competitive; there's a definitely sense of "bloggers helping bloggers" in the manga field. Sure, sometimes you feel like the "winner" if you find a cool link or some breaking news first, but it's a very supportive community overall. Everyone's there to help out everyone else.

Backstage: Any special story or experience you've had with MangaBlog that you'd like to share with our readers?

Pata: Ahh... not as far as I know... yet. But hey, if Brigid ever manages to make it to one of the major anime or comic conventions, I'm sure something interesting will come up!

Backstage: Any shout-outs to MangaBlog?

Pata: Keep up the great work! The world of manga is a better place with you around. ;)

Interview with David Taylor of Love Manga (May 30th 2006)

Backstage: When and how did you first find out about Manga4Kids/MangaBlog?

David: Luckily enough the same way I find most things, through Love Manga's website referrals. Most of the time it is just Google this or Yahoo that, but occasionally an odd URL stands out which begs for investigation and Brigid's site was a welcome discovery.

Plus if I remember correctly her first post included mentions of old UK comics (Beano, Dandy) which are only going to increase my appreciation. ^.^

Backstage: Being the owner of another manga blog, what's your view on MangaBlog?

David: Fantastic. Can't get enough. Sometimes I see other sites as competition for blogsphere kudos (the only payment we get), but really I'd have to say more the merrier.

There are plenty of comic blogs about, but we dedicated Manga ones are a bit thin on the ground, so I'm always happy to see more appear.

The more people that talk about Manga the better the conversation and the more varied the approach. This is probably why I love MangaBlog, because Brigid looks at Manga from such a different viewpoint than mine and it is so refreshing. That and basically we all like to hear about the latest Manga reading exploits of her daughters!

Backstage: Is it easy or hard to manage a manga blog? Any suggestions on the secret of blogging?

David: Wish someone would tell me the secret to blogging. It is fairly easy to run a Manga blog but it is hard to run a good Manga blog. There is just a tendency (as with all blogs) to become a cut and paste job of your peers and that really doesn't benefit anyone. The trick is to do that but then add your own opinions or twist to the information and I think this is something that Brigid has successfully managed to do. In such a way that MangaBlog has become an indispensable site for me.

Backstage: What would you like to see in the future of U.S. blogsphere?

David: Hard question really. I'm enjoying all the multiple sites that cover comics in all its many forms, and I suppose that could be one thing. As the companies that we talk about change we also have to modify how we talk about them; is there really a place for a dedicated manga-only blog anymore as the market moves towards a melding of novels, manga and anime? I'd like to think yes.

Backstage: And shout-outs to MangaBlog?

David: Keep going! Everyday I check out Mangablog to see what's new in the Manga world according to Brigid, and I love it.

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