Readers of RevSF may be familiar with one Alan J. Porter, our previous Comics Editor and current Editor-at-Large. Alan is a pop culture historian who has a number of books that have been released this year.
Of particular note is his new TokyoPop manga series, God Shop, on TokyoPop's website. We asked Alan a few questions about this series and other projects.
This seems to have been a busy year for you so far. To begin, what is the premise behind God Shop?
The basic premise is answering the question "What would you do if you were given the powers of a god for a day?" It's something most readers of SF and comics have thought about: What would I do if I could just tap a cane on the ground and become Thor?
Given powers like that would be a moral dilemma. Would you help other people, or would you use them for selfish gain? The God Shop of the title answers that question. The concept revolves around a store of divine power set up by the gods from thirteen different pantheons who were worried about their power being diminished as people stopped worshiping them.
They establish the God Shop on the edge of the universe and then seed various realities with special tokens that give the holder access to it. Find a token and you get transported to the shop where you have to answer one simple question, "What do you value the most?" Depending on your answer, and one other choice you make, you get the power of a god. Everyone gets a power, but what that power is, and how they use it sets up each story within the series.
Running through the stories is an ongoing story about how the bad guy ZiX (who just happens to be the son of Loki) is trying to take over control of the shop from its caretaker, a mortal, Joshua. Of course there is more to Joshua than seems at first.
Were you a big manga reader before this project? I know that you have an extensive background with the British and American comics scene, but I was unaware of your interest in Japanese comics.
I was reading manga before I knew I was reading manga. As you mentioned I have a background in British and US comics, but will read comics of any sort. When I was lucky enough to do a lot of business traveling around Europe the first thing I would do is go out and buy local comics just to experience different ways people used the art form to tell stories.
In the late 1980s a few manga series were translated and published in the US and UK without being labeled as "manga." I picked them up and read them simply because they were good comics. I think Mai the Psychic Girl was the first one I read.
When my kids were small we all read the What's Michael cat comics and loved them. Then I discovered the "godfather of manga" Osamu Tezuka through his amazing World War 2 story Adolf, and I've just kept reading manga stories that appeal to me. I'm really enjoying Naoki Urasawa's crime story Monster.
But was I a manga fan? Not really. No more than any other form of comics. I did read a few examples of the more popular series before I pitched my first batch of story ideas to Tokyopop, and when my editor and I started discussing doing God Shop in an episodic format he recommended I look at Pet Shop Of Horrors as a model, and that's a series I've continued to enjoy.
You have a co-writer on this series as well. Can you tell us a little about her?
God Shop is based on a concept that was developed with my eldest daughter Meggan a couple of years ago. It came from an off-hand remark made by my wife which Meggan took and developed the basic concepts from. We then took that and together polished it into the pitch for Tokyopop. During the time it was in development at Tokyopop, Meggan graduated high school and started a career, so when it came time to script the book she was too busy starting her adult life.
Parental pride aside, I think she is a very talented writer. She had a comics story in a Harry Potter theme charity book published in Canada a few years ago and received a lot of positive feedback for it, she also has started a couple of novels, one of which she got to verbally pitch to a movie producer at San Diego ComicCon last year, who loved the concept. I\'m hoping that once she has her new life settled she will find time to get back to writing more, and maybe finish that novel.
Who is the artist?
The art of God Shop is by young artist Josue Acevedo, who goes under the pen name of Kamui. I was blown away by his art when I first saw his character designs for God Shop, especially the one for ZiX. He also did an incredibly detailed concept design sketch for the inside of the shop itself. His story telling skills are excellent and he has a great sense of page layout.
Everyone has been impressed by the artwork. What has also impressed me is his work ethic. He is very professional and I believe he has a bright future in comics.
I agree with your opinion of Kamui’s work. He adds a lot to the book. Originally, God Shop was planned to be an ongoing series for print. With the recent cutbacks at TokyoPop, is there a chance that we might see future issues? I thought that the first issue seemed like a natural for a continued series.
You're correct that it was originally conceived and pitched as a three volume series. Each volume would contain four self contained stories of people receiving powers with the overriding arc of the struggle between Joshua and ZiX running through it and tying it all together.
When the idea of doing the Manga Pilot was raised, the episodic nature of God Shop made it a natural fit. So what has been posted is the first story of the twelve that had been plotted out.
The idea of the Pilot series is to test concepts out and see if there is a demand for them. So, the more people who go visit God Shop online and leave comments and vote for it, the greater the chance it might see print someday.
So go to http://godshopmanga.com and vote, vote, vote! Comments saying that if this was in print you'd buy it also help.
Tell us a little about your previous experience as a writer. Is God Shop your first comics work?
Yes and no. God Shop is the first comics work to actually see the light of day from a mainstream publisher. I have sold several scripts in the past only to have either the title be canceled before my story saw print, or have the editor move on. Last year I sold three scripts to a hardback anthology series that was tied in to a movie project, but funding for the movie was suddenly cut and all the ancillary projects (such as the comics anthology) were dropped.
One comics activity I really enjoy, and have been pretty successful at, is writing promotional comic books for a handful of software companies (including the one I work for in my day job) to promote their products and services. Translating technical documents into an entertaining narrative visual story while still communicating the main business benefits is a special challenge.
Over the years I've had more success writing about comics, and pop culture in general. My books to date include Batman: Unauthorized Collectors Guide and Before They Were Beatles. Over the last couple of years I've written feature articles and essays for BenBella's Batman Unauthorized, Greenwood Press' Terry PratchettEncyclopedia and several volumes in the Titan Books James Bond newspaper strip reprint albums.
I've also written for several of the comics industry magazines; I'm doing the occasional article for Back Issue magazine.
Before we go, do you have any other projects of yours that you’d like to mention?
The next project to hit the bookstores is James Bond: A History of the Illustrated 007 which is due out in mid-October just before the new Bond movie. The book covers the most overlooked part of the Bond phenomenon, his appearance is comic strips and comic books. There have been more original Bond stories in comics than in any other medium. It's a 50 year story that hasn't been told before.
I also have a new comics writing gig working with a licensed property that I can't talk about just yet. But once contracts are signed and I get the OK to spread the word I will definitely let you know more about it.
And of course I still have another eleven God Shop stories plotted and ready to go. So if you want to see them, go vote, vote, vote.