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Sparkler Monthly Kickstarts Year Three Campaign

Sparkler Kickstarter

I’ve made no bones about my support for Sparkler Monthly, the online monthly female-gaze magazine that started two years ago. I loved the idea of getting books, comics and audio dramas that were marketed directly for me, and I’ve been a subscriber since the 4th issue. Sparkler Monthly is a subscriber supported magazine, and for Year Two, they did a subscription drive to try to up membership to increase material in the magazine as well as advances to the creators. The drive is currently at 231 members, having made it past the first two tiers. But for the magazine to really be self-sustaining, a minimum of 1000 subscribers were needed for Year Three to go forward. While the move to 231 was quite an improvement, it wasn’t really enough. But instead of throwing in the towel or downsizing, the resourceful women at Chromatic Press, the publisher of Sparkler Monthly, have put together a Kickstarter campaign to help fund Year Three.

Over 40 days, Chromatic Press is looking to raise $15,000 to put out 12 issues of the magazine as well as new surprises in bonus content, as well as experimenting with different formats and distribution. There are plenty of reward tiers, most of them relating to the magazine. Basically, a pledge to the Kickstarter is like paying a subscription, but with a few more benefits. They are set up in groups, letting backers choose how they want their content; serial, eBooks, or print. The lower tiers feature eBooks and/or paperbacks of the backers choice. At the $50 tier, the magazine subscriptions kick in, with eBooks and download access to the previous two years, as well as their adult line Cherry Bomb becoming available.

For fans of either the stories or creators, there are also special tiers that include commissions by the creators. Starting at the $170 tier, backers get all the benefits of a VIP subscriber, as well as a commission from the following creators: Kaiju (Art; The Ring of Saturn, Mahou Josei Chimaka), Alexis Cooke (Art; Dinner Ditz, For Peace), Onorobo (Art; Dusk in Kalevia), Jen Lee Quick (Art; Off*Beat, Gatesmith), Jenn Grunigen (Story; Skyglass), Lianne Sentar (Story; Tokyo Demons, Shut In, Shut Out), Romy-Chan (Art; Tokyo Demons). All of the creators have volunteered to make these tiers possible. There is also one tier that is sponsored by a fan of the magazine.

The people behind Sparkler Magazine are really amazing, and I’m glad to see them continuing to push to keep the magazine going. They are great with their time, willing to interact with both fans and prospective creators not only through the forums, but in social media as well. To be honest, I was a little worried when I saw how slow the subscription drive was going, and that things might get cut back. If I was better off financially, I would totally go in for the $165 I WANNA READ THIS AS A MAGAZINE: YEAR 1-3 COMPLETE VIP TIER so I could get eBooks of the stories that started before the magazine. I don’t mind reading on a computer screen, but I don’t want to be restricted to being online. Let me download them and read them at my own pace! But for now, I will have to suffice with being a monthly subscriber and show my support as one of the 231.

I recommend people check out the Kickstarter and pledge if they’re interested. All of the back issues are available to read for free at Sparklermonthly.com, so you can try before you buy. I’ve read all of the comics that have run so far, but have fallen behind on the novels and audio dramas. It just means I always have something to look forward to. I highly recommend Orange Junk, a recent comic addition. I also really enjoyed the short comic Shut In, Shut Out. Knights-Errant, Witch’s Quarry and Windrose have been great reads as well. As of this writing, the project is at 30% after only 3 days, with several of the commission tiers already gone, or nearly gone. Hopefully this bodes well for the project and the magazine reaches new audiences.

Sparkler Monthly Year Two

sparklermag 01It was one year ago that I first spoke about Sparkler Magazine, mentioning it as one of the stories on my podcast. It was just one of the news stories, but I used the cover of the premiere issue as my featured image and got the attention of the editors, which got me a  review copy, and the issue an in-depth look on my next podcast.

I really enjoyed that first issue. Back then, the issue was broken down into 6 features; two manga, Dire Hearts and Off Beat, two prose novels Gauntlet and Tokyo Demons Book 2, an audio, Awake, and a subscriber only feature. Dire Hearts was very intriguing. Gauntlet was heart-pounding. Awake set up a great sci-fi thriller. I enjoyed the magazine and digital format so much that I dropped my subscription to Yen Plus, and picked up Sparkler, even though Sparkler cost more. But I was getting more of what I wanted and enjoyed with it.

sparklermag-aug2014Twelve months of updates later, a lot has changed. Dire Hearts sadly has to go on hiatus due to health issue for its creator Christy Lijewski. Off Beat, then Gauntlet and Tokyo Demons Book 2 ended. Plenty of new titles have taken their place. Dead Endings, Dusk in Kalevia and Skyglass joined as regular prose titles. We started to see short stories as well with The Maiden and the Fish in prose, and Dinner Ditz, Before You Go and Rings of Saturn in Comics. With the start of Year 2, new titles Windrose and Gatesmith have joined as well. The have forums on the site where readers could not only talk about their favorite series’, but subscribers had access to the editors who would answer questions about writing and drawing, and they would post articles to help creators improve in areas they saw as weak in the submissions they got. Because they openly accepted submissions. Certain months were dedicated to a different form, comics, prose, and audio.

SparklerSamplerIssue_coverThe key to this venture succeeding though, is dependent on its readers; getting subscribers. As the magazine moves into year 2, the editors have laid things out for us. They need 2,000 people subscribing at least $5 a month to keep the magazine going past this second year, so their running a membership drive. That’s really not a lot of money. What’s the comparison that always gets thrown out? The same as a cup of Starbucks coffee? It should be easy to skip on cup a month to give these women who are working to provide us with something few other publishers are; a magazine focused on the female gaze. They’ve done some great work so far, and really deserve the chance to keep doing more. Not so sure about that? There is a sampler issue available for download for free that features the first chapter of every series available so far.

And they are making it worth your subscribing while. They have dropped the full year price to $50 and thrown in a free eBook from their shop, and added a new tier, VIP that can download every chapter of every series anytime for a yearly price of $125. And like a kickstarter, for every subscriber goal met, new perks open up, such as raffles, dropping the paywall, adding more title slots and even a video game!

But even with all the perks, really, you should just subscribe for the content. It really is great and there is so much variety that just about anyone will find something they enjoy. And with support there can be even more.

Yen Plus September 2011

It’s been a year since Yen Plus went digital and things don’t seem to have changed much, at least not for the Japanese side of the magazine. It’s still meager at best, and is losing another title this month with the final chapter of The Innocent appearing. We can hope Yen Press will be able to announce something soon, otherwise having the two sides of the magazine is going to be pretty pointless.

Continue reading Yen Plus September 2011

Shonen Jump September 2011

This month’s Shonen Jump starts out with a Feature on Pokemon: Black and White, the newest incarnation of the game and spans the trading card game, the video games, the anime and the manga. The fan art section also has a neat piece by guest artist Mr. Warburton, the creator of Cartoon Network’s Codename: Kids Next Door. But where’s Nami?

Continue reading Shonen Jump September 2011

Yen Plus July 2011

This month’s Yen Plus features a lot of changes. The most obvious, as it’s features on the cover is the debut of Soulless, another novel adaptation, but not by James Patterson. This one is by Gail Carriger with art by Rem. But with this addition, two other titles are saying farewell. Gossip Girl ends this issue as does the color edition of High School of the Dead. I’m not going to miss Gossip Girl, as I wasn’t even reading it. But High School of the Dead…well, I’ll give my feelings about that later. And you might notice  something missing from this issue. No Daniel X. And no word why. Strange…

Soulless – This first chapter starts with some very nice color pages, as we are introduced to Alexia Tarabotti. She is at a party when she is attacked by a vampire, that doesn’t appear to be part of a coven, and has a run in with Lord Maccon, the head of Bureau of Unnatural Registry as well as Alpha of the local werewolf pack, and Professor Lyall. Her encounter seems to have attracted the attention of Countess Nadasdy, the leader of a vampire coven, so she goes to see Lord Akeldama, another vampire that she is on good terms with, for advice. I really enjoyed this first chapter, and absolutely love Alexia. I’m coming to appreciate stories set in Victoria London, and Rem’s art is a sight to behold. I think I have found my new favorite series!

Milkyway Hitchhiking – This chapter switches gears again, as Milkyway tells the tale of another “master” of hers. A cruel king is sending hunters out to bring back a creature with white fur. If they fail, they are killed. A new hunter is dispatched, a woman named Robin. But the creature turns out to be something Robin didn’t expect. Her perceived failure as seen by the King’s sorcerers makes the King decide to do the job himself. One again, Milkyway is ancillary to the story, acting more as narrator than wish-granter. This story is at least a two parter, so we’ll have to wait until next month to see where it goes.

Witch and Wizard – Whit gets the gang out of the jam the chapter ended on last month, and Wisty frees all the children in detention. A traitor is revealed in the resistance, but Whit and Wisty join their powers to defeat the warden and guards. The One Who Is The One then appears and taunts Whit with six prophecies supposedly about them before disappearing. I liked the action scenes with Whit and Wisty working together, and realizing it’s the adults who are scared of the children, and more importantly, of change. I still don’t like TOWITO. Not capturing or killing them now doesn’t make him a little good or grey. He’s still the villain.

Aron’s Absurd Armada – Aron and his crew return to port to exact revenge on Luthor and instead decide to go after the Crown of the Ant Queen. It was taken by Luthor as a gift for the King’s birthday, so they decide to the backway through some difficult mountains. Meanwhile we learn more about Aron’s parents and their relation to the Nelson family. While Aron and Luthor might have been friends, it obvious that his mother and Nelson is not. And like the rest of the cast, the King is just as odd.

Maximum Ride – The Flock is heading west, away from Itex, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone following them. An eerie sense of foreboding starts to settle over Max as rumors of a disaster coming starts to seem more real. Fang receives a message that one of the Flock is a traitor. They decide to go to a public place, a football game to see if they can draw their enemies out. They get spotted by members in the crowd, but still no Erasers. It really feels like we’re reading the climax of the story, as the impending doom seems to come ever closer. I am looking forward to see what that is.

Jack Frost – No-Ah is confronted by the new Iyel about emotion, and Siegfred is preparing to move out. Camilla has a plan as well, sending off her “pieces” to the Pillar of Solomon. Meanwhile, inside the Pillar, we are introduced to Beelzebub, another busty woman, and her master Solomon himself. Still not much going on, and really, I’m not feeling any anticipation for what’s probably supposed to be a big fit. I really wasn’t impressed with Beelzebub stripping and prostrating herself in front of Solomon either.

Highschool of the Dead – This final preview chapter starts at the airport where unaffected people are trying to escape, and sniper Rika Minami is clearing a path for the planes to take off. Meanwhile, Saeko, Saya, Kouta, and Shizuka decide to leave the school van and meet up with Takashi and Rei, who are trying to reach one of the bridges to cross into town, but the military has them all blocked off. They meet up with their friends, and Shizuka tells them she knows a place nearby where they can stay, as it’s getting close to nightfall. While all of the fanservice is really annoying, I can’t help but be interested in Takashi’s narration, as he talks about how this zombie apocalypse is changing him and his friends. And while the color is nice, if I continue to follow this series, it’ll be in the black and white.

The Innocent – Johnny is helping Joshua find his sister, and takes him to where women are trafficked. They don’t find her, but Johnny’s powers continue to grow, and he is able to speak to the man responsible for his sister’s injuries, Frame. Johnny continues to skirt the rules, making his point without actually hurting anyone. He finally figures out where Joshua’s sister is, but Frame has sent to Whirl to the lawyer Rain, and he gets there first. I’m still finding this series to be interesting, but not engaging. It seems to be devolving into a typical action title, but the mysteries of Whirl and Angel, and why Johnny can keep doing things he’s not supposed to keeps me reading.

K-On! – The chapter of K-on! isn’t the usual 4-koma, but typical manga chapter. The girls take a break from practice, and Ritsu and Mio’s past is revealed. It’s not a bad story, and if K-On! had been more like this, I might have liked it more. I’m finding I’m not fond of the 4-koma format.

Yotsuba&! – Yotsuba tags along with Ena to Miura’s house, which is in a tall apartment building. In the elevator Yotsuba tries to press all the buttons, but Ena warns her off. At Miura’s home, they see Miura’s picks from her trip to Hawaii, and trade souvenirs, but then Yotsuba makes a most surprising discovery in Miura’s room. The scene in the elevator was cute.

Next month, the mag stays down one story, but Gossip Girl keeps going with a bonus chapter. Hopefully that really will be the last! And there’s no Daniel X scheduled next issue either. Hopefully, there will be some word on it next issue. It is the Patterson book I like the most, though I think I’m in the minority. But, what else is new?

Shonen Jump August 2011

It’s back to the monthly business as usual with August’s Shonen Jump. Since this issue came out before SDCC, it doesn’t have any of the news from the con, and nothing new was added from its month off. Not that really expected there to be any. Anyway, on to the issue! Neuro ended this month on vizanime.com and you can now divine your horoscope with Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds cards, and probably as accurately as Weird Al Yankovic. Now on to the manga!

Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds introduces a new character, Akiza Izinski, the “Queen of Queens” of duel racing. We get to see her in action before jumping to Yusei and Sect in a clinic on Satellite. Angry at his loss to Atlus, Yusei is presented with an invitation to the D1 Grand Prix where he has a chance of a rematch with Atlus. And it seems Akiza has a grudge to settle with Atlus as well. Even as the introductions continue, the manga is moving to the heart of the story, racing and dueling. This title was declared a Worst manga at the SDCC Best/Worst of manga panel, which I think is totally undeserved. 5Ds is far from the worst manga, or even the worst Yu-Gi-Oh! we’ve seen so far. I think GX gets that honor.

One Piece has Rayleigh showing up on Amazon Lily, where he’s apparently on good terms with the women. He come in search of Luffy with a proposition and some advice. Meanwhile, the rest of the Straw Hats has all learned of Ace’s death and are now searching for a way to get back to their Captain and we get to see their predicaments beyond the chapter openers that kept us up to date during the Impel Down and Paramount War arcs. The Thousand Sunny is being protected at the Sabaody Archipelago by Shakky and her allies. More perplexing, is something that Luffy seems to have put in the newspaper that gets confused looks from old friends and allies. Of course the chapters end without telling us what it is. It’s good to see Luffy’s desire to live return as he dives into the food Hancock brought him. Jimbei tells him to eat is to live, and Luffy starts to dive in like the Luffy of old. So we only get chapters, not volumes of grieving Luffy.

Bleach continues its tale of the past with Urahara as captain of the 10th company. These chapters introduce Kurotsuchi and the creation of the Research and Development Department. A young Byakuya and his grandfather is shown as well as his competition with Yourichi. Gin Ichimaru is also introduced as a new addition to Aizen’s company and the Ninth company launches an investigation into some disappearances where their konpaku seemed unable to maintain their form, leaving only clothes behind. What these chapters show is that both Gin and Aizen were always cruel, Byakuya was once not so cold, and the assistant captain on the 9th company was the most annoying character ever. At least this arc seems to be actually going somewhere, unlike the Heuco Mundo arc.

Psyren has Ageha, Sakurako, and Hiryu trying to save the newbies from the giant sand worm. They rescue Oboro, some of the others are eaten, while the rest are shot by a new player that Sakurako calls a Blaster. He also appears to be the friend Hiryu has been looking for, but it’s not the reunion he imagined. Oboro and kabuto come down with their fevers while they are still trying to get to the exit. Sakurako takes on the Blaster and sets to look into his mind leaving Hiryu and Ageha to protect the other two. This stint in Psyren is lasting longer than the previous, and psychic powers are appearing a lot faster, so this is looking like these five will be a team. I’m really curious to find out about the Blaster, and why he’s working against the drifters.

Kisame has one more trick up his sleeve in Naruto, which does finally end him, but his intel gets out as well. Konan faces Madara, determined to end him, but things don’t go exactly as planned for her either, though she does inflict a lot of damage. And even through Madara wins the battle he still loses. We learn more about Madara and what he thinks of himself, which is apparently a lot. The dichotomy of Naruto and Sasake is going to have to shift as Madara is proving to be the real threat, and he doesn’t seem to have Sasake under his complete control just yet. But on the other hand, I don’t see Sasake coming to anyone’s aid as he is now. It’s still a wait and see game here.

The manga preview goes to Prince of Tennis, whose final volume just came out. It’s only half a chapter that pits Ryoma against Seiichi in the final match to decide to National Title. This preview is really a disappointment as it throws you into a match already in progress with little to go on. It’s a very dramatic part of the volume and cuts off at a critical moment, it’s really not enough to get me to want to read it. And with what is shown, it looks so ridiculous that I wouldn’t want to pick it up. This is probably one reason why sports manga hasn’t take off in the US. I don’t mind seeing these kinds of powers in fantasy/action titles. I just don’t for them in sports titles.

Online, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan sees the Shikoku start their attack on the Tochigami by Lord Sodemogi. When Rikuo’s friend Torie is attacked and cursed by him, Rikuo joins the search for him, but it is Kurobado who finds and stops him. Rikuo becomes the next target while he is human, at school Inugami, who is very loyal to Tamazuki, poses as a student to get at him. But when he sees Rikuo getting the attention and respect he wanted, he looses control and attacks during a school assembly. I really liked Senba, the tochigami at the hospital where Torie’s grandmother is. His power to use the 1000 cranes to makes wishes come true is pretty cool. I can’t say I’m thrilled with the Yakuza-like power struggle that going on now. It is different for a shonen title, but I just don’t care for these kinds of stories.

I was really hoping for more manga announcements from Viz at SDCC. Actually I wanted to hear they had licensed the Neuro manga. I guess I’ll have to hope for NYCC/NYAF.

Shonen Jump October 2009

SJ82_largeI’m a loyal reader of Shonen Jump, and every once in a while I like to give my opinion of the current titles running.  I don’t really care for the articles in the magazine.  They are all aimed at teen boys, of which I am certainly not one.  The Bleach anime, Naruto video and card games, the Yu-gi-oh card game, not my thing.  But I still enjoy many of the SJ titles.  So I’m going to do this for Shonen Jump like every 3 months or so, or if anything major happens, such as a title getting switched out, or an exciting preview.

Continue reading Shonen Jump October 2009

Review: Yen Plus Volume 1 Issue 1 Japanese Manga

Yen Plus
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Anthology
Price: $8.99

I was excited to hear last year at the Yen Press inaugural panel as SDCC that they would be publishing an anthology.  I really like by Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat, as they give me an opportunity to sample lots of different manga at an affordable price.  At that panel, Kurt Hassler promised the anthology would be ready by the next SDCC.  And, low and behold, it was there, Friday, for free!  Needless to say, as soon as we got back to the hotel, and for the rest of the weekend, I read it.

First, a few general observations about the anthology.  It’s big.  If you combined one issue of Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat, you would get the approx. size.  And it’s almost all manga.  There aren’t a lot of filler articles (that I tend to ignore in the other anthologies anyway).  There are ads, but they are well done, and put mostly on the OEL/Korean Manhwa side of the anthology.  They are mostly for other Yen Press titles, with a few others thrown in (Dark Horse, Right Stuf etc.).  This anthology also reads from both sides.  The left-to-right side features OEL titles and Korean Manhwa.  About half way through the anthology is a divider page, that tells you to flip the anthology.  On the other side are the Japanese titles in their right-to-left direction.  Tokyopop did this for a while with the manga magazine before they reduced it to just a shadow of it’s former self.

Continue reading Review: Yen Plus Volume 1 Issue 1 Japanese Manga