PULP: The Other World of Manga
By Adam "OMEGA" Arnold
Since it's launch, PULP has always sought to show the full spectrum of the appeal of manga. Clearly a niche magazine to be found in comic stores, PULP has begun to appear in leading bookstore chains giving it a mainstream appeal. Clocking in at over 200+ pages a month, the anthology magazine is a unique blending of cutting edge manga that ranges from surreal horror stories to intriguing sex comedies.
PULP began as a companion title to VIZ's concluded Manga Vizion manga anthology and helped lay the groundwork for Animerica Extra's bare bones layout of short articles with must-read manga. Over PULP's tenure it has changed it's layout, it's content, even it's subtitle. By doing this, it has evolved from a magazine dubbed 'Manga for Grownups' to 'The Manga Magazine', which is a good thing since I once got carded for buying some older issues of PULP when I was out of town. Must have been the Pokemon shirt I was wearing. Yet, regardless of my difficulties, PULP has effectively helped to break down the barriers that have blocked underground genres of manga from reaching the mainstream.
With all that said, let's take a look at some of the manga in the magazine. Strain and Banana Fish really need no introduction other than to say that Strain is an action and intrigue manga brought to you by Buronson and Ryoichi Ikegami, who is known for his surprisingly realistic artwork, and Banana Fish is one of Japan's most popular shonen manga.
Looking for a sex comedy that puts anything on TV to shame? Look no further than Dance till Tomorrow. It all started with Suekichi's 450 million yen inheritance and went haywire from there.
The first thing you're probably going to think when you hear the name, Voyeurs, Inc. is, 'This must be some company that goes and spies on people!' Well, that pretty much sums up the story - but, don't forget to add the fact that clients hire them to do in-depth investigations and help find people. Now that I think about it, something tells me that the staff members would do this stuff even if they weren't getting paid...
Bakune Young is initially about one man's ultra-violent attempt to gain a ransom of 100 trillion yen from the Japanese government for the release of a bunch of tourists, a mafia leader, and a national landmark - but the real thrill to this story is to see how far one man's rampage will go.
If you are looking for a break from all the other manga, be sure to check out Short Cuts which is a series of one page shorts that feature everyone's favorite topics... serial killer bears, forgotten children, and ko-gals!
Uzumaki is one of the most unsettlingly creepy stories to appear in PULP. It is the story of a town that has been overrun by spirals. People literally become obsessed with the spiral shape and they literally begin to be transformed by the spirals.
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga and Cinderalla are the latest additions to the manga department. Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga is a satire of the evolution of manga with both tips for getting started and bizarre asides. Cinderalla in stark contrast has a sixties acid-trip artwork style that features super-deformed characters and animals in a story about a girl named Cinderalla who must manage her father's restaurant after he dies. Thing is, he comes back as a zombie and there is a lot more to this story than cooking...
To help figure out where PULP is heading next, Animefringe went right to Alvin Lu, PULP's editor-in-chief, for the answers.
Animefringe: PULP recently moved from using a stapled binding to using glue without changing the price tag. Was this a hard decision to make?
Alvin Lu: Not hard, really. Squarebinding was something I and PULP's designer, Izumi
Evers, had wanted to do for sometime. I don't know why we stayed with
staples for so long--habit, I guess--because when I actually went and did a
comparison, at PULP's page-count, format, and print run, the difference
between squarebinding and saddle-stitch (staples) was relatively small. Once
we realized that, we went ahead with it.
AF: As editor-in-chief of PULP, is it a daunting task to edit so much content each month?
AL: Well, I have a small staff to help me. Carl Gustav Horn edits the bulk of
the manga and does an excellent job of it.
It's a lot of work, but I enjoy every minute of it, so it's not really work,
AF: Not at all. If you love what you do, then it makes any hassle well worth it in the end. Other than editing chores, what other involvement do you have in the production of PULP each month?
AL: Being editor-in-chief means that my "other involvement" is "everything." A
lot of what I do is facilitation between all the different moving parts of
the magazine, and represent the magazine to the rest of the company.
Sometimes it feels like I'm doing more admin than actual hard editing; I've
even been selling advertising. Making sure writers get paid on time is a top
priority for me. One thing I won't do is make lettering or art-flopping
corrections--I don't trust myself with a pen or correction tape or scissors..
Carl Horn or Jason Thompson, both capable artists in their own right, do
that, when it's called for. But I'm happy to hack away at a manga script,
not to mention the articles. And I'll write the occasional full-length
AF: What is the toughest editing decision you've ever had to make in the past?
AL: Hmmm. I haven't had to fire anyone so far, that would be the toughest
decision. The toughest thing has been shepherding PULP's evolution, since I
took over, into a stronger magazine, one with a distinct personality. It's
tough to keep your vision on that goal while dealing with all the smaller
stuff. But I think we're about there. I'm confident in saying, in its
current incarnation, PULP isn't just one of the best things Viz puts out, or
one of the best comics in America, it's one of the best periodicals out
there, period. And I have to keep reminding myself to hold the magazine to
that standard and not let things slide. And I've only been doing this a
The next part, which will be even harder, is let as many people as possible
know--including people in Viz--what I already know about the magazine.
That's why I appreciate so much the people who've already discovered the
magazine and support us. The best way to repay them for their support is to
continue to work at a high level making a quality product that's more than
worth their money.
I think the one advantage PULP has over 99% of everything out there is that
all of us who work on it really love the magazine. We recently found a
letterer and retouch artist who's a big fan of the title she's working on.
That's always great. And, in the case of Junko Mizuno, who's handling all
the flopping and lettering on CINDERALLA, it's great to work with artists
who care enough to handle translation of their own work.
AF: Before PULP, what other projects have you been involved in?
AL: I was a staff writer and editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, an
alternative weekly, where I was mostly a columnist and film critic. My
background isn't really in comics, although I consider myself a fan. One
thing I like to think I bring to PULP is an outside sensibility, one that
connects manga to the broader culture at large (I'll be the first to admit
we have a long way to go on this one, though). Anime's never really done
anything for me--I think manga can hold up on its own merits. I very much
buy into the Japanese model, where manga is the fountainhead for everything.
AF: Let's move to the magazine now. Are there any long-running series that will be concluding in the near future?
AL: The lineup, which was in flux for a while, both because series were actually
ending and because I've been trying to rejigger the magazine's chemistry, is
pretty stable now. The current lineup, after VOYEURS goes and BAKUNE comes
back, should hold for about a year. However, I've left space in the magazine
to run one-shots and special excerpts, to maintain variety. UZUMAKI,
CINDERALLA, and BAKUNE YOUNG all have about a year to go. DANCE TILL
TOMORROW and BANANA FISH will continue to be our long-running, regular,
familiar series. But I am in favor of balancing against these long-running
serials shorter serials and one-shots in order to catch the casual reader.
AF: CINDERALLA and EVEN A MONKEY CAN DRAW MANGA recently joined PULP's manga line-up. Are there any other new series that will be joining the magazine in the future?
AL: I'm not going to mention anything now--as I said, the lineup's pretty set
for a while, but I'll be bringing in some "guest appearances". One thing
we'll be launching soon are one-volume PULP OGNs (Original Graphic Novels),
and PULP will be running excerpts from these titles. A couple titles we're
looking into, as I've mentioned on the Warren Ellis boards, are the two
latest from BLACK & WHITE's Taiyo Matsumoto--GO GO MONSTER and NUMBER FIVE.
AF: Are there any series in particular that you would like to see appear in Pulp in the future?
AL: There's a lot of stuff I'd like to see published, and I'd love to be the one
who works on them. Sometimes, things can't be helped. I would love to
publish the early works of Katsuhiro Otomo--the stories from HIGHWAY STAR
and SHORT PEACE--which a lot of people think is actually his best work.
Otomo maybe doesn't feel this way--anyway, he won't give us (or anybody
else, as far as I know) permission to do them. There's also an insane series
he drew about a war between China and the USSR.
I want to see more Tezuka published.
I want to see Kazuo Umezu published.
The question is, if we publish these great works, manga classics and some of
the highest acheivements in the comics art form, and great entertainment to
boot, will there be enough buyers to support these titles? I'm sure if we
published Otomo, the numbers would be there (on the other hand, DOMU had
disappointing sales--inexplicibly), but it's impossibe to gauge if American
comics readers are ready for Umezu. Thinking about it makes me sad, and a
AF: Switching gears from manga to columns, PULP has one of the widest array's of unique columns to appear in a magazine. Is it hard to make a decision on adding a new column to PULP?
AL: Not really. It's just a question of space and who or what's available. The
purpose of the articles and columns, I feel, is to support the manga. In
Japan, manga are very much part of the broader of the culture; you pick them
up off the subway, they're part of the air there. The columns are in PULP to
provide a sense of context, to point out that these manga are coming from
the world Out There. And that doesn't mean just Japan. Artist interviews are
great, of course, but beyond that I like to keep it pretty loose. The point
is to show that manga are the world, and the world is manga. Warren Ellis, I
thought, shared this view of the larger role comics play in the world, and
that's why I asked him to come on to write a few columns.
AF: Hikaru Natsumi's Vulgarity Drifting Diary recently concluded it's run. Are there going to be any columns of a similar nature appearing in the future?
AL: I don't know. What did you think of that column?
AF: I thought it was a very intense column with some very interesting looks at
life and relationships. But it was also very strange how Hikaru was so
desensitized to the world around her. I liked the descriptive nature of her
writing though. But, probably the most unnerving portion was when she
was talking about her fascination with vomit.
AL: We ran Vulgarity because we
had two series, VOYEURS and SHORT CUTS, that dealt with prostitution, and I
thought it would be interesting to provide another perspective, but, to be
honest, that column kinda made me nervous sometimes. But that's just because
I'm actually something of a prude (kinda weird for someone editing PULP, I
know), and there were others on the staff who felt strongly about having
Vulgarity there, and I thought it'd be interesting to try out. (Weirdly, and
this is by no means a representative cross-section, I found women found
Hikaru less disturbing than men.) Plus, I thought the idea of having Junko
Mizuno, who has such a cartoony style, illustrate something so hardcore and
direct would be really weird and interesting, which it was. I'm actually
looking right now at translations of essays by this guy Miyadai, who did a
lot of "research" into the kogal prostitution scene, and it's pretty
interesting. It might provide better context for some of the stuff that goes
on in SHORT CUTS than Vulgarity did.
AF: Has there ever been any opposition to having such a mature magazine in VIZ's manga line-up?
AL: The only "real" thing that every happened was that a kid surfing for Pokemon
linked over from the Viz site over to pulp-mag.com, and his mom freaked out,
and we had to pull the plug on the PULP site for a while. There's actually
not much nudity on the PULP site nowadays, but we still have this giant
warning sign, which kind of bugs me, because we're almost the farthest thing
from a porn site. It's mostly a lot of long articles! Not that that's not
sexy, but you know. Other than that, I understand the importance of
differentiating PULP's products for Viz's general line, especially the stuff
for kids. But if you ask me, VIDEO GIRL AI and EVANGELION are 10x more
salacious and pandering and quasi-pornographic than any of the stuff we run
in PULP. Including VOYEURS, which isn't "erotic" really...it's just gross,
AF: I've always wanted to ask this, why exactly is did PULP skip from Vol.1 #1 to Vol.2 #1?
AL: Oh yeah. I don't know, really. I wasn't there for the decision, but I
imagine it's was to synchronize, so that the number matched the month. You know,
the first issue came out in "December" (actually November but let's not get
into why magazines always have the *next* month printed on their covers), so
they didn't want "vol. 1, no. 2" to be January. But yeah it makes it sound
like PULP has been around longer than it actually has.
AF: Any thing else you would like to add?
AL: I think I've gone on. Thank you for your interest!
|Dance till Tomorrow
|Black & White
||Black & White #1-5
||Vol. 2 #6
||Vol. 2 #10
||Vol. 2 #11
|Benkei In New York
|Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga