And of course you'll want to enjoy the latest in the Chronicles of William Bazillion...especially now that it's available at a brand-new URL, www.williambazillion.com! (The DNS is still propagating, so this URL may not work at all locations for the next 24 hours. But soon all will be able to enjoy it!)
Finally, today I'm proud to present a very special Overlooked Manga Festival Special Event!
From time to time, I've talked about the particular challenges of editing manga, which is what I do for a living. Manga editing--and editing in general, for that matter--is a job that tends to go unnoticed unless you do a really bad job. If you do a really good job...well, your readers might notice that the manga reads well, but it probably won't occur to them to wonder why. (They might even dislike it, given that some fans seem to see stiff, clumsily literal translations as more "authentic.") The role of the editor is an oft-unsung one, but even we have our heroes--our Beowulfs, our Ivanhoes, our Bennett Cerfs. Wherever issues of rewriting, dialogue punch-up, FX translation, copyediting, and miscellaneous text design are discussed, certain names arise in hushed whispers. That's why I've decided to declare this Overlooked Manga Festival...
An All-Star Tribute to Carl Gustav Horn
In previous OMFs, I've mentioned former Viz editor and current Dark Horse editor Carl Horn's extensive bonus materials for Golgo 13, his fine rewrites on Banana Fish, and his exemplary work as the manga editor on PULP magazine. The man is, quite simply, a manga legend. He's an auteur among manga editors, painstakingly crafting each title he supervises into a thing of beauty.
From Bakune Young, one of many fine titles in PULP, not to mention one of countless excuses for Carl to insert British slang into his manga.
You can catch a glimpse of Carl in the photo that accompanies his excellent interview with Kazuo Koike on the Dark Horse website, which is just as well, since his own self-portraits make him look kind of scary, and supposed friends like Jason Thompson draw him like this:
That cartoon appeared in the "American Manga!" issue of PULP. In his introduction to the issue, Carl notes, "Indeed, the taint-of-the-Deep-Ones caricature of me rendered by the bishonen Thompson well captures his resentment, and makes me ponder the links between beauty and cruelty."
Carl talks and writes like that all the time.
Nine things that make Carl an awesome editor:
1. Amazing back-cover text.
Who the hell else can freestyle on a C4 like this?
When I took over from Carl as the editor of Excel Saga, around the time he left Viz for Dark Horse, it was understood that he would continue to write the cover text and do rewrites on all the scripts, because it would be impossible--nay, unthinkable--to try to replicate that elusive Carl Horn vibe. Below is the first cover text I received from him, which still leaves me reeling with the realization of my own inadequacy, not unlike Son Goku in the Buddha's palm:
The brilliant thing about the Aqualung riff, of course, is that, in the manga, Dr. Shiouji actually is sitting on a park bench, eyeing little girls with bad intent. Look!
Of course, Carl can sometimes get too consumed by his subject. Look at this cover for one of the slim editions of Eagle (before the whole series was collected into five big books):
There is more text on that cover than actually appears on the inside pages.
2. Liner notes.
When Carl edits a manga, he likes to give you a little extra. If he can't provide full bonus features like those in Golgo 13, he'll write up page after page of copious cultural notes. Mere mortals like ourselves might not be able to think of much of anything to say about, for example, Oh My Goddess!, but Carl is no mere mortal, waxing wise on defunct models of VHS players, nonessential Japanese civil-service jobs, and the band Anthrax.
Another typical endnote:
3. Shaping the manga industry from the raw firmament.
Everyone has a Carl Horn story. In response to my request for testimonials, former Viz anime director Toshi Yoshida wrote:
Do you mean something like pictures from the Animag Karaoke parties back in the 80s (back before Karaoke became popular in the US) where Carl is singing the original Lupin the Third opening? Or one of the first times I met Carl was when he came over to my parents house where I found him in my garage flipping though my volumes of Be Free by Tatsuya Egawa? And just a few weeks ago at the closing ceremonies at Anime Central he gave Trish [Ledoux] mad props and said that if it weren't for her, he wouldn't be in this industry?
Cartoonist Lea Hernandez wrote:
What should we share? How Carl and I were in an erotic-anime-inspired APA that also spawned an anime producer? Him bribing me with roses to ge an interview about Gainax? (I had successfully refused for ten+ years.)
Carl got that interview, by the way.
He always, always, always wears a tie, to the point that he once paid his own way to the San Diego Comic-Con so he wouldn't have to wear the polo shirts Viz was making all its reps wear at the con that year. He's extensively well-read and impeccably educated in hard rock, rap, and hip-hop. He's a world traveller. Very few people have ever seen him consume anything besides coffee, although he regularly sends his old Viz colleagues care packages of snacks from Trader Joe's.
Matt Murray of Corn Pone Flicks recalls:
I usually only see Carl once a year for a few hours, if that, but let's see: there was the time the speakers screwed up at the AWA closing ceremonies and me and Carl both started quoting the Stormtroopers of Death song "What's that noise?"--this is related to the part where he seems incapable of NOT getting a musical reference, and then there was a time we were moshing to Nirvana's "Negative Creep" at the AWA dance, back when it was still cool, he still in his black suit. That, and all the strange and possibly homemade drinks he tends to serve at his parties. I'm not sure what else to relate. Oh, he did a great cameo of a guy getting shot right in the head for one of our films, though regrettably one we haven't finished yet.
5. Sweet-ass rewrites.
Of course, Carl often has excellent backup in this department. Translators like Akemi Wegmuller, Yuji Oniki, and Yuko Sawada do excellent work with him. So does Lea Hernandez, the rewriter for Oh My Goddess!, one of Carl's current titles. So do many other people I don't have room to mention (or don't know about, since the roles of translators and rewriters are often invisible, too). But it always helps to have a little Carl Horn in the mix.
Sure, Moyoko Anno's Flowers and Bees is a great manga all by itself. But you have to admit that the Carl touch gives the dialogue a little extra something.
Writes Viz staffer Rob McCarthy:
Carl was the force that kept comics about 14-year-olds shouting, "I'm gonna be the best!" from taking over Viz.
Once we were sitting around Bryant Street and Carl was trying to come with a word for "at the point of vomiting but not vomiting." He asks everybody, they got nothing. He asks me, I say, "How about 'queasy'? He gets up, shakes my hand, and says, "Perfect! Thank you..."
Most of us probably would have just written "BARF."
One way for manga editors to insert a personal touch into their scripts, or avert boredom, is to rewrite the characters' dialogue with distinctive speech patterns. Carl, like many old-school editors from the days when editors had time to lavish on these things, loves accents.
Who can forget his streetwise interpretation of Toji Suzuhara's Osaka accent in the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga?
Or his decision to give the Kansai-born Sumiyoshi in Excel Saga a working-class British accent inspired by the other Viz, a British comedy magazine Carl adores?
(Carl deserves a special Pulitzer just for translating "dating sim games" as "date-a-lass games.")
Or his Harlem gangsters in Banana Fish?
Or any number of regionally-accented Americans in Eagle?
7. Attention to detail.
Writes Viz editor in chief Alvin Lu:
I have to admit I'm somewhat reluctant to participate in the "share-all, tell-all" manner required of such events, if only because I feel that Carl would consider such lack of discretion to be beneath the dignity asked for in the task which we are discussing, that is, editing manga, American-style, which Carl is such an exemplary practitioner of.
What I mean is, I don't think he would want us to make it sound as if such things as he routinely does are to be considered extraordinary--I certainly wouldn't want to suggest that they are beyond the bounds of what a "normal" manga editor would do, and I am certain Carl would not consider what he does to be a matter of extraordinary measures, but simply doing what is right by the title "manga editor'.
So when I speak of the time he snuck a tape recorder into a movie screening of "Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence", so that he could go back later and listen to the soundtrack to make sure that he got the sound FX glossary right in the Ani-Manga version of the same movie, I'm not saying that that wasn't what any editor of an Ani-Manga would have done given the same responsibility.
Or when I speak of the time, as he relayed to me, that he consulted with a librarian in the Portland public library system, who happened to be versed in both Arabic and Japanese, to make sure he got some sign names right in a panel of an episode of GOLGO 13 that was set in Iraq...I'm not saying only Carl would have done that and that only he could have found the right person to get him the right answer.
I could go on, and I'm afraid, if I did, it'd become pretty clear pretty quick that while one of the anecdotes cited might be about any one editor working in the business, *all of them* together could only be about one man.
I will leave you, though, with one correction to your previous post about GOLGO. I believe that it was not the foreign editor who produced the English-language GOLGO underpants in question, but Carl who brought the underpants to the foreign editor. Needless to say, it immediately generated a bond between kindred spirits, who understood the calling of "manga editor" transcends the boundaries of culture, nation, and language.
I hereby apologize for the misunderstanding about who sent Golgo 13 underpants to whom.
8. Pulling a troubled nation together on September 11.
Seriously. Rob McCarthy remembers:
Carl was the first person to call me on 9/11 (he was already at Viz). He said, "Are you aware of Events?"
I said "Yeah, are they open?"
He said, "Yeah, but maybe not all day."
I said, "If you're there, I'm there too."
Writes Patrick Macias, former Viz staffer and current editor of the new magazine Otaku USA:
9/11. Perhaps you have heard of it.
The second tower is just on the verge of going down by the time sleepy San Francisco wakes up. Most everyone stays at home that day, feeling rotten. Having nothing else to do, I head for work on impulse power.
Only Carl is there in all of editorial, wearing one of his immaculate suits. One or two Japanese executives (the sort that never go home anyways) pop in and out of the frame.
We watch a snowy black and white CNN feed on Carl's vintage orange portable TV. There are rumors that another plane is headed for San Francisco. We see tracer rounds being fired in Afghanistan. The shit has hit.
Carl breaks out the good whiskey, offers some import smokes.
I think it was the only day that he never mentioned Gunbuster, Evangelion, or Gainax. In hindsight, that may have been the scariest thing about it.
I'm not sure how many people ever figured this out, but "Viz" is supposed to be short for "visual," as in "visual entertainment." It's also short for "vision," and back in the old days the place was mostly staffed by starry-eyed nerds who dreamed of a day when manga and anime would win their rightful place in the forefront of world culture. (Now, of course, that day has arrived, and we're all kind of freaked out.) Viz was, of course, far from the only geeky anime company to think this way; I recall, for example, CPM's grandiose old slogan, "World Peace Through Shared Popular Culture." Carl Horn was around in those bright dawn times, when it seemed like nerds could save the world through the power of manga love.
Writes Jason Thompson, fellow Viz freelancer and author of the upcoming Manga: The Complete Guide:
Carl Horn is one of the smartest and funniest people I know. He is one of those people who possesses that quality of geniuses and demagogues, who is able to argue his case so eloquently and easily that you find yourself being brought around to his position almost without realizing it. He also knows literally everything. I remember that he once commented that Islam might be the natural religion of otaku, since when Islamic men go to paradise, they are specifically promised virgins WITH LARGE EYES. (Although when I read the Koran myself, I noticed something that may disappoint any Islamic otaku -- the virgins are supposed to be of the same age as their husbands. Sorry, aging moe fans!)
I remember once I was entering questionnaire information from Viz's website. One of the questions was "What is your favorite manga?" and since this was 1997, invariably there were some morons who answered "Ninja Scroll" or "Giant Robo" or something like that. I remember complaining to Carl that these people clearly thought that "manga" meant the anime company "Manga Entertainment." In his capacity as an ambassador for manga and anime culture, Carl was amused, but not disturbed. "You gotta EDUCATE the brother!" he said. Which, like most things Carl says, I wish I had said first.
I have my own Carl Horn stories, of course, mostly from my years as the front-desk receptionist at Viz. But I won't tell them now. All I'll say is that I still miss seeing him every day, and I still love reading his manga.
Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Your and My Secret
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Anywhere But Here
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Ricca 'tte Kanji!?
OMF Special Event: My Legacy