Odori Park, by Chris Watkins Odori Park - A webcomic comedy of culture shock in love, life, and family, by Chris Watkins


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My three-year old son invents superheroes. The latest creation: “Lightsky is a superhero. His power is… DAMAGING.”

A friend notes: “My youngest son has that power!”

This is a very versatile power.

Writers and artists take note: A question to follow…

I just went through the process of pulling together a bunch of disparate gags, quotes, and story notes from a variety of sources. I still have to go through some files on my PC to complete the effort.

Now, I follow the “carry a notebook” philosophy, so that I can always write down ideas or scribblin’s when they come to me. I stole a pen cap from a ballpoint to protect my mechanical pencil nib, so that’s easy enough to carry. The kicker is the notebook: to be pocket size, it has to be small, but because it’s small, I’m forever having to jot my ideas down on Post-its, paper scraps, and whatever else may be around when the notebook is full (or, god forbid, absent). My phone of choice is a “smart phone” with a touch screen, so I can also jot notes directly into it, and it is pretty ubiquitous, but its fidelity is nowhere near as fine as pencil and paper, so I’ve found it not to be my preference.

So, the question: How do you other creative types keep your thoughts in order, and, more importantly, available enough that you can put ‘em to use easily when it’s time to draw from the old idea archive?


This characterization may not be far from the truth. I have eaten raw cow liver sashimi. (Not bad.) I’ve heard about cow tongue sashimi (the taste that tastes back!). Somehow, I’m more afraid of Yabe’s corn beef sushi IV. It must be the mayo.

My friend, Chuck Whelon, has just announced the release of two new books collecting material new and old from his long-running sword and sorcery “sit-com” comic, Pewfell (aka Pewfell Porfingles). Chuck crafts a very funny comic, and these guys are in full color, for that added oomph. More details at the Wizards of Ur blog.

Being among the last geeks in America to see the Star Trek movie, I hope you’ll indulge the following, as it’s currently top of mind. <Claven>It’s a little known fact</Claven> that (at least, according to my wife, whom I have no reason to doubt), in Japan, Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu is not Mr. Sulu, but, in fact, Mr. Kato.

This makes sense when you realize that Sulu is not, by any means, a standard Japanese name. (At least, not as far as my experience goes.) That isn’t to say it doesn’t translate. It does, in fact, mean something in Japanese. It means “do.”

By process of logic, then, this means that–had the Japanese not changed Mr. Sulu’s name when importing Star Trek many stardates ago–Mr. Sulu would effectively be Mr. Do.

Also, rumor has it the Klingons were wholesale replaced by koopa troopas.

Please be aware, the following plug is not directly related to my work (although it is related to my relation), comics (although my relation also makes comics), or Japan (although they have plugs in Japan, too):

My cousin, Ben Morey, is a member of The Instruments Band, a folk/acoustic quartet that crafts wonderfully twangy, quirky, catchy music with thoughtful lyrics and a good sense of fun. They were voted the best local band of 2007 by a local radio station that has fine taste, so you know I’m not just spewing hyperbole. Try their latest album, Make Good Choices. You’ll like it. It’s better than green eggs, ham, or any combination thereof.

The Instruments Band: Make Good Choices

If folks are interested, I can make a post next week about one of my favorite Japanese musical acts, as long as we’re on the subject. I do take requests…

I’ve generally been trying to make insightful and witty blog posts twice weekly, sandwiched (or Big Mac-ed, which is more metaphorically appropriate) between my M/W/F comic posts. I missed yesterday, but I have two tidbits today to make up for it:

Item the first: Gary Tyrell at Fleen.com has provided a thoughtful and flattering reviewlette at his site today. Thank you! Please check it out if you’re not already a Fleen reader. (Having invoked the name of Mr. T, will T. Campbell, the A-Team, or Mrs. T show up in his comments thread?)

Item the second: I learned last Friday about Drawing Day from another nice site I frequent, ComixTalk.com. At the literal eleventh hour, I got an account at RateMyDrawings.com and whipped up a quick one-panel cartoon. Please enjoy. (Dig that funky drawing replay!)

Last week, when posting about The Instruments Band, I promised to post this week about one of my favorite Japanese bands. Carrying the same folksy appeal in mind, I thought I’d give a brief introduction to Love Psychedelico.

The ‘Delico sound (the Japanese adore abbreviating names; someday we’ll talk about BuraPi), to me, is like the Japanese musical child of Sheryl Crow and the Woodstock experience. It’s folky-rocky, guitar-rich, and a little bit smoky. The lead singer, Kumi, has a funny way of sounding like an American singing in Japanese, but in a good way. (She spent her early childhood in the US. Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Here, check it out: Your Song, Live

What do you think?

A note on the title of this post: When working on Odori Park, I tend to wonder what an Odori Park Soundtrack might sound like. Assuming I continue to share my musings, I thought I’d throw a feature title around them. I’d love to hear your side: Does Odori Park bring any music to mind for you, as a reader?

Okay, it’s not really all that dark. At best, it’s dim, and that’s pushing it. But, in short: The comics you’ve been seeing to date were all, for the most part, compiled for a submission of Odori Park to the newspaper syndicates. I sent out said submission to the major syndicates at the end of 2007, and dutifully filed away each rejection letter as they trickled in through 2008.

Despite being rejected all around, I was pleased to see the positive comments several editors shared. In general, it seemed that editors liked Odori Park–going by the title A Book By Its Cover at the time (name of the Eastons’ bookshop, natch)–for its art and writing, but that the concept itself wouldn’t sell well to papers. The reasons were ambiguous, but my take is that either a bi-national family was too left of mainstream for the mass media, or my depiction of what’s essentially a family comedy was too ordinary to stand out. Sort of an odd conundrum.

Through 2008 I worked on some additional Odori Park strips, and then put together a second submission package around a new concept. (Maybe someday I’ll share that, too, if the world is curious.) But the reception from the syndicate letters and from friends was positive enough that I decided to take Odori Park online.

Posts starting tomorrow are truly new. Enjoy!

And if you have an opinion as to whether Odori Park would have done well in the funny pages, I’d love to hear it.

Since Wednesday’s comic involves sales (or lack thereof), and I just opened up a Project Wonderful ad slot, I’m in a money mood, so allow me to introduce one of the most ubiquitous of Japanese expressions: Irasshaimase!!! (I’m assuming exclamation marks are a legal requirement when writing irasshaimase!, but the multiples are a bonus.) Enter any store, restaurant, or shopping center, and you’ll hear this hail of “Welcome!” ring out like a capitalistic battle cry, or, maybe more appropriately, like the mating call of the domestic sales clerk desperate to attract a willing wad of cash (brought to you by Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom).

Irasshaimase can come in variations, depending on the region and the speaker. My favorite, The machine-gun welcome: ‘rasshai-’rasshai-’rasshai!! Often heard in more down to earth establishments, like busy fish markets, I think. There’s something very… car salesman-ish about this approach.

In contrast, consider a common American store greeting: “Whaddaya want? (sneer optional).

I’ve found a sample at David in Japan, but nothing yet of my favorite version. Holler if you find a link!

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