Webcomics have been part of the Seven Seas mix since the beginning. The L.A.-based publisher launched in 2005 with a line of nicely produced global manga that seemed specifically designed to appeal to pre-teens: Amazing Agent Luna, Last Hope, Blade for Barter, and from the beginning, they put the first 75-100 pages of each online for free. Currently their front page features four manga series that update several times a week, including Aoi House, which
runs on the Megatokyo model only with regular updates: The entire archive, now up to four volumes, is online for free or available on dead-tree media in your local bookstore.
Now they are doing something a little different: Their new series The Ninja Diaries will be serialized in the weekly Los Angeles lifestyle paper Metromix, both in the print edition and on the website. This obviously brings their work in front of a larger audience than the readership of the Seven Seas website, but will it be a happy marriage?
The manga itself looks pretty good so far. In the first four pages, DeFilippis and Weir introduce their characters and even give them a bit of personality, work in a timely joke, and set up the main story arc. If you’re one of those people who hates global manga on principle, this might be the comic that makes you abandon those principles, because Elmer Damaso’s art is clear and deft; the manga influence is there, but it isn’t obnoxious. My one quarrel with it is that the female character has manga eyes and smoothed-out features, while the guys just look like normal guys; it’s as if the girl was pasted in from some other strip. Japanese manga artists do this a lotâ€”I had the same complaint about Battle Royaleâ€”but as this will be many people’s first manga, I wish it were more consistent.
The newspaper interface is bot a plus and a minus. The good part is that they include extras such as an interview with the artist, and they package the story with several other articles that are of obvious interest to comics readers. There are two downsides. One is that the pages are presented poorlyâ€”they are too small, and they sit too far down on the page, so you have to scroll to get to them. The other problem is a common newspaper affliction these days, and it can’t pass away quickly enough for me: Really intrusive ads. In this case, it’s a pop-up window that covers the text and follows you as you scroll. And it’s a survey! Why don’t these surveys ever ask how you feel about pop-up ads? Because the answer would put them out of work, I suspect. One more complaint: The comic was good enough that I would have liked more than four pages.
The Ninja Diaries doesn’t break any new ground, but it looks like it will be an entertaining, well drawn manga that’s accessible enough to regular, non-manga-reading folks that it may make a few converts. Seven Seas is wise to reach out to a new audience via Metromix, but they should talk to their web people about tweaking the site to showcase their comic a little better.