After a 22-year streak of sending pop fans into a frenzy, Japanese "boy" band SMAP debuted their newest single this past week, "Upside-down Sky," which rocketed to the top of the charts immediately. It's not the band's first time there, either - it's actually its 24th time hitting the No. 1 slot, and its second time this year.
Maybe SMAP sounds more to you like the sound of a bug hitting a windshield than the name of a band, but these guys have nailed the boy band formula in a way that few American bands ever have. With 19 studio albums and 45 singles, they are just as successful as a New Kids on the Block or Backstreet Boys, but they have something more: longevity.
"They're ubiquitous," says Eric Allerton, founder of the Japanese culture hub Gaijin Kanpai network. "They work like crazy hosting variety shows, charity events, and they star in dramas and commercials. They're famous because they were one of the first idol groups ever and they've grown up with their fans."
"And now, all the housewives drool over them because they're on TV 23.5 hours a day."
But it's not just SMAP. Its members are a golden example Japan's "male idol" - beautiful people who wear their hair longer, prefer fitted clothing and are even sometimes mistaken for women. SMAP member Takuya Kimura has often worn his hair in a style that is usually considered ladylike, and the fans love it.
While they might not resemble America's heartthrobs, they've got a following in the United States, too. Their fame is spread through magazines at Japanese grocery stores, videos on YouTube and online fan clubs and communities. FULL POST
Hello again, fellow comic readers!
This week’s pick is not a comic, but a day, and it is one of the most wonderful days of the year for comic fans, this coming Saturday, May 5: Free Comic Book Day!
Free Comic Book Day, or "FCBD" as the cool kids call it, is just what is sounds like - a day for you to go to your local comic book shop and pick up some free comics. Most of the top comic publishers create special books just for this day, usually a one-off comic book or the kickoff to a new story line or series.
As T-shirt slogans go, it doesn't get more direct than this: "Joss Whedon is my master now."
It's a shirt common at fan conventions and anywhere else diehard pop-culture devotees gather. And few fan bases are as fervent as the one devoted to the third-generation television writer.
Few would have guessed that the premiere of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" 15 years ago would launch such a following for its creator. But the enthusiasm of "Buffy" fans helped Whedon build what is referred to as the "Whedonverse."
The Whedonverse includes "Buffy;" its spinoff, "Angel;" "Firefly" - which, 10 years later, is discussed by fans now more than it was during the short time it was on the air; "Serenity" (the "Firefly" movie); another short-lived but devotion-earning series, "Dollhouse;" and most recently, the critically acclaimed horror movie Whedon co-wrote and produced, "The Cabin in the Woods."
But on Hollywood's big stage, all of that is dwarfed by the $220 million "The Avengers," the upcoming action movie written and directed by Whedon. It is the unique culmination of four years of superhero films by Marvel Studios, that have all featured at least one character that will appear in "The Avengers."
With Whedon on the cusp of such a big moment in his career, it bears pondering just what it is that inspires such devotion among fans, who will surely line up alongside the masses to see Iron Man and the rest crack wise and fight off Loki's army. FULL POST
This is the second article of a two-part series exploring the Indian comic book industry. On Monday, we explained the growth of the Indian comic book industry. Today we look at the dilemma of being a geek in India and the status of comic book artists.
By Umika Pidaparthy, Special to CNN
Abhijeet Kini, a Mumbai-based comic book illustrator and animator, did not think there were other comic book enthusiasts like him in India.
“There are a lot of comic book collectors who have blown their salaries on comic books, and I thought I was the only one around,” he said.
In fact, the artist was pretty clueless about Indian geek culture in general.
That is until Kini attended the first Comic Con India in 2011.
He said he was amazed to see not only a big crowd at the convention, but people actually participating in cosplay (short for costume play). Kini was even more surprised to see people dressed as lesser-known characters from edgy Vertigo Comics and Image.
That scene repeated itself at the second Comic Con India (CCI) in February. Not only did many comic fans show up as the Avengers, the Joker and Freddy Krueger, there were also a plethora of new comic books, screenings, workshops by local artists and publishers and even an appearance by “Fritz the Cat” creator Robert Crumb. In all, there were around 80 participants and 35,000 attendees.