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Calling All Asian Media Supporters... Giant Robot Needs Your Help!

Logo handmade by Bannister Column by Scott Green
Few subjects can fire up genre fans' interest like news of a Hollywood adaptation of Asian media. Whether its derision (Dragon Ball), antipathy (Oldboy) or support (various mecha franchises), the notion of feeding an Asian favorite into the American film process has proven to be a provocative prospect. The reasons for this are evident. My domains on AICN are Japanese comics and Japanese animation, and what I've always said is the appeal of these subjects is that they offer a distinctive perspective, presented in a distinctive style. That applies to the broader topic of Asian media that has attracted North American interest. Whether it's Park Chan-wook's Old Boy or Junko Mizuno's vision of grotesque cuteness, Asian media has offered plenty of works of attention commanding distinctiveness with plenty of reason to possess a strong opinion about the prospect of it being reprocessed. Since 1994, one of the most eye opening and insightful outlets for information on Asian and Asian American popular culture has been the bi-monthly magazine Giant Robot. To be honest, as with the New Yorker, I've gotten busy and backlogged and let my subscription run out a few times, but the highly recommended resource is one that I've always found to be valuably eye opening. The most recent issue 63 alone featured Hong Kong film god John Woo, Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi, Pro skateboarder Kenny Anderson, actor Nick Cheung, Indie filmmaker from the Philippines Ana Agabin, Indie crime writer Leonard Chang, and Hong Kong art filmmaker Yonfan. I'd like to think that these are the kind of subjects that excite AICN readers.
Unfortunately, Giant Robot has not escaped the pressures cracking the print industry. I don't think you'll find a more addicted digital media junky than me. Decorum be damned, if I have nothing better to do, I'll pull out my phone and start browsing RSS feeds. At the same time, I'd argue that digital media rarely matches print in depth and can't compare in graphic design. Cases in which it has been able to support the kind of writer who've made a career in print have been rare. Even if online ventures weren't also facing difficulties, the loss of an outstanding print magazine is unlikely to be compensated for by the addition anything online. As such, when a outlet like Giant Robot says there on the precipice, it deserves notice. So, allow me to direct your attention to Giant Robot's fundraiser. THE MAGAZINE For more than 15 years, Giant Robot has been documenting, promoting, and growing Asian and Asian American popular culture. Although a lot has changed since 1994, and there’s more immediate access to interesting stuff from around the world than ever, most of it is still crap and Giant Robot is as relevant as ever. Not only do we share what we think is the most interesting, compelling, or just plain cool aspects of Asian pop culture, but we also shape it and affect how readers in America and other countries perceive Asian, Asian American, independent, and underdog culture. Our distinctive editorial voice and clear sense of purpose has earned a loyal readership that includes academics and punks; old-school Asian activists and new-school bloggers; art fans, moviegoers, music listeners, comic readers, and food fiends; and Asians and non-Asians alike. And as the publication has evolved into a glossy magazine with a dedicated national following (with international distribution as well), so has the company’s business model. The unprofitable process of magazine publishing was bolstered with a series of like-minded retail outlets. After offering mail order and online sales, we went on to open locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City. Our galleries and shops have not only provided a means of support for a horde of up-and-coming artists and indie businesses, but led the way for a generation of boutique/art gallery hybrids. THE MOMENT While diversification allowed Giant Robot to escape the fate suffered by many of our indie publishing peers in the second half of the ‘00s, 2009 was brutal. In addition to several distributors cutting out small press or folding altogether, paper has become more expensive and postage has skyrocketed exponentially. And while there has also been the support of loyal advertisers, the middle class of supporters has dropped, creating peaks and valleys in income that force us to live issue to issue. Complicating matters, store revenues and art show sales have suffered along with the economy, depriving the magazine of resources that allowed it to operate freely and thrive without the benefit or constraints of being part of a large publishing house. Reducing pages, going from bimonthly to quarterly, or becoming an online entity are not options, and our editorial and production staff of two full-timers and two part-timers (intact since issue 18) is already as lean as can be. And so, we are taking a series of actions with the intention of not only outlasting the economic downturn but becoming an even tighter operation with an improved publication. These steps include improving the content, explore printing and distribution options, and evolving with technology. We are also seeking help from friends. THE MESSAGE Although the idea of a Giant Robot Foundation is not new (a non-tax-deductible donation form has been included with subscription renewal notices for years now), this particular online campaign is. We believe that there are multiple generations artists, designers, bands, filmmakers, and travelers, as well as fans, students, and supporters of interesting culture who believe in what we do and want Giant Robot magazine to continue on its path without sacrificing quality, quantity, or independence. We have done the math, and an infusion of $60,000 (hopefully more) will ensure another year of full, unfettered operation with no strings attached to a shifting media paradigm, advertising climate, sketchy distributors, and the economy—each of which we are not ignoring but addressing straight-on. In concert with the other measures (not to mention the realignment and recovery of our shops), we feel that Giant Robot’s future and its continuing impact of society will be secure. If you have been affected or inspired by Giant Robot—perhaps even featured in the pages of the magazine—please help however you can. All support, both through finances and spreading the word, will be appreciated and make a difference.

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