E.P. November 2009
E.P. is founder of The Daily Dragon Ball Chapters project (DDBC). DDBC was a very popular Dragon Ball translation site founded in 1997 that later became possibly the largest source and repository of scanned/translated Dragon Ball manga.
E.P.: Hi, I'm E.P. Started The Weekly Dragon Ball Chapters in September 1997 (which became The Daily Dragon Ball Chapters a month later). In late 1999, I renamed it to Tankouban DB; it merged with Planet Namek in early 2000.
E.P.: There really wasn't a scanlation community at the time. As your site notes, the term didn't come into use until 2000. Instead, there were just isolated people releasing a few manga chapters. The most comprehensive effort was The KOR Project. Does anyone still remember that series? I never think about it.
The offline world wasn't much better. I'm not sure that Borders and Barnes & Noble even had manga sections. Ten years later, the manga section is incredibly popular and dwarfs the size of the nearby U.S. comics. The top manga of today—Naruto, One Piece, Bleach—weren't around or were just starting out.
E.P.: I loved Dragon Ball and was frustrated about not being able to read the entire series. One day, I realized that if I wanted something done, I should do it myself. So I bought the cheapest scanner at Best Buy ($90—big money for a high school sophomore), went to the local Koreatown to get some volumes, and used the text translations that were available.
I had no idea what I was doing, so it was just a matter of making things up as I went forward. My goal was clear: to make available all non-commercially available chapters for download. Downloading was a pain back then with the 4.0/K a second speed from dial-up modems. I greatly prefer the online high-speed viewing that current sites use.
I found that I was pumping out chapters more quickly than one per week (which would make 52 chapters a year, or four volumes—too slow for a forty-two volume series) so I changed the name to The Daily Dragon Ball Chapters. Five–six a week would come out to two volumes a month, twenty-four volumes a year. The whole series would then be available in a year and a half. That's about how long it took for the project to finish, actually.
E.P.: You know what? I was concerned that the powerful Viz Corporation (heh, they were probably a small business) would swoop in one day and shut this down. But I never heard from them. My guess is that they didn't know, or if they did, they didn't care. They shouldn't have; the DDBC gave the series wider accessibility and gained fans who surely would want to own the real deal rather than rely on low-quality computer scans.
E.P.: It was pretty straight-forward... get the raw scans, edit in Paint Shop Pro 4.0 with Comic Sans Font, zip and upload (with Winamp on the whole time, naturally). I later added other sections to the site (News, Editorials, Message Board, etc.) and updated those as items came in.
Hosting was a big problem. Being a broke high school student, I didn't want to pay for hosting, so I relied upon free Geocities accounts and later donated hosting by visitors. When sites went down, re-uploading was slow... so slow...
E.P.: My skills were too crude to really have techniques!
Actually, I only did about a third of the chapters myself. The rest were contributed by hardworking, better skilled fanscanners (the term of choice before scanlation). Guys like Spamdini (who had a ridiculously long release streak at one point), CDC, Kaine, Danny all did great work that made the initial dream a reality.
E.P.: Once all the chapters were available, I felt that the mission was done, hence the switch to Tankouban DB, which featured solely on the manga without the previous extras. Mr E, creator of Planet Namek, the highest traffic DBZ site of the time, approached about joining Planet Namek as a staff member. I would receive a cut of the advertising revenue. That sounded good to me, so I did it. I ended up earning something like $2–3k in a few months. It was all the money I made from DDBC and averaged out to less than minimum wage, but I didn't care. I needed it to pay the out-of-state Rutgers tuition ($19k/year).
The checks from Planet Namek stopped because their sponsor, GameFan, went bust due to the Internet bubble bursting in mid-2000. With the whole new world and experiences of college, I wasn't very active as a staff member. In May 2001, I resigned since my DBZ fandom had abided.
PN closed down sometime after. Not sure exactly when and why. Too bad, it was a good resource.
E.P.: Found Berserk in 2004 through the Band of the Hawks. Holy crap! This is the greatest manga of all-time. The only bad thing is that I want to keep reading it continuously... but I have to wait for one chapter at a time.
Other series I've found through scanlations are Gantz (so fun), Historie/Vinland Saga/Cesare (I like historical fiction), 20th Century Boys, Vagabond.
Officially released manga I like include Lone Wolf & Cub (my second favorite series), Nausicaa (much better than the movie), Azumanga Daioh (funny), Akira (no wonder the 90 minute movie didn't make sense, the series is what, 3,000 pages?).
E.P.: Thank you for this interview! I'm a sucker for nostalgia and it's been fun reminiscing about the past. Thanks to the contributors and readers who helped and encouraged me!