Robot 6

Del Rey closes the book on Marvel manga

X-Men: Mutants

X-Men: Misfits

It looks like the manga publisher Del Rey has canceled the second volumes of its X-Men: Misfits and Wolverine: Prodigal Son. The news broke in a conversation on Twitter, where manga blogger Deb Aoki tweeted a tip that the books had been canceled and Lissa Pattillo noted that they had been taken down from retail sites.

Dave Roman, who co-wrote the X-Men books with his wife, Raina Telgemeier, confirmed this in two tweets of his own:

Wow! News travels fast! @goraina and I super disappointed since it was written as a 2-part story and it will be unfair to readers.

We only found out last week. We still don’t have a lot of the details beyond it being a cost of licensing vs. profits issue. :/

Roman added that he had seen some of the pencils and assumed that the artist, Anzu, was “far along, but still deep into it.”

Antony Johnston, the writer of Wolverine: Prodigal Son, confirmed that book’s demise on his blog:

Unfortunately, the simple truth is that not enough people bought them. Despite WOLVERINE being praised by readers and selected for two library YA lists, despite MISFITS making it onto the New York Times bestseller list, and not least despite all the efforts of Del Rey themselves and our editors there, there just weren’t enough readers to justify the costs. This is, sadly, more common than you might think in comics.

According to the Bookscan chart, the first volume of X-Men: Misfits sold 4,042 copies in bookstores in 2009, which put it at number 720 in the top-750 chart. By contrast, not a single Viz Signature title (including the Eisner-nominated Pluto and 20th Century Boys) made the top 750. Diamond lists 1,655 copies sold in September 2009, the date of its release, meaning the book’s sales were respectable by manga standards. And it made the 2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.

The Wolverine manga, by contrast, doesn’t seem to have cracked the Bookscan chart, although Diamond lists 1,906 copies sold in April 2009.

Don’t cry for these creators, though. Johnston continues working on his Daredevil series, Telgemeier is still promoting her successful graphic novel Smile, and Roman tweeted last week that he turned in the final version of Astronaut Elementary, which will be published by First Second.



“…Meaning the book’s sales were respectable by manga standards” – that’s only respectable if the content is licensed and not original. 1.7K and 1.9K copies are horrible considering Del Rey had to pay a writer and artist for new pages. Granted, this is not factoring book market sales, but it’s possible to guess-timate what book market sales might be based upon direct market sales.

When I initially heard about the enmdeavor, I had major concerns about the whole business model. Except for the current exception of the Twilight adaptation, the most successful manga in the North America was licensed content from Japan with already established properties like Naruto and One Piece. TokyoPop, the top-selling manga publisher in the North America, had already given up their attempts at Original Graphic Novels because sales didn’t justify the additional editorial costs.

Was there a big X-Men/Wolverine base of dedicated fans and readers who would be willing to buy an out of continuity, black and white OGN in a smaller page-sized format by creative teams with no previous associations to the properties? According to ICV2, the Uncanny X-Men sold approximately 67K copies, Dark Wolverine sold 54K copies, and Wolverine: Weapon X sold 30K in Feb 2010. Based upon these numbers, obviously not, but it should be noted that Del Rey made their decision when the numbers were better. Let’s assume sales were 100K copies for the monthly Wolverine comic book and the price was $2.99 when the decision was made. What percentage of the regular Wolverine readership did Del Rey think would make leap and buy a $12.99 OGN? What percentage did Del Rey need to make the jump to make a profit on a 192 page book with original content and licensing fees?

Are superhero comic book and manga readers two separate and disparate groups? Will normal superhero comic book readers purchase manga books? And will regular manga readers buy superhero-originated manga? Those are questions best answered by comic book store employees who regularly observe their customers’ buying habits.

Contrast this to the Twilight adaption, where there was established base of fans and readers in the millions. And one might make the assumption that this fanbase did not harbor any pre-conceptions or biases about manga.

I’m also curious about the international licensing rights for these manga adapations. Could Del Rey license the conent to manga publishers in Japan, Asia and Europe and make additional revenues that way? Though I’m not curious enough to google the press release for the deal when it was announced a couple of years back.

Let this be a lesson to everyone: No one likes manga.

Andrew Collins

April 12, 2010 at 8:20 am

Except the thousands who likes manga. But nice try. Please play again next time.

The issue here I think is the failure to mesh style and content. Female readers have, by and large, not shown much interest in superhero comics. X-men does pull in more female readers than other superhero franchises, but all told, they still make up a relatively small portion of its readership. At the same time, those male X-Men readers haven’t really crossed over much into the manga market. So, you’re asking female readers who like manga but don’t like superheroes, and male readers who like superheroes but don’t like manga, to pick up a title that neither one cares much for. Those sales indicated in the write-up probably indicate the small portion of readers who liked both, or at the very least, were intrigued enough by the concept to pick it up and try it.
Then again, I remember that when these projects were announced, all the hype was sort of drowned out by the derision and mocking by superhero fans like the idiot above…

It’s not a surprise, but I’m disappointed all the same. I got a big kick out of X-Men: Misfits.

Andrew, don’t resort to name-calling. Everyone is entitled to opinions. And while I do like superheroes, I don’t like them exclusively. Get educated before you make statements like that.

“Andrew, don’t resort to name-calling. Everyone is entitled to opinions. And while I do like superheroes, I don’t like them exclusively. Get educated before you make statements like that.”

Let this be a lesson to everyone: No one like Zach.

Andrew Collins

April 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Well said, Steve, well said.

And you’re right, Zach, everyone has opinions and the right to them, no matter how childish, troll-ish, and idiotic yours may be. But hey, man, I respect your right to make yourself look silly, I really do…

“don’t resort to name-calling.” Just blanket generalizations like “no one likes manga” that aren’t antagonistic in the slightest.

Perhaps what isn’t expressed here as a contributing factor to the cancellation of the series is that it’s widely available via illegal scanlation sites and torrents, although “scanlation” is a misnomer because 1) it never needed to be translated from Japanese to English — it was just scanned and made available for free to readers w/o the creators permission. And that just sucks.

Chris R FTW!

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