Robot 6

CMX reactions

Oyayubihime Infinity

Oyayubihime Infinity

The reaction to DC Comics’ announcement yesterday that it was shutting down its manga imprint, CMX, ranged from dismissal to dismay. “Does manga not make money anymore?” thundered Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool, conveniently ignoring the fact that Naruto has topped the graphic novel charts in the U.S. for years. Johnston lists the last round of books that CMX will publish as well as a rather tantalizing list of books that will not see the light of day, at least not anytime soon.

Longtime watchers of the manga scene placed the blame squarely on DC, which hired good people (director of manga Asako Suzuki and editor-in-chief Jim Chadwick) and let them license good manga (Emma, Astral Project), then allowed the books to die with poor distribution and zero publicity. David Welsh, who blogs as The Manga Curmudgeon, summed up the situation nicely:

Back in the days when Paul Levitz was in charge, you could make bank that he would barely mention DC’s manga imprint during his nine-part year-end interviews with ICv2. When they launched the Minx imprint, Karen Berger acted over and over again like DC was inventing comics for teen-aged girls, resolutely ignoring the manga market until enough people asked “What the hell is she talking about?” And even when forced to admit that there were all kinds of comics for teen-aged girls, she never noted the fact that her employer published some of them.

Welsh’s theory is that ignorance was bliss—no one at DC realized that CMX existed, so no one knew to shut them down.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the whole debacle is that the day before the announcement CMX had updated their website with new title that had bloggers really excited, including 51 Ways to Save Her. “I thought CMX was really starting to pick up more attention from manga readers– not the mainstream, but more the alt-comics crowd, where before it was frequently either neglected or disdained for its treatment of Oh Great!’s Tenjho Tenge manga,” said Gia Manry at Anime Briefs. Manry was not impressed that Megatokyo is being saved, although she held out hope that some titles like Crayon Shinchan (itself a license rescue from the long defunct Comics One) would be picked up by other publishers.

Over at my own blog, MangaBlog, commenters are in mourning for CMX with similar expressions of dismay for series they will never see or finish. “I know their books sold like complete crap, but they were awesome books, dammit,” said translator and critic Lianne Sentar. “They’re backed by Time Warner! Why can’t Time Warner just shovel money at them indefinitely?! Whoever managed to mask their horrid sales from DC for this long could’ve just continued to do so forever, right?” But Seven Seas editor Adam Arnold noted, “CMX will have officially been around for 6 whole years come the end of June, so I’d say DC more than gave CMX a fair shot at life. More than most imprints, even.” It’s a fair point: They only gave Minx two years, and then killed it just as their strongest set of books was released.

Moon Child

Moon Child

One of the interesting thing about CMX was that many of their early licenses were of classic or oddball manga that didn’t necessarily appeal to mainstream tastes. Melinda Beasi salutes them for having the courage to publish the crack-tastic Moon Child:

It was a revelation. It was as though someone had rifled through the leftovers of my rusty, once-teenaged mind, delighted in the sci-fi-laced weirdness it found there and said, “I’ll do you one better!” That a series like this existed at all was enough for me to revel in, but the fact that someone had translated it into English? That was like a real-life gift from an imaginary deity.

Sean Gaffney, who often looks at the Japanese side of things, points out that this will be a blow to Hakusensha, the Japanese publisher from whom CMX licensed many of their titles.

May has been a tough month for manga, with the death of CMX following the slow disappearance of Go! Comi and Viz’s layoff of up to 60 staffers. David Welsh actually speculated that all the other bad news gave DC cover for the move—look, all these other companies are suffering, so it’s reasonable for us to fold up as well. But even in these dark days, Kate Dacey surveys the manga scene as a whole and finds reason for hope: Yen Press remains strong, Vertical is expanding its manga offerings, Tokyopop has rebounded from its 2008 restructuring, and indy publishers such as Top Shelf and Fantagraphics are starting to include manga in their mix. The manga scene is changing, but it is far from defunct.

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Comments

4 Comments

“conveniently ignoring the fact that Naruto has topped the graphic novel charts in the U.S. for years. ”

Nonsense. I know Americans aren’t meant to be able to get irony, but come on that’s ridiculous.

It’s a ludicrous statement intended to be ludicrous. Yes Naruto is booming, so is Fruit Baskets and others. So why has Viz had to fire 40%?

The answer is incompetence.

Steven R. Stahl

May 19, 2010 at 9:48 am

How much of DC’s neglect of CMX might have been due to the titles’ foreign origins? However good one thinks CMX’s titles might have been, producing and promoting them were nothing like the production and promotion processes for DC’s domestic comics. It would have been easy for DC staffers to resent the existence of the division and to bristle whenever they saw comments to the effect that manga was so much better than all that superhero junk, or to dislike the thought that there was little to no overlap between DC’s and CMX’s readership.

I doubt that anyone at DC who worked on their superhero comics took pride in publishing manga.

SRS

The same could be said for their brief foray into Euro comics with their Metabarons licence. The most memorable of those titles was TechnoPriests, which was even more insane than anything Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, and Shintaro Kago combined could’ve imagined together. The fact this didn’t sell in the Direct Market means that people are more attuned to S-hero comics, and completely ignore anything that doesn’t fit their worldview, which has become increasingly negative, which is odd considering the nature of S-hero comics.

Also, MegaTokyo being the lone surviving title is no great relief. It’s changed companies how many times now? And the series has suffered from the story in the later years to the point that I’ve completely lost interest in it. That it continues to gather up offers is impressive, considering their audience must’ve moved on to other stuff by now. It’s the Watchmen fallacy all over again – it shouldn’t be picking up new readers, but it’s not doing bad in sales either. Where are all these new customers for this series coming from? As far as I can see, it’s most admirable trait is that the character designs are of superior quality, on par from Oh My Goddess!, but that’s all.

I’ve often made comments that the “Big Two” were increasingly ignorant of the REAL Big Two, Viz & Tokyopop. That might change, since Tokyopop hasn’t had a breakout hit on par with Fruits Basket for a long time. They may now be replaced by Yen Press whose books have been on the best-seller lists as often as Viz has.

The ironic thing is, if any of CMX’s titles became snatched up by another publisher, they could see potentially better sales in their new home than they ever would at DC’s, which could be another proverbal nail in their coffin. Of course, they’d have to be willing to take the risk in the first place…

The ONLY manga titles I reread and take almost OCD care of are from CMX with only ONE exception from, ironically, Go Comi……..Death to all piraters that brought this about!!! ~weeps inconsolably over the loss of ‘I Hate You More Than Anyone’

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