Robot 6

Stu Levy responds to Chuck Austen

tokyopoproboA couple of weeks ago, I posted some thoughts by Chuck Austen about moving on from a project that didn’t go well — in this case, his graphic novel trilogy Boys of Summer, which was to be published by Tokyopop but was only given a limited release in the United States. (Chuck talked to me in detail about the experience in a 2011 interview at CBR.)

Shortly after the post ran, Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy asked me if he could post a response. It seemed to be the fair thing to do, so here is what he has to say (and as with Chuck’s, I’ll add that what follows is his words, not mine):

In response to Chuck Austen’s March 18, 2013 article on CBR

I respect the right of free speech and firmly believe that people should be able to express their opinions online, in a public forum. While I don’t enjoy negativity directed at me, it’s an inevitable part of working in the media industry. In fact, I learn a lot from the constructive criticism that I read online.

However, I do not believe it’s appropriate or permissible for someone to outrageously distort the truth. Unfortunately, that’s what Chuck Austen has done.

Granted, Mr. Austen couched his criticism of my endeavors, and even of me personally, by using such perceptive and insightful terms as “stupid,” “jerk” and “crapped on it.” But, while I don’t recommend he audition for any debate team, my issue is not with his juvenile epithets.

It’s the falsehoods he promulgated with which I take issue.

Mr. Austen claims that I “wouldn’t give (the rights) up for any amount of money.” Simply not true. When he approached me, back in 2011, my response was that “we can work out a deal that would be equitable.” Almost two years later, it is beyond me how Mr. Austen translated “we can work out a deal” into “wouldn’t give up for any amount of money.”

Further, according to Mr. Austen, I “wanted an exorbitant fee.” Neither of us ever brought up monetary conditions – and I would be happy (even now) to consider any offer Mr. Austen proposes, exorbitant or otherwise.

Finally, he claims I wanted “consideration as director of the project.” In actuality, I only direct projects I’m passionate about, and I have never brought up Mr. Austen’s work as a project I’d be interested in directing, let along requiring my attachment.

In summary, I have no problem with Mr. Austen, or anyone else, calling me names. I may be sensitive but I’m tough. However, I don’t appreciate being lied about.

The Internet facilitates many of our freedoms and rights, but it should not be a platform to defame others.

Levy also provided a chain of e-mails between himself, Chuck and Tokyopop Senior Vice President Mike Kiley in which they discussed questions of rights for Boys of Summer. I’m posting an excerpt from Stu’s most recent e-mail below. You can see the full chain at his Tumblr.

On 7/18/11 1:52 PM, “Stu Levy” [e-mail redacted] wrote:

Re: “Boys of Summer”, it comes down to what in particularly you have in mind. I don’t have the ability to fund or publish more volumes, so if there is another publisher – or you on your own – interested in picking up the publication, we can work out a deal that would be equitable. Regarding ancillary rights, it’s part of the TOKYOPOP Media library. Currently, I’m not actively producing or prepping Boys of Summer in the film/TV or gaming space (can only do so many projects at once), so if there is another producer or studio who is interested in that opportunity, we can discuss.

Just LMK what you have in mind.

Hope all is going well with you!





How is Chuck Austen still writing anything remotely resembling a comic book? I was young at the time, but even then I knew his stint at Marvel was bad.

Hmm. A guy who pulls out 10-dollar words (promulgate), yet uses LMK in business E-mails

No one who’s had even the most tangential experience with Tokyopop believes you, Stu. No one. Go back to counting your millions.

Darth Eradicus

April 4, 2013 at 1:45 pm

I’m going to have to side with Austen on this one. Levy may not like the things Austen said, but he is hardly the victim here.

Shannon Luchies

April 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm


Tokyo Poop had crap contracts and in most cases lured in kids with no business experience to sign away their creations.

If he had any class at all he’d apologize to everyone involved and restore the rights to everyone he ripped off. Instead he’s keeping them and STILL trying to profit off other peoples creations.

Hahahahahahahaha @ anyone slating Mark Waid’s more-than-proven talent.

Nice to see this remains a mature outlet.

Waid’s comment for the win. Close thread

Just give everyone back their work Stu

On the whole, I doubt this will change anyone’s mind about Mr. Levy’s shrewdness as a businessperson. But it comes down to how he defines “equitable” as head honcho, and how Austen defines “equitable” as, we presume, a cash-strapped creator. Levy tossed around $40,000 with an “I think” tacked on at the end.

I understand if Levy didn’t want to let the property go for what he felt would be a loss… however, aside from money made from international sales (which, let’s face it, shouldn’t be an aside at all in this discussion), I suppose the question remains as to whether it’s ethical to “sit” on a title and do nothing, while your company implodes and then rises from the dead, in the meanwhile.

Ok, so whether or not you believe Austen’s heartfelt open letter because you don’t like his work, you now have Mark Waid stepping up to also call out the guys who used to run Tokyopop, a guy I respect a lot. That’s two creators calling out Stu, don’t be surprised if you see more, since it seems like the people who used to work for him remember him being shady. they also both seem to be hinting they know other people who’ve been screwed by Tokyopop, which says a lot about their practices.

Hmm I’m glad back in the day I didn’t compete in any of those contests where you could create you on manga Tokyopop were having. I might’ve won and then gotten screwed over.

Erech Overaker

April 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm

People what says “I respect the right of free speech” always follow it up with a tirade that makes it sound like they absolutely wish that right didn’t exist at all.

Also, issues with Austen and my caring for his work, past or present, aside, at least he had a positive point made in his piece (which I think goes for everyone making comics anywhere, no matter the situation). What is even the point of this, or any supposed fairness on the part of Robot6 to post it? Levy says basically NUH UH and WELL I DON’T WANNA PRODUCE WORK OF YOURS I ALREADY PRODUCED AND OWN ANYWAYS basically. What a dumb and telling, milk-money reply this was.

brb crafting MY letter to both of them in hopes CBR frontpages that too. (here’s a preview – “nobody in comics wants either one of you anymore”. That’s just the beginning, and oh wait, probably also the end)

Even as a late teen/young 20 something, the contract terms just seemed off and so I didn’t send anything in. Glad I didn’t.

“Tokyo Poop had crap contracts and in most cases lured in kids with no business experience.”

Like Chuck Austen?

Shannon Luchies

April 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I will concede Chuck really should have known better. But look at most of the OEL books… done by winners of Tokyo Poops’s ‘Rising suckers of manga’ contest. Not really the most business savy bunch.

Imouto Fukushu

April 6, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Stu Levy has ruined many lives. He is the scum of the manga world. With that sort of karma he will never, ever succeed in the business again.

I almost feel bad complaining all these years about what Stu Levy has done at Tokyopop. Though if I am joining a chorus that includes the likes of Mark Waid and a number of creators familiar with the rumblings of discount tent at Tokyopop, maybe I haven’t been so with with my nerd rage all these years.

Plus.. are you serious?! That is actually Stu Levy’s blog tumblr thing? I think I’ve seen GeoCities pages by 12 year olds with better design sense and color coordination. This man worked as the head of a publisher?! No wonder I noticed bad print jobs like the first volume of my beloved Blame! series being printed tok dark. Just because many of your audience is 14 year olds, that doesn’t mean your webpage and design choices should mirror one.

Someone over at ComicsBeat was wondering about Priest. I want to say Priest is in a different boat. That reprints a book owned by a Korean creator and publisher. Tokyopop only licensed it. Though I dunno if they are sitting on the US rights or if the Korea publisher sees no future in the US market. Certainly that one and only movie from Tokyopop did not help. The damn thing was unrecognizable. It was more Blame! or Judge Dredd or Vampire Hunter D than anything to do with Priest. Hell. The only thing I can see linking the movie to the manhwa was that there was a Priest named Ivan. So that puts it barely a step above Halle Berry’s Catwoman as they also included the surname of the title character. And don’t get me started on Stu’s asinine ideas to Americanize and MTV-up Lament of the Lamb. He kept saying it was a favorite manga of his. If that is what he does to his favorite books, I’d hate to see what ones he merely likes get.

And don’t get me started on that awful reality show he created and got on Hulu somehow. Heaven forbid he actually acted as a publisher as head of a publisher instead of a lame Ryan Seacrest wannabe.

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