Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
LOOK AT THIS:
Viz Media sent out a press release today highlighting its spring-summer 2011 lineup, and the manga publisher has scored a coup: Tenjho Tenge, by Oh! Great, which Viz will be releasing “100% faithful to the original” in two-volume omnibus editions.
A classic boobs-and-battles manga, Tenjho Tenge was originally published by CMX, the now-defunct manga arm of DC Comics, and it was nearly the death of the imprint, too, because someone at CMX made the mistake of trying to release it as a teen-rated manga. To do this, CMX had to cover up the nudity, rewrite the dialogue to eliminate sexual innuendo, and downplay the violence, thus obliterating the key selling points of the series. This heavy editing caused a surge of white-hot Internet rage, with manga fans storming message boards, boycotting the series (reading it in scanlation form instead, just to twist the knife), and even setting up a website (now defunct) solely dedicated to the sins of CMX. DC stonewalled at first, but when Asako Suzuki became director of manga in 2006, she acknowledged that perhaps it wasn’t the best decision, and eventually, under her guidance, the editing got lighter and lighter. Despite the popular outrage, CMX editors consistently said that Tenjho Tenge was one of their biggest sellers, and the series was up to volume 18 when DC pulled the plug on CMX last spring.
Viz will release the series without edits, beginning with volume 1, as part of its Signature line, which is aimed at older readers. Anime News Network followed up with Leyla Aker, the editor-in-chief of the Signature imprint, who told them that Viz chose to start the series anew because the differences between its version and CMX’s would be so profound that they might confuse readers; she added that she and Viz Vice President Alvin Lu are “longtime fans” of the series.
It’s not Action Comics #1, but right now, the first volume of The Name of the Flower is going for between $50 and $150 on Amazon and eBay—not bad for a book that sold for $9.99 new.
Daniel BT, who blogs at Sunday Comics Debt, got a note from his retailer that DC is liquidating all existing stock of CMX Manga. As you may remember, CMX ran a pretty sweet little line until the DC brass took it out back and shot it. Fans were dismayed with the abrupt announcement, as a number of series were left unfinished and several new licenses had just been announced.
Life is messy, and for whatever reasons (print runs, fan whims, gremlins) some volumes sold out before others. So you can get volume 3 of The Name of the Flower for as little as three bucks, but the cheapest copy of volume 1 on Amazon right now is $55.25. And if you want a copy of volume 6 of Emma, Kaoru Mori’s highly regarded romance set in Victorian England, the asking price is 90 bucks. Asking price is not the same as selling price, but it’s telling that these books aren’t available much cheaper as far as I can see. Interestingly, some of the out-of-print volumes, like vol. 3 of Tenjho Tenge, are still available at reasonable prices.
Passings | Colorist Jonny Rench, who worked on such DC Comics and WildStorm titles as The Authority, Gen13, Human Target and Ratchet & Clank, has passed away from a heart attack. He was 28. “He was an incredibly talented artist,” the WildStorm Twitter account states, “and also an amazing, kind, joyful man.” [Twitter]
Publishing | Fantagraphics Co-Publisher Kim Thompson reveals what was believed to be a sketchbook of early versions of several years’ worth of George Herriman’s Krazy Kat strips “is almost certainly the work of a very intense (perhaps contemporary with Herriman?) fan who diligently, even maniacally, copied each new strip into his sketchbook over a period of three years.” The publisher had planned to release the sketchbook but now, of course, won’t. Refunds will be issued on pre-orders. [FLOG!]
For manga and anime fans, Anime Expo is the first of the big summer cons. This year only a handful of manga publishers showed up, but all had plenty of energy and some new announcements to make. That’s probably a good snapshot of the manga industry as a whole—there are only a few players left, but the survivors are pretty robust. Anime News Network has pretty exhaustive coverage of the con, and Animanga Nation does a nice job with a more casual feel.
Out of curiousity, I looked over con coverage from previous years to see who is missing this year. Bandai, Digital Manga, Tokyopop and Viz are clearly the survivors of the manga wars, although it was touch-and-go for Tokyopop for a while. Missing from the roster are Dark Horse, Del Rey, Seven Seas, Udon, Yaoi Press, and Yen Press, all of which have appeared at AX in previous years (although not recently), and ADV Manga, Aurora, Broccoli, CMX, DrMaster, and Go! Comi, which have all shut down or at least gone dark.
I thought it would be interesting to see how AX has evolved over the years, so let’s climb into the time machine and take a look at past cons.
Publishing | D.C. Thomson & Co., publisher of long-running comics like The Beano and The Dandy, is closing a printing plant in Dundee, Scotland, eliminating up to 350 jobs. The facility is used to print magazines and books. The company, which also owns The Evening Telegraph and Sunday Post newspapers, employs more than 2,000 people. [BBC News]
Publishing | Lori Henderson returns to the question of what led to the failure of the CMX manga imprint: “Its parent company, DC didn’t do anything to market that line. Putting a solicitation in Previews is not marketing. DC claimed they would bridge the manga and comic store gap, yet did nothing to help retailers or promote the books to bloggers, bookstores or librarians, their three strongest advocates. You can’t buy or recommend books you don’t know about. While there were other factors that contributed to its ultimate end, the mishandling of the imprint in its first year, and then being completely ignored for the rest was the main factor in its lack of sales.” [Manga Xanadu]
Legal | Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane will return to court next month after more than seven years to hash out how much Gaiman is owed for his copyright interests in Medieval Spawn, Angela and Count Nicholas Cogliostro. Gaiman wants to learn how much money was generated by three other characters he claims are derivative of those he co-created with McFarlane: Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany.
McFarlane asked for another trial on the issue, but on Tuesday U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that Gaiman has a plausible claim, and ordered an evidentiary hearing to be held on June 14. [Wisconsin State Journal]
Conventions | As the bidding war for Comic-Con International continues, convention organizers have asked San Diego hotels to sign contracts guaranteeing room rates for the next five years. A decision on whether the four-day event will remain in the city after 2012 was expected weeks ago, but Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer said that’s been delayed because the competing cities — Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Diego — continue to amend their offers. He now expects a decision within the next month. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Retailing | The struggling Borders Group has raised $25 million from the sale last week of 11.1 million shares of new stock to Bennett S. LeBow, a financier and corporate raider best known for his investments in the tobacco industry. LeBow, who’s now the bookseller’s largest shareholder, also was named chairman, replacing Richard McGuire. [Detroit Free Press, ICv2.com]
Creators | Rich Johnston uncovers the sad family troubles behind Gene Colan’s recent injury, his missing artwork and confusing state of business affairs. Clifford Meth, Colan’s friend and business associate, seems to confirm Johnston’s take on events. [Bleeding Cool]
Blind: “So, DC: I’d like to ask — how much did you recently spend on plastic rings as opposed to, oh, say, the now-past 5-year marketing budget for now-defunct [alas] critically-acclaimed manga publisher CMX?”
Butcher: “It was a line that was poorly conceived, poorly run for the first half of its life and then barely run at all for the last half. Then it was unceremoniously killed. The end.” [CMX]
Comics | About 230 pieces of rare original Tintin art will be auctioned next week in Paris. The items range in value from about $3,700 to more than $300,000. [Reuters]
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.
Bad news for manga lovers today: DC Comics is closing CMX, its manga division, as of July 1.
CMX set up shop six years ago and got into hot water with fans a few months later, when they tried to publish Oh! Great’s boobs-and-battles manga Tenjho Tenge with a teen rating by censoring it heavily. Fans reacted with indignation, but a CMX editor was heard to remark years later that TenTen was its best-selling title. The imprint also published a number of classic shoujo (teenage girls) manga series, including Swan and the comedy-adventure title From Eroica With Love.
Asako Suzuki took over as director of manga in 2006 and quickly shifted the tone. She and Editor Jim Chadwick went out of their way to establish rapport with fans, and a number of the series they licensed, including Emma, The Name of the Flower and Kiichi and the Magic Books, garnered good reviews. They also published a number of all-ages and kid-friendly series, such as The Palette of 12 Secret Colors. CMX books were hard to find in bookstores, however, and at conventions the imprint often seemed to be an afterthought, with little space allotted to the division in the DC booths and panels.
In addition to Japanese manga, which it licensed through a co-publishing agreement with the Japanese cell-phone publisher Flex Comics, CMX also published Fred Gallagher’s Megatokyo. That series will continue under the DC banner.
The official statement can be found after the break:
Anime News Network has word that Japanese police are searching for Crayon Shin-chan creator Yoshito Usui, who has been missing since Friday.
The investigation began on Saturday in Usui’s hometown of Kasukabe, Saitama Prefecture, and has expanded to other jurisdictions. According to reports, neither Usui’s family nor his publisher Futabasha has had contact with the 51-year-old mangaka.
Debuting in 1990, the popular Crayon Shin-chan follows the adventures of a rude, crude and rambunctious 5-year-old boy in Kasukabe who’s obsessed with bodily functions and older girls. The manga was adapted as an animated television series in 1992, and has spawned 17 anime films.
The manga is published in North America by DC Comics’ CMX imprint.
Welcome to What Are You Reading, where we don’t let a little thing like national holidays and fireworks prevent us from talking about our current reading exploits. Our guest this week is cartoonist (you can see his work in the new anthology Syncopated) and editor Paul Karasik, whose latest book is the highly accclaimed You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation! the second collection of comics by the late Golden Age artist Fletcher Hanks.
To discover what Paul and the rest of us are reading, simply click on the link below …
• No doubt there will be a plethora of Seaguy-related reviews when the new series is completed, but for now you’ll just have to content yourself with Jeff Lester, who offers an excellent analysis of the original series and claims the sequel is “worthy of your time and attention.”
• Nina Stone, however, had an entirely different reaction: “I’m guessing this is all somehow a commentary on superheroes and our culture. But, honestly, I can’t really figure out what that commentary is supposed to be saying.”
• Also at Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon emerges from a reviewing hiatus to talk about Tarzan The Jesse Marsh Years Vol. 1.
• Jog continues his and Tucker Stone’s dissection of Humanoids books with an interesting look at how changes in coloring can affect the impact of a work.
• Sandy Bilus reads X-Men and Spider-Man 1-4 and declares “the art is the draw, here.”
• Noah Berlatsky compares Frank Quitely’s work on All-Star Superman with that of Dokebi Bride manwha creator Marley and finds the former lacking:
The point here is that super-hero comics very rarely have a strong sense of wonder. With all the spectacular feats, you’d think they would — but somehow they all end up as tricks; they’re fun and goofy, or I guess more recently bloody, but they don’t actually inspire awe. And I think it’s because of something Tom said, “Superman keeps the universe our size.” Super-heroes are there to make things more manageable. Awe — a sense of vastness, of human insignificance or vulnerability — is antagonistic to everything they stand for.