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Comics A.M. | Del Rey manga titles return – on iTunes

Nodame Cantabile

Nodame Cantabile

Manga | Four older manga series are making a comeback in digital format: School Rumble, Alive, Nodame Cantabile, and Princess Resurrection, all originally published in English by Del Rey, will be available in the iTunes Store beginning on July 26. The Del Rey manga imprint became defunct in 2010, when the Japanese publisher Kodansha stopped licensing its manga to them and started publishing the books directly as Kodansha Comics. [Anime News Network]

Passings | Chester “Chet” Krause, who was the owner of the Comics Buyers Guide from 1983 to 1991, has died at the age of 92. Krause, who also owned a number of other papers catering to special interests (Numismatic News, Sports Collectors Digest), hired Don and Maggie Thompson as the editors of CBG, and under their leadership it became an important gathering point and communications channel for comics fans in the days before the internet. [ICv2]

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Viz Media announces ‘Ben 10 Omniverse’ graphic novels


Viz Media has been busy snapping up licenses for its VizKids imprint, and now has announced a new one: a series of Ben 10 Omniverse graphic novels that will tie in with the Cartoon Network show.

Ben 10 Omniverse is the fourth iteration of the Ben 10 cartoon created by four comics writers (Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle), beginning as the story of 10-year-old Ben Tennyson, who changes into different types of aliens with the help of a device called the Omnnitrix. In Ben 10 Omniverse, Ben is now 15 and has a new Omnitrix that transforms him into different creatures. His Grandpa Max pairs him up with a rookie plumber named Rook (who’s “highly skilled with his Proto-Tool, but lacks any field experience,” according to the press release) to explore an alien city and stay one step ahead of the bad guys who are in hot pursuit. If this is making you feel a little lost, here’s some good news: Cartoon Network is having a “Ben 10 Bootcamp” this weekend, with 17 hours of Ben 10 programming so everyone can catch up.

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‘The Powerpuff Girls’ are back — at IDW Publishing

IDW_Cartoon_Net_2It sounds like some interesting announcements were made at the ComicsPRO meeting over the weekend in Atlanta, and one that is already hitting the streets is that IDW Publishing will release an entire line of comics based on Cartoon Network properties.

“Many of these Cartoon Network shows have only grown in popularity since they originally aired,” Chris Ryall, IDW’s chief creative officer and editor-in-chief, said in the press release, “and we’re excited to be able to offer new iterations of the characters in comic-book form alongside both our planned reprint material and also some new animated ventures Cartoon Network has planned, too. There’s a wealth of fun properties to play with here, and we’ve already got some unique things in mind for them.”

The starting lineup will include The Powerpuff Girls, Ben 10, Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Johnny Bravo and Generator Rex. Many, if not all, have been made into comics before: DC released 70 issues of its Powerpuff Girls comic and 34 issues of Dexter’s Laboratory, in addition to a Cartoon Network Action Pack anthology, which featured many of the network’s other characters (like DC Entertainment, Cartoon Network is a subsidiary of Time Warner), and Del Rey published a Ben 10 graphic novel that was written by Peter David and illustrated by Dan Hipp. So there is an interesting back catalog to draw on in addition to new material.

An IDW spokesperson told ICv2 that the first release in the new line will be a Powerpuff Girls comic this fall.

ComiXology nears 100 million downloads, JManga adds Kodansha

Two digital comics distributors are celebrating some major coups with freebies for their readers.

Let’s start with comiXology, which is about to reach a significant milestone — 100 million comics downloaded. The company was at just about 50 million at the beginning of the year, which means the number of downloads (both free and paid) will have doubled in just about 10 months. And to reach that milestone just a bit faster, comiXology is offering a free comic every day. Yesterday’s selection was Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft #1, and today’s is Reilly Brown and Kurt Christenson’s Power Play #1. Check the top of the company’s blog every day for the spotlight title.

Meanwhile, the digital manga site JManga has added Kodansha manga to its lineup. This is a pretty big deal for that company, insofar as Kodansha is the largest publisher in Japan. In typical JManga fashion, they load it up right away with a lot of books; their first set is all older titles that were released in English under the Del Rey imprint before Kodansha set up its own North American arm, Kodansha Comics, and took over the Del Rey titles. None of these books is being published by Kodansha Comics, so they are only available via digital (or secondhand copies). And they are giving away a free volume: If you sign up with JManga and Tweet the Kodansha news (instructions are at the link above), they will give you 500 points, which is what a typical volume of manga costs on JManga.

What makes this interesting is that Kodansha Comics has its own app, although it hasn’t been updated in quite a while. Their app carries newer series such as Fairy Tail and Arisa (which launched as Del Rey titles) and Cage of Eden (which launched as a Kodansha Comics title). Will the two digital services merge, or will JManga keep the old-but-good stuff and Kodansha update its app? We’ll be watching to find out.

Comics A.M. | Janelle Asselin exits DC; Del Rey’s Betsy Mitchell retires

Janelle Asselin

Publishing | DC Comics associate editor Janelle Asselin has left the company, reportedly for a job with Disney. She clarifies on Twitter that, contrary to a report, she wasn’t escorted from the building on Tuesday but, rather, left “at my leisure.” Asselin had been with DC since 2008, working primarily on Batman books like Batman and Robin, Batman: Streets of Gotham, Red Robin, Birds of Prey and the relaunched Batman, Batwoman, Detective Comics and Savage Hawkman. [Bleeding Cool]

Publishing | Longtime editor Betsy Mitchell is taking early retirement from her post as editor-in-chief of Del Rey, where she helped create Del Rey Manga. Tricia Pasternak, a former Del Rey Manga editor herself, has been promoted to editorial director. Del Rey was established as a science fiction prose imprint; the manga line was created in 2004 and was mostly shut down in 2010, when Kodansha began publishing its manga directly in the U.S. However, Del Rey still publishes a handful of manga and graphic novels, including xxxHolic, King of RPGs, and Deltora Quest. [Publishers Weekly]

Legal | In a twist that sounds like something out of a comic (or even an ad from an old comic), a witness in the Michael George trial testified he saw someone wearing an obviously fake beard outside George’s Clinton Township, Michigan, comics shop a few minutes before George’s first wife Barbara was murdered inside the store in 1990. [The Tribune Democrat]

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Steampunk meets manga in Westerfeld’s Uglies

Del Rey, once the otaku favorite, no longer publishes manga, but they still have a line of global manga, and the newest announcement is causing a bit of a stir.

Leviathan author Scott Westerfeld is the latest prose writer to make the leap over to graphic novels. Sci-fi site io9 has the scoop on Westerfeld’s SDCC announcement: Del Rey will produce four manga-style graphic novels based on his Uglies novels, which are set in a future where all teenagers have plastic surgery to make them beautiful when they are 16. Westerfeld will come up with the storylines, which will change the point of view of the story from the character Tally Youngblood to Shay. Devin Grayson (USER, Nightwing) will script the graphic novels, and Steven Cumming will handle the art. Watch for the first volume in May 2012. Oh, and there’s a movie in the works as well.

Dark Horse to publish Avatar: The Last Airbender comics

Although beans were spilled when this year’s Free Comic Book Day comics were announced, Dark Horse officially announced yesterday that it is collaborating with Nickelodeon to publish a series of comics and graphic novels based on the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The series will launch with a 240-page graphic novel collecting the Avatar stories that ran in Nickelodeon Magazine as well as 70 pages of new material. The stories are set in the Airbender universe but outside the continuity of the series, and some of the creators also worked on the cartoon.

Dark Horse will follow up, starting in 2012, with a line of digest-sized graphic novels about the Airbender characters that will pick up where the animated series left off. It’s a logical program for Dark Horse, which has several lines based on popular movies and television series, and produced the Avatar: The Last Airbender art book, but it’s also interesting that the Avatar franchise seems to have moved away from Del Rey, which published a prequel to and a novelization of the movie last year.

The new series kicks off on Free Comic BOOK Day with a free comic featuring two stories, the unpublished “Relics” and the already-seen “Dirty Is Only Skin Deep…” The Airbender comic will be packaged as a flipbook with a Star Wars: The Clone Wars comic, giving readers plenty of licensed goodness in a single hit.

Kodansha announces first manga lineup

Mardock Scramble

Kodansha Comics announced its first season’s offerings yesterday, and it looks like the lineup is a mix of old and new, including several series that have already been published in the U.S. by other publishers. The good news for many fans is that most of the manga published by Del Rey, which Kodansha is more or less taking over, will continue under the new imprint.

The new titles are

  • Monster Hunter Orage, by Fairy Tail creator Hiro Mashima
  • Deltora Quest, the anime version of which is currently playing on The Hub
  • The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
  • Mardock Scramble, a sci-fi manga that is also an anime
  • Animal Land, by Zatch Bell creator Makoto Raiku, which “tells the hilarious and heartwarming story of a baby raised by animals”
  • Bloody Monday, a thriller about a computer hacker racing to stop a terrorist plot
  • Cage of Eden, which they describe as “Battle Royale meets Lost by way of Negima!”
  • A new Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney manga series

In addition, they will be reviving Gon, the wordless dinosaur manga, which was originally published by CMX, and Until the Full Moon, by Fake creator Sanami Matoh, which was originally published by Broccoli.

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Kodansha Comics to launch on Sunday

The long-awaited launch of Kodansha Comics will take place this Sunday, Dec. 12, in the Bryant Park branch of the Kinokuniya Bookstore in New York City, and will include the announcement of their summer schedule. Kodansha has a Facebook page up for the event. The official launch is at 2 p.m., but the action starts at 1 with a One Piece podcast panel and continues afterward with a talk by Mari Marimoto, the translator of Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako as well as the super-popular Naruto, and various other events. Tony Yao of Manga Therapy will host the event.

Kodansha, the largest publisher in Japan, announced two years ago that they were going to publish their manga in the U.S. under their own name, but only a handful of books have appeared so far. In recent years, Del Rey, a branch of Random House, had licensed most Kodansha manga. In October, Kodansha announced that it would take over the Del Rey series and publish them directly, rather than licensing them to Random House. Random House will supply editing, production and distribution for the new books.

NYCC ’10 | Kodansha’s panel was not canceled, it was never scheduled

Dallas Middaugh at NYCC/NYAF

When the news broke last week that Kodansha would stop licensing its manga to Del Rey and publish them under its own imprint, some commenters reacted with dismay. Aside from being unimpressed with the first few releases from the Japanese publisher, American readers are not happy with Kodansha’s complete lack of accessibility to the public — no content on their website, no press releases and very few interviews.

So when the Kodansha panel abruptly disappeared from the schedule for New York Comic Con & New York Anime Festival, online reaction was sharp and rather resentful. Fortunately, the Kodansha honchos seem to realize that things were going off-kilter and authorized Dallas Middaugh, who will continue to edit the publisher’s books under the new arrangement, to address what exactly happened.

And what happened was not a sudden cancellation, but rather a miscommunication, Middaugh explained. Kodansha had originally planned to do a panel at NYAF but decided to cancel it at the end of August. “We realized that we were a little off schedule,” he told Robot 6. “We really weren’t going to have any titles to announce, and without any titles to announce, we didn’t see any point in having the panel. I contacted the [New York] Comic Con folks and told them ‘We got nothing, please cancel the panel.’ And in their defense, I did say ‘What’s the latest we can get back to you if we decide we do want a panel?’ That day came and went, we had canceled the panel, they unfortunately took it as a yes and ran the panel information, and we were surprised the panel was listed.”

So what looked like an abrupt cancellation was actually a correction.

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Kodansha to take over Del Rey manga (Updated)

Last week, we noted that a number of Del Rey series had mysteriously disappeared from Previews and Amazon, and in the comments, we speculated that an announcement may be in the works.

We were right! On the eve of New York Comic-Con/New York Anime Fest, Kodansha and Random House (the parent company of Del Rey) have announced a major change: The Del Rey imprint will disappear as a separate entity, and Kodansha will publish its own books in the U.S., rather than licensing them. Random House stays in the picture, though, providing distribution and support through their Random House Publisher Services division. Longtime Del Rey editor Dallas Middaugh will transfer to that division.

UPDATE: PW has more, including the news that Random House will still be doing a lot of the editing and production work on the books. No word yet about the rest of the Del Rey staff, though. And it looks like Del Rey may survive as an imprint for non-manga graphic novels.

Full press release after the jump.

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More disappearing manga at Del Rey

Mushishi: One of the many reasons why fans love Del Rey

What’s happening to Del Rey manga?

Just a few weeks ago, in response to fan concerns about some volumes being canceled or postponed, we asked associate publisher Dallas Middaugh what was going on, and he was very reassuring:

Let me assure you that Random House plans to be in the manga business for years to come, and our program overall remains strong and steady.

Perhaps Random House does, but the Del Rey imprint seems to be foundering. At the manga site Kuriousity, blogger Andre notes there are no new Del Rey titles in October Previews, and no new Del Rey titles on Amazon after November, except for a handful that have been pushed back to 2013.

I e-mailed Middaugh for a response, and he replied, “Thanks for asking, but we have no comment at this time.” Andre got a similar answer from Del Rey’s PR person, April Flores.

Meanwhile, Del Rey’s website (which was one of the better-designed publisher sites) has been folded into Random House’s, which is a horrible mishmash in terms of design and product presentation. As a result, catalog descriptions for Del Rey manga, whether by design or by accident, are now almost impossible to find — they don’t show up when you search the site, only when you search in the Random House box.

What does it all mean? Commenters at Kuriousity speculate that Del Rey will stick to global manga, and Japanese licenses will go to Kodansha USA, which is distributed by Del Rey’s parent company Random House. Del Rey has a panel scheduled at New York Comic Con, but it seems to be about prose properties. So for now, all we can do is wait and see.

What Are You Reading?

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly survey of your noble Robot 6 bloggers’ most recent reading. This week, our special guest is Jason Thompson, author of Manga: The Complete Guide and The King of RPGs. Jason just wrapped up a year of giving away his surplus manga at, an experience he wrote about at his Livejournal.

Michael May: Graphic Universe has a series called “History’s Kid Heroes” that I’ve been checking out. So far I’ve read The Snowshoeing Adventure of Milton Daub, Blizzard Trekker and The Stormy Adventure of Abbie Burgess, Lighthouse Keeper. They’re short, quick reads – about 30 pages – and exactly the kind of thing I would’ve checked out from the library as a kid. Each one tells the story of an adventurous experience in the life of a real, historical child.

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Del Rey: We’re still making manga

Nodame no more?

Nodame no more?

Viz and Tokyopop may be bigger, but Del Rey manga has always been the prestige manga publisher, the home of smart, mature titles like Love Roma, Mushishi, and Nodame Cantabile, as well as solid genre favorites like Kitchen Princess (arguably the shoujo-est shoujo manga ever), Air Gear, Negima, and Basilisk. Sure, there was the occasional dud, but overall their line was strong, their production values were high, and the translations didn’t insult your intelligence.

Lately, though, things seem to have slowed down over at the Del Rey shop. Ali Kokmen, their affable and well-liked marketing director, was let go. Their website got swallowed up by a generic graphic-novel website run by parent company Random House; their old site got everything I talked about in yesterday’s post right, and the new one gets everything wrong. And a reader who pre-ordered volumes of Nodame Cantabile and Gakuen Prince got this e-mail recently:

Volumes 17 and 18 of “Nodame Cantabile” have been cancelled prior to publication, as have volumes 4 and 5 of “Gakuen Prince.” We have no additional information available as to why this may have occurred. At the present time there are no upcoming releases scheduled for either series within the next 12 months.

Comments at the site indicate that another series, Pumpkin Scissors has also been canceled (although in the word of comics retailing, “canceled” may simply mean postponed).

Is Random House is washing its hands of manga? I e-mailed Del Rey associate publisher Dallas Middaugh and asked some pointed questions; here is his answer:

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Anime Expo: Look back with hindsight


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.

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