Legal | Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Saba’aneh was released from an Israeli prison on Monday, as scheduled. Saba’aneh, who was originally held without charges and eventually sentenced to five months for “contacts with a hostile organization,” drew several cartoons while he was in prison and plans to do a show of his prison drawings, focusing on Palestinian prisoners who, he says, are in prison “just because they are Palestinians.” [PRI's The World]
Manga | In a major coup for a manga publisher, Digital Manga (which, contrary to its name, also published print manga) announced at Anime Expo that it has signed a deal with Tezuka Productions to publish all of Osamu Tezuka’s works in North America. While the details aren’t entirely clear, it sounds like Digital is working on some new licenses and will have digital rights to books released here in print by other publishers. [Anime News Network]
Comics sales | The direct market continued its rise last month, with comics and graphic novel sales up 22.59 percent compared to March 2012, according to Diamond Comic Distributors. Marvel routed DC Comic in this month’s sales, claiming 40 percent of the market to DC’s 27 percent. [ICv2]
Conventions | The fire marshal had to turn away hundreds of people Sunday from the DoubleTree Hotel in Tampa, Florida, where the two-day Tampa Bay Comic Con was being held. An estimated crowd of 4,000 were crammed into the lobby and the ballroom (which is designed to hold a maximum of 1,200 people), with many hoping to see The Walking Dead star Lauren Cohan. Organizers conceded they need a larger venue for the twice-yearly event. [Tampa Bay Times]
Vertical Inc. is a small publisher with an eclectic line. If someone says “I don’t read manga, except for X,” X will more often than not turn out to be a Vertical book (and over half the time, it’s Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha). In addition to a long list of Tezuka titles (Ode to Kirihito, Dororo, A Message to Adolf), the company has also published some classic and modern sci-fi (To Terra, 7 Billion Needles), the wine-tasting manga Drops of God, Moyoco Anno’s geisha story Sakuran, and the cute cat manga Chi’s Sweet Home, which is probably its bestseller.
So what’s next? Vertical marketing director Ed Chavez, a former blogger himself, often teases new licenses on Twitter, but earlier this month he went further and posted a survey asking fans what titles they would like to see licensed for summer 2013 release. It’s an impressive list that includes Billy Bat, the new manga by Naoki Urasawa (Monster, Pluto, 20th Century Boys), Coppers by Natsume Ono (not simple, House of Five Leaves) and March Comes in Like a Lion by Chika Umino (Honey and Clover), as well as Usamaru Furuya’s Our Light Club, which I assume is a followup to his Lychee Light Club, previously published by Vertical.
Equally interesting is the list of the types of titles Vertical won’t consider, which gives an idea of the publisher’s editorial direction as well as the constraints under which it operates: no adult manga, doujinshi (fan comics) or webcomics; no titles released before 2000; and no manga from the publishers Shueisha or Shogakukan (the parent companies of Viz Media, which gets the lion’s share of their output) or Akita Shoten.
When the news that the Japanese publisher Kodansha and printer Dai Nippon had each bought a 46% share of the U.S. publisher Vertical, Inc., hit the internet on Wednesday, manga fans’ initial reaction was shock and dismay. Vertical is well known in manga circles for publishing a number of well-liked series, including Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha and the more recent Twin Spica and Chi’s Sweet Home. They recently announced two more series that had a lot of advance buzz, Tezuka’s Princess Knight and the wine manga Drops of God. When fans heard the news, many of them assumed these series would disappear or be put on hold.
Vertical marketing director Ed Chavez quickly got on Twitter to reassure them that Vertical’s manga plans would not change. In fact, when I spoke to Ed to clarify some of the details of the deal, he told me Vertical’s manga sales were up 650% between 2009 and 2010, which is pretty amazing when you consider that the manga market as a whole contracted during that time.
One of the things I wanted to know was which Kodansha bought a 46.7% share in Vertical: Kodansha Comics, which is publishing manga in the U.S., or parent company Kodansha? Ed said it was the parent company. This means Kodansha is pursuing two different manga strategies in the U.S. Kodansha Comics has taken over the former Del Rey line (which was owned by Random House) and is publishing manga directly, although they have hired Random House staff to edit and localize their books. The Vertical deal is different; Kodansha is simply investing in the company, not running it.
Here is the rest of my conversation with Ed.