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Tokyopop has come back to life, sort of: The manga publisher unveiled its revamped website a few days ago, and the company is once again selling books, in partnership with Right Stuf (for print) and Graphicly (for digital). The only Japanese manga available on the new site is Hetalia; Tokyopop’s licenses for other series lapsed, and most of them probably aren’t coming back, although CEO Stu Levy dangled the possibility of some new licenses in a panel last week at Anime LA. What’s left is a good-sized collection of Tokyopop’s Original English Language (OEL) manga and a few graphic-novel imports from countries other than Japan.
Although Tokyopop’s OEL line earned a fair amount of derision at the time, many of the books were actually pretty solid. In addition, they provided paying work for many young and veteran artists. Here’s a look at six that are of interest either because of the creators or because they are so strong (or both).
East Coast Rising: Becky Cloonan’s first full-length graphic novel, this urban-pirate story earned a nomination for Best New Series in the 2007 Eisner Awards. Alas, there was never a second volume.
Ah, the cruel end to Shakespeare’s seven ages of man, from Jacque’s “All the world’s a stage” monologue in As You Like It: “Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”. The painter Jason Bard Yarmosky seems to have come to a similar conclusion about the links between the very old and the very young, populating his canvasses with a cast of the elderly (his main models being his own grandparents) dressed in the paraphernalia of childhood: cowboy-and-Indian gear, ballet tutus and superhero costumes. Consider it a little glimpse into the retirement homes of the future, populated by the cosplayers of today. More from Yarmosky’s “Elder Kinder” series below, as well as work by Sho Murase, James Hance and others.
There was a time, back in the mid-2000’s, when Tokyopop was a bubbling cauldron of talent. With its Rising Stars of Manga competition and global manga program, Tokyopop was a gateway into comics for many talented newcomers, and many of them continue to work in the industry, creating and editing manga and other types of comics. Tokyopop shut down its OEL (Original English Language) manga program and laid off much of its staff in June 2008. Some of the creators continued to work on Tokyopop’s licensed books, while others moved on to new endeavors, including BOOM! Studios’ Pixar comics and Archaia’s Fraggle Rock anthologies.
The news that Tokyopop will be shutting its doors on May 31 inspired many creators to post their thoughts about the Tokyopop experience, and we reached out to some others for their own memories.
Former editor Tim Beedle, who was on staff at the time, looked back with mixed feelings:
There were certainly times where working at Tokyopop could be a frustrating experience. Like most of the editorial team, I came to Tokyopop because I had a genuine interest in comics and manga and wanted to play a role in bringing some great titles to American graphic novel fans, whether they were licensed from Japan or produced in the United States. And I think we did just that while we were there. I’m proud of just about all of the titles I worked on, especially the OEL ones. However, as time went on, the company’s interests and priorities seemed to shift. All of a sudden, we weren’t simply manga editors—we were film developers, magazine contributors, social media website operators and reality TV producers. All of which are worthwhile career pursuits, but what’s wrong with being editors? I think Tokyopop was at its best when its focus remained on publishing, and for all the time I was there, that’s what I focused on.