IMAGE EXPO: Eric Stephenson's Keynote Address Set to Reveal New Projects
Manga | Is former manga powerhouse Tokyopop coming back? Once the largest publisher of manga in North America, the company stopped publishing new manga in 2011, but didn’t go bankrupt and never really went away. Tokyopop is selling many of its “global manga” titles digitally and in print, on demand, and it ‘s planning panels at both Anime Expo in Los Angeles and Comic-Con International in San Diego. On his blog, CEO Stu Levy drops a few hints, saying he’s “rebuilding” Tokyopop. [Tokyopop]
Digital comics | Rob Salkowitz analyzes the latest news from Amazon and comiXology and suggests there’s more to the story than meets the eye. While fans may view the renewal of Marvel’s deal with comiXology as a story about a digital comics service, Salkowitz says it’s really about bringing comics to the mass market through Amazon: “Kindle isn’t Amazon’s platform for reaching comic book readers. It’s Amazon’s platform for reaching all readers. comiXology counts its revenues in millions. Amazon counts its revenues in billions. Moving these titles from a superior specialty app to an inferior mainstream app isn’t a big deal for existing fans but it’s a huge potential expansion of the market.” [ICv2]
Analysis | Rob Salkowitz kicks off the new year with big-picture questions about “geek culture”: With the popularity of comics-based movies, will continuity and nostalgia become less important? And will comics themselves become less important? “Putting out comics is a relatively costly and troublesome process with limited revenue potential relative to other ways of exploiting the intellectual property. A fan base that buys licensed merchandise and watches entertainment programming without needing a monthly fix of new art and story is probably considered a feature of the new comics economy, not a bug.” [ICv2]
Creators | Chew artist Rob Guillory, who will appear this weekend at Wizard World New Orleans, talks about the strange comics that he read as a kid (The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man) and the unexpected success of Chew, which will end next year with its 60th issue: “In the beginning, John and I were kind of like, ‘Well, best-case scenario, we can go 60 issues. Worst-case scenario, we can do five and go our separate ways and never speak again.’ I don’t know if we’ve seen the peak of our reception. I don’t think we’ll see how popular we’ve been until it’s over. When it’s wrapped and it’s the complete thing, I think people will start missing us.” [Best of New Orleans]
Publishing | The British independent publisher Great Beast, which has released the work of Dan Berry, Marc Ellerby and Isabel Greenberg, among others, will close on Jan. 7. Founded in 2012 by Ellerby and Adam Cadwell, the publisher was something of a victim of its own success, as Cadwell explains: “As the group got bigger, as the books became more successful and as we widened the range of shops we sold to there became more of a need for the management and promotion to come from one or two people and Marc Ellerby and I (Adam Cadwell) happily took up that role. However, as time went on we found that the time spent working for the benefit of the group was getting in the way of us actually making our own comics, which is why we started the group in the first place… We looked at many ways of monetising the group so we could pay someone to run things whilst still giving the creators the bulk of the profits but we just couldn’t find a fair way to make it work.” [Great Beast Blog]
Political cartoons | Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart, who was acquitted last month on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaks out: “It’s a well known fact that Erdogan is trying to repress and isolate the opponents by reshaping the laws and the judiciary and by countless prosecutions and libel suits against journalists.” Kart faced a possible penalty of nine years in prison if he had been found guilty, and it’s not clear the case is over yet, as Erdogan could appeal the acquittal.“Unfortunately, day by day, life is getting harder for independent and objective journalists in Turkey,” Kart said. [Index on Censorship]
Political cartoons | Syrian Kurdish cartoonist Dijwar Ibrahim talks about his anti-ISIS cartoons, which are on exhibit in Iraq. [Al-Shorfa]
Manga | Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, the bestselling manga in Japan, is getting a spinoff: Starting with the January issue, which ships in December, the manga magazine Saikyo Jump will carry a series focusing on Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates. There doesn’t seem to be any information yet on who the creators will be. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | In a business-oriented interview, Mark Waid talks about the strategy behind his digital comics site Thrillbent, especially its appeal to diverse groups of readers. The key is flexibility, Waid said, in terms of platforms and content. His goal is to make the comics readable on any digital device, which he says is not difficult once the site is set up. In terms of content, he says, “Pay attention to the audience, let them tell you who you’re clearly not serving, and go after them.” [The Wall Street Journal]
Retailing | A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order halting the $21.4 million purchase of retail chain Hastings Entertainment by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association. The order was granted at the request of two Hastings shareholders who sued to stop the sale, insisting the price paid for the retailer is too low; it will remain in effect until a hearing can be held on June 12. Hastings issued a statement Monday pledging to “vigorously dispute these claims.” Hastings operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more. [Amarillo Globe-News, via ICv2]
Retailing | Amazon may be charging full price for Hachette’s graphic novels as part of its continuing contract dispute with the publisher, but Barnes & Noble has leaped into the breach with big discounts and a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on Hachette’s Yen Press manga and Little, Brown’s Tintin books. [ICv2]
Viz Media has announced it will publish Battle Royale: Angels’ Border, a new graphic novel by Koushun Takami, author of the original Battle Royale novel. The two-chapter story is complete in a single volume and features artwork by Mioko Ohnishi and Youhei Oguma. It’s a stand-alone story about six of the girls who lock themselves in a lighthouse during the competition, and like all of Battle Royale, it deals with the precarious balance between the need to unite with others and the need to kill them in order to survive.
In the original, an authoritarian government transported a high-school class to a deserted island, gave them deadly weapons and instructed them to fight each other to the death; only one student could survive. Viz published the original novel in 2003, and this year released a new translation, Battle Royale: Remastered, under its Haikasoru science fiction imprint. The manga was published in 2003 by Tokyopop, which re-released it four years later in Ultimate Edition format.
Conventions | Phoenix Comicon, which in 2013 drew a record 55,000 people, has placed a limit on attendance for the June 5-8 show, raising the possibility that the convention could sell out for the first time. However, convention director Matt Solberg said organizers have been working with the fire marshal to increase capacity at the Phoenix Convention Center. This year’s guests include Andy Kubert, Andy Runton, Camilla d’Errico, Chris Claremont, Christopher Golden, Dennis Calero, Don Rosa, Francis Manapul, John Layman, Katie Cook, Kevin Maguire, Marc Andreyko and Mark Bagley. [Facebook, via Modern Times]
Manga | Lillian Diaz Przybyl, who was the senior editor at Tokyopop until shortly before its demise, talks about her early days in fandom, her experiences at the company when it was a market leader, and the issue of piracy and creators’ rights. She also sheds some light on why the manga publishers were so slow to go to digital: The Japanese licensors were reluctant to put content from different publishers together and worried that their books would be re-imported back to Japan. [Organization Anti-Social Geniuses]
Graphic novels | An estimated 200 students, faculty and community members gathered Saturday at the College of Charleston in South Carolina to protest proposed budget cuts to that school and the University of South Carolina Upstate in retaliation for selecting gay-themed books — including Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — for their summer reading programs. The South Carolina House of Representatives approved a proposal early this month that would slash $52,000 cut from the College of Charleston and $17,142 for USC Upstate, which represent what each school spent on the programs. The budget is now before the state Senate. [The Post and Courier]
When I reported the other day on the winners of the Japanese government’s manga competition, it reminded me there was another international manga contest, the Morning International Manga Competition.
I wasn’t the only one who wondered what had happened to the contest, as someone posted the question on the Tumblr of the manga publisher Vertical. The answer, which I assume came from marketing director Ed Chavez, was that it’s no longer being held. As a translator for the contest, Chavez has a bit of perspective on why that is:
Knowing many of the judges and many of the people from MORNING personally, it was a tough decision for them but the results that came from the project while improving were not ideal for collecting talents that would be successful in Japan AND work for a unique seinen magazine like MORNING.
Sadly, globally manga is generally seen from the perspective of shonen and shojo, and mainly titles like Naruto or Rurouni Kenshin. MORNING is a magazine that publishes Peepo Choo, Drops of God, Chi’s Sweet Home, Giant Killing, and St Young Men. MORNING readers want to read titles like that. And MORNING editors want to work on titles like that.
In fact, in the fourth year of the competition, the judges renamed it, changing “Manga” to “Comics.” As they explained at the time,
A 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.
Chuck Austen’s advice to creators of lost OEL manga at the sorta-defunct Tokyopop is sound: Keep creating something new. That’s really a great rule for everyone of every profession. The other aspect of his advice was to abandon what was created and lost to Tokyopop. Heidi MacDonald endorsed the approach, observing, “If you can only create one successful property in 40 years, maybe this wasn’t the job choice for you.” While I appreciate the tough love, I don’t think that is necessarily a realistic position to take or a one-size-fits-all solution.
I prefer seeing new ideas, new concepts and new worlds from my favorite creators. However, I don’t think the quality of a creator, or the validity of his comics career, should be judged on the quantity, but rather on the quality.
The creative mind manifests itself in endless ways. Some creative people are restless, constantly searching for a new story to tell. Some have a dedicated, obsessive drive to explore one thing, one world, for as long as there’s something there that interests them. If publishers can crank out the same comics with the same characters year after year, why can’t creators do likewise if they want? Erik Larsen has been putting out crazy Savage Dragon comics for years. Sure, he’s done other stuff but at this point that will go down as his most significant work, and I don’t think that makes him any less of a creator. Is Dave Sim any less of a brilliant cartoonist for not having created something for the history books after Cerebus? Are Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson sub-par for each only creating one significant comic strip?
I touched base with Chuck Austen a few weeks ago, when Tokyopop put a selection of its original English language (OEL) manga up for sale on its revamped website. At that point I checked in with a couple of former Tokyopop creators, and I ended up having a fascinating e-mail exchange with Austen in which he said he made more money on one of his prose novels simply by selling it on Kindle than he would have made from a movie option. That caught my attention, and I asked him if he would write a guest post for Robot 6. Here’s what he had to say, and while all opinions are Chuck’s own, I think at the heart of it is some good advice for everyone who has ever done something they regretted later.
My name is Chuck Austen. Many of you have probably heard of me, and very rarely in a good way. But that’s one of the reasons I’m here.
Brigid asked me to address my fellow Tokyopop alums — people who created OEMs for that ill-fated company and, like me, watched their properties mistreated, ignored and ultimately thrown into ownership limbo, properties for which we will never retrieve our rights, worlds we imagined into being that we’ll never be able to create additional stories for.
The reason my past history is important is because I am probably the most extreme example of someone who “lost everything” and so am uniquely qualified to tell you this:
Comics | The Wall Street Journal takes a look at comics as investments. Interestingly, while the rare, old issues bring in the big money, some more recent comics, like the first issue of Saga, have appreciated quite a bit. There’s also an accompanying video. [The Wall Street Journal]
Retailing | ComicsPRO, the comics retailers’ association, held its annual meeting over the weekend in Atlanta, where the group bestowed its Industry Appreciation Award on Cindy Fournier, vice president of operations for Diamond Comic Distributors. Thomas Gaul, of Corner Store Comics and Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, California, also was elected as president of the board of directors. [ComicsPRO]
Comics | A Columbus, Ohio, entertainment weekly lays out a case for the city — home of Jeff Smith, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo — becoming, like Portland, Oregon, a hub for comic books. “Comics in Columbus is a weird underground, sort of hip-hop thing,” indie publisher Victor Dandridge Jr. says. “We’re like hip-hop in the Bronx in ’79, just on the corner doing our thing.” [Columbus Alive]
Conventions | Bart Beaty files a final report on this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival, and his verdict is … meh. “There was a consensus all around that the show was flat. People would throw around adjectives like “fine,” “good,” and “okay.” It wasn’t a disaster (as were some of the shows disrupted by construction), but it also wasn’t that memorable either” [The Comics Reporter]