More than a year after Tokyopop pulled the plug on its publishing division, the one-time manga giant is returning from the dead to release the first three volumes of Hidekazu Himaruya’s popular series Hetalia: Axis Powers through an arrangement with distributor Right Stuf and Japanese publisher Gentosha Comics.
This will mark the first time the third volume has been published in English; production had just been completed on the book when Tokyopop shut down its North American operations.
“The North American publishing market has been changing rapidly, and I am proud to partner with Right Stuf and Gentosha Comics to finally bring the long-awaited latest volume of Hetalia to our fans,” Tokyopop founder Stu Levy said in a statement. “Thanks to everyone for your patience!”
The return of Hetalia doesn’t come as a total surprise, as Levy began teasing the possibility in September, saying that the series could be released through limited channels. It was even suggested last night on the Tokyopop Twitter account that similar arrangements may be made with other titles. (“But no promises yet!”)
Reprints of the first two volumes will be available immediately on the Right Stuf website for $15.99 each (they originally sold for $10.99). The third volume will be released in late June, also with a $15.99 cover price; however, fans who pre-order can get theirs for $10.99 for a limited time.
Hetalia: Axis Powers debuted as a Japanese webcomic personifying the countries of the Axis and Allies of World War II as cute boys in spiffy military uniforms. The original comic, and subsequent manga and anime, use satire and lighthearted comedy to reinterpret historical events and poke fun of cultural stereotypes.
Legal | The Arizona legislature passed a sweeping bill last week that would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to “annoy,” “offend,” “harass” or “terrify.” While the law was intended to update the state’s telephone harassment laws to encompass the Internet, it’s not limited to one-to-one communications and thus, as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund notes, could criminalize “all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.” Media Coalition, a trade association that includes the CBLDF among its members, has sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer urging her to veto the bill. [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Media Coalition]
Passings | Rex Babin, editorial cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, has died of cancer. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Almost a year after Tokyopop suspended its manga publishing program, some of the OEL (Original English Language) projects are starting to see the light of day again. This one, Orange Crows, caught my eye because of the quality of the art and because the creator, James Perry II, had managed to succeed where others have failed: He got the rights to continue his series indefinitely and to post the entire first volume online. Perry is funding the publication of the second volume via Kickstarter, and although he reached his goal of $8,000 yesterday, it’s still worth checking out his pitch, which includes a link to a digital version of the first volume.
I asked Perry to tell me about the series, his dealings with Tokyopop, and his plans for the future.
Tokyopop may be defunct as a manga publisher, but someone is still posting on its Facebook page, and it makes for some pretty entertaining reading. Because it’s Facebook, a lot of the readers are teenagers, and I think it is more representative of that segment of the manga audience than any other site.
So when whoever posts as Tokyopop asked, “How do you read manga — digitally or as a physical copy? Which do you prefer and why?” I was interested enough to tally up the answers. The responses were almost comically lopsided, with only 18 out of more than 250 commenters preferring digital; some said both, but the vast majority, almost 200, said they liked to read their manga on paper, not pixels.
Of course, what they mean by “digital” is online manga sites, almost all of which are bootleg. People read manga online because it is free and because it’s the only way to read series that haven’t been licensed in English. But they don’t like it very much. Complaints about digital included eyestrain, slow load times, and that you can’t keep the manga or take it with you. Many commenters simply said they liked the feeling of a book in their hands.
“We had a record amount of entries from publishers this year with more than forty-five different titles” said FCBD spokesperson Leslie Jackson. “Retailers on the committee had a tough time deciding on which titles to choose for Gold sponsorship, but we’re sure fans will be pleased with the line-up for next year.”
While the choices may have been difficult, it’s hard to imagine that someone couldn’t come up with something more enticing than what Image has to offer: “An anthology featuring all-new stories with a mix of Image’s old and new best loved characters!” Could you possibly get any vaguer than that? They don’t even have a cover design. If my comic got bumped for that, I’d be steaming. On the other hand, Archaia’s 48-page hardcover, featuring new material (not reprints or bits of something to come) looks mighty sweet, all the more so because they name names: A Mouse Guard story from David Petersen, a Jim Henson’s Labyrinth story by Ted Naifeh and Cory Godbey, a side story from Royden Lepp’s new graphic novel Rust, a Cursed Pirate Girl story from Jeremy Bastian, a Cow Boy story by Chris Eliopoulos and Nate Crosby, and a Dapper Men tale from Jim McCann and Janet Lee. There’s this year’s wow factor.
The line-up actually seemed pretty obvious to me, so I went back and looked at the Gold Sponsors for the past five years. Sure enough, six of the publishers are there every year: Archie, Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, Marvel. Since five of these are also Diamond’s premier publishers, and Archie is a newsstand juggernaut, there’s no surprise there. BOOM! Studios has been a Gold Sponsor for the past four years and Archaia for the past three. The other slots vary: Ape Entertainment was a Gold Sponsor in 2011 and 2010 but is missing this year, and Bongo and Oni are back after a two-year absence. Others who have popped up once or twice in the past five years: NBM/Papercutz (2011), Drawn & Quarterly (2010), Viz (2008 and 2009), Dynamite (2008), Virgin (2008), Gemstone (2007), and Tokyopop (2007).
There’s more to come: The Silver Sponsors will be announced next week.
Back when Tokyopop was churning out stacks of manga-style graphic novels (a.k.a. “global manga”), Jen Lee Quick’s OffBeat was one of the best. It was a bit like a high school version of Harriet the Spy with a touch of yaoi intrigue — a teenage boy spies on his mysterious new neighbor and gradually becomes fascinated with him. The story was supposed to run for three volumes, but after the first two came out, Tokyopop dropped most of its global manga line, and OffBeat was one of the casualties. By then it had attracted quite a following, and it was one of the few books that fans actually clamored for more of.
Well, good news: Last week, Quick revealed on her Deviantart page that the third volume of OffBeat will be published in 2012. Quick doesn’t name the publisher, but in the comments to the post she says “it’s a new publisher aimed at young women,” which is good news in and of itself. It’s interesting that she has the rights to the book at all, as most of the Tokyopop global manga creators have not been able to get their rights back and have had to leave their projects unfinished as a result.
Quick has done a significant amount of work on the third volume, but a computer virus wiped out much of what she had done. She will be re-scanning and re-toning the lost pages, and she says she will rewrite and edit them along the way, which should make the book stronger in the long run.
(via Comics Worth Reading)
Creators | Sarah Glidden, creator of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, chronicles her time at Occupy Miami Nov. 15-21 in a sketchbook. [Cartoon Movement]
Creators | Corey Blake follows up on the Bill Mantlo story published by LIfeHealthPro, including some clarifications of issues raised in the story and additional details on various fundraisers over the years to help pay for Mantlo’s care. [Corey Blake]
Creators | Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society Podcast interviews Skullkickers writer Jim Zubkavich about piracy and the Stop Online Piracy Act. [Berkman Center for Internet & Society Podcast]
Former manga publisher TOKYOPOP and the pop culture e-newsletter GeekChicDaily announced today that they’re teaming up to launch a new email newsletter, called TOKYOPOP, that will focus on “the hottest Asian pop culture news and trends.”
So, yeah … it’s a little confusing, if you only knew TOKYOPOP as the manga publisher that went under earlier this year, but TOKYOPOP founder Stu Levy explains why it isn’t completely out of left field.
“Back in 2000, TOKYOPOP magazine introduced all aspects of Asian Pop Culture to the English-speaking world,” said Levy in an open letter. “Over the past decade, the print magazine gave way to other endeavors, but I am excited that through a new partnership with our friends at GeekChicDaily, the original TOKYOPOP magazine concept can be revived and refreshed – rebooted actually – in a much more modern, exciting, and accessible format.”
Some manga publishers do social media very well. Others don’t. Kodansha Comics took forever to even put up a website (and the one they have is pretty bare-bones—I think they just added a “News” section this week), and they told fans at San Diego Comic-Con that they expected to have Facebook and Twitter accounts by the end of the year—hardly an ambitious schedule. So an impatient fan has done it for them, creating a Kodansha USA fan page on Facebook, complete with logo and the note “I’m hoping if we can make a good fan page it will inspire the real Kodansha Comics USA will make one for them self.”
Until Kodansha’s recent re-release of the first volume, Sailor Moon had been out of print in the United States for six years. What’s more, the original English-language edition suffered from many of the sins of early manga — bad translation, flipped pages, etc. Since it is, despite this, one of the most popular manga of all time, it’s not surprising that there are scanlations of it all over the web.
But when a Sailor Moon fan site linked to scans of Kodansha’s new edition, readers who clearly had no problem with posting scanlations were strongly critical of the site owner for linking to rips of an American edition. Here’s a comment that sums up much of the discussion:
This is so sad! The new books are really beautiful and it’s shame to rip them off this way. I understand why the Tokyopop translations were circulated because the copyright expired but this is very different. Really disappointing and I have to say I hope you remove them from your site.
But the person who posted the links, Elly, shoots right back:
The manga publisher Tokyopop shut down at the end of May, leaving a number of series unfinished, to the dismay of fans. The company’s website now redirects to its Facebook page, where a few of the more optimistic readers are trying to rally people to set up a charity to continue Tokyopop’s good works, but most of the comments are from people asking where they can get the next volume of their favorite series.
It’s clear from the general lack of responses (as well as the spam) that nobody at Tokyopop is actually looking at the page any more, but CEO Stu Levy made an appearance on Friday and asked “If there is a way to bring you Hetalia V. 3 but it’s a bit more limited than back in the old days, would you be interested?” The response was mixed: His post has 530 “likes” so far, but over 100 people added comments, and many of the comments are asking about other books. A number of people said they didn’t want Tokyopop to release volume 3 because that would delay transferring the license to a publisher that would commit to publishing the rest of the series.
Levy returned on Sunday with a few clarifications:
ICv2 has an interesting report from the Bucheon International Comics Festival (Bicof) in Bucheon, South Korea. Korea is an interesting case because it actually has a government agency, the Korea Manhwa Contents Agency, dedicated to promoting the nation’s comics industry, and indeed, the manhwa (Korean comics) market is worth about U.S. $32.6 million for a population of 49 million.
While a number of American companies publish licensed manhwa, they usually don’t brand it as such. Tokyopop and Central Park Media started bringing it over in the mid-2000s to supplement their manga lines, which led many fans to dismiss it as an inferior version of manga. I remember sitting in the CPM panel at NYCC in February 2007, when CPM managing director John O’Donnell asked the crowd of mostly manga and anime fans what they thought about manhwa. Hoots of derision echoed off the concrete walls as fans ticked off the things they hate about manhwa, weak art and fractured storytelling looming large among them.
But that had a lot to do with the selection available; at that time, most of the manhwa available in English were second-string genre titles, and a lot of them did look like crappy imitations of manga. What’s more, people didn’t have a sense of manhwa the way they do of manga; the highest-profile manhwa property in the U.S. is probably Tokyopop’s Priest, especially since the movie came out this year, but people don’t necessarily know it’s Korean. Tokyopop made a good try by publishing a number of manhwa by Hee Jung Park that could hold their own in any selection of American indy comics, but they never found their audience, which is a shame. And no discussion is complete without a mention of Bride of the Water God, the beautifully drawn but oft-delayed series published by Dark Horse.
Publishing | Sales of comic books and graphic novels in July fell 6.17 percent versus July 2010, with dollar sales of comic books sold through Diamond Comic Distributors falling 4.27 percent and graphic novels falling 10.10 percent year-over-year. Unit sales for comics were only down slightly, at .52 percent, which ICv2 points out “indicates that comic book cover prices have in fact declined. The problem is that circulation numbers have not risen enough to make up for the decline in revenue from lower cover prices.” Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man #666, which kicked off the “Spider-Island” event, was the best-selling comic of the month, while League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III Century #2 from Top Shelf topped the graphic novel chart. John Jackson Miller has commentary.
Marvel saw a slight increase in its dollar market share for July when compared to June, while DC’s jumped from 28.03 percent in June to 30.55 percent in July. IDW, the No. 5 publisher in terms of dollar share in June, moved to the No. 3 position in July. The top seven publishers were rounded out by Image, Dark Horse, Dynamite and BOOM! [ICv2]
All over the Internet, folks (myself included) have been speculating about the fate of Tokyopop’s licenses once the publisher closes up shop next week. Fans have been listing their favorites, but I don’t think anyone would have guessed that the first license rescue would be a global manga. But it’s true: Cryptozoic Entertainment has acquired the digital rights to Tokyopop’s World of Warcraft and Starcraft manga, created under a deal with WoW parent company Blizzard, and today released them on the Cryptozoic iPad app. The app is free, and the first volume of Warcraft: Legends will be free through June 2; other than that, the manga is $5.99 a volume.
If you have never heard of Cryptozoic, don’t feel bad — the company was only founded in March 2010 — but now might be a good time to start paying attention. It makes comics, trading cards, and games, and its line includes the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game and The Walking Dead board game. The iPad app, provided by iVerse, also includes IDW’s Locke and Key comics, but the Warcraft and Starcraft manga are a big get, because fans can’t seem to get enough of those franchises.
(Hat tip: Steve Horton, via Twitter)
Webcomics | Cartoonist Krishna M. Sadasivam has announced he’s ending his popular webcomic The PC Weenies after 13 years. Thursday’s strip will be the last, “at least for some time.” In a post on his website, Sadasivam cites, among other reasons, a desire to focus on illustration, a plateauing audience and, “the biggie,” bills. “We’ve had a few emergency setbacks recently (two huge car repairs, a crazy water bill from hell, etc.) that are putting the squeeze on us financially. Big time,” he writes. “The time I spend on making the comic could be better spent on other income-generating areas, and right now I have to do what’s best for my family.” [PCWeenies.com]
Publishing | Ahead of the official closing of Tokyopop’s publishing division in Los Angeles on Tuesday, two of the company’s lighted metal signs have popped up for sale on Craigslist. [Anime News Network]
Comic-Con | Spurred by a recent newspaper profile that revealed the offices of Comic-Con International aren’t located in San Diego but rather nearby La Mesa, the city’s business license officer did a little research and discovered that convention organizers have been operating in the suburb for five years without a business license. Comic-Con has until June 2 to comply with La mesa city laws by submitting a business license application and the required fees. [Poway Patch]