SDCC: Marvel: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends Panel
Viz Media has put itself in the vanguard of manga publishers by being the first to offer its own iPad app. And Viz didn’t just launch it and forget it, either — the company has been aggressive about putting new series and volumes onto it. Throughout March, the publisher is offering the first volume of each series for free. That’s a great deal for readers — about 200 pages of story for the same price you would pay for a 32-page American comic — and it’s also smart on Viz’s part, because the thing about manga is that you can’t read just one. The publisher is gambling that those cheap first volumes will be the gateway drug for readers.
All the manga in the app are from the Shonen Jump, Shonen Jump Advanced, and Shojo Beat lines, teen-friendly titles that fall into familiar genres: Naruto, Vampire Knight, Bleach, as well as some newer and lesser-known titles such as Natsume’s Book of Friends and Captive Hearts.
When you think about it, this isn’t that different from what Viz does with its Shonen Sunday and SigIKKI imprints: It puts up chapters for free on the web, then takes them down when the print volume comes up — but leaves the first chapter of each volume up as a free sample.
In the wide world of comics there’s always a needed for talented people — and not just for creating the comics. The comics you read everyday are supported by an immense infrastructure of editors, publishers, designers, distributors and retailers that make American comics what it is today. And despite the frail economy, the comics industry is always looking for employees.
We’ve compiled a list of all the openings in the comics industry for non-creative office positions and put it all into one place. It’s a good resource if you’re looking to work in comics, and also for armchair speculators seeing what companies are looking to do by seeing what positions they’re hiring for. We accumulated these by looking on publisher websites and job boards — if you know of a job not listed here, let us know!
Anime News Network notes that yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the release of the first Pokémon game, Pokémon Red and Green. That game gave rise to a whole series of other games, as well as four anime series, numerous manga series, feature films, and even chapter books. (The chapter books presented a unique challenge for the authors, who had to somehow allow the Pokémon to express complex thoughts and emotions with a one-word vocabulary: their names.)
It also helped shape the manga industry as we know it today. A few years ago I talked to manga translator and scholar Matt Thorn, who was a freelance translator for Viz in their early days. Thorn described the atmosphere as “laid-back” and the company itself as having only three employees, including the president, Seiji Horibuchi. “For [parent company] Shogakukan, it was almost a vanity project,” he said. “They didn’t expect it to make money.”
And then Pokémon came along. Recalls Matt,
One day, I got a call from Shogakukan Productions. They said, “We’re going to try to promote Pokemon in the U.S., and we’d like you to help.” I said, “I’d love to, but I’m really busy these days, so I’m afraid I can’t. And to be honest, I don’t think Pokemon will fly in America.”
Despite Matt’s misgivings, of course, Pokémon went on to become a media phenomenon in the States, and Viz is now the largest manga publisher in the business, thanks at least in part to that initial burst of energy from Pikachu and his pals.
When Viz Media first rolled out their iPad app, I was rather critical because they launched with their most popular properties, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, and early volumes of both are as common as dirt—why would anyone pay $4.99 for something they can get for free from their local library, Paperback Swap, or their best friend’s older brother?
I should have held my fire, because since then, Viz has been aggressive in rolling out new series and volumes on the app. They are launching two more series on the iPad this month, Merupuri and Natsume’s Book of Friends, which brings the total number of series to 15, and they have posted the first seven volumes of those launch series, which is great—volume 7 of Naruto is a lot harder to find than volume 1.
The app still focuses on series with a lot of teen appeal, mostly if not entirely from their Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat lines. That part still seems questionable—how many teenagers have iPads? On the other hand, plenty of parents have iPads, and mine gets passed around quite a bit in my house, so maybe it doesn’t matter.
Given their propensity for branding, it’s possible that Viz will release manga for older readers as a separate app—they are currently publishing manga online at their Shonen Sunday and SigIKKI sites, so apps tied to those imprints would be logical extensions of the brand. What I would really like to see, though, is a Viz Signature app gathering works by Naoki Urasawa (Pluto, 20th Century Boys), Fumi Yoshinaga (Ooku: The Inner Chamber, All My Darling Daughters), Natsume Ono (Gente, Ristorante Paradiso), and other more literary manga for grownups. It seems to me that the overlap between iPad owners and potential readers of those comics would be pretty large, so it could help them find a new audience—if the grownups can get the iPads away from the teenagers.
If this was the year that publishers started taking legitimate digital comics seriously, it was also the year they started taking bootleg digital comics seriously. A group of American publishers banded together to take down HTMLComics.com, while American and Japanese publishers banded together to target bootleg manga scan sites. Six months later, HTMLComics.com is still down (and likely to stay that way, as the authorities have confiscated their servers), while the manga sites are back in business—in part, perhaps, because many are hosted overseas and thus out of the reach of American and Japanese authorities.
Kicking off a year in which piracy and creators’ rights took center stage, Colleen Doran reveals that former clients have released some of work to the Kindle and Google Books without her consent, and despite the fact that they have no right to do so.
What a difference a year makes! A year ago today, the iPad not only didn’t exist, it hadn’t been officially announced yet. People read comics on their iPhones and iPod Touches, but the screens were too small for a good experience (and therefore, no one wanted to spend much money on them). The iPad changed all that, with a big, full-color screen that is just a tad smaller than a standard comics page (and a tad larger than a standard manga page), and publishers started taking digital comics seriously. The distribution was already in place, thanks to the iPhone—comiXology, iVerse, Panelfly—and now the publishers not only jumped on board with those platforms but also started developing their own apps.
The digital comics scene is still developing, but the iPad was the game changer. For many people, it was the first time that they could comfortably read comics on a handheld screen. Now, it’s just a question of marketing—this year, publishers will grapple with bringing comics to a wider audience, outside the existing readership, and balancing the digital marketplace with the established brick-and-mortar retail structure.
Here, then, is a look back at our digital year.
So, I broke down yesterday and bought an iPad. (I got the 32 G, Wi-Fi only version, for those who care about such things.) It’s a toy, but it’s a very nice toy. The question is, will it be a good workhorse?
So far so good. I’m a good tester for products like this, as I am not particularly good with technology, and I find that moving things to multiple platforms is often more trouble than it’s worth. The guy set the iPad up for me right in the store—got the battery charged, showed me how to use it, and made sure I installed iBooks right away. I doubt I’ll ever use iBooks, because I couldn’t find any free books, but whatever, it doesn’t take up much space. With a quick sync, I had the iPad versions of several comics readers that I already had on my iPod Touch: Comics by comiXology, Comics + from iVerse, some Dark Horse stand-alone books. Somehow the Viz Manga reader appeared as well, although I don’t remember signing up. Downloads were swift and easy. When I went home, I added the iPad to my Kindle account and moved some books over there.
Interestingly, the iPod comics I already own are readable on the iPad but in the smaller iPod format, so while I haven’t gained anything, I haven’t lost anything either.
The manga publisher Viz Media has done well with Shonen Jump: The magazine, established in 2002, has a monthly circulation of just over 200,000, which is pretty respectable, and then Viz sells the same stories all over again as graphic novels.
Now they are adding online manga to the mix: The December issue of Shonen Jump carries a full-page announcement of a new online manga service available only to subscribers to the magazine. One series, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, will run exclusively online until it is collected in graphic novel form. The site will also include “massive online previews” of two more series, Toriko and Bakuman: Subscribers can read the first four chapters just before the graphic novel comes out. The rest of the Shonen Jump series will continue in print only.
I e-mailed some questions to Viz spokesperson Jane Lui, and she forwarded them to Joel Enos, the senior editor of Shonen Jump, who provided some more details of the new package.
Brigid Alverson: How will readers subscribe to the service—do you have to be a Shonen Jump subscriber or can you get an online-only subscription?
Joel Enos: A subscription (for now) is to the magazine as a whole. When you subscribe to the magazine, you also get the access to the exclusive online content of the magazine.
Manga publishers have been late to the digital media party, but that’s changing fast: Today Viz Media announced its own iPad app, making it the second publisher, after Yen Press, to go digital.
Viz is basically the American arm of a Japanese company — it is co-owned by the Japanese publishers Shueisha and Shogakukan and their licensing unit Shogakukan Productions — and publishes some of the best-selling manga in the U.S., including the monster seller Naruto, so this is a significant move.
The Viz app is proprietary, as opposed to the Marvel and DC apps, which are adaptations of Comics by comiXology, and it’s iPad-only — there is no iPhone version. The app is free, and Viz is offering a free download of the first volume of Death Note for a limited time.
After that, you’ll pay. The initial lineup for the app is the first two volumes of Bleach, Death Note, Dragon Ball, Naruto and One Piece, priced at $4.99 each. That’s a good deal compared to single-issue comics, but not so far off the original prices of the manga; list price at the Viz store is $7.95 for the first 45 volumes of Naruto (and $9.99 after that), so for early volumes you’re only getting a $3 discount for buying digital. And let’s face it, Viz has already covered its costs on volumes 1 and 2 of Naruto. However, the iPad app solves a significant problem for a series that runs over 45 volumes: shelf space. It’s not so easy to find a random volume of One Piece in the bookstore, but it’s always retrievable electronically.
In his latest House of 1,000 Manga post at Anime News Network, Jason Thompson takes a long, fond look at a classic of days gone by, the 1989 manga Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga! Couched in vicious satire, the book actually has quite a few real insights, and the article will both make you laugh and teach you things. And you will never look at manga quite the same way again.
With all of next week’s Comic-Con International’s panels fully revealed, those of you who are attending are probably putting together your schedule as we speak … but don’t forget to factor in some of the cool stuff that’ll be going on on the floor. Here’s a list of stuff you can do and people you can meet at various booths, with no doubt more on the way:
• Dark Horse Comics will have Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Morgan Spurlock, Stan Sakai, Mike Mignola, Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Eric Powell, Joss Whedon, Janet & Alex Evanovich, Felicia Day and more at their booth.
• BOOM! Studios also released their booth schedule, which features appearances by Mark Waid, Claudio Sanchez, Peter David and Tad Stones, who created Darkwing Duck.
• Fantagraphics has released their booth schedule, along with a list of new books that will debut at the show. These include new volumes of their Peanuts collections, a new Prison Pit book, several Ignatz titles and Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories.
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.
It looks like the first round in the scanlation wars has gone to the publishers, but appearances can be deceiving.
Shortly after several publishers announced that they had formed a coalition to fight manga piracy, a number of the most popular scan sites removed scans of series that had been licensed in the U.S. Or did they? As a blogger named Kimi-chan explained a few days ago, the site admins at two sites, Mangafox and Animea, merely disabled the links from the home page. If a user had bookmarked the series, however, the bookmark would still work, and Google searches still turn up valid links for these series.
Kimi-chan’s post has been up for about a week, and when manga blogger Deb Aoki tried the tactic with a number of Viz titles on MangaFox, she found that they truly were gone. But that made me curious about something else.
A few months ago, I downloaded an iPod app that pulls manga scans from the Onemanga database—it’s one of several free or cheap apps that do that. I opened it up for the first time since April, apparently, and it immediately updated the list of available titles. Sure enough, all the Viz manga were gone from the list. There were a scattering of Del Rey, Tokyopop, and Vertical series, though, and a number from Yen Press.
Here at What Are You Reading, we don’t let a little thing like a holiday weekend keep us from our comics, no sir. Nor do we stop blogging about them.
• The great and all-powerful Ng Suat Tong provides one of the most comprehensive and detailed critiques of Asterios Polyp I’ve seen online yet. Seriously, Tong’s one of the finest critics comics have ever had. The fact that he’s writing again, even if it’s just a one-time thing, is cause for joy.
• Frank Santoro reviews issues #1-4 of Richard Sala’s Ignatz series, Delphine: “The story surrounded me and carried me away to a very real world. It’s a cartooned, exaggerated world, but a real world nonetheless.”
• Johanna Draper Carlson reads a whole lotta vampire manga.
• Similar to our Collect This Now feature is David Welsh’s License Request Day, where he picks manga that haven’t been translated yet, but should. This week he recommends something called Paros No Ken.
• It’s been up for a few days now, but I have to point an arrow towards Katherine Dac’s review of Children of the Sea, which is one of the best takes on the book yet.