Manga is not a dirty word…

I don’t think I fully realized how big a hole Tokyopop blew in the comic book horizon when they shuttered their original manga program until recently. Say what you will about Tokyopop as a company, it’s hard to argue that for a few years, they created a lot of opportunity for a lot of artists. Thanks to Tokyopop, thousands were exposed to the work of Felipe Smith, Rivkah and M. Alice LeGrow. Popular indie artists like Becky Cloonan, Ross Campbell and Brandon Graham got a boost to their careers, and dozens of unpublished creators received their first break through the Rising Stars of Manga contest.

But more than any of that, Tokyopop embraced a style of art that most other publishers wouldn’t touch—the manga-influenced one. An entire generation of young comic book artists had grown up reading the books that Tokyopop, Viz and Dark Horse had helped bring to the United States and wanted to draw in that sort of style, and for a few years, it actually seemed like they may be able to make a little money doing so.

Then Tokyopop ran into trouble, and the rest of the manga industry soon followed suit. Yen Press has scaled back their original manga plans, Del Rey Manga no longer exists and Viz, if they ever intended to publish original content created in the United States, seemed to have a change of heart. Of course, in so doing, the options for manga-influenced artists were gutted, leaving most to look to web-publishing and self-publishing for getting their comics out there.

Now, I’m not knocking self-publishing or webcomics. If done well, they can pay off handsomely for a talented creator. But they shouldn’t be the only options out there for talented artists. Yet the unfortunate truth is that the majority of western comic book publishers really have no interest in publishing manga-style comic art. And you know what? I really don’t blame the publishers. They aren’t interested in publishing that style of art because it doesn’t sell for them. Of course, the reason it doesn’t sell is entirely due to us, the fans.

Why are we so limited in what we’ll read? I’ve already written about our reluctance to sample anything not published by the Big Two, but we also need to really ask ourselves why we’re so biased against manga-influenced art. I understand why much of the Japanese manga that gets published out here may not be of interest to a reader who isn’t interested in interpreting another culture’s mores and sense of humor just so they can enjoy a comic book. But we’re not talking about Japanese manga here. We’re talking about American comics that just happen to be drawn in a style that’s influenced by Japanese sequential art.

Before I go any further, I should probably make it clear that I’m writing this as someone who was once ridiculously biased against manga. I started at Tokyopop with an inherent love for superheroes and a complete lack of interest in Japanese graphic novels. Had I not landed my job there, it’s unlikely I’d even know what a tankoubon was, let alone actually sat down and read them. It’s also worth mentioning that since leaving Tokyopop, the amount of manga that I’ve read has seriously decreased. There are titles that I enjoy, but when I compare the amount of manga I read each year with the number of western comics, western comics win by a mile.

But I still read Bizenghast. I still read Nightschool. I read Re:Play through to its conclusion (and not just because I was the editor of that series for a while). If I have any interest in the subject matter of a comic, I’ll read it, regardless of the style. So why is it that comics drawn by manga-influenced artists (other than Adam Warren) seem to always struggle to find an audience in the United States?

Unfortunately, I still think there’s a lot of misunderstanding among both readers and publishers. They hear manga and they instantly think of big eyes and flowery backgrounds. The problem is that far too many people still cling to the idea that manga is a style. Manga is not a style. It’s a format, and even within that format there’s a lot of diversity. To say someone is a manga artist is no different than to say they’re a comic book artist. And just like with comic book artists, manga artists can draw in vastly different styles.

Svetlana Chmakova’s manga art is very different from Nam Kim’s. Christy Lijewski’s art looks nothing like Rem’s. All of them are manga-influenced, and not one of them draws characters that look like Sailor Moon. Sure, it’s possible they could adapt their art, make it look more western. Being stylistically diverse isn’t a bad thing, especially if it can get them more paying work. But why should they have to do that if they don’t want to? Why should any talented artist have to?

I should mention that there ARE publishers out there who seem more than happy to hire gifted, unique artists regardless of their style and influence. Thank goodness for Oni Press, First Second and traditional publishers like Penguin. We need more of them. But for that to happen, we first need to be willing to prove to publishers that comics drawn by manga-influenced artists can sell, and that means recognizing that manga isn’t this evil, threatening entity that we must destroy before it absorbs all the shelves at our local comic book shops, but part of the family. Don’t roll your eyes when you hear someone call themselves a manga artist—look at their art. Really look at it. It won’t hurt you, and if you keep an open mind, I can guarantee that there are quite a few manga-influenced artists that you’re going to love.

At New York Comic-Con last month, I was introduced to a ridiculously talented manga-influenced artist. She showed me her latest comic (which she had self-published), and after seeing how skilled she is, I thought about a few of the projects I’m working on that are in need of artists. I asked her if she only drew in a manga style, and she said yes. It was the only way of drawing that she really felt passionate about. I remember looking down at some of the comics in front of me, shaking my head, and telling her that unfortunately, I didn’t have any opportunities for her right now. None of the publishers I’m working with are interested in publishing comics drawn in a manga-influenced style. She smiled and said she understood, and that it’s something she’s heard before.

It’s a conversation I hope to never have again.

117 thoughts on “Manga is not a dirty word…

  1. Apple: I think self-publishing is good training ground for inspiring artists. Build your skills, build your fanbase and there’s always the hopeful chance that your work could become the next Hetalia or Megatokyo one day. However, I am a little surprised that a few OEL artists have gone back to webcomics, such as Last of the Polar Bears (mentioned above) and Samurai Host Club. Even so, I can’t help but marvel how impressive their artistic growths have been.

    Frankly, it’s impossible to try and cater to manga or Western comics die-hards when they are already too set in their likes and dislikes. Both fractions are too in secular, too niche even. It would be better to go after the casual readers who don’t carry all this baggage. It would be wonderful if you could find OEL comics serialized in teen/fashion/mainstream magazine (a la Cosmogirl). You’ll be reaching an audience who may have never picked up comics or manga in their entire life, don’t care about the labels and who knows they may enjoy it for what it is: sequential art. At this point, it seems that adaptations of popular franchises will be the lifeblood of OEL. Though, fortunately titles like Nightschool proves that original and manga-inspired content can sell. Nightschool is just awesome anyway. :D

    Actually, come to think of it, readers snubbing home-grown manga inspired talent seems to be a pretty universal problem. I’ve heard one too many laments of local comic industries (from China, Vietnam, Thailand, etc, etc) trying to compete with imported manga and failing to capture audiences for a lot of similar reasons that Western OEL manga did.

  2. “…but audiences aren’t just passive entities who will buy whatever publishers put in front of them.”

    Good point Mark, that’s why the American comic industry is on the verge of total irrelevance to the average American. Because they keep saying people want to read X – and peoplesimply don’t.

    Now saying there is no demand is just silly. If there was no demand and only supply, then how come these web artists are so damned popular? That wouldn’t make any sense if they were just supplying themselves.

    “They get to vote with their wallets, and, for whatever reason, so far they seem to have voted pretty decisively against OEL.”

    And the general public voted pretty decisively against owning cars until Ford made the Model T. Now look where we are.

    There was a limited quantity of OEL, most of which was of mediocre quality… so people didn’t buy it. Never mind that the market five years ago was not the market today… Five years ago less people, readers and artists were less familiar with the conventions of style and storytelling that pretty much everybody takes for granted today – regardless of how much the industry wants to tell us otherwise.

    Seriously you have to be blind not to see where comics currently are outside of the theoretical mainstream publishers are pushing on readers – and where comics are headed without those publishers.

    I recently posted about this problem of publishers being so far behind the curve in relation to reader tastes, and I’ll quote some of the responses I got (all emphasis added by me):

    “…However the industry does seem kinda hesitant to blur the lines between the ‘manga’ section and the rest of the store. Most of the manga artists I consider really good don’t have a typical style and are annoyingly hard to track down, while I could get ‘Naruto’ (no offence Naruto fans) anywhere I walk in. Let’s hope that changes.”

    “I actually love where comic artists are going now on the internet. It’s sort of a combination of everything I loved about animation and comics as a child. It’s great to see a blend of Western and Eastern influences, but I mainly see it ONLINE.

    The comics I’m seeing that I like are mostly online… …I wonder what it is the industry gains from being as stubborn as it is about this stuff.”

    It’s hardly fair to say that readers aren’t interested in OEL or are afraid of seeing manga influences in their comics. It’s quite the opposite. Just because publishers managed to mess up on their end isn’t any reason to blame the readers for not supplying the demand.

  3. J. Brown, I wish what you were saying was the case, but Mark is right. All the evidence is to the contrary.

    Manga sales are on the decline. That’s a fact that anyone who studies Bookscan and the Diamond list can tell you. And while there are probably plenty of reasons for it, the bottom line is that people aren’t buying as much manga now as they were when Tokyopop started publishing OEL. Certainly if there was a time when manga-influenced graphic novels should have been able to grab a toe hold in the industry, it was then. And some of them did. Bizenghast, DramaCon, I Luv Halloween and Princess Ai all sold pretty well for Tokyopop (and considering how different they all were, I’m not sure you can look for some magic formula in their success). But they were the exception to the rule. I’m tired of the argument that the initiative failed because the majority of the books were mediocre. That’s a too-simple argument and it’s simply not the case. The Abandoned and East Coast Rising were nominated for Eisners. MBQ ranked on Publishers Weekly’s best graphic novels of the year. Several of Tokyopop’s OEL titles made it on YALSA’s Best Books for Teens list. Even lesser known titles like Pop Mhan’s Blank, Jen Quick’s OffBeat and Amy Kim Ganter’s Sorcerers and Secretaries received scores of great reviews. I know because we cataloged them.

    Now, I’m not saying the books couldn’t have been marketed better. The publisher’s are not without fault. But the quality was there. The sales weren’t.

    As for the argument that web hits translate into sales, well, that’s not true either. Most webcomics are available to read for free. Many publishers and artists have discovered that just because someone has a fanbase on the web doesn’t mean that those people are going to rush out and buy their books in print. If that weren’t the case, if people who read something for free on the web demonstrated a tendency to buy the same (or even new) material in printed form, manga publishers wouldn’t be so up in arms about scanlations.

    And finally, I don’t believe for a minute that the comic book industry is on the verge of total irrelevance. The Dark Knight is one of the highest grossing films in history. Iron Man 2 was the highest grossing film (at least so far) of this year. The Walking Dead is the highest rated show in AMC’s history. And while not everyone who’s watching the film and TV adaptations are moving on to the comics, quite a few people are. Even Scott Pilgrim and Watchmen enjoyed a sizable boost in sales as a result of their film adaptations–despite the fact that the films were considered commercial disappointments.

    That doesn’t sound irrelevant at all to me. What’s the closest the manga industry has come to that sort of public awareness? Dragonball: Evolution?

    Again, I’m not saying that there’s guilt on all sides, but you have to acknowledge the role the consumers played in shaping the current market. It’s definitely not all on the publishers. They respond to demand. They don’t create it.

  4. “Manga sales are on the decline.”

    Manga =/= OEL or comics which draw influence from Japanese comics.

    Sorry.

    “Certainly if there was a time when manga-influenced graphic novels should have been able to grab a toe hold in the industry, it was then. ”

    That doesn’t really make any logical sense. Why would it make more sense for them to get a toe hold then – when less people were aware of and comfortable with manga styles and storytelling, and the stigma of “real manga is only made in Japan” was still prevalent? With all due respect Tim, the idea that then was the best time for OEL to get a foothold is just flat out wrong.

    Then was a good time to start – but NOW is a good time to push harder.

    “I’m tired of the argument that the initiative failed because the majority of the books were mediocre. That’s a too-simple argument and it’s simply not the case. ”

    Well do you have a better explanation? If you don’t believe the mediocre quality of the majority of those books was not to blame for poor sales, and you believe that the potential audience was larger then than it is now – why do think they didn’t sell well?

    Back in 1984 the video game industry collapsed. Why? Too many mediocre games. They weren’t entertaining, they weren’t coded well – they weren’t interesting. Sales collapsed. For two years the industry was dead. When the NES came to the U.S. market, it had to be packaged with a toy robot to get any distributors to pick it up. Because nobody wanted to sell video games – because everybody knew that video games WOULDN’T SELL. Guess what? Even when they removed the robot from the equation, nintendos still sold. As you’re probably aware, Nintendo had very strict control over quality – that was the difference between them and Atari. Atari let anybody make and release games for the 2600 no matter how crap they were. Nintendo wouldn’t let anybody release anything for the NES until they approved it…. in any event -yes, mediocre products can kill demand. Thankfully, Nintendo realized that problem, and didn’t just throw up their hands and go “GOSH PEOPLE JUST WON’T BUY VIDEO GAMES!” 25 years on we still have a video game industry.

    And let’s be honest here, most of those OEL titles were mediocre at best.

    Five years ago, everything was working against the success of OEL. Now things are more favorable. You can’t launch a new product into a market that is prejudiced against it – then when it doesn’t instantly succeed just go “well people obviously don’t want that”.

    Max Hoffman was the first importer of the VW beetle. I think he managed to sell less than 50 in his first year. He was already an established importer of cars like Jaguar and Mercedes, so it’s not as though he didn’t know how to deal with cars. In any event he dropped the brand. Less than ten years later VW was the biggest selling import in the U.S. It’s not that the VW was bad. It’s not that nobody wanted to buy one. The market in 1950 was different than it was in 1959. People in 1950 weren’t as accepting of foreign cars, and the compact market was still in its infancy.

    “And finally, I don’t believe for a minute that the comic book industry is on the verge of total irrelevance. The Dark Knight is one of the highest grossing films in history. ”

    Let me add some emphasis:

    “And finally, I don’t believe for a minute that the comic book industry is on the verge of total irrelevance. The Dark Knight is one of the highest grossing films in history. ”

    Think about it for a minute.

    I remember reading somewhere (I think on newsarama) that less than half of a percent of the U.S. population read comics (unfortunately somewhat vague they didn’t state – weekly? monthly? yearly?) – on the other hand about 53% of Americans go to see a movie at least every six months (and even more play video games).

    And if wikipedia is to be believed (and admittedly it probably shouldn’t, at least not without a healthy dose of skepticism) less stores sell less comics now than in the 1990s.

    Assuming those things are even vaguely true – then yes. Comics are on the verge of total irrelevance to the typical American.

    Maybe if the industry paid attention to changing tastes of readers, the direction comics are headed in general – and didn’t lose interest in something new after about three seconds – then OEL would grow to be more successful.

    You’re right that it would be wrong to place all the blame on publishers then – but that’s history now. Now readers are ready for it, but publishers have lost interest. Typical short sighted business.

  5. And so Manga sales have declined? Sales of comics in general have declined.

    In fact haven’t comic book sales declined more than graphic novel sales during 2010?

    :\

    (and yes know I know lots of graphic novels aren’t manga – but still…)

    I just won’t buy that people aren’t interested in manga anymore because sales have fallen – along with the sales of all comics in general. Or really for that matter – pretty much the sales of all products due to the economy taking a dump.

    Further, whether the industry likes it or not, Manga is not going to cease having influence on American artists and readers. To discount the effect of the internet would be foolish. Even if the industry wants to dictate to us what our tastes in style should be – artists are still going to draw what they want and present it online. Fans, readers, internet users, etc. are going to continue to be exposed to it, and so continue to grow more accepting. That’s just a fact. You can’t ask readers and artists to simply not be affected by what they read and see just because it doesn’t align with what publishers want to push.

    TV and movies are another part of this, plenty of kids (for better or for worse) have seen Pokemon, Digimon, yu-gi-oh, et al. – and that is definitely leaving an impression on them. It makes those styles, character archetypes, and storytelling and illustration techniques more familiar to them.

    Considering that incorporating elements of style and storytelling from Japanese comics is almost universal amongst online comic artists – and even amongst illustrators and casual doodlers – I don’t see it just going away. Nor do I place any faith in the idea that people won’t tolerate it if it ends up in a book. That idea simply runs counter to logic and reasoning.

  6. I think saying manga sales are on decline has more to do with a lot of reasons besides the fact that they’re manga. The economy has been down, people who usually buy comics are young, and not all younger people can get a job to buy comics since jobs are going to those who are older and have families to feed. At least, this has been my experience and why I don’t buy as many as I used to. (Plus we all have college tuition to pay off now too…)

    But that’s a bit besides the point. I for one really appreciate this post. Regardless of sales, people should understand that manga isn’t a dirty word and should be able to draw whatever they want. I’ve been all too familiar with the manga stigma – pretty much every art teacher I’d ever had for the longest time was completely and utterly against it. If you showed even the slightest influence from it, the look they’d give you would be complete disapproval and often you’d get a lecture to boot (a lecture based on the stereotype that “they all look the same” and its “not original”).

    Because of this, I ended up developing two “styles” – a manga-influenced style for myself and more realistic style that I used for school stuff. But the problem with that was my work in the latter just wasn’t very good because I wasn’t as into it as much. I could do it, but just didn’t really like it. I’ve been trying to get over it and converge my mentality of the two, but its been a difficult process and I still find myself nervous to even share my work because of the stigma I fear I’ll somehow evoke.

    In my writing for comics class, our final project we could do whatever we wanted. We had to create a cover and a sample page for when we presented it, and my teacher who knew about my webcomic asked if it would be in the same manga-influenced style before I showed my work. I answered yes, and suddenly a girl in our class starts to berate me for it and actually tried to talk me out of my style because of its manga influence – before she’d actually even SEEN it! One of her arguments was that it wasn’t marketable, and I could only reply with the honest truth – I could care less; I was doing this for me. It was hard to get her to stop about it and this was in the middle of my presentation…oh, that wasn’t fun at all. I’d been starting to think people were getting over it too, but apparently not.

    Sorry for the long rambling comment, but I just really wanted to share my appreciation and understanding for what you’re saying here. I for am still waiting for people to get over their judgment of style – regardless of what it is – and just learn to like it for what it is and appreciate how it works with the story it’s trying to tell. So, kudos!

  7. Thanks for sharing your comments. It sounds to me that you’re currently in the midst of channeling your influences along with what you’ve learned in your classes into a unique style that’s all your own. Don’t get frustrated. Just keep drawing and experimenting and eventually it’ll come.

    My experience is that there’s always a heavy bias against manga-influenced art in art schools. Perhaps even more than there is at publishers. I’m not sure of the reason for this, but rest assured, you’re not the only artist to run into it and I admire your determination to stick to what you enjoy. Just realize that while it may be unfortunate, the reality in the professional world of comics right now is that art with a clear manga influence does seem to be a harder sell. But as you can see from some of the comments here, it’s not so cut and dry and with a cyclical market like ours seems to be, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that turns around eventually.

    And if not, don’t forget that the web is the great equalizer. If you build your own audience with a webcomic, eventually publishers won’t be able to ignore it.

    Thanks for stopping by, and good luck!

  8. I guess I’ll chime in again.

    I do think that the quality of a lot of the OEL series was lacking, and I think it was definitely a factor in the slump in excitement about OEL. But as others have pointed out the economy and overall decline in sales of comics can be blamed too.

    Not to put you on the spot Tim, since I don’t really know what you did as an editor as TP, but I find it kind of worrying that they picked up somebody who wasn’t really the interested in manga to edit manga.

    If they had such people looking at artists and editing OEL, they might not have an eye for what is good and what is bad. Not necessarily out of a lack of interest in making a good comic – but more from a lack of experience in manga.

    I think TP picked up artists who weren’t really ready to draw comics, and maybe the above is the reason for that. If you’re not really into it and well rehearsed in manga, it might just all look the same to you.

    For instance (and I’d hate to single people out but…) Christy Lijewski. When TP picked her up they probably shouldn’t have. Her first work for TP was (and it’s not easy for me to write this) just bad. TP picked her up too soon. She’s matured into an excellent artist, if not one of the best of her genre – but it’s that first impression, her early exposure that’s what a lot of people remember.

    So she got a job then, when she wasn’t really up to par – and now that she’s actually a very good artist – it’s going to be harder for her to find editors and publishers to work with. It’s all kinds of backwards and unfair, and basically tokyopop’s fault.

    While on one hand I like to defend TP for giving lots of artists a chance that otherwise wouldn’t have been given one, I can really see why hating on TP is popular. They did a lot of damage.

    But I don’t think the future of OEL is so dim. I think as comic sales continue to decline – publishers might get the hint that people want something different. Or maybe they’ll just run the industry into the ground. Who knows?

  9. Also something to note is that Publishers are really dishing out incredibly subpar mangas from japan in large droves. When naruto got popular, the Shounen scene boomed, but if you walk into almost any borders you find many GN’s that have similar plots as naruto. And having five different differentiations of Naruto is boring. No one is going to spend hundreds of dollars collecting various naruto’s in disguise (oops, pun). (This is also extremely prevelant in the shoujo category as well, if not moreso) and Publishers have to learn that just because it’s popular in japan, doesn’t mean it will be popular here. Japan’s tankoubons are far smaller and less costly than their american equivalents.

    And Although I do like that Viz’s signature series touches upon the Seinen masterpieces like Naoki Urasawa, more of these titles need the exposure in order for mangas to gain respect and not some fanpile of teenagers who like bad storytelling.

    I just recently got into a comic called “Emma” which was temporarily distributed by CMX, but only AFTER they shut down and not until many years later. If it was still around, and had some more publicity then such a beautiful masterpiece of art and story would deffinitely have changed a few minds in adults and manga readers alike.

  10. Ed, I feel your comment is a textbook example of the sort of assumptive, incorrect assertions manga fans have been making about Tokyopop and the business of OEL manga on ANN and Anime on DVD message boards for years. As I’ve been saying again and again, only to have it countered by manga fans who I can assure you did not spend anywhere near the amount of time studying the response, sales numbers and compiling reviews that those of us editing the books at Tokyopop did, the number of mediocre versus well received (at least critically) titles that Tokyopop released is no more than what is average from any publisher. This conception that all of the titles were mediocre is false. At least not when it comes to Tokyopop. And keep in mind that there were many other publishers publishing OEL manga at the time, such as Seven Seas, Antarctic, Yaoi Press and more. I think many casual fans often mistake all OEL as Tokyopop OEL.

    Perhaps the sheer glut contributed to its failure, and Tokyopop certainly played a role in it, but it’s not because every title or even a disproportionate amount was mediocre.

    Also, I really don’t see your point about Christy Lijewski at all. Unless you’re referring to her Rising Stars of Manga entry, then her first published title (Next Exit) wasn’t even published through Tokyopop — it was released through Slave Labor Graphics. You’re right in that she was very much an artist developing at that point, and looking back at those first issues, they’re certainly a lot rougher than some of her later art, but I don’t believe it’s any worse than any artist’s first full-length comic. And certainly, no one’s going to argue that everyone saw Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Lost at Sea and decided that he was an average artist at best and wasn’t worth another look. I don’t believe you only get one shot in this business. Christy’s first title for Tokyopop was Re:Play, which came out nearly a year after the first issue of Next Exit hit stands and was finally finished just over a year ago. Re:Play remains her most recently published work, unless you count her webcomic. Also, it was one of the bestselling original titles that Tokyopop published, selling better than over 2/3rds of their Japanese titles. That’s why Re:Play was one of the very few OEL titles they continued publishing after they more or less stopped developing and publishing non-licensed OEL two years ago. So I don’t really know what point you’re trying to make and I certainly don’t see how Tokyopop is to blame for any trouble Christy may be having finding work today. (Which I hope isn’t the case, but if she is, it just further enforces my reasons for writing this blog in the first place.) Frankly, I think any independent publisher would be very fortunate to snatch up the next Christy Lijewski graphic novel.

    Finally, once again I need to point out that Tokyopop worked with plenty of established creators along with the new and developing artists. Barbara Kesel, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Becky Cloonan, Ross Campbell, Pop Mhan, Keith Giffen, Chuck Austen, Paul Benjamin, Dan Jolley, Eric Wight, Jo Chen, to say nothing about Korean creators like Jae-Hwan Kim, Mi-Young No, Min-Woo and Sang-Sun Park, all had considerable experience working for some of the biggest publishers in comics before they worked on books for Tokyopop.

    The talent was there. The books were there for anyone who cared to dig a little deeper into Tokyopop’s catalog than Fruits Basket. The audience simply wasn’t.

  11. I too have an idea for a manga, but after I learned how rough publishing is I now plan to post it somewhere on the Internet and see if it would get published.
    The problem is that I don’t were to post it (I heard MangaMagazine.net might be a good place).

  12. Hummm. I you make a valid point Tim, TP was hardly alone in putting out OEL, and lots of people forget this… But that so many people associate TP with mediocre OEL (or even consider it synonymous with) – really speaks volumes, regardless of what stats you have access to indicating the books were good, etc. etc.

    You and TP say they were good – and yet many of your potential customers, and paying customers say they were mediocre.

    And well – nuff said about that, it’s pretty obvious what the problem is there.

    As for glut – absolutely. I’d love to go on another video game analogy. A big part of the video game crash was that there were so many companies trying to get in on the action. Even Quaker Oats for crying out loud was making video games for the Atari 2600. The market was flooded. Too much crap killed the industry, totally killed it until the NES came along.

    Maybe OEL just needs a two year break like video games had in the mid 80s… There’s obviously a demand for OEL, but it’ll have to be better the second time around. Obviously quality was/is an issue for many readers, so hopefully next time publishers will pay that aspect more attention than they have in the past.

  13. Honestly, J. Brown, I think the people who associate TP with mediocre OEL want to link the two together, and no amount of evidence to the contrary is going to make a difference. As I said before (scroll up to one of my previous comments for some of the specific titles), several TP OEL titles were nominated for Eisners. A couple made Publishers Weekly best graphic novels of the year list. Quite a few were placed on YALSA’s Best Books for Teenage Readers list the year they were released. It’s far from just me and Tokyopop saying that they were good.

  14. Tim, I can understand wanting to defend TP – and I don’t doubt that they made some good titles. They put out a couple I liked too. But you have to admit, the Eisner’s and Publisher’s Weekly – aren’t going to buy a whole lot of books from publishers. Customers buys books.

    Movies like UHF and Used Cars did well with preview audiences, their producers liked them etc. But they more or less bombed at the box office. That stuff happens.

    Conversely, some of the stuff that was negatively reviewed ended up selling ok for TP. I Luv Halloween got lots of negative attention, but sold ok. I personally think it sucked too, but I was never the target audience anyway. So it’s best to take those reviews and nominations with a grain of salt – just because something is reviewed well doesn’t mean it’s going to sell well, and vice versa. (nor does a good review necessarily mean something is actually good).

    But there were problems with the good stuff too. East Coast Rising volume one was nominated for an Eisner…. and then??? I have no idea what happened there, and I don’t care to speculate, so I won’t – but I do know that such business certainly didn’t help TP’s image.

    Bizenghast was generally well regarded for a TP OEL title, but even then we’re dealing with varying art quality and a story that when you get down to it isn’t really all that great (well IMO anyway).

    And for every decently drawn/entertaining title like Dramacon, there were a bunch that were instantly forgettable. – Or only memorable for how bad they were (ouch).

    And not to just be down on TP, like I said in an earlier post TP was not alone in releasing mediocre material. But they did release a lot of mediocre material- so you honestly can’t say they didn’t earn their reputation.

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