Titan Announces The Best of British Comics

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Titan has socialed up the above image and some information:

CELEBRATING THE BEST OF BRITISH COMICS!

Coming this May Titan Comics will celebrate the best of British talent!

More details about Titan Comics’ ‘Best of British’ campaign will be released on Tumblr next week.

#bestbritcomics


AKA, Vertigo. What this project really needs to make it is to come wrapped with some real Cadbury’s chocolate.

There’s quite a bit of best to talk about from Posy Simmonds to Alan Moore. What would YOU like to see in this?

Can creators really get their books back from Tokyopop?

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We’ve been covering the sometimes glorious, sometimes ignominious history of Tokyopop for as long as there has been a Beat. Although its biggest legacy is as a manga innovator, its most notorious is the string of unfinished OEL—”original English Language”—series it left behind. An ambitious publishing program that put out dozens of new books by new creators, the contracts were also strongly in Tokyopop’s favor. When the company went on hiatus, the rights were left in owner Stuart Levy’s hands. Some of the series were never finished, but many creators have just thrown up their hands and walked away, with no hope of ever getting the series back or finishing it, including Becky Cloonan, and most recently Chuck Austen, who have given up on ever getting the rights back.

After Austen’s strongly worded slam at Levy and his business practices (“Its not fair. Stu is a jerk. It is upsetting. It is heartbreaking.”) Levy wrote back with his own response to Austen getting back the rights to BOYS OF SUMMER:

Mr. Austen claims that I “wouldn’t give (the rights) up for any amount of money.” Simply not true. When he approached me, back in 2011, my response was that “we can work out a deal that would be equitable.” Almost two years later, it is beyond me how Mr. Austen translated “we can work out a deal” into “wouldn’t give up for any amount of money.”

Further, according to Mr. Austen, I “wanted an exorbitant fee.” Neither of us ever brought up monetary conditions – and I would be happy (even now) to consider any offer Mr. Austen proposes, exorbitant or otherwise.

Finally, he claims I wanted “consideration as director of the project.” In actuality, I only direct projects I’m passionate about, and I have never brought up Mr. Austen’s work as a project I’d be interested in directing, let along requiring my attachment.

In summary, I have no problem with Mr. Austen, or anyone else, calling me names. I may be sensitive but I’m tough. However, I don’t appreciate being lied about.


Lied, eh? Well, Levy reprints his email correspondence with Austen, and while it can’t be said it is in plain black and white—the tumblr is a ghastly phosphene-inducing black type on fire engine red—there is very CLEARLY this passage from an email from Levy:

Chuck – we have a ton of time and money invested in BOYS OF SUMMER ($40,000 just in artist and writer fees alone, I think) and do not ordinarily consider reversion requests as a result. (The main reason for this is because since neither party has breached this agreement, the only way we would even entertain a reversion would be for us to be made whole by the creator on our direct costs to develop and produce the series.)


So what that says right there is Levy needs to recoup his $40 K to even consider reversion. Austen then asks if $40,000 is enough and Tpop’s business manager Mike Kiley replies:

Yes, we’d be happy to discuss further if that were an option.


Uh, what was that Levy wrote on Robot 6? “Neither of us ever brought up monetary conditions.” BZZZZZT. Wrong.

Is $40,000 an exorbitant amount of money for a property you are sitting on like a dog in the manger with no intention of doing anything with it unless somewhere somehow there is a stirring of interest from some media entity? Or: how much is Levy making from BOYS OF SUMMER right now? $0. So it’s better to have 100% of 0 than any other percentage of $40,000.

Now, not everyone is as unsuccessful at dealing with Levy as Austen was. Brandon Graham got Tokyopop to agree to allow him to publish the complete KING CITY at Image. Terms have never been made public (as they are no one’s business) but we’re guessing Tpop must have shared the revenue.

Here’s another even more interesting example. Jen Lee Quick’s Tpop OEL Off*Beat is not only being reissued from a new publisher, Chromatic, but it’s going to be finished eventually. It’s up as a Kickstarter right now. How? What?!? I wrote to Chromatic’s Lianne Sentar and Rebecca Scoble, and they responded with this link to an interview at MTV where they explain. The LDP in the questions is Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, a former senior editor at Tokyopop; if anyone knew how to negotiate with Stu Levy it was probably her:

One of your first titles will be Jen Lee Quick’s “Off*Beat.” This was originally published by Tokyopop, and many of the Tokyopop creators have had trouble getting full rights to their works. Can you explain what happened with “Off*Beat” and what the rights situation is? Was it different from the other OEL manga in some way?

LDP: Tokyopop is a business and Stu is a businessman. I approached Stu with a pretty clear idea of what I thought the value of the property was, both to us and to Tokyopop, and made my case that way, and while Stu agreed very quickly and readily, we were both aware that this was kind of an unusual circumstance. For one thing, a particular value of “Off*Beat” that made it extra appealing to us (the fact that it was unfinished, and we had the opportunity to continue a story that had a nice backlog of demand) was something that made it less valuable to Tokyopop, so I was able to negotiate accordingly.

LS: We essentially bought Tokyopop’s rights to “Off*Beat” and put the full copyright into Jen Quick’s name, in exchange for her signing a new publishing deal through Chromatic. We felt that Stu was really fair with us, but it wasn’t an insignificant amount of money, so we understand how that could be tough for an individual artist who wanted to buy the rights to her OEL.


So it IS possible to get your book back if you have a former Tokyopop editor doing the negotiating and a not insignificant amount of money. That doesn’t change the he said/he said nature of Levy’s accusations with Austen. In our own dealings with Levy, we’ve often found him to be personable, but also oblivious to the practical effects of his actions. Maybe he doesn’t think $40,000 is exorbitant—maybe it isn’t—but he surely mentioned a figure to Austen.

Some may have an even less charitable view, such as Mark Waid, commenting in the Robot 6 thread above:

No one who’s had even the most tangential experience with Tokyopop believes you, Stu. No one. Go back to counting your millions.

Must read: Chuck Austen’s advice to Tokyopop creators: ‘Move on’

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With Toykopop hovering somewhere between somethingness and nothingness, one thing is certain: owner Stu Levy will never give the creators back their books as long as he might be able to leverage them in Hollywood. Fair enough; he paid the money and the creators signed those bad contracts.

In case you came in late, back in the day Toykopop signed up dozens of young (and a few not so young) creators to produce brand new original manga-styled graphic novels. The contracts gave more than 50% of the rights to TokyoPop and although many books came out—and a few even did well—when the manga giant imploded, many series were left unfinished.

One of them was The Boys of Summer by Chuck Austen. In the course of researching the Tpop story, Brigid Alverson wrote to Austen and he responded with an essay of surpassing clarity:

Tokyopop was a stupid, poorly run company that took our brilliance, and sincerity and passion and crapped on it. But they also gave us something important, something useful.

They gave us an opportunity to get our work out there, to develop fans. To display our creativity and professionalism. How many people can say they’ve created 200 pages of graphic novel? Or 400? Or eight? Not many. You should be damn proud of what you achieved. Don’t let Tokyopop’s stupidity take that accomplishment away from you the way they took your creation.

Instead use it. Use what you did, what you achieved, and build something for yourself. You’re not just a one-trick pony. You’re an amazing, energetic, imaginative creator who can do something even better. So get over it. Stop complaining and wishing for miracles, and let go. Take the good you got from the experience with the unctuous Stu Levy and make something else, something better, something fan-frickin-tastic for which you retain all rights, rights that Tokyopop, Marvel, DC, and every other corporate sphincter in the world will wish they could take from you, editorially digest into a flavorless pablum for the masses, and poop out to their audience.

Now, Chuck Austen has been many thing in comics, from his early days drawing Miracleman (our own Padraig will certainly mention him anon) to drawing porno for Aircel to writing Superman to writing the Avengers to creating cartoons. At many points he’s been an object of derision from fans and the butt of jokes but…I think he might be having the last laugh:

I’m now a successful producer at Cartoon Network, and in my spare time I write a popular and solidly selling series of novels based on a TV series I created many years ago but never sold — all made possible because of positive response and respect for my comics and manga work. Fans from that world followed me to my novels, and those have earned me more money than I even made off of a television series I co-created and saw become a number one hit.

There is much more in the piece, but basically, Austen is explaining how to Have A Career, Not A Project. You keep on going and keep producing and finding opportunities and you don’t look back.

I know a few people in this business who are still mourning a book that got stolen from them in the ’70s. No lie. If you can only create one successful property in 40 years, maybe this wasn’t the job choice for you. Of course, as I always say, this does NOT EXCUSE PUBLISHERS WHO RIP OFF CREATORS. No way, no how. But still…I can only think of two cases where, as it happens, a team of creators had only one idea and that was it. One is Siegel and Shuster—they had their big, world changing idea and sold it for $130.

The other is Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With all respect to their further output, they hit bingo the first time out when they created the Turtles in 1984 as a self-published comic. Luckily, they had a great agent, held on to everything and made several fortunes along the way. (And one of them lost several fortunes as well.)

The best advice is DON’T GET RIPPED OFF. But if you do…you must move on and create something else. And don’t make the same mistakes again. Chuck Austen didn’t. Learn from him.

Tokyopop is back

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Well, it turns out that Tokyopop wasn’t really dead…it was just resting. Since the manga pioneer closed up its LA office nearly two years ago, there have been eyelid flickers like a POD program for some popular ongoing manga and back issue sales via Right Stuf, creators reprinting or finishing their OEL books at other publishers, and the continued, thriving existence of the German branch of the company. Now, Brigid Alverson sums up all the activity on the company coming back to life with a relaunched website and online sales. Its STILL just a shadow of its’ former self: no new Japanese licenses or back issues, just the OEL and a few US licensed titles. And controversial owner Stuart Levy explained what’s going on at Anime LA last week:

What does all this mean? Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy was at Anime LA last weekend, and in the Tokyopop panel (liveblogged here by Mike from Anime Diet) he explained that Tokyopop never actually went bankrupt but instead became a “virtual company.” He began rebuilding the company in 2012, and Nerdist is now hosting the website. Levy said that Japanese publishers are “reluctant” to go along with the print-on-demand system, but Gentosha, the publisher of “Hetalia,” is the most amenable. Tokyopop published volume 3 of “Hetalia” as POD and is currently negotiating for the rights to volumes 4 and 5.


While Tokyopop’s business model grew increasingly erratic over the years, there’s no denying that it founded a whole culture of readers and otaku, who have been eager for its return. So, a new, hopefully more sensible chapter begins.

Final volume of BIZENGHAST to come out after all

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As we’ve been noting, of late the ashes of Tokyopop have been stirring, and several volumes that were thought lost are actually coming out in one shape or another. BIZENGHAST #8 by M. Alice “Marty” LeGrow is the latest book to find a new life as a print-to-order book via The Right Stuf and digitally through Graphicly. BIZENGHAST was one of the most successful of all Tokyopop’s homegrown manga (as making it to volume 8 would indicate) and it’s been spun off into an art book, coloring book, novelization, animated shorts, merchandise, and a tabletop role-playing game, according to ICv2.

At ICv2, some of thebusiness particulars of this deal are discussed, including the fact that LeGrow will have a similar compensation package to the original:

“I DO receive royalties from this book just like all the others,” LeGrow said.  “I was paid in full for the entire volume before Tokyopop stopped publishing, and in fact have been offered (and completed) extra work to do ancillary art and the book layout, for which I was very generously compensated by Tokyopop… Tokyopop has always dealt fairly with me in their contracts and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to do so.”  LeGrow created new art for the splash page and art for the postcard that’s free with purchase.


In a less pointed interview with Nerdist News’s Tokyopop newsletter, LeGrow has more about the project, including her thoughts on the whole “OEL” manga movement:

M. Alice LeGrow: I never really thought of myself as "the vanguard," really…I think American-made manga style comics are really in more of a resurgence now, since titles like GoldDigger and the like have been around so much longer. It was early manga-influenced comics like that that really encouraged me when I was young, and made me want to become a comic artist myself. As for the debate on "Japanese/non-Japanese," I can only speak for myself and say that I never really felt my work was truly trying to be manga, per se. I feel that I was heavily influenced by it, especially when I was younger, but now I'm settling on a style that is a hybrid of many different influences. For everyone else involved in that argument, I say just draw your comics, throw 'em into stores and let the world sort it out.


LeGrow’s next project is THE ELEPHANT BOOK, which was funded through Kickstarter and tells the story of two youngsters named Williams and Fairfax who get caught in a conspiracy while living in Philadelphia.

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Tokyopop is sorta back with Hetalia: Axis Powers

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After hinting at it on their Facebook page for a while, Tokyopop’s surviving member, Stuart Levy, announced a little wee return…as a licensing entity, anyway. The Right Stuff, in conjunction with Gentosha Comics, will republish three volumes of Himaruya Hidekaz‘s HETALIA: AXIS POWERS, including the first two—which came out from Toykopop before it imploded last year—and the never-before-in-English third book, which was in production when Tpop went away.
HETALIA was one of Tpop’s late hit pick-ups, a satirical look at World War II’s Axis powers as a bunch of snotty boys. The popularity of the book has led to a lot of cosplay, which looks a little alarming but isn’t really about dressing as the Gestapo.

The Tokoyopop daily mailer reveaeld more release details; although a limited number of all three books will be available—with 8 pages in color—after the initial print run, the books will be POD only, and without that color insert.

Patience is a virtue and, believe us when we say this, you guys are perhaps the most virtuous fans out there. It is with great pleasure that we're able to announce that we have partnered with Gentosha Comics and Right Stuf, Inc. to publish Hetalia Axis Powers, Vol. 3 in English-translated book form for the first time ever.

In addition, reprints of the first two volumes will be available exclusively through RightStuf.com. Volume 3's first print run, which features an exclusive eight-page color insert from the original Japanese manga, will be available in late June 2012 and is available for pre-order at a reduced price of $10.99. That translates to 30% savings for 100% brand new Hetalia, which ain't too shabby.

Despite the overwhelming demand by fans for us to bring back Hetalia, it should be noted that we have adopted a print-on-demand model for publishing this volume. As the first run will have limited quantities, pre-ordering is highly recommended or else you may find that copies have run out faster than Italy can introduce Germany's face to his palm. Plus subsequent volumes won't come with those swanky full-color pages. For those of you who can't wait til June for your Hetalia fix or need to brush up on your history, the first two volumes are available immediately for $15.99. We guarantee it's at least three times more fun than reading The Economist.

Stay tuned for more details on our publishing operations as they emerge and join the conversation on our Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus pages. Never before has history been so fun and we're happy to be a part of history in the making by bringing Hetalia, Vol. 3 to our English-speaking fans. We've got to say, it's good to be back, TOKYOPOP fam, and your patience and support means the world to us. Go ahead, say it with us now: "PASTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"


As the mailer hints, this might not be the only former Tokyopop title that we’ll see resurrected this way. It does seem like a sensible way to provide the fans who were clamoring for these books—and were left high and dry by their sudden end—a happy ending.

A New Year's Gift From The Beat!

Listen to Heidi MacDonald, The Beat herself, discuss 2011 in comics on a special year-end edition of More To Come, the PW Comics World podcast!

The logo of the PW Comics World More To Come podcastAs you may or may not know, Heidi has been one of the hosts of our bi-weekly comics news podcast for the past several months. In this episode, Heidi MacDonald and her co-hosts PW Comics World editor Calvin Reid and I discuss the biggest trends and events of the past year, including the closing of Borders, the rise of Kickstarter and the growing visibility of female comics fans and creators.

Ring Out The Old: 2011 in Review is Episode 14, so if you like what you hear and you haven’t tuned in before, there’s a whole lot more of Heidi where that came from!

Click here for a link to both parts of our special double-length episode. For best results, downloading is recommended instead of streaming.

More to Come is also available free by subscription and individual download on iTunes.

Tokyopop back….sorta, teamed with GeekChicDaily

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GeekChicDaily, the daily nerd news email, is launching an edition for New York, and also teaming with the Tokyopop brand for a special edition spotlighting Japanese culture trends and news.

The New York edition will cover the Big Apple’s lively offerings in geek culture, following localized versions for LA and a national edition. GeekChicDaily also added Microsoft’s Mich Mathews to its board of directors.

Teasings of the Tokyopop edition had excited fans to think they were returning to publishing, but the Tokyopop Facebook page quelled the rumors:

Loyal Fans, we’re very thrilled by your excitement but need to clarify: unfortunately we are not re-launching the manga – those properties have reverted to their owners and are amazingly difficult to get back. We’re launching an all new editorial TOKYOPOP newsletter about all things otaku and Asian pop-culture, powered by our friends at GeekChicDaily. We think you’ll really enjoy the news we’ll be bringing and apologize for the initial misunderstanding.


PR below:

Following the explosive growth of the National and Los Angeles regional editions, GeekChicDaily, the leading pop culture, opt-in email newsletter and cross-platform content publisher, today announced its expansion into the New York market and the upcoming launch of special edition “TOKYOPOP Powered by GeekChicDaily.”
 
With a focus on events and pop culture influencers in the NY Metro area, GeekChicDaily’s New York Edition will continue to deliver a daily dose of popular culture, from comics to video games, film, television, toys, collectibles and applications,  alongside multi-platform media partner and nerdcore site, Nerdist.  In addition to editorial coverage, the company will also co-host local events that help New Yorkers feed their inner geeks whether on the web or on the town. To sign up, visit http://bit.ly/rqP3hs.  Official launch partners include Street Fighter® X Tekken®, AMC’s The Walking Dead, Toyota, and OtterPops.
 
“Servicing the biggest media market in the world has always been a top priority and following the overwhelming enthusiasm from our National edition and GeekChicLA audience, New York was an obvious next step,” said GeekChicDaily Co-Founder and CEO Peter Y. Levin.
 
GeekChicDaily has also partnered with TOKYOPOP, the major publisher that popularized manga in the West to produce a special edition powered by GeekChicDaily that will cover the hottest Asian pop culture news and trends. “TOKYOPOP Powered by GeekChicDaily” is an evolution of the original TOKYOPOP magazine a decade ago, which featured Asian Pop Culture lifestyle, including manga, anime, gaming, music, cos-play, gadgets, celebrities and more. The magazine and online companion reached over 100K + subscribers. While TOKYOPOP was forced to discontinue its North American manga publishing operations in Spring 2011 due to the declining book retail environment, “TOKYOPOP powered by GeekChicDaily” revives the TOKYOPOP brand in an exciting way, leveraging its substantial social media footprint to tie the Asian-infused content across multiple platforms.
 
“GeekChicDaily and its daily, opt-in format provide the perfect opportunity to revive the original TOKYOPOP magazine Asian Pop Culture concept with a refreshed approach for our loyal and passionate fanbase,” said TOKYOPOP Founder, Stu Levy. “The time is right for a well-balanced Asian Pop Culture online newsletter with a West-looks-East perspective. We couldn’t be more thrilled to continue the TOKYOPOP brand and its contribution to pop culture with GeekChicDaily.”

“TOKYOPOP’s audience, brand cache and significant influence on Asian Pop Culture over the last decade falls right in line with our long term strategy,” added GeekChicDaily Co-Founder and CEO Peter Levin. “Our objectives are to dig into that sweet spot where Eastern and Western pop culture trends collide for comprehensive, full-circle coverage for our content hungry community.”

At the same time, GeekChicDaily welcomes Microsoft marketing veteran and tech industry luminary Mich Mathews to its all-star Advisory Board, which already includes industry heavyweights such as former DailyCandy CEO Pete Sheinbaum, Thrillist CEO and co-founder Ben Lerer, Broadway Video CEO Jack Sullivan, ex-Legendary and Activision executive Kathy Vrabeck and former ShineReveille managing director Howard T. Owens.
 
GeekChicDaily investors include Legendary Pictures, Mandalay Entertainment, Bob Pittman, Seattle venture capitalist Mike Slade, Machinima CEO Allen DeBevoise, fomer Legendary and Activision executive Kathy Vrabeck, Gamespy Industries founder Mark Surfas and Japanese media juggernaut Yoshimoto Kogyo.

Tokyopop’s Stu Levy is on Kickstarter for earthquake documentary


When last we saw former Tokyopop owner and publisher Stu Levy, he was in Japan, sleeping in a truck on his way to deliver food to the victims of the March 11th Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that left parts of the country devastated. At the same time that Toykopop was shutting down for good, Levy announced his intention to spend a year making a documentary about the disaster and the survivors’ heroic efforts to help others through the tough times.

Well, now there’s a trailer for this documentary and a Kickstarter page looking to raise $20,000 for post (color grading, etc) and marketing for the film, whose purpose he explains thusly:

I believe we can help heal these wounds by paying tribute to the amazing resilience and quiet spirit of the many victims and volunteers of Tohoku.  By letting them know  we admire and respect them, we encourage them to continue the good fight – at a time when even the strongest warriors would grow weary.

We also gain insight into how our own inner strength can help us if we ever find ourselves in a life-threatening situation.  I believe we can all learn from these incredible heroes.

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There’s also a Facebook page supporting the project. Some may find some irony in Levy’s turning to crowd funding now that his own publishing empire has gone to ground, but clearly there are good intentions here. Maybe Levy can also help out some people closer to home by giving them back the rights to their creations one of these days?

[Via GeekChicDaily]

Tokyopop updates: Who owns what

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A couple of updates on the dispersion of various Tokyopop books, print and digital.

Brigid Alverson wonders what will happen to HETALIA, the only TP property to be sold digitally through an outside vendor, and it turns out, you can still buy it! and keep the copies you bought!

I asked comiXology CEO David Steinberger if users who had already bought Hetalia would still have access to it after Tokyopop closes. His answer:

Yes, forever, in fact. Even if we were to stop selling Hetalia (and there’s no reason at the moment to think we will), users will continue to be able to re-download it from the My Comics area of the apps and comics.comixology.com. We will continue to allow people who bought Hetalia to re-download it.


Well, that makes sense. We own tons of manga from now-vanished publishers and no one came to our house to take them back if they switched publishers.

Over at The Comics Journal, Sean Michael Robinson re-introduces that site to news reporting with a story on the messy rights situation with their many original properties:

Tokyopop will not be reverting rights back to their creators of original content, and is in discussion with certain creators regarding contract buyouts, a source told the Comics Journal this week.


This backs up what we’ve been told by several creators in recent days. Robinson talks to M Alice LeGrow, Queenie Chan, and Ross Campbell, and everyone has a different story – LeGrow’s BIZENGHAST will continue to come out under the German arm of Tokyopop, while Chan and Campbell don’t expect to see their books come out at all any more.

Frankly, this is just the beginning. Tokyopop’s almost-total shutdown looks to be the messiest publishing conclusion in many years, so nobody should be surprised if the issues involved spin out for years to come.

Thought for the day: Tim Hodler on Tokyopop

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Tokyopop is closing down its manga line. Not long ago, this company and others like it were sometimes pointed to as the future of comics publishing. I suppose they still might be.

Via The Comics Journal.

A little Tokyopop follow-up

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Although the news coming on a Friday afternoon news dump did dampen response a bit, there has been a ton of reaction to Toykopop shutting down its US publishing activities.

On the America’s Greatest Otaku website, Tpop publisher Stuart Levy recently wrote about his plans to move to Japan and make a documentary, surely not the thoughts of a man looking to revitalize his publishing plan.

for the next year of my life I will be living in Miyagi making a documentary about the tragedy and how the Japanese people are overcoming it and rebuilding their lives. It will be a very challenging and difficult project but I am dedicated to making it happen – and all proceeds from the film will be donated to Miyagi.

Honestly, all of your passion and love for Japan have kept me going, even when times are tough. I very much appreciate your support – of the manga, shows and culture I’ve been fortunate to bring to America.


On his Facebook page, VP Mike Kiley today wrote:

A lot will be written today but one thing above all else should never be forgotten, and it is the one thing above all else I will treasure for the rest of my life: the privilege over the past 13 years of working with the most amazing, talented, bat-shit crazy editors, marketeers, salesfolk, accountants, designers, and production mgrs … the staff of TOKYOPOP!!!


Katherine Dacey is the first of the manga blogosphere to weight in with an obituary:

Levy had more terrific ideas in a week than I’ll have in five years, but it often seemed like good initiatives never got the financial support or managerial oversight they needed in order to succeed. The TOKYOPOP website is a telling example: at the height of MySpace fever, Levy re-imagined the company’s web page as a social network where teenagers could share pictures, discuss manga and anime, and post fan fiction. Yet no one at TOKYOPOP anticipated the need for site moderators to remove copyright-protected material, prevent flame wars, or curate worthwhile content. As a result, the site quickly degenerated into a semi-literate mess, with high school students excoriating their French teachers and sharing tips on where to read illegal scans of favorite manga.


But she also notes that it is a difficult time for publishing in general.
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Almost all of the manga publishers that have folded in the last three years were small, independent companies that lacked the monetary resources to compete for A-list licenses and subsidize operations. That TOKYOPOP persisted as long as it did is testament to the quality of its books, and to the loyalty it engendered in fans whose first manga were Sailor Moon, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Parasyte.


Anyone who doubts that manga STILL has a passionate audience should read the comment section on the ANN story about the closure. It’s currently down due to maintenance but there are plenty of disappointed fans of many series that will not finish now, notably the critical darling ARIA. Jason Yadao has more thoughts:

But for the rest of us, it’s a sad, sad day. This means the Hetalia manga is effectively dead in the water. So are a bunch of pleasantly quirky titles that Tokyopop has picked up over the past year or two, including Future Diary, Skyblue Shore, Neko Ramen, Deadman Wonderland, The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko and many others that I’ve been intending to review if I ever had the time to read and write reviews these days.

Michelle Smith has a list of books slated to come out before the May closure:

APRIL RELEASES:
(already in stock)
V.B. Rose 12
Silver Diamond 9
Gakuen Alice 16
Ratman 4
The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko 2
Future Diary 10
Karakuri Odette 6 (at least this one got an ending!)
NG Life 9
Shinobi Life 7
Neko Ramen 4
Priest Purgatory (Volume one? There’s another one in May…)
(forthcoming)
Saving Life 1
Foxy Lady 4 (still says pre-order though its release date has passed)
MAY RELEASES:
Hetalia: Axis Powers 3
Maid Sama! 9
.hack//G.U. 4 (novel)
Priest: Purgatory
Happy Cafe 8
Fate/Stay Night 11
Sgt. Frog 21
Maid Shokun 1
Sakura’s Finest 1
Samurai Harem 8
Deadman Wonderland 5
AiON 3
Hanako and the Terror of Allegory 4
Butterfly 2
Ghostface 1
The Stellar Six of Gingacho 3
Clean Freak, Fully Equipped 2 (another ending!)
The Qwaser of Stigmata 2
Series finales that had been scheduled but will now not materialize include V. B. Rose, Portrait of M & N, Alice in the Country of Hearts, and The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko.

201104151842.jpgAnd Brigid Alverson looks at the most explosive question of all: What will happen to the dozens of original comics series that Tokyopop published as part of its global manga initiative? Some of them, like EAST COAST RISING, complete but never published? She focuses in on a departmental move several years ago that turned out to be key:

Back in June 2008, when Tokyopop had its first major shakeout, the company split in two, with COO John Parker taking over the publishing end, Tokyopop Inc., and Levy and Kiley heading up Tokyopop Media LLC. It’s my understanding that the latter company holds the rights to their global manga, and it is not closing up shop.

What does this mean for creators? It could end up being a good news/bad news situation. With no publishing division, Tokyopop has zero incentive to hold on to print rights to the global manga. The story I keep hearing is that what Stu and his crew really want to do is develop the comics into media properties, with Stu at the helm. Obviously, this is what Toyopop Media is all about, but with the publishing division gone, it may make sense to allow the creators to get their print rights back, because then they would have an incentive to promote the properties. On the other hand, Levy and Kiley clearly still intend to continue their efforts to turn these stories into something other than print comics, so they are likely to hold on to the other rights. (The sole Tokyopop movie so far is Priest, which is due out this summer after a series of delays.)

201104151840.jpgYou might recall that when Toykopop left HarperCollins for Diamond a few months ago, Parker also left and went to Diamond, where he now handles business development. The moves were unconnected, but Parker being tasked with overseeing the publishing line at Tokyopop was obviously a road to irrelevance for a business that is now focused solely on licensing.

The story of the global manga might be sad if you consider it the story of a bunch of young, naive creators who signed over their rights. (Some of them must be very very glad that their defenses of Tokyopop back on The Engine message board are now gone for good.) But as we’ve said here many times before, if you consider it the story of a bunch of young creators who got a chance to make their mark and get into the game, then it was one of the most successful programs of the last decade.

The history of Toykopop is going to be a mixed one, but it did bring together a whole generation of fans and create a market for the material that had never existed before. Let’s let Stuart Levy have his moment. He’s right: the Manga Revolution was won, and it was Levy’s musket that led the charge.

End of an era: Tokyopop shutting down US publishing division

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The comics publishing culling of 2011 claimed its most prominent victim as it was announced today that Tokyopop is shutting down its US operations, as of May 31. The German office will stay open to handle publishing rights and the film division will continue.

Founded in 1997, Tokyopop and its founder Stu Levy were at the forefront of the manga revolution in the US, introducing such hits as SAILOR MOON, CHOBITS, and LOVE HINA to the US market in the “unflipped” format for the first time.

Sales surged as the manga bookstore revolution took over in the early part of the last decade. An ambitious program of publishing original manga by creators from around the world — many of them barely out of the teenaged readership years themselves — proved controversial and ultimately saw only a handful of successful franchises but introduced a new generation of creators to the comics scene.

In February, a last round of layoffs had reduced the company to a mere 6 employees…making the shutdown all but inevitable.

Tokyopo’s statement is below, and a personal statement from Levy below that.

For nearly 15 years, TOKYOPOP, led by Stu Levy, its founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, has pioneered the English-language manga movement and touched the hearts, minds and souls of enthusiasts worldwide.

Today, we are sad to inform our loyal community of manga fans, our passionate creators of manga content, our business and retail partners, and other stakeholders who have supported us through the years that as of May 31, 2011, TOKYOPOP is closing its Los Angeles-based North American publishing operations.

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TOKYOPOP film and television projects and European operations, including the German publishing program, will not be affected by the Los Angeles office closure. In addition, TOKYOPOP will continue its global rights sales via its office in Hamburg, Germany.


And


A personal message from Stu Levy

Author: Stu Levy

April 15, 2011
 
Dear TOKYOPOP Community:
 
Way back in 1997, we set out to bring a little-known form of Japanese entertainment to American shores. I originally named our little company “Mixx”, meaning a mix of entertainment, mix of media, and mix of cultures.   My dream was to build a bridge between Japan and America, through the incredible stories I discovered as a student in Tokyo.
 
Starting with just four titles — Parasyte, Ice Blade, Magic Knight Rayearth, and, of course, Sailor Moon — we launched MixxZine, aspiring to introduce comics to girls. These four series laid down the cornerstone for what would eventually become TOKYOPOP and the Manga Revolution.
 
Over the years, I’ve explored many variations of manga culture – “OEL” manga, “Cine-Manga”, children’s books we called “Manga Chapters”, the Gothic-Lolita Bible, Korean manwha (which we still called “manga” at the time), video game soundtracks, live-action films and documentaries, anime, and various merchandise. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t – but the most enjoyable part of this journey has been the opportunity to work with some of the most talented and creative people I’ve ever met. 
 
Many of you also allowed me the indulgence to not only produce works but also to take a swing at creating some of my own. I’ve learned that it’s much easier to criticize others than it is to create from scratch – but in doing so, I’ve also in the process learned how to better communicate with creators.
 
Fourteen years later, I’m laying down my guns. Together, our community has fought the good fight, and, as a result, the Manga Revolution has been won –manga has become a ubiquitous part of global pop culture. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished – and the incredible group of passionate fans we’ve served along the way (my fellow revolutionaries!). 
 
For many years Japan has been my second home, and I have devoted much of my career to bringing my love for Japan to the world – and hopefully in my own way, I can give back to the culture that has given me so much joy.
 
In closing, I simply want to thank all of you – our incredibly talented creators from all over the world, our patient and supportive business partners and customers, our amazingly dedicated TOKYOPOP team – full-timers, part-timers, freelancers and interns, and of course the greatest fans in the entire world. Together, we’ve succeeded in bringing manga to North America and beyond. 
 
Arigatougozaimasu!!

Tokyopop follow-up: Is Stuart Levy the Charlie Sheen of comics?

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Following up on yesterday’s news about Tokyopop laying off at least three editors, the scuttlebutt has continued to flow. Some sources are telling us that there are only 7 people left on staff, including founder Stuart Levy and president Mike Kiley — the rest of the duties of getting out a line of manga being assigned to freelancers.

Brigid Alverson is about as calm and rational a person as we have ever met, so tosee her unload as she does in this post about Tpop’s history is a fearsome thing. The layoffs, the OEL rights disasters, the silly detours into movies and Web-TV, and over it all the seeming cluelessness of Levy — Brigid nails it all:

Not only does his tweet show an appalling lack of tact, but Levy’s ADD has always been the biggest obstacle to Tokyopop’s success. To give him his due, he comes up with great ideas — Tokyopop was way ahead of the curve on many things, from unflipped manga to the iPhone — but he seldom sticks with them long enough to bring them to fruition. It’s been obvious for years that he is bored with books; I remember watching him at NYAF a few years ago, dashing around with a film crew, making a mockumentary about cons. Remember that movie? No? Me either. This past summer, he sunk what must have been a boatload of cash into a bus that he (or someone) drove around the country with a bunch of college interns, promoting his America’s Greatest Otaku “reality show” (currently running on Hulu). Then he lays off one of his most experienced editors. The short-sightedness of this is mind-boggling. To make money, you have to sell something people want to buy. Tokyopop has teetered on the edge of irrelevancy for a long time, but good editors and marketers keep pulling it back. And then they lay off the editors and marketers.


Indeed — the other day we were wondering who was the Charlie Sheen of comics…if the criteria is a lack of public self-awareness of one’s actions, then Levy just might qualify. For instance, in a recent newsletter mailing to his followers, Levy laid the seeds to blame the Borders bankruptcy for TPop’s downsizing:

I don’t want to end on a negative note but in case you haven’t heard the retail chain Borders went bankrupt and happened to owe TOKYOPOP tons of money.  Always fun being an media entrepreneur trying to survive the double-whammy of a crappy economy and piracy.  So, will be out on a road show pretty soon looking for equity partners – if you’re interested, LMK!


Fair enough. Except everyone in publishing has known that Borders was on a collision course with liquidation for a couple of years now. Tokyopop had plenty of time to cut their losses and move on, instead of sinking their money into a reality TV show about otaku.

And speaking of America’s Greatest Otaku, Levy took to the show’s blog to defend himself against the slings and arrows of Twitter yesterday:

I don’t know about you guys, but I noticed there are some very negative haters posting comments on Hulu or Twitter, etc. I’m sure all of you have also experienced negativity from haters, either at school or elsewhere. It’s emotionally draining – and depressing – but the best thing to do is stay positive. Be yourself. Believe in who you are, your passion and what makes you happy – that will give you strength. For me, I love Japan. I love the fact that I brought manga to America. I love seeing so many “genki” and positive otaku here in America. And if there are haters and negative people out there, that’s part of life. It won’t get me down – I enjoyed creating, directing and hosting the show, working with an awesome team, meeting all of you who I got to meet (both in person and online), and being inspired by all of your passion.

So, together we can overcome it all.


Yep, I can see how it would be draining and depressing to have everyone slating you on Twitter.

But it might also be draining and depressing to, oh say…lose your job?

Or maybe lose the rights to publishing a story that has received near universal acclaim?

Or never seeing the ending you created published because the line was so badly planned?

Yes, those things might just be draining and depressing as well, Stuart Levy.

As for those bad comments on Hulu, here’s one poster:

Instead of another horrid reality show, Tokyopop should focus on a 2 hour documentary focusing on their rise as a leading Graphic Novel publisher to their heartbreaking decline and bankruptcy. It would be interesting to hear how Tokyopop squandered their money on go-nowhere projects and hear from those OEL authors that are still trapped in contract without having their publications released.


And Levy’s response:

Matt, you clearly have a chip on your shoulder – not sure why. This is supposed to be the “review” section – and I think it would be fair not only to me but to the dozens of hard-working people that put their time, passion, and energy into making America’s Greatest Otaku if you would have the courtesy to be constructive in your criticism. There’s no problem in giving our show a 1-star, but we’d really appreciate it if you would focus your review about the show itself – and not about whether or not you agree with TOKYOPOP’s business endeavors. We are very open to the critique. Thanks and yoroshiku!!


In conclusion, we’re not saying that Stuart Levy is batshit insane like Charlie Sheen….but he does have a magical ability to avoid any personal responsibility for the turmoil and loss of income his decisions have caused for dozens of people. You can watch America’s Greatest Otaku for yourself below. We’ve had pleasant interactions with Levy in the past, but we will note that he has a certain wild-haired, thousand yard stare that we’ve seen before on the faces of self-made wanna-be hipster moguls around his age who suddenly realize the money spout has moved on without them ever creating any real equity. Welcome to the real world.

More layoffs at Tokyopop — UPDATE

201103011246.jpgWord is going around that LA manga publisherToykopop has laid off several more people — including editors Lillian Diaz-Przybyl and Troy Lewter. The staff is now reduced to a mere handful of people — including owner Stu Levy and publisher Mike Kiley.

Although a giant and founder of the American manga boom with their authentic right-to-left manga, Tokyopop has been downsizing significantly over the last few years. The moves come just as the company had launched its “America’s Greatest Otaku” TV show on Hulu, and it had recently announced several new manga licenses, as well.

Diaz-Przybyl is particular had been a standout at the company over the years, helping introduce many creators in the amazing wave of talent in the “Original English Language” or OEL manga line. Just a few days ago she blogged about how manga titles get canceled before they are finished.

We contacted Tokyopop for comment, but email for the last PR person we talked to there bounced back.

Developing.
UPDATE: Lots of Twitter talk about this. Managing editor Asako Suzuki, who previously worked at DC’s CMX imprint, was also laid off.

Freelancer Daniella Orihuela-Gruber has been tweeting all afternoon about the shake-up. She reports: “There’s still Cindy Suzuki and a managing editor, but now the rest of editorial and most of design and production are freelance.”

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Tokyopop Founder Stu Levy

Tokyopop has seen lots of waves of layoffs before, the last one about a year ago, when previous marketing manager Marco Pavia left, among others. According to Orihuela-Gruber, “Before Nov. 2008, it was a 100-person company. Afterward it was more like 30-50. Now it’s like 20-30 or something.”

Meanwhile, someone is still manning the Tokyopop Twitter feed, tweeting:

A lot of great titles are coming out this month, or even this week! Which titles will you pick up?


and

Thank you, Ed. We appreciate it. RT @edsizemore: Stay strong @TOKYOPOP! I’m rooting for ya!


However, company founder Stuart Levy seemed to be already moving on to something else with this tweet:

Wow #GDC2011 is blowing my mind. Why have I been stuck in such an old-school, out-of-touch industry for so long?! (yes I mean books!)


and then vowing to tell the whole story to PW’s Calvin Reid:

For all of you who keep analyzing, tweeting, talking, maybe I’ll just give Calvin the TRUE STORY so then you’ll know.

Johanna has more commentary and reportage.

Tokyopop goes to Diamond for distribution

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Tokyopop has just signed a deal with Diamond Book Distributors for distribution to both comics shops and bookstores. This marks Tokyopop’s return to Diamond after signing a big joint venture with HarperCollins in 2006 for distribution and new products. The deal saw Tpop packaging such bestsellers as The Warriors for HC., but not much seems to have been done of late between the two companies. After weathering the storms of the US manga industry, Tokyopop is still around and the Diamond deal marks another page in its resurgence.

The deal also marks a new interest in manga for Diamond — in a rather unusual development, Tokyopop’s President & COO John Parker is leaving the company to join Diamond as VP of Business Development where, based on the happy comments in the PR, he’ll help make sure Tokyopop products are treated right. PR below:

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TOKYOPOP and Diamond announced today a new sales and distribution agreement between the companies, with a focus on consolidating efforts to build out the manga graphic novel segment across both comic book and bookselling retailers. The new endeavor will commence on July 1, 2011, as TOKYOPOP transitions over its current bookselling distribution from Harper Collins to Diamond Book Distributors.

The new arrangement will become Diamond Book Distributor’s most comprehensive effort to date within the manga space, as TOKYOPOP’s 150+ annual new releases and 2000+ backlist titles will become available through the comic book distribution giant. As part of that effort, TOKYOPOP’s President & COO John Parker will join Diamond in the newly-created role of Vice President of Business Development.

“I’m excited about the opportunities for both TOKYOPOP and Diamond in this new arrangement,” Parker said. “A combination of the strengths of both companies will lead to significant new opportunities in the manga business.”

TOKYOPOP Founder & CEO Stu Levy added, “John has been my right-hand partner at TOKYOPOP for nearly twelve years, and I am thrilled to have him be the one helming our critical new business partnership with Diamond Book Distributors.”

Both comic shop and book retailers will be able to purchase the entire range of TOKYOPOP products from one source, Diamond Comic Distributors, and partake in creative marketing efforts to increase their in-store sales of manga.

Diamond’s Vice President of Purchasing Bill Schanes said, “Diamond welcomes John Parker and the premiere innovators and leaders of the manga revolution, TOKYOPOP. We are excited about our future together.”

For book market retailers interested in more information about the upcoming product line, please contact Moria Trent at Diamond 410-560-7100 ext. 862.