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.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.