As the show was wrapping up on Sunday at Rose City Comic Con, the Dark Horse manga team behind the wildly popular (and diversed) trans-pacific series’ were given an opportunity to shine in their own panel; adding an extra layer of fun for the audience by releasing exclusive preview images for their upcoming releases of Berzerk, Elfen Lied, and Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles.
The panelists included manga editor for Dark Horse, Carl Horn; along with one of Dark Horse’s translators, Zack Davisson; both of whom seemed to have an absolute blast by beginning the panel discussing the history of manga in the American market.
“[Dark Horse is] the second oldest publisher of manga in North America. We started in 1988 with he first oldest was Viz which started in 1987,” boasted Horn.
“And in 1988 that’s when I started reading manga thanks to Dark Horse,” replied Davisson. “I read Godzilla and all of that, but the one that really hit me was Outlanders. I loved it so much that I got a tattoo. Can we reprint Outlanders? Please?”
Horn chided him and continued on to talk about the serialization of manga chapters, saying that the stories are released weekly or monthly — the same as American comics — despite only the full volumes of manga being released in the US now. According to Horn, however, the monthly issues were also the standard for manga in America through the 1990’s. Davisson saw this as an opportunity to jump in with an important question.
“This is a question I’ve never really thought of before because when I first encountered manga was at a comic store buying regular comics but it had a unique cover. Did you commission new covers for every new chapter?”
“That was one of the more difficult parts because there isn’t as much color art that gets made for manga as there is for American comics,” replied Horn. “We had to hustle to get covers. So sometimes if there was an anime version [of the series] we’d get permission to use art from the anime. I know when I was at Viz, we’d use the Ramna calendars and we’d get permission to use the art. But sometimes we’d just run out and we’d commission original pieces. So the good news was that you got a new chapter every month. The bad news was that it was hard to get covers.”
After a brief discussion about the influence of manga and anime on American comics content, Horn and Davisson talked more about manga fandom elsewhere in the world, but most of all, in France.
“When you consider how much smaller France is to Japan on a population scale, it’s pretty incredible that they’re the second leading country for manga consumption,” remarked Horn.
“They love their manga in a way that’s on a whole different level,” laughed Davisson. “One artist — Jiro Taniguchi — was knighted by the French government for his contributions to artistic culture.”
“Yeah. Actually, the greatest art museum in France, the Louvre, has done two or three exhibits on manga that came from him,” added Horn.
Davisson replied with that fact that he’s “yet to the see the Smithsonian do something like that” before Horn moved on to telling the audience what’s in store for Dark Horse’s 2020 manga lineup.
“This is our first food manga,” said Horn as he displayed the new preview pages for Dark Horse Manga’s series Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles, Vol. 1. “As Americans we love food. There’s stories about food everywhere, so why are there no real comics about food? It’s not even necessarily the weird stuff or wild things; you can do manga about anything.”
Horn continued to further explain the book, saying that Ms. Koizumi is not very social because the only thing she actually cares about is ramen noodles. Another woman who wants to become friends with her has to figure out pretty quick that the only way to really get her to talk is to talk about ramen.
“To get the feel of the places that are being talked about — because the places in the book are real places that you can go and eat Ramen in Tokyo — we are featuring local ramen places in the Portland metro area,” added Horn, and was met with an appreciative muttering from the Portland audience.
“I just read this recently and there is no way to read this and not want to go out to eat,” concluded Davisson.
The duo also talked very briefly about their hit manga series, Berserk, of which they will be releasing a new volume.
“We’re all caught up with Berserk in Japan…which means we can’t just release things whenever we want to. We have to wait for the creator to do a new volume but, fortunately, he has!” said Horn cheerfully as he projected some new images.
Moving quickly onward, Horn introduced the manga stories for Elfen Lied — touting it as one of their most requested series to tackle.
“It was a really well-known anime series from back in the day but the manga was never released here…so now we’re going to,” said Horn.”
The two Dark Horse representatives wrapped up the panel by making one last announcement: the much-requested comeback of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.
“They’re five students at a Buddhist college,” explained Horn. “They’re graduating and realizing they have no job skills, but they realize they can talk to dead people. Not spirits — corpses. They realize they can make money talking to corpses and bringing about their last wishes. [The series] wasn’t as successful as individual volumes, so they’ve collected them in omnibuses which have been really successful. We’re doing book five which combines volumes 13, 14 and 15 and that will be out March 11th, 2020.”