Home News Comings & Goings old Tokyopop follow-up: Is Stuart Levy the Charlie Sheen of comics?

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


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.

  1. “…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”

    I’m so stealing this!

  2. The Charlie Sheen comparison is so hokey, Citezen Kane or equally insane yuppie Josh Harris(we live in public) would have been a better parallel.
    other than that great article.

  3. Please. That’s an insult to Charlie Sheen. At least Sheen is a suave bastard. This guy just screams rock star wanna be. He keeps trying to be Charlie Sheen. Don’t give him that. He wishes he was.

    Hell, the nutter’s wasted money by forcing himself into his own private reality show with the excuse that it’s to showcase his company while at the same time it circles the drain! At least Sheen’s a decent actor. Levy is a horrible publisher and not to mention writer. (Oh wait.. no that was some other guy named DJ Milky. Yeah… suuuure.) I’ve been calling Stu Levy a nutjob ruining his company for years and years, so it’s very nice to hear others sharing those remarks.

    I remember going on for months on anime forums trying to convince brainwashed fans what a scam that ‘OEL manga’ marketing gimmick was. That was Stu Levy’s own little housing bubble scam. It did nothing but hurt the industry and dash the hopes of young creators.

    And that’s to say nothing about this bullcrap Priest movie with their techno vampire hunters. TokyoPop’s big movie is so far from the Korean comic they publish, they had to publish a US comic to adapt it. I’d rather see movie by Sheen about Vatican assassin warlocks. I pray to said assassin warlocks that they never do Levy’s Americanized to hell idea for adapting their manga license of Lament of the Lamb.

    The man treats this manga and comics publisher like his personal television studio and it’s no wonder why TokyoPop is so far in the hole.

  4. Oh and not publishing a Becky Cloonan book is a freaking sin. I loved East Coast Rising and I’ve always been bitter at the yahoos in charge of TokyoPop for it. So many decent people working for them at the company have been screwed royally. Horrible publisher. Maybe all those poor folks who have been let go recently and in past years are better off elsewhere anyway.

  5. Was this guy separated from Josh Blaylock at birth?

    You could insert Devil’s Due for TokyoPop in this story and it would be a near fit.

  6. Please. That’s an insult to Charlie Sheen.


    I’ll 2nd that one.

    Seems members of the press/media have little idea why a lot of (regular) people like Charlie Sheen.

  7. Unflipped manga? Please, the majority of their ORIGINAL titles, or pocket manga, were flipped AND heavily edited. Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura had whole segments removed, or changed.

    You know, we might respect tokyopop a bit more, if instead of 8 new titles every darn season, finishing something they’ve started for once. In the old days they stuck with it, and finished longer series so we know they can indeed do so. Now these days it’s more like, “Ooooh, shiny new series!” *tosses a previous one aside, discarded and forgotten*
    I have 4 series alone from Tokyopop, that will never see an ending. Not because of their loss of contracts with Kodonsha either. They simple stopped them all together. Viz has finished almost everything I own that they started, and still prints new things, and all at a even-ratio rate.
    People go into my local comic shop, get interested and then set it down once they realize it’s tokyopop. “Why start it if I won’t know how it ends?”
    Indeed local geek, indeed.

  8. Mike Kiley is the backbone of fraud. I hope that the government investigates this unusual reason. As a web developer Mike Kiley informed me that I cannot access anything in the database. With that said it made my job a bit more difficult..

    Honestly, they (Mike and Stuart) never wanted anyone to access their database. It’s if they were hiding something.

  9. “Unflipped manga? Please, the majority of their ORIGINAL titles, or pocket manga, were flipped AND heavily edited. Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura had whole segments removed, or changed.”

    That was in the early days. They did start publishing unflipped manga, and Cardcaptor Sakura was re-released without flipping

  10. Ive been around stu for a bit and simply, his head is in movies and of course his ass. This guy sucks-
    You can tell the company us clinging when they’re FB posts are about fucking hello kitty and what anime intro is the best. Cause they’ve fallen to shit and took everything with them. Americans greatest otaku??? Fuck you.


  11. Charlie Sheen is a f-ed up, fugly person, inside and out.

    Stu Levy holds his head so high that I swear I’m only seeing the underside of his chin- total arrogance, something indicative of a totally unwanted geek. He must have money. I couldn’t get through his Otaku show because of his pitiful mannerisms… which most people likely don’t pay attention to or can grasp.

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