blackjackverticalAs mentioned in “Lying in the Gutters” this week, Vertical, best known for its manga line of Tezuka releases, but also a publisher of translations of various literary Japanese works, has had several layoffs. We can confirm that Steve Vrattos, Vertical’s marketing manager, has been let go. And another company joins the current holocaust in publishing.

Apparently, Vertical’s Black Jack release has had disappointing sales, which is sad, as it continues to get great reviews, including David Welsh at TCR:

He’s still a bit jarring to me, but in a good way. Or maybe it’s Tezuka who’s jarring, because I’m consistently amazed by the versatility of his skills as a cartoonist and storyteller. Instead of making Black Jack tough and leathery on the outside, sweetened oatmeal on the inside, he’s mostly an ass to the core. Tezuka doles out the doctor’s softer, more principled moments judiciously. He doesn’t feel the need to reassure the reader that Black Jack is the hero of the comic. Tezuka is comfortable with the fact that his hero is a jerk.

And io9’s Mangobot:

Mad scientists. Beautiful women who specialize in amputations. Supercomputers that threaten to starve an entire hospital full of patients. Tumors that take on human form. Sounds like a freakish B-list horror movie, right? Actually, these are all seminal elements of a classic cult favorite manga by Tezuka Osamu. Black Jack is one of his darkest yet most appreciated works, but it hasn’t had much exposure in the US market until now. This fall, Vertical Inc has started publishing this entire series, volume by volume, in English. It’s some of the best science fiction to ever come out of Japan.


  1. Man, that’s a shame. I have to admit that I personally have been rather lax in supporting Vertical, even though they are publishing a lot of books I’m interested. Here’s hoping they can pull through.

    For anyone interested in giving them a helping hand: anime/manga online retailer Right Stuf is currently running a 33% off sale on all books from Vertical, a sale that ends today.

  2. Hi, this is Yani Mentzas, Vertical’s Executive Vice President. Let me post here the response we’ve been giving to all bloggers who contacted us before linking to that piece:

    Vertical didn’t lay off “a number of people.” We’ve had to laid off just one. It’s true that we’re seeking new financing, but it’s news to me that without it we’ll be “the next company to hit the skids.” The situation is tight but I don’t think we’re unique there, and Vertical has been through worse. Black Jack becoming a national bestseller would definitely help, though!

    Or just taking advantage of that Right Stuf sale. Thank you, Jason!

  3. Steve Vrattos is a good guy who knows his stuff and has had a long, adventurous career in comics and book publishing. Even if Vertical’s rumored layoffs in fact just amount to this one employee, that’s still unfortunate. I hope things work out for him soon.

  4. My favourite recent books have been the Vertical releases of Dororo and Black Jack. I don’t get the view that Black Jack is a jerk – he doesn’t come across that way to me at all. My favourite character bit so far is where he goes to give a present to the ‘female Black Jack’, with possible thoughts of a relationship/friendship, only to find her crying over her badly injured fiancée. He then goes on to save the fiancée’s life, and walks off into the night, alone. Magic.