- This post is part of a on-going series called “Being a Professional Manga Artist in the West“. The first post is here.
- Buy my short story collection from Bento Comic’s Smashwords storefront @ US$2.99.
Part 3c: The Beginning of the End of TOKYOPOP
Working with TOKYPOP was fine as an experience, and I had editors ranging from the good to bad (I will talk about editors in another post). However, TOKYOPOP was always a controversial company, and there were many who had issues with them, ranging from bad contracts to annoying business practices. For me, the biggest problem with that era was not so much drawing/writing ‘The Dreaming,’ but with the way ‘western manga’ was received by the average comic reader.
Needless to say, the superhero and indie crew wasn’t much interested, but neither were actual manga readers. There was an ‘authenticity’ issue with manga readers right from the start, who solidly believed that only manga from Japan are ‘good,’ and manga-style comics from westerners are ‘fake garbage.’ The ‘western manga’ line TOKYOPOP put out also suffered from quality control issues, and most of them never made back money the company had invested. It was just cheaper to license manga from Japan.
Eventually, helped by mismanagement, the line faltered and the company closed its ‘western manga’ line sometime after I finished the last volume of ‘The Dreaming’ in 2007. After that, TOKYOPOP put out a Collected Edition of ‘The Dreaming’ (all three volumes in one, plus a short story), but the company continued to fall apart, and finally folded its publishing division in 2011. The Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and the collapse of Borders book chain in 2011 also contributed, but while these helped to speed things along, it was unlikely to have been the ultimate demise of the company.
I didn’t get involved in any Internet flame wars during that era over the ‘is it manga or not’ debate, but it certainly was a baffling experience. I’m not sure if this attitude still persists today, but I sure as heck don’t want to relive those days again.
Looking back, ‘The Dreaming’ sold quite well and garnered a lot of fans (I got a week-long trip to Turkey to promote it – see my write-up here – and it even has a movie in development), but TOKYOPOP never quite promoted it compared to some of their other properties.
Here in lies an interesting problem with the publishing industry: just because you’ve been published, it doesn’t mean that your publisher will promote you to the reading public. In fact, publishers don’t promote most of the books they publish at all. This is something I’ll be talking about in my later posts.
See you all next week, when I talk about working as a manga-style comics illustrator for other publishers, from 2008-2013.