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May 19, 2010


Bundled, Tossed, Untied And Stacked

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By Tom Spurgeon

* Mari Ahokoivu has finished her 'zine about being stuck in the recent volcano-ash related travel difficulties, and is selling copies to defray further costs she incurred trying to complete her trip. My additional hope is that some of the New York comic shops might buy some copies from her to sell. (thanks, Johanna Rojola)

* the big news of the week -- well, there was a lot of pretty big news this week -- is DC shutting down its CMX imprint, their manga line. This is the latest step in a series of what collectively seem more and more like body blows for the American manga scene. Johanna Draper Carlson has the most succinct write-up, including Anime News Network's list of last titles to be released by the publisher and the observation that jibes with my own gut reaction that what is specifically troubling about this move is that this is essentially a vote of no-confidence for manga from a publisher that could have easily borne the pressures of a down market for the category. As far as I know, DC has no plans to release information such as what they'll do with licenses or the fate of those working on the line directly, although if I subsequently find that information I'll alter this sentence.

image* one thing that's interesting to me about the CMX thing is that despite six years' worth of publishing history it never felt like CMX was viewed within or without the company -- either WildStorm or DC -- as vital to any overall publishing strategy. It also never seemed to benefit the way that other lines did a couple of years back when DC saw a general boost in book distribution. That was the promise of the CMX line from my vantage point: that it would use the strength of DC's corporate backing to introduce another model for selling manga into the comics market, or at least supply the basic model with some interesting special features, a twist or two (increased comic shop penetration, or the kind of targeted marketing that's supposed to be part of DC's skill set now). Instead it just seemed like a general manga line that happened to share offices and convention space with DC. Another thing I wonder after is that CMX was the home for some classic manga series; I don't know if that's still the case, or what the end result is there -- boutique publishers are probably slightly more interested in that category than someone looking for general sales strength across the board, but it can't be a good sign in terms of diversifying that sub-market.

* I also think it's fair to look at the general bad news for manga -- from sales figure to firings to entire companies seeming to slip out of existence -- and wonder about the structural issues involved. Certainly there seems to be enough of an appetite for manga out there generally that the whole thing needn't show signs of collapse, but it's clear that the structure for profiting from said appetite isn't being served. Anyway, so much for Manga Triumphalism, even with a sustained comeback and continued strong category sales. Let's hope for Manga Rationalism from here on out.

* the cartoonist Josh Simmons announces two short pieces in two Robin Bougie publications, which given previous Josh Simmons comics for Bougie is both great and slightly terrifying news.

* Rich Tommaso has re-jiggered his web site so that his Sam Hill serial takes over as the solo feature. It seems to have become his most promising feature.

* Dark Horse has joined its mainstream publishing brothers in offering up a discount comic book line, in their case 12 Dark Horse comic books from their publishing library they'll make available at $1 each. The first six book in the initiative will arrive in August and come from the Aliens vs. Predator, Sin City: The Hard Goodbye, Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, Usagi Yojimbo, Conan and The Goon. I've never been the target of one of these initiative, although back in the 1980s and early 1990s the better retailers I used would occasionally gift me the first issue of a new series in order to try and hook me into buying it regularly from that point on. I'm not sure what the next step is with something like this, and I wonder if you're not whetting someone's appetite and then offering them a HUGE meal of trades. Is there any retailer out there that's had success with these kinds of books that would as to how?

* the cartoonist Ellen Forney has sold a graphic novel to Gotham/Penguin through agent Holly Bemiss. It sounds like a 2012 release.

* the influential Atlanta-area training ground and artists' collective Gaijin Studios has closed down, what they're calling an indefinite hiatus. That's not really publishing news, I guess, but I don't know what else to do with it.

* the cartoonist Theo Ellsworth talks about a collaborative comics project on which he's working and a forthcoming print he's doing with Secret Acres.

* this week marked the debut of a Wallace & Gromit comic strip in the UK newspaper The Sun.

* a recent Chris Mautner interview with publisher Dan Nadel about his book Art In Time segued into a Picturebox, Inc. update: long-promised books from Brian Chippendale and CF, a 216-page graphic novel from Renee French (!!!), a limited edition Yuichi Yokoyama book and new Ben Jones.

* finally, I thought the cover images for the ICON iterations of the earlier Casanova work were awfully pretty when I stumbled across them a couple of days ago on the Moon/Ba cover Flickr area.

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