The big discussion right now is about manga for grown-ups. It’s ostensibly about “Men’s Manga”, but luckily Simon Jones put that bullshit to rest right-quickly by pointing out that Josei (“Women’s”)Â manga has been an unfortunate failure in North America as well. About the only ‘mature’ manga doing very well right now is smut, for women (Yaoi/BL/changepurse/etc.), with even hardcore hetero mangaporn having a tougher go of it than it used to.
Johanna can’t help smirking because as a woman who’s been elbowing her way into the boys club for years, she gets to play the ‘turnabout is fair play!’ card, and I can’t say as I blame her. At her Livejournal, the thoroughly unpleasant “Kethylia” makes the same point, but tacks on the added rallying cry of “This Is Just The Way Things Are, And Everyone Oughtta Just Shut Up And Accept It!” which is about the stupidest thing I’ve read on the internet today. To be fair though, I’ve only been on the internet for like an hour.
Way down at the bottom of Johanna’s post, the former editor in chief of Viz Magazine, and guest at The Toronto Comic Arts Festival Jason Thompson drops in to make some incredibly salient points:
- “The fact of the U.S. manga market isnâ€™t that shojo dominates the charts, itâ€™s that stuff for younger readers dominates the charts. Itâ€™s simply hard to get the more adult manga into the big chain outlets.”
- “Actually, I think thereâ€™s almost as many male-targeted manga being published in America as thereâ€™s ever beenâ€¦ the thing is that theyâ€™re all drawn in a kind of â€œundercoverâ€ style, that cute moe style where you canâ€™t initially tell who itâ€™s aimed at.”
- “The market itself has changed around [Dark Horse], but I donâ€™t think that the number of people buying DH-style manga has actually shrunkâ€¦ itâ€™s just that the number of people buying 13+ shojo and shonen manga has grown so dramatically that it makes the market for DH manga look small by comparison.”
(All Quotes From Jason Thompson)
Here’s a thing: We sell more “men’s” manga in the store than most “kids” manga… In fact, if you look at the Direct Market sales charts, manga from Dark Horse and for a predomenantly older, male audience does a heck of a lot better in most comic book specialty shops than even the big-hot-bookstore stuff. It’s not that men’s manga is unprofitable as a genre, it’s that individual titles don’t catch on (and that’s always been the case, DRAKKUN anybody?) even if they seem like sure-fire bets.Â Many of my favourite manga have been cancelled, or gone out of print, or had their copyright lapse, or had their publisher go under–it’s not that big a deal. Many of my favourite non-manga comics have faced a similarly tough road. But in an industry where that new GHOST IN THE SHELL 1.5 TP is going to be the top-selling manga of the month through Diamond, and in the top 5 for graphic novels of the month (I think that means at least 10k copies are shipping, if not more…) there’s definitely an audience for that material. As Jason mentioned, it’s a different size of audience, but it’s not, you know, non-existent.
If you scroll back through the archives a few days, you’ll see the announcement for TEKKON KINKREET, a new edition of my beloved Black & White by extremely-famous Japanese Mangaka Taiyo Matsumoto–a book that went out of print YEARS AGO here, with another book by the creator halted mid-serialisation. It’s being re-released, EXTREMELY COINCIDENTALLY at the same time as a film version of the manga is making its way to cinema screens everywhere. Manga publishers want to put out good work that will sell well, (or at least work that will sell well), and they want to give every book a fighting chance. Dark Horse developing a line of men’s manga makes perfect sense–Blade of the Immortal readers will check out Satsuma Gishiden, all those 80′s B&W boom-market fans of Lone Wolf & Cub will pick those up, and then get the prequel series, and all of the other work by the creator. Got a huge, hot property like MPD Psycho? Why not test the waters with a few other series by the same creator, build interest in it before it’s released? Building lines of products makes perfect sense, because at the end of the day we don’t live in a meritocracy and the books don’t rise and fall on their strengths or weaknesses, but instead the marketting that’s invested into them. Wheat from the chaffe, some shake-ups along the way, but there are more than 40 volumes of work by Koike and Gojima in print in English right now–someone in the 80s would have a heart-attack just hearing that news.
The worst thing about that stupid admonishment, the “Shut-up and accept how things are now!,” is that it’s a complacent, ignorant assessement of the market. If people actually thought like that, or rather, if people actually took that stupid advice, they would have talked Stu Levy out of the Tokyopop Revolution, or shouted down the legions of fangirl-Fujoshi who thought that just MAYBE if they put out some boys-humping-boys manga that SOMEONE might buy it, or that a monthly magazine called SHONEN JUMP might actually work in North America, despite its predicted death. It’s the wishers and hopers and dreamers that come up with all of these harebrained schemes and put them into action. It’s those MBAs that sit back and think: “Hey, Naruto’s been out for 5 years now, those kids might actually grow up and not turn into emotionally arrested adolescents still pining over the same stuff they were reading when they were 12. Why don’t we put out some books for teenagers and call it SHONEN JUMP ADVANCED? Why don’t we put out some books for those same kids anotherÂ few years later, like UZUMAKI and GYO and PORTUS and brand them as HORROR books?” Don’t accept the status quo, don’t rest on your laurels, don’t get comfortable. Innovate, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
So, yeah, things are not as easy for manga for grown-ups as for the teen-oriented manga, but who gives a shit? COMICS FOR ADULTS HAVEN’T TRADITIONALLY HAD A GOOD TIME OF IT EITHER. Why don’t you talk to Eric Reynolds about Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service not doing as well as we’d all have hoped when that poor dude is trying to put together an anthology of work by people who can’t afford to do comics, because the sales aren’t there, and they make more money doing spot illosÂ for various magazines. I’m sure he has an appropriately tiny fiddle he can play for you.
Support the stuff you like with your $$$, with appropriately frequent and graphics-intensive blog posts, and at the stores that are willing to stock those books for you (hint: online pre-order discounters and scanlation sites? Not helping your cause any… it’s not like they’re ordering copies ‘for the shelf’).
And never stop dreaming!