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So, here’s the deal:

CMX wasn’t, at its inception, a particularly well-run company. There are a lot of excuses out there, but bluntly DC didn’t know a thing about the manga market, and the person they hired to start the imprint wasn’t good at his job. DC offered a deep-discount offer to retailers to stock some of the initial titles, MADARA in particular, an older-Seinen action adventure title at the height of the shoujo boom. (Their sole shoujo title was from the 1970s.) I can’t stress enough, their initial licenses were very strange and generally weak with no cohesion as a line.

Sales tanked, comics retailers who were encouraged to buy BIG were left with unsold stock, and comics retailers have long and ‘specific’ memories and if they’re ever burned by anything they never forget and hold a grudge indefinitely. (Except for superheroes of course; Marvel and DC are putting out lit cigarettes on the foreheads of comics retailers every month, and they keep coming back for more. But say something nasty about Carol Kalish in an obituary and I WILL NEVER BUY YOUR FUCKING BOOKS FOREVER I HATE YOU. Comics are kinda lame sometimes.)

So with retailers burnt, the publisher upped the ante and censored one of their second wave of titles, when the _only_ thing it had going for it was the dirty bits. Manga fans hold STUPID grudges too, and they only need the thinest whisper of an excuse to steal their shit forever. “CMX censored Tenjho Tenge! That’s why I’ll download all the books they publish and never give them any money ever!” Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. You’re awful, flat out awful.

But that’s besides the point; fans were burned too.

So no retailer support, little fan support, reported difficulties getting press coverage/convention coverage, and the books were barely ever in bookstores. All of it added up to…? What? Surprise? It wasn’t a matter of if CMX was going to get closed but when, and bad news at Viz provides the perfect cover doesn’t it? “See! Economic downturn! We can’t publish manga if Viz can’t!” Except of course Viz are publishing manga, just tightening their belts. Feh and bah.

This all smells very much like someone got some early July DC solicitations, noticed there were no CMX books, and started asking questions. This seems exceptionally poorly handled, from a company who’s doing a great job at poorly handling this imprint.

So to summarize: It was a line that was poorly conceived, poorly run for the first half of its life and then barely run at all for the last half. Then it was unceremoniously killed. The end.

I’m not saying the whole thing isn’t utterly depressing, it is, but only because it’s just a monumental waste of time and resources and talent and opportunity, not because I’m particularly sad to see it go. Maybe that’s mercenary of me–a lot of other people liked the line and I should probably shut up–but yeah. DC evidenced quite clearly that they have no idea how to run a manga line so if they weren’t going to _try_ then it’s best they stopped wasting my time clogging up my shelves.

- Chris


19 Comments on “CMXy”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. Greg McElhatton says:

    The irony of you writing this blog post from Japan is not lost on me, incidentally.

  2. Chris Howard says:

    Hey! The kids are into this manga stuff! We gotta get some manga stuff!

    The manga isn’t what kids are all about, well dump it and get me something the kids do like! Get me some vampires!

    How far off is this from what someone somewhere within the belly of DC actually said.

  3. JRB says:

    “Their sole shoujo title was from the 1970s.”

    Actually, CMX started with two 1970′s shoujo titles, Swan (which is awesome) and From Eroica With Love (which is beyond awesome – it is the very model of 70′s shoujo manga awesome-osity: of all the series left incomplete, I will lament Eroica the most). They later published a healthy number of light shoujo and girl-friendly shonen titles, some of which were excellent.

    None of which sold very well, even the awesome stuff. So yeah.

  4. CMX Shutdown Reactions » Manga Worth Reading says:

    [...] (5/20/10) As usual, the insightful Christopher Butcher has the last word, summing up the history of CMX through a comic retailer perspective. I can’t [...]

  5. Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment says:

    [...] commentary on the July closing of DC Comics' CMX manga imprint, courtesy of Deb Aoki, Matt Blind, Christopher Butcher, Simon Jones, David Welsh and the crew of Good Comics For [...]

  6. David Welsh says:

    the _only_ thing it had going for it was the dirty bits.

    You win for the billionth time. Hope you’re enjoying Japan.

  7. Brigid says:

    Chris, you’re thinking about the first two years of CMX. Once they hired Asako and Jim, things got a lot better. The quality of the licenses improved, they dropped that horrid generic cover design, and Asako reached out to bloggers and really sold the books. The last few books that came out, I started to write a review and gave up because so many other people reviewed them right away. Go look at the bulletin boards—when someone brings up Tenjho Tenge, three or four other people shout them down. The fans forgave CMX. And the readers didn’t care; they bought the book, censored or not. TenTen was not the problem.

    Honestly, I think it was distribution. None of the books made the Bookscan top 750. Comics shops are, for the most part, not a natural venue for shoujo manga. Online is tough, especially for younger readers, which is where CMX pitched a lot of their books. They stopped reaching out to libraries, which would have been a very natural market for them. And they signed some sort of deal with Flex Comics, a developer of cell phone comics, but never moved on to digital media.

    The pity of it is they had talented people close to the line who worked hard and were good at what they did, but that wasn’t enough. The problems were structural: DC people in the other departments didn’t get the books to the fans, didn’t publicize the books, didn’t do the stuff they do for every other DC title. This wasn’t about covering up the boobs in Tenjho Tenge, it was about distribution and marketing that didn’t happen.

  8. Chris says:

    Brigid- I completely agree that their distribution and marketing was balls, 100%. The ten-ten thing was one short paragraph out of 6 or 7 paragraphs, and I address all of the other issues you mention. But having the majority of the fanbase for manga actively hate you for the first 2 or 3 of your existence is an equally valid reason for your manga not to catch on, in my humble opinion.

  9. Chris says:

    Brigid- And I should remind you that as a retailer I’ve ordered and flipped through _every_ CMX release, so I do have a good measure of familiarity with their product.

  10. Brigid says:

    Yup, they certainly got off to a rocky start. The retailer thing was news to me, but it certainly fits the picture. It’s actually surprising that they survived their first two years. I just think they got better over time, and I wish they had been better supported.

  11. Jason Azzopardi says:

    The real tragedy in all of this is now we’ll never find out if the Young Magician learns how to saw his first lady in half.

    All kidding aside, the CMX fans have my sympathies. As the truly great Scoblerino so eloquently put it in a recent email exchange: “Me, Maggie, Sunita, and about 25 other 90s shoujo fans are very upset right now”. I know I’d crap my pants in fury if 20th Century Boys or Rusty Brown were cancelled a few volumes before finishing.

  12. Shaenon says:

    Chris, you are awesome.

    Swan and Eroica are two of my all-time favorite manga, so I’m very, very bummed about this. But I admit I’m surprised CMX survived for as long as it did. DC had no idea how to market or distribute the books, and they never acquired a blockbuster title to keep the line afloat, like Tokyopop did with Sailor Moon and Fruits Basket, or Viz did with Pokemon, Dragonball Z, and Naruto. When you place all the financial hopes for your line in a second-rate T&A manga, and then you take out the T&A, your prospects are not good.

    The tragedy is that they had some amazing titles! They published Swan, Eroica, and the utterly batshit insane Moon Child. Whether out of bravery or ignorance of what would actually sell in the American market, CMX published damn good manga no other publisher would touch, and for that I salute them.

  13. Pirates and pundits « MangaBlog says:

    [...] roundup post at The Beat, and as always, be sure to read the comments. Christopher Butcher gives us a little history, pointing out that CMX got off to a rocky start with retailers as well as fans. Simon Jones has some [...]

  14. Milo says:

    I don’t really have any opinion on the marketing side of things, but I have to confess that I didn’t like ANYTHING that CMX was releasing. I went as far as buying all of Kikaider 02 in one shot because I couldn’t preview it anywhere beforehand, and that series was simply terrible, despite the awesome covers.

  15. Ramon says:

    Oh no!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    What about my SWAN and Crayon Shinchan?

  16. The Manga Critic » Blog Archive » A Few Thoughts About the Manga Industry says:

    [...] 5/20/10: Christopher Butcher offers a seasoned retailer’s perspective on the CMX line. He notes that many comic stores had [...]

  17. DanielBT says:

    I have to point out that I was also victim to the perception that CMX licensed inferior Mangas too. What little I saw, only further increased my opinion of their reputation. I saw the first volumes of Swan & Eroica, and wasn’t very impressed. Then the only other volumes I saw in bookstores, Land of the Blindfolded & Emma didn’t exactly boost my enthusiasm any. Then the clincher – SUHEILEBE! which I found at a library was so childishly disappointing it cemented the dismal CMX line for me.

    It was so bad that I didn’t even bother to order the rest of Moon Child, when I figured I could take my time ordering the volumes. Now that I’m faced with the looming threat of not getting the rest, I’ve immediately ordered what I couldn’t find in second-hand bookstores.

    That’s the surest sign to make fans crazy over a product – show them something that they’ll show slight to no interest in. Then tell them they can’t have it, and watch them scramble over themselves to get what they can’t have anymore.

    If other bloggers had posted certain CMX titles worthy of attention before now, chances are my eyes would’ve glazed over at this obvious attempt of word-of-mouth. It never would’ve occurred to me that some titles were worth reading if only I’d taken the chance.

    Of course, given how large their library grew, and the lack of previews, it became increasingly harder to find whether certain titles were worthy or not. For most titles, you need about 50 pages worth to get a pretty good idea of what it’s like. For some reason, a lot of Fantasy titles were chosen.

    I go into more opinionated details at my blog here:
    http://sundaycomicsdebt.blogspot.com/2010/05/cmx-commentary.html

  18. Anne-Li says:

    I found this very interesting to read, and I agree. CMX could have done much more and better. Very sad. Though again, without them, we wouldn’t have the titles, so I’m grateful for that much. I’m a big fan of From Eroica With Love and very upset over what has happened … I do so hope there is some small chance some other company might continue it, for it really deserves it, I think.

    Oh, and for DanielBT, who tried the first volumes and wasn’t impressed – it does start out slow. Heh, to be honest, I usually tell people to skip the first story entirely, it so untypical of the rest of the series … :) For me, it always starts with “Iron Klaus”. :) Of course, it always depends on what you like personally, but for me Eroica is just the perfect series. And the art work is amazing …

  19. heathersparrows says:

    For the life of me, I don’t understand why they didn’t do much more. They had gems like From Eroica With Love on their hands, and they botched the chance to market them properly.

    One can only hope that another publisher will take on the titles like Eroica, Swan, and Emma.

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