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August 01, 2005



Wow. Hmm.

I love business tactics, and while these articles were interesting to read purely from the viewpoint of someone who's never read manga, there's something that keeps catching me: Before you can understand the market, you have to understand the product first.

But that's the problem. DC and Marvel *don't* understand the product and they *don't* understand who it's being marketed to. Young men and women (mostly women, but don't forget that guys read manga, too) in their teens to early twenties. But . . . it won't be just teens forever. What we're already seeing in the market is that these "kids" are starting to grow up, and they're taking manga with them.

So it isn't just a matter of what age you market to or what titles you select. Their tastes will change as will preference in titles.

And CMX actually had some very good titles. But they weren't distributed in bookstores like TP and Viz are the cover presentation was atrocious, the actual quality of the majority of their books was low (who the heck did their binding??? Having my books crack when I open them is pretty discouraging), and then the whole censorship and age-group mislabeling fiasco of "Tenjou Tenge" pretty much painted the entire DC imprint the wrong color. Frankly, I wonder if DC and Marvel even give a cr*p about the book store market, because that’s where they’re selling until comic book store owners find a way to create a setting and an air conducive to a more laid back readership who like to *sit* to check out titles or grab a cup of coffee after purchasing it.

I was reading the Paul Levitz interview up on ICv2 recently and his mentions on teenage girls and manga in the graphic novel market. And he just doesn't get it. None of you do. It isn't because it's foreign or from Japan. It isn't because of the big eyes or hair. It isn't even the clothes or designs or the fact that there's a female lead.

It's because it's EMOTIVE, EXPRESSIVE, CINEMATIC, and TOLD LIKE A MOVIE. It's the storytelling. And the themes. So before DC tries to pay some kid out of college to go draw big eyes and write about Mary Jane or Peggy Sue and their adventures dating the star of the football team in high school, they better get a grasp of what girls are actually reading first. And PRESENT it in appealing ways.

And btw . . . I *do* read comics. And more than just Batman and Sin City (which are two of my favorite titles). I enjoy the more dynamic and innovative artists and writers such as Dean Haspiel, Terry Moore, and Brian Wood as well.

In fact, I've known girls who read manga . . . go back to check out native American comics, and find they actually like a few titles. But it isn't enough. Two or three good titles . . . that's no foundation to start creating a loyal, eager readership.

Thank you for the article . . . but you might want to try and find a few titles you can enjoy, first. Tezuka's "Buddha" just won a Harvey. It's an *excellent* series, as is "Phoenix: Karma." But there's action, adventure, romance, horror, mystery . . . Just like normal books, you have to do a little searching for what you like. :)



Rivkah, thanks for articulating several points that I really couldn’t. (The information on CMX is fascinating. I would never have guessed DC would botch the mechanical side of things so badly.) It always comes down to storytelling doesn’t it? And it’s important for both sides to realize that different stories and themes appeal to different audiences. Perhaps one of the problems with the old guard of comics (and Paul Levitz is definitely “old guard”) is that they assume anyone who likes sequential art will like a good Batman story.

And I certainly wasn’t trying to discount female readers who read superhero books or male readers of manga – I know they’re out there – but I was more or less responding to Dirk Deppey’s column, the focus of which is the female manga reader.

And finally, I greatly appreciate the recommendations. The real barrier to entry for me with manga is not the art form it’s where to start. I will certainly look up the books you mentioned. I’m curious though, what about my opinions do you think would be changed by having read some of these first?


Hey, one title I'd suggest you start with is Makoto Yukimura's Planetes. I think the art style is a little more accessible for someone used to American comics, and the storyline is just great science fiction about a group of people who essentially act as garbage collectors in space.
Lone Wolf and Cub is another classic title you might try if you like samurai stories.

Queenie Chan

Nice article. But to be honest, a bit incomplete when you look at the attraction of manga to the average teen.

First of all, alot of the current manga fandom came through to manga by way of other mediums - namely the anime and the gaming communities. The real trouble with people in DC and Marvel besides their cluelessness about what makes manga sell, is that they assume that most manga fans came to manga out of the blue. No, they didn't. Many of them were submerged in other aspects of Japanese popular culture before they came onto manga (and stayed there). The whole "manga" phenomenon is not a standalone thing - it's in actually an entire popular culture juggernaut that comprises anime, gaming, J-Pop, fan-arts and doujinshi, fashion culture, and so on. It's so large that you can't even call it a "sub-culture", because it's multi-faceted, and is basically importing the entire popular culture of another country.

You can see why alot of these manga fans have zero interest in stuff like Batman and X-men; especially the casual readers. Generally speaking, the US comics industry doesn't come with half of the accessories and diversified fan communities that manga does. You like a particular manga? You can go check out the anime and games for starters, and these two communities are large enough and separate enough from the hard-core manga readers to be counted as completely different communities. An then you have the doujinshi market, and the cosplayers, who are also large enough to count as separate communities. What manga-fandom really is, is a part of a much larger group of interlinked communities with cross-over interests.

It certainly beats the Direct Market scene, where it's mostly the same names, the same people and the same product being tossed around. Deja vu abounds when you keep seeing the same people over and over again - the community itself becomes closed as it only has ONE inlet for people to get into it. Whereas the Japan pop culture community has dozens.

I sometimes wonder whether US Comics will go the same route as the Hong Kong market - who 20 years ago was flooded by cheaper Japanese manga. They survived, but now thrives in a small niche, so it's not as if manga killed Hong Kong comics off. However, HK comics sells nowhere near what manga sells, and looking at it, it probably never will. Seeing HK Comics and Superheroes have alot in common, you may benefit from reading my essay on the Hong Kong industry. The link is at (PDF File): http://www.paullew.com/~queeniechan/academic/adoptingmanga.pdf


Queenie and Rivkah – congratulations to both of you and I wish you and your books much success. For what it’s worth you can each count on at least a few sales from me. And if they turn out not to be my cup of tea I promise to pass them on to someone for whom it might be. (I’ll start with my wife.) Folks, these ladies have talent, and you’d be doing yourself a favor to check out their sites.

And Queenie I greatly appreciated your comments and your article, although I disagree with you regarding the notion of there being only one avenue into superhero comics. With the success of the various theatrical releases, cartoons and an inundation of licensed products there are a number of ways for people to be exposed to comic books. I have three kids and every one of them could identify most of the major superhero icons before they had ever seen a comic book. And believe me I don’t have any comic book stuff lying around. I only buy the books and those get boxed in the garage (for the most part) when I’m done. I will say that most of the exposure is passive rather the interactive activities you described. And maybe there’s the rub.

And tangognat, thanks for the recommendation. I’ll add Planetes to my list – Lone Wolf and Cub is already there.


Another samurai title you may want to give a try is Blade of the Immortal. Its art is also less stereotypical of the "manga style" since Hiroaki Samura is the rare breed of mangaka who graduated from an art college.

Queenie Chan

Hi Kurt,

Thanks for your comments. :) I hope you will like my book - it's coming out in December. And this topic does warrant some more thought. And I agree that there is more than one avenue into Superheroes - I generalised and forgot that movies are an introduction into superheroes too. However, I think you really nailed it on the head when you talk about the interactivity of the differing fan communities.

Perhaps it wouldn't surprise you that the most active fan members tend to be female. Girls love to write fanfiction, dress up, and form fan clubs for their favourte artists/manga. These communities are VERY tight-knit - and quite frankly I can't imagine a bunch of guys doing the same thing.

However, I don't quite agree that movies are an avenue into superhero COMICS. This is because all the non-comics/manga readers I know of are aware of Batman, Spiderman and Superman. They know who they are, and that they're comic characters. But they have no interest in buying any Spiderman comics, even though my friends all loved the Spiderman movies. And here is where negative connotations associated with comics come in. All my friends are finance advisors, accountants, marketing managers and programmers. They think only unwashed overweight fanboys living with their mothers read superheroes. They love the Spiderman movies, but not enough to go and look for the comics NOR be seen dead in public reading one.

The manga/superheroes argument is as much an image one as it is an aesthetics one. Manga has managed to cultivate a hip, young vibe - my friends are proud to know what manga is; it's the latest pop-culture "thang"! Whereas superheroes... well, just ask my friends.

I'll give you some manga recommendations too, but I don't think any of it is available in English. There is one author, Naoki Urusawa, that I believe is fantastic, but for some reason his work isn't available in English. Perhaps it's important to point out that the English manga we see on the shelves are actually a very tiny portion of what's available. I totally second Tezuka's work though.

And quite frankly, while reading Tezuka's work may impress you of Tezuka's abilities, I don't think it will "change" your opinions in anyway. People's opinions of a certain medium are rarely changed by just one or two works - I personally would expose you loads of differing manga genres, and perhaps you'll see why western comics has so much potential that it just isn't using (in terms of genres).

(I think I'll use this as a basis for a feature on www.mangalife.com).



First of all, the unwashed overweight fanboys who live with their moms read X-men, not Spider-man - at least that's what I've heard. :)

I love this discussion by the way. I don’t think anyone expects that everyone who sees Spider-man (Or Batman Begins or an X-men movie) will run out and buy the respective comic books. The majority of people who see these will never buy a single comic book. For that matter, the simple fact that my sons wear Batman pajamas, carry around Spider-man backpacks with Hulk lunch boxes in them and brush their teeth with Justice League tooth brushes doesn’t guarantee they’ll ever read comic books like I do. But I think it all goes towards creating a level of awareness and acceptance that didn’t exist 20 years ago. For you, seeing manga sold in bookstores is part of the expected landscape – it would seem odd if they weren’t there – but for me to walk into Barnes and Noble and see hundreds of Marvel and DC graphic novels is no less than amazing. Is this increasing sales in the genre or is it simply cannibalizing existing Direct Market sales? Well, that’s a discussion for another time, but overall there is growth on the publishing side of things so something is going right for them.

Please note, my opinions regarding manga are very positive. I’m not put off by the form in any way, although the aesthetic is certainly more foreign to me than my children. The opinion I put forth in my two posts was that it was possible for the big two comic book publishers to overcome the negatives and become a force in manga publishing. I still believe that but you and others have enlightened me to barriers I didn’t know existed.

A couple of questions for you: I know manga has been around for years and years, but has the community based around it been around for a long time as well? And what happens as girls “age out” of it? Or do they? I’m guessing they continue to read the books but maybe don’t engage in the other aspects as much? I’m very curious as to what percentage of manga readers get involved in these things. Beyond putting out the books, how do the publishers get involved? I’ve read that the Japanese publishers are very responsive to their readers and very involved with some of these activities – is that your experience? And what happens with a more corporate publisher like Del Rey? I could go on and on…


That's the thing. Manga grows up with us. I started reading manga when I was 15. I'm still reading manga eleven years later. The titles aren't necessarily the same but with manga titles being as widely diverse as they are, we're bound to find something to read. A 12-year-old might read Sailor Moon. Her older high school-aged sister might read XXXHolic. Their college-aged cousin might read Saiyuki. Looking at the selection of manga is like walking into a bookstore and looking at all the books they have. Some are romance, some are SF/fantasy, some are action, etc.

As for fandom participation, I'd say it depends. I know plenty of people my age and older who cosplay at the US conventions. From what I've seen of Japanese cosplayers, it's pretty much the same. Fanfiction is written by people of all ages, from their early teens to fifty-year-old mothers, although that's not exclusive to the manga fandoms.

As for the Japanese publishers... I'll leave you with this thought. Doujinshi are amateur comics. Sometimes they're original. Sometimes they're fan comics of a certain series. Many a mangaka has been discovered this way -- CLAMP and Kazuya Minekura are two classic examples. In fact, Kazuya Minekura's original doujinshi later became Saiyuki.


Having been a manga reader for about 7 years now, and mostly non-mainstream manga originating in Japan, I can't say much about the involvement of current American manga readers in other aspects of Japanese pop culture.

However, knowing a little about the publishing scene in Japan, it may be an understatement to say that publishers are involved with their readers. In fact, many publishers create the communities through which manga fans express their appreciation -- at multiple levels. The first level is the magazine--often sold at newsstands, like Time or Newsweek--in which a title is serialized, often in biweekly or bimonthly installments alongside several other stories. At this level, readers are invited to submit fan artwork or letters, vote on their favorite series or authors, and often offered the chance to win prizes such figurines, etc. Based on reader response, stories may be pulled from the magazine if they don't look like they will sell well.

After successful runs in a magazine, the pages will be collected into (approx.) 200-page volumes of books called "tankoubon" under specific imprints -- this is the format that manga is sold in the US, bypassing the magazine stage of feedback. The publishing companies which print tankoubon also print the magazines, and just a few companies own many imprints. For example, the publisher Kondasha, in addition to publishing dictionaries and novels, also runs the manga magazine lines "Weekly Shounen Magazine" (for boys), "Nakayoshi" (for girls), "Kiss" (for college age women or above--"josei"), etc., whose serialized stories are printed as tankoubon under the imprints "KC Afternoon" "Amie KC"...the list goes on.

But wait, publishers do more! Many companies sponsor contests to spot potential manga talent, with the winners given the chance at contracts; some even run manga schools, whose students go on create manga with the company after graduation--as was the case for Hikawa Kyouko, who graduated top of her class from Hakusensha Manga School and is best known for her ongoing project "Kanata Kara".

And finally, publishers may be involved with the amateur manga (i.e. doujinshi) scene, which proliferates with fans who write, draw, and distribute stories based on professional titles or their original work. The publishers are seemingly unconcerned about intellectual copyright transgressions; or they may even foster such expressions of appreciation. As Vernieda noted, many manga-ka start out and become successful as doujinshi artists before being signed to do professional work. Some publishing companies also publish doujinshi titles or sponsor doujinshi contests. The avenues for fan expression are alive and well, in Japan.

I apologize if any of the above is overly pedantic. Frankly the whole process of manga creation in Japan fascinates me a lot, partially because the climate of manga publication is quite different from here. Unfortunately I don't know to what extent American companies are involved with their readers. I do know Viz Media has transcribed the serial format for the American audience with their "Shounen Jump" magazine, and a new "Shoujo Beat" aimed at girls, but I don't know how well it's doing or if readers here are receptive to the concept. I suppose time, and sales, will tell.


That was very interesting and not the least bit pedantic. Take it from an expert.

Queenie Chan

I like this discussion too. :) May it spur some REAL action in the comics world.

I think Jennifer Tsai (hello!) pretty much summed it up in her post. If Japan can be used as an example, girls and women just never grow out of the fandom thing. This is part gender-based, but it's also part historical as well. Most of the founders of "modern shoujo", a group called the Fabulous 49s (from the 70s) started off as high school students, poached by the big companies to write stories for other high school students. They were also experimenters, and as they grew up, their audience grew up with them, and stories became diversified and aimed and differing age groups. So to be honest, "fandom" is something that's quite mainstream in Japan. Not respectable like flower-arranging, but it's not seen as something people "grow out of" either. As with Japan right now, there are women of all ages writing for women of all ages.

There is also another reason that underpins the whole fandom thing - and this is a purely gender-based ones. Girls, much more so than boys, are likely to become attached to particular authors and become loyal readers. This has been most pronounced in places like Korea, where manga has flooded the market place in the 80s and 90s, but where FEMALE Korean-manwha artists have been able to survive because their readers stay loyal to them. The MALE Korean-manwha artists haven't been so lucky. Boys are just more fickle readers - whereas girls bond over it. (The manwha market is really a very good example)

That is why I find the idea of DC and Marvel being able to infiltrate THIS aspect of the manga market is ridiculous. Not with superheroes at their forefront they can't. Superheroes is THE most testosterone-based genre out there. Can you imagine girls passing around the X-men, CosmoGirl and their manga fanart at a slumber party and giggling?! That's NOT to say DC and Marvel can't succeed at the manga market - they've just got to NOT PUSH SUPERHEROES in it.

===Quoting Kurt========
But I think it all goes towards creating a level of awareness and acceptance that didn’t exist 20 years ago. For you, seeing manga sold in bookstores is part of the expected landscape – it would seem odd if they weren’t there – but for me to walk into Barnes and Noble and see hundreds of Marvel and DC graphic novels is no less than amazing.
===End Quote============

I'm afraid I disagree with you there. The level of acceptance and awareness about comics hasn't been getting better in the past 20 years. It's been shrinking extensively since the early 1950s. You can blame Dr. Frederik Wertham and his moral police, but American comics was much more diverse in genres before the Comics Code tamed all the pulpish genres. And it was much more popular too back then - people bought it cheaply at newsagencies, and it was a good bang for their buck. It was cheap, disposable and somewhat crass entertainment - MUCH LIKE WHAT MANGA IS LIKE IN JAPAN - but it died a premature death. And it hasn't recovered since (in terms of sales anyway).

(I wrote a ham-fisted essay about this on my LJ at http://www.livejournal.com/~queeniechan/13287.html , which briefly covers the subject.)

As for DC and Marvel graphic novels being sold in bookstores, I think it's a great thing too. But in the past, American comics (including some of the really great EC Horror Comics) were sold everywhere, from the cornerstores to the newsagencies. That the giant chain bookstores have taken over the landscape seems to say more about economic change than Western comics, but truth is, ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL change is as much a reason why superheroes aren't doing as well as they used to.

Shawn Fumo

This is so old, no one will probably read it, but one more thing to note. Superhero companies are also disadvantaged in terms of getting new readers from Movies because of the way they are set up.

People above talked a bit about loyalty to creators. In manga, loyalty to a series and loyalty to a creator is usually one in the same (as it is with novels). If you like the Harry Potter movies, you can go pick up the first novel and start reading.

In the same way, Hellboy and Sin City got a big shot in the arm when their movies came out. You could find a display stand set up and just grab the first volume and go.

It is much less cut and dry for superheros. I remember back when the Hulk came out, there was a table set up in B&N. However, all of these volumes of Hulk were from different arcs and series and had different artists and writers involved.

A person looking at that would have no idea where to start. Even worse, the actual tone of the story could be totally different from the movie depending on what they chose.

The stigma against american comics certainly doesn't help things, but I think the shared universe and shuffling creative teams makes it much worse for Marvel/DC. I'd guess that Sin City and Hellboy got a lot more new readers than X-men, Spider-man, Hulk, etc. did from the movies.


Actually Shawn, this post still gets 20-30 hits a day, so a few people will read your comments - which I agree with by the way.

The continuity barrier is a big one for most established superhero titles. Which is one of the reasons I think a successful movie will have more of an imapct on graphic novel sales than on the floppies. There's still an issue regarding where to start, but I think people are more apt to pick up an anthology or a self-contained story (like Batman's "Hush") than jump in midstream somewhere.

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