Chris Butcher at comics212.net (no dot!) notes that Tokyopop is trying its hand at the “If you like…” game in favor of some of its global manga titles. It’s not a bad idea, though Chris notes some of the flaws in execution in this particular example.
“I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a number of these titles have more in common with the books that Oni Press, or Image Comics publish (and I’m sure both of those companies are really excited by the prospect of competing with Tokyopop for shelf-space and dollars in comic stores) than the Japanese- and Korean-originated titles they publish, but several of them really aren’t very ‘indy’ at all. Some of these books are exactly what the average person thinks of when they think of manga; relationship-oriented drama and teen-boy adventure stories. Nothing wrong with that, but I think it muddies the waters of your promotion somewhat…”
In some cases, I think comics shoppers view any manga in the same way dedicated super-hero readers view books from Oni or Fantagraphics or Top Shelf; it’s all undiscovered country, even if the content is very mainstream (romances, mysteries, zombies, what have you). That isn’t a criticism – everyone should read what they like and what gives them the best return on their investment.
It’s surprising to me that Tokyopop didn’t include I Luv Halloween (written by Keith Giffen) or Boys of Summer (written by Chuck Austen), though the latter would probably appeal more to the morbidly curious who’ve missed having Austen to kick around. Of course, the ILH comparisons would probably pain me. I can just see it being categorized with Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin books, and that would be agony, because Courtney doesn’t deserve that kind of company.
And speaking of Oni books, they’ve always struck me as the company best able to straddle the indy-manga divide, if in fact there is one. Their books cover a lot of the same narrative territory, and while the illustration styles don’t necessarily scream “manga-influenced,” their trim size and packaging frequently do.
While the effort is flawed, it’s good to see Tokyopop reaching out to local comic shops, particularly after they generated ill will with the recent on-line exclusive initiative. I do think publishers like Del Rey or Dark Horse might be better positioned to make a pitch like this. Del Rey’s Love Roma, Eternal Sabbath, Genshiken, and other titles strike me as having strong crossover potential. Dark Horse has always done well with manga in the Direct Market, and some of their recent releases (Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and next week’s Ohikkoshi spring to mind) would rest quite comfortably in the indy comic section.
But, as last month’s LCS sales figures (ably examined by Brigid of MangaBlog) demonstrate, Dark Horse doesn’t really need a comic-shop specific initiative. (Full figures for the month are at Comic Book Resources.) Neither, apparently, do Digital Manga’s Juné books, which is great in one sense, but bad because the line’s momentum makes me wonder even more if we’ll ever see more books like IWGP or Bambi and Her Pink Gun (in other words, books you’d think would have flown off the comic shop shelves).