Insert “flexing muscles” pun here

June 16, 2007

According to this piece in Publishers Weekly (found via Blog@Newsarama), DC has joined forces with Flex Comix, a newish Japanese manga company that provides digital content for handheld devices, with eventual collections in print. Why would they do such a thing?

“DC Comics president Paul Levitz described Flex Comi[x] as an ‘innovative force.’ Flex Comi[x] CEO Seiji Takakura said the new venture ‘will bring authentic Japanese manga to the worldwide English-language audience in new and exciting ways.’”

That strongly suggests Flex’s interest is in building with a U.S. manga imprint to facilitate English-language licenses for its properties. And while DC probably wouldn’t mind having a first-look relationship with a Japanese publisher, something tells me that’s not their only interest in the partnership.

Simon Jones of Icarus Publishing notes:

“[T]his news combines manga, one of the biggest stories in the past ten years of comics, with alternative digital distribution, which may be the biggest news for the next ten. This will, at the very least, give DC valuable experience in both key areas as they develop a future online strategy for their own domestic output.”

I think the experience is probably the key attraction. DC doesn’t seem to have trouble securing interesting properties for its CMX roster so much as marketing those titles as successfully as some of their competitors in the category. And given that Flex is in its early days in terms of content creation (it’s only seven months old), there’s no guarantee that it will funnel solid sellers (or even licensable properties, as Jones notes) into CMX.

So that leaves digital distribution as the likeliest lure, which certainly makes sense. I suspect that any licenses DC picks up from Flex will be gravy, and that the success or failure will rest on the portability of Flex’s business plan and how it helps DC to position itself to digitally distribute its own properties when handheld technology catches up. (I think digital distribution of DC’s properties in Japan would also fall into the category of gravy, though I don’t know enough about the demand for U.S. comics in Japan to parse that. Every source I’ve run across indicates that demand isn’t exactly roaring, though.)

Shelf space

June 16, 2007

We went up to Pittsburgh last night and stopped at one of the older Borders. They’ve made some changes to their layout, swapping the graphic novels and manga with the fiction and literature, if you can believe it. The comics sections seem to have expanded somewhat, but especially the graphic novels. The manga selection doesn’t seem to be any more diverse, though the selection of other graphic novels seems like it’s a lot more comprehensive.

The store’s layout is kind of weird. It’s on two floors, with a big opening down to the lower level. The graphic novels and manga used to be on the shelves running along the railing around the opening, the new home of Hamingway and Austen and their ilk. Now the comics on the main walls, and they’re some of the first things you see when you walk in. They also seem to have moved some of their other shelving units so that they could set up a seating area near the manga, which makes sense.

There were a few kids reading manga in some chairs near the shelves, but there were more thirty-something men looking at the graphic novels, which was a change of pace. Those DC Showcase editions seemed to be the big draw.