Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tokyopop, Etc.

Most of you have probably heard the news about Tokyopop closing it's doors (There was a nice short article on The Beat about it yesterday!) and thought about the possible impact it might have on some of the titles stuck in limbo since they were canceled, including Dan Hipp's Gyakushu, Brandon Graham's King City, Ross Campbell's The Abandoned, and my East Coast Rising. I obviously have mixed feelings about this, because while I was working on my book I had a pretty good time, but after canceling my second book 120 pages in I obviously still have some bitter feelings- and their closing does make me excited that I might be able to one day finish the story. Of course the hard part is if that time ever comes, I'm pretty booked for work, and my style and storytelling has changed so much- it will definitely be a challenge to pick up again! But a challenge that I'd be happy to step up to, if the time comes.

Tokyopop gave me a huge opportunity to publish my first solo graphic novel, one that paid off with an Eisner nomination for Best New Series, and as a finalist in the first International Manga Award. The book might be silly and a bit juvenile, but I still look back and remember how fun it was to draw, and all the good times I had working on it. It's also nice to look back on TP's early influence, breaking into book stores and opening up a section of the market that was until then impenetrable. They took chances on new creators, and for a while they had a great team of editors, writers and artists working for them!

A lot of people blame TP's downfall on Borders closing- though I want to talk about something different, about how they stopped being a publisher and started being an IP hoarder. To be a successful publisher I would have thought you'd have to make publishing a priority- and by canceling so many books and concentrating harder on their media developments over the promotion and production of the comics they published, they signed their own death warrant.

That's not to say it's bad to cultivate options for a property outside of comics, but it seemed, for my book and from my perspective at least, that they put zero effort into marketing East Coast Rising. I had issues with the design of the book that went unheard. I even heard that they didn't stock my comic in many stores. I felt like they were more excited when my book garnered attention from animation and video game companies than when it got an Eisner nomination. To me, I don't really care about media rights. Money is great and everything, but I'm in it to make a good book. And I think that's where our interests were divided.

Maybe my work was so different from the manga that they produced, that they didn't know what to do with it, or how to market and sell it- but that didn't stop it from getting an Eisner nom, some great reviews, and international acclaim from Japan. It even had a few foreign language editions including Italian and Finnish. Obviously it had potential to get traction, but somehow it missed the mark. It makes me think the book would have done better at a different publisher.

Tim Beedle, my editor on this book, was lovely. I also worked with Fawn Lau as a letterer, and she was great too! I can't just point my finger wildly around at the company and place blame on everyone, or a single person- some amazing individuals worked there! But the truth is there were some weird decisions being made. And as a creator, even though my editor was great, I never felt like I was important to the company, and that on the whole, my book didn't matter. I didn't feel looked after. And I guess my feelings were justified when they canceled my book with no warning. I even went to their office for a meeting to try and get the print rights back, or just get them to print it again- well I bet you can guess what answer I got.

Maybe TP just went around things wrong. If Stu Levy wanted to make a media company, I feel like he should have started it that way instead of trying to get into movies and other media through comics. That notion has always seemed backwards to me- if you want to make a movie, fucking just make a movie! It might not be easy, but it makes a lot more sense than making comics to make movies. That's like making cookies and hoping they will turn into a cake in the oven!

So yeah, I guess that's all I have to say. I'm excited at the prospect of maybe finishing my book, so it's bittersweet feeling to see TP go (although everyone I know who worked there was already gone...). I feel a little selfish being excited about that, but hey. I'm allowed to be selfish sometimes. I honestly don't have any hard feelings, but I do have some advice for Stu Levy: Next time you make a company, make sure the initials don't also stand for Toilet Paper.

12 comments:

Anton said...

The whole comics to movies thing has always bugged me on one level or another, they are comics, its an art form that I have loved for as long as I can remember, and the push to turn every little thing into a film just comes off kind of weird. Its like the film companies don't was to go to the trouble of doing there own story boards so they take a decent comic and turn it into a 90 min mash up of bad pop songs and stupid hair... anyways, if you ever get back around to East Coast Rising that would be really epic. Even with your new style I would love to see what happens next.

Ryuu said...

I bought ECR at Borders, so it was stocked in some. I live in hope that you will get it back and one day finish it.

Dan Howard said...

Your book was GOOD. Hell the best things that came out of TP were yours, Ross', the books that were different from the shitty magical girls, GothLoli, and other typecast tripe that polluted most of the market.

Joe said...

My biggest problem with TP, as a customer with no inside knowledge, is that they seemed most interested in building TP as a brand. In interviews I've read from editors of other manga publishers, they'll say something like "Our success comes from pushing the titles, not the brand." Maybe the editors of TP felt the same way, but that didn't seem to be the way the company ran as a whole. When I think of Viz, Dark Horse, Vertical, and Yen Press, I think of Vagabond and 20th Century Boys, Gantz and Oh My Goddess, Buddha and 7 Billion Needles, and Yotsuba&! and Haruhi Suzumiya. When I think of Tokyopop I think of that ugly logo and how they happened to pick up some good titles along with a ton of crap.

Mike Sudduth said...

Man, I LOVED East Coast Rising. I found that book my sophmore year of college. It was right around the time that I was making the decision of what I would do with my illustration degree, and that book really helped push me to start doing comics. It was also the first book of yours that I ever bought. I also remember running around for a a year looking for the 2nd volume after it had been solicited for summer and I couldn't find it anywhere. Despite this what I know was a huge disappointment for you, you have been so insanely successful as an artist and creator because you've worked your ass off. All that said, seeing ECR continue would be pretty friggin awesome

ross said...

i'm really skeptical we'll get our rights back since TP's HQ in Germany is still active, they're like a disease and unless you eliminate EVERYTHING it'll keep sustaining itself!

i feel all the same ways you do. your situation was worse than mine though, since i never even got to draw anything for my second book, i never had all that work down the drain. they definitely didn't know what the hell to do with my book, like you said, even though i knew that and gave them suggestions of how/where to advertise it. they ignored it, of course, heh.

i remember finding out that they didn't even bring copies of my book to the conventions they went to. -_-

Tim said...

Some great thoughts and a very fair assessment of Tokyopop as a publisher. All of us working in editorial and production at the time were there because, like you, we wanted to make good comics. However, it became clear that after the first year of publishing global manga, the company outlook had changed. Tokyopop stopped seeing themselves as a publisher and instead began viewing themselves as a multi-platform entertainment company, and in so doing, seemed to lose interest in the very things that had made them successful.

It would be easy to get frustrated with Tokyopop, but the bottom line for me is that while they may not have always been handled right, we did produce some pretty awesome books during the years I was there. I'd love to see more East Coast Rising from you and more Abandoned from Ross. If those series were to live on past Tokyopop, it would help affirm that those of us who were there to make good comics had the right idea!

hectorlima said...

great post, Becky. show them like it is, girl.

I'm tired of seeing comics being used by media rights scavengers and sub-celebrities as means to secure a movie deal or by starstruck comic authors who are in this only to get Hollywood attention.

for every Gerard Way, who has shown a genuine love for the medium, you get several tv writers and actors going that dreaded route and producing insipid comics-as-storyboards.

hope you get your rights back and place ECR at Dark Horse, Vertigo or Image.

good luck!

Hector

hectorlima.com

Svetlana Chmakova said...

Great post, Becky! :D I certainly hope that one day I'll get to hold the following volumes of ECR, the first one was brilliant... But IMHO, I have to really wonder if any rights will be coming back to anyone--in my understanding TPOP was an IP developer on the outset, since that contract wasn't really a book-publishing contract per se, it was more a media development agreement. Perhaps TPOP will continue trying to develop it into other things?... We'll see, I suppose.
In meantime, let's make comic books!!! COMICS TEAM 4EVER <3

Robert Trujillo/Tres said...

Real talk. The reason I found your work was through "East Coast". Thats wack, keep on making art though sis.

Andy said...

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