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.