Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tezuka in the USA: PANEL RECAP

As promised, here are some pictures and comments from the Tezuka in the USA: A Manga Publishers’ Forum event we attended two weeks ago at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It was a cool opportunity to hear reps from three of the major manga publishers dish Tezuka, each giving their own history and thoughts on English-reading audiences' relationship to the God of Manga.

While the panel started out a bit slowly, with a leisurely retelling of Viz's Tezuka bibliography, the group later got on to issues of marketing Tezuka to Pokemon and Naruto readers over the past two decades, each company's unique take on being a manga publisher in 2007, and all hinted at the generally cutthroat world of licensing titles.

AS A RECAP (for those keeping track), TEZUKA TITLES IN ENGLISH SO FAR:
Viz Media
Phoenix (11 volumes)
Adolf (5 volumes)
Black Jack (2 volumes)
Princess Knight - excerpt in July 2007 issue of 'Shoujo Beat'

Dark Horse
Astro Boy (23 volumes)
Metropolis (1 volume)
Nextworld (2 volumes)
Lost World (1 volume)

Buddha (8 volumes)
Ode To Kirihito (1 volume)
Apollo's Song (1 volume)
MW (1 volume - FALL'07)
Dororo (multi-volume set - SPRING '08) <--- [news to me, and unofficial so far]

(Information taken from the extensive Tezuka resource, Tezuka in English.)

In no particular order, here are random notables (mixed in with my own brain farts elevated musings) that I scribbled down during the discussion:

#Everyone asked about Naoki Urasawa's Pluto says it's one of the most amazing manga titles they've ever read. If you haven't heard about it, it takes one short story from Astro Boy (The Greatest Robot on Earth from Volume 3, to be exact) and spins an entire series from the perspective of a few minor characters (in Urasawa style). Think Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, but with Astro Boy making an actual appearance (in volume 6, I hear). Someone (Carl?) said "Pluto is the Watchmen of Seinen Manga". I think there are tentative plans to publish Urasawa's 20th Century Boys, and perhaps a Pluto release won't be more than a few more years away?

Click the image for a preview (in Japanese) of Volume 1 of Pluto!

# On the topic of book design: Ian and Alvin describe the publication of Adolf as an interesting experience, as the title was purposely packaged to look like literature and not manga. They singled it out as one of the only manga with photos used for the cover design. On one volume, the kimono woman was a book designer at Viz, on another the Hitler ralley was actually a stock photo of some rock show, and the Nazi boy on The Half-Aryan was the son of some Viz staffer's friend.

#Talking about early manga experiences, Carl mentioned seeing the short Jumping from Tezuka on HBO. I wonder what the hell program featured experimental anime back in the '80s? Here is Jumping:

#As for Dark Horse's relationship with Tezuka, apparently Tezuka was invited as a special guest and attended the 1980 Comic-Con. (HOLY SHIT!) There, DH publisher Mike Richardson (who had seen Astro Boy on ABC in '63 like many other comic nerds his age) started to pursue Tezuka to publish his work in English someday. He saw Tezuka akin to Moebius and other important international cartoonists that deserved further recognition of their work stateside.

#DH will be reprinting the long out-of-print Volumes 1 & 2 of Astro Boy. This elicted great applause from audience members (including the series' translator and my hero Fred Schodt). Dark Horse DOES have another Tezuka project in the works (at or beyond the intial discussions point already with Tezuka Productions) but can't comment on it yet. Innnnnteresting.

#Alvin Lu describes a lot of the manga being released over the years (in Pulp, etc) that is described as underground manga as not THAT weird, but just radically different than what is normally released by US manga pubslisher. They describe this stuff as being basically SEINEN manga, and makes up some of what Dark Horse is putting out these days (incidentally, these titles are some of our favorites, the ones that seem to be facing challenges staying afloat). Alvin complains that it's often hard for people to conceptualize Seinen manga, but as a parallel Carl offers this quotable, "Vertigo is seinen manga." I wonder if that analogy would help publishers marketing to the American comic buyer?

# Carl Horn gave interesting, thoughtful commentary when I posed the question of cancellations to him: In a nutshell, he said they don't doubt the sincerity of the core readers; as Alvin addded, "There wasn't anything wrong with the readers of Pulp, there just weren't enough of them." Carl says they try to license titles they think they can release, but it can be frustrating (for them and for readers). For Pulp, Alvin pointed out that at the time, Viz had the luxury (because of the boom in Pokemon manga/merchandise) to be able to subsidize and do the weird stuff with Pulp. That's right, Pokemon paid for Pulp (thanks Pokemon?!).


Carl and Anne

Ian and Alvin

Title slide from Anne's presentation on production and marketing/publicity by Vertical for their Tezuka releases.

Singing the praises of touch-up artists and the challenges they face (panel taken from Phoenix)

Proof in the pudding, Vertical makes Tezuka's works LOOK GOOD.

Fred Schodt took the chance to question Anne about some of the interesting details of their Buddha releases.

Me and Evan holding it down with Mr. Fred Schodt. He is a seriously awesome and generous dude.


Anonymous said...

Urusawa's PLUTO sounds really great.

can we not use the term 'brain fart' on this blog any more?

Dan said...

"bryan reynolds," are you bryan reynolds of willard fame?

Anonymous said...

Astro 1 & 2 are easy...Try to find Adolf 1. Viz is evil!

Khursten said...

what an amazing talk! I didn't know Adolf was in english. ><;; (then again, I'm not particularly keen on those book covers. Uhmm... They look like those star wars book covers. mwr.) Looking forward to seeing pluto translated though! :3

That pic with Schodt is priceless. <3 <3

Anonymous said...


i'm not Bryan Reynolds of Willard fame.
i hope you'll explain what Willard is.

i am bryan reynolds of Bruit Vert fame (, and bryan reynolds fame (, and Meteor Earth fame (, and FTHNDR fame (
enough links now, all though there're more.

Dan said...

hi bryan reynolds. aside from the name of a movie starring crispin hellion glover, willard is a dorm that i once lived in, across the hall from another dude named bryan reynolds. this bryan reynolds now lives in japan, so i thought it might not be far-fetched for you to be him. thanks for the links though, lolz!

N.F. said...

thank you for this very fascinating recap...I enjoyed JUMPING a lot! That was really amazing...

Ryan S said...

dang dude, brain fart has been stricken from the record. don't pretend like you dont love it

Ryan S said...

re: pluto, we can only hope! You can find Adolf if put in the leg work and dig through used shops here and there. (mine were found online via some shops)

and yes, Schodt is the awesome dude ever.

Ryan S said...

yeah, there are actually a few other Tezuka shorts on youtube, if you dig around a little.