Manga Links Worth Thinking About

Shaenon K. Garrity wrote an excellent overview of those little artist side notes found mostly in shojo manga. She provides a number of hilarious examples to support the idea that if you

Drunk manga artist

Read enough of these notes, however, and you get the impression that shojo manga artists are both incredibly boring and completely insane.

I was impressed that she did an entire column on the format without even mentioning the overused “I’m so sorry my art isn’t good enough” type of entry.

Having Faith in Continuing Series

A senior editor at Tokyopop wrote a column (link no longer available) about how readers interested in a series should buy the books instead of waiting to see how committed the company is to continuing it. On the one hand, yes, it’s economic reality that series that don’t sell can’t be invested in with limited resources, so their continuation may be in doubt. But blaming the customer for your company running close to the bone, especially when many of them have been burnt before by having a favorite series canceled mid-run … as Christopher Butcher points out … is somewhat argumentative and combative.

The Tokyopop column is a good read, though, if you were interested in knowing how important physical shelf space still is to a manga publisher. And it makes me wonder how the loss of a percentage of that space with so many Borders stores closing is going to change things.

The column author has also followed up in a comment at Butcher’s site to elaborate on her motivation for the piece.

Dark Horse as Manga Publisher

A clarification on my end: when I questioned Dark Horse being selected as Diamond’s Manga Publisher of the Year, my point (which I may have made too subtly) was to show how out-of-touch I thought direct market retailers were with manga fans, not to pick on Dark Horse as a publisher. Brigid follows up by saying

I think Dark Horse has succeeded so well because they publish manga that appeals to the typical comics store customer, an adult male who likes action stories with plenty of battles and some scantily clad ladies on the side. … I once described them as “manly manga for manly men,” and since that sort of story sells well in the direct market as American comics, it’s not surprising it sells well as manga as well.

America’s #1 Comic Publisher

Taken from the very end of Brian Hibbs’ Bookscan column, comes this figure: the #1 comic publisher in 2010, based on sales figures, was … Viz. It outsells DC by about nine million dollars and Marvel by $15 million. Let’s keep that in mind the next time someone talks about the “Big Two”.


  1. “(Viz) outsells DC by about nine million dollars and Marvel by $15 million.”

    That’s only in bookstore markets. In the direct market, Marvel outsold Viz by about $154 million and DC outsold Viz by about $121 million in 2010.

  2. What’s your source for those figures, please?

  3. John Jackson Miller’s sales figures for 2010 direct market.

    According to him, the overall sales for the direct market in 2010 was $418.63 million. The sidebar has each publisher’s share of the direct market by unit sales and by dollar sales.

    Share of Overall Dollars
    Marvel: 38.23%
    DC: 30.39%
    Dark Horse: 5.17%
    Image: 4.53%
    IDW: 4.08%
    Dynamic Forces: 2.65%
    Boom: 1.95%
    Viz: 1.42%
    Eaglemoss: 0.82%
    Avatar: 0.70%
    Other: 10.07%

    Based on that information, my calculations show that Marvel sold $160 million, DC sold $127 million, and Viz sold a little under $6 million in the direct market.

  4. Thanks for elaborating on that, but I suspect most of that is periodicals, not books, which means different things depending on what you’re interested in talking about.

  5. You don’t need to suspect anything, since Miller’s site clearly states that, as far as top 300 titles in each category are concerned, single issues outsold TPB’s and GN’s by more than three-to-one margin. ($245.72 million vs. $76.31 million)

    Still, assuming that ratio holds true across the board, it means Marvel sold about $37 million and DC sold about $30 million in book-form comics in the direct market, which means they still outsold Viz by more than $20 million in book-form comics in the direct market.

  6. I wouldn’t assume that ratio was that accurate, because Marvel’s collection program, in particular, is remarkably badly run, and there’s no indicator that there’s that much demand for books in the direct market. The weird thing about trying to compare the figures, of course, is that comic periodical life span in most cases is about a month, while books can sell for years.

  7. “I wouldn’t assume that ratio was that accurate”

    Maybe it’s not accurate across the board, but it’s accurate for the top 300 titles, which represent about 77% of the total sales for the year ($321.98 million out of $418.63 million).

    “Marvel’s collection program, in particular, is remarkably badly run”

    Oh, I completely agree. Marvel has a real problem with keeping what should be perennial sellers in print. On the other hand, they’re almost treating book-form comics like single issues by reissuing limited print runs of books in extravagant formats with variant covers, which may work in the direct market.

    “there’s no indicator that there’s that much demand for books in the direct market.”

    The direct market retailers have been ordering over $76 million worth of book-form comics per year for at least 2009 and 2010, so I think the indication for that much demand in the direct market is pretty clear.

  8. The best side notes I’ve ever experienced were in FullMetal Alchemist. Oftentimes they amused me more than the humor in the story itself (which I also liked a lot).

    I admit I bristled over what the senior editor at Tokyopop stated. I used to enthusiastically buy everything I wanted to read right from the start. And lately its been burning me more often than I’d like, I’ve been especially hesitant to start series that Tokyopop has. There have been quite a few series (from other publishers as well) that I’ve started that were later “indefinitely delayed” or outright cancelled. Once I realized I wasn’t going to be getting an ending, there were some series where I wished I had never gotten into the story to begin with. Plus Tokyopop takes a very serious approach to taking scans off web sites, which is fine…if you actually finish releasing the series. In situations where a fan was buying manga from a series that was then cancelled/indefinitely delayed, is it really that wrong that they get the ending to their story using scanlations? Clearly they want to experience a story and make sure the mangaka sees some profit…but if the publisher can’t follow through with releases I don’t see why the fan should be punished. But that’s a grey area that starts a lot of debate, I realize access to scanlations can be abused.

    HAHAHAHA I suppose you’re right, Dark Horse is quite manly. I actually think I own the majority of their manga series though. I have contradicting impulses, sometimes I want something filled with darkness and action and other times I want something light and romantic. Usually Dark Horse fullfills the first requirement really well. Although I admit Yen Press, Viz, and Tokyopop also have some entertaining darker series. But I’m really not sure which company I would pick as my favorite this year.

  9. I’ve got to agree with SKFK’s data on this one.

    Also, that article talks about non returnable vs book store sales. But even before the economy collapsed in 08, most comic shops already started basing their orders mainly on customer subscriptions. After 08 even more so. The days of the lcbs ordering a ton of each issue were over a long time ago. They just can’t afford to do that anymore. Given that, saying “the #1 comic publisher in 2010, based on sales figures” and not including direct market sales figures for “comics” seems kind of biased.

  10. […] an excellent editor, especially known for reaching out to fans, including most recently an essay on buying manga instead of waiting that caused a lot of useful discussion online. Earlier, she was a presence at the webcasts the […]

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