This one again breaks new ground: It will bring a previously untranslated manga by Osamu Tezuka into print in English for the first time. Barbara is about an author who brings home a drunk homeless woman. “But just as Mikura is no saint, Barbara is no benevolent guardian angel, and Mikura grows obsessed with discovering her secrets, tangling with thugs, sadists, magical curses, and mythical beings — all the while wondering whether he himself is still sane.”
I don’t think I’m interested in signing up for an exploration of madness described as a “baffling book”, since I find myself discouraged by Tezuka’s adult works and their problematic treatment of women anyway. Doesn’t matter — after two days, the project is already funded. So DMP will “translate and produce this 430+ page book in paperback in a large size: 5 7/8″ x 8 1/4″, the same size as [their] previous Tezuka release, Swallowing the Earth.” (No word on how much of the funds will go to paying a translator, or if they’re going to get fans to do it.)
Digital Manga is really taking customer participation to a new level. Certain backers bought themselves, in addition to a copy of the book when it’s printed in July,
Membership in the Barbara Producers Committee, with updates on the translation and production process and the chance to weigh in on decisions including logos and the final design of the book.
DMP also uses these campaigns as a way to clean out the closets, giving backers at certain levels the ability to choose volumes of manga from their backlist at the approximate cost of $5 a book.
Open questions do remain. How large will the print run be? Will DMP distribute this manga through bookstores and other outlets, or sell it exclusively themselves (thus limiting the audience)? Because of the unusual printing funding, will the book stay in print for any length of time, or will this wind up being first run and done? Then again, given the specialized adult content — “sadomasochistic clubs, black masses, mother goddess cults, voodoo murderers” — perhaps this is a better work to aim at a more limited, dedicated audience.
Update: Lissa Pattillo reports that “Digital Manga’s Ben Applegate has stated that copies will also be printed and distributed to bookstores as well…. There’s no word on what size this print run will be, though, and it’s questionable how available this title will be when they need to seek outside funding from consumers just to finance it initially.”
Lissa goes on to express some very valid concerns stemming from seeing a publishing company use a tool originally geared for individual creators, summed up as, “There’s a difference between empowering a consumer and passing off the responsibility to them.” She goes on:
I feel like our love for manga is being taken for granted. Taken for granted we’ll do not only do the fund-raising but the marketing now as well…. This is different from community hyping — this is crowd-sourcing that lets a company sit safely on the sidelines while we shoulder the burden.