Sean Kleefeld caught Tokyopop once again teasing readers on Twitter with hints that they would be publishing new volumes of their OEL series. (OEL, or “Original English Language”, is an umbrella term for what would simply be called “graphic novels” from other publishers. They were original works created for the American market.) The company stopped publishing over a year ago but returned from the dead with print-on-demand editions of Hetalia, followed by one of their most popular OEL titles, Bizenghast. Just last week, though, the status of other OEL titles was back in the news with Stu Levy’s contradictory attitude about returning the rights to the original creators.
The key part of Tokyopop’s Twitter said:
Would you like to see us release new volumes of our old OEL titles ASAP or would you prefer we stagger it over the course of a few months? Just for clarification, we say OEL because that’s what we can easily do next as a publisher, whereas manga will take more time to negotiate.
I guess Stu’s not planning to release those rights after all. Sean makes the excellent points that this indicates once again how
it still seems unusual to make such a drastic change to try to return from such a drastic change only a year ago. If other folks do manage to pick up this story amid all the Comic-Con business, I can almost guarantee someone will use the term “whiplash.”
I think Levy and Tokyopop do deserve a lot of credit for helping to make manga popular here in the States. I doubt there are many people who would deny that. But with radical upsets like this, I can’t help but wonder how much MORE they could have done for manga if they could keep the company focused. Levy’s got a definite love of the medium and plenty of energy to market it, but damn if he doesn’t seem to always be distracted by the nearest shiny object.
Stu Levy: the Magpie Kitten of American Manga Publishing.