Viz Launching Imprint for Original Graphic Novels
This is a major change without much detail behind it yet. Viz Media, the long-standing publisher of translated manga, has been operating in the US since 1986. It’s owned by three major Japanese publishers. Many observers of the comic market, coming out of the superhero world, don’t pay attention to just how substantial they are. They have almost a quarter of book market graphic novel sales, far above any other publisher.
Now they have announced that they are launching Viz Originals, a new imprint “dedicated to publishing original graphic novels developed by manga-inspired creators.” Later this year, they will be taking submissions, either at conventions or online. They want “skillful black-and-white artwork and compelling stories” aimed at either young adults or adults, done in left-to-right format.
With the first books scheduled for 2020, they must already have some titles on the schedule, but no word as to whom they’re working with yet. Executive editor Fawn Lau told Publishers Weekly that
the new imprint will feature “mostly creator-owned” works. She also expects to publish “adaptations of prose works and gaming tie-ins” and other works that appeal to the target audience.
It seems that enough young creators have now grown up on manga that Viz wants to give them a place to publish, since the manga-influenced style isn’t always welcomed by traditional American comic publishers.
Viz is far from the first major manga publisher to try this. Tokyopop started putting out “OEL manga” (Original English Language manga) over a decade ago, with uneven critical results. Several of the creators have gone on to significant careers elsewhere, but Tokoypop’s exploitative contracts with young artists means those early projects are likely locked up forever.
Yen Press launched JY, an imprint for middle grade graphic novels, two years ago. Their best-known publications are Svetlana Chmakova’s Berrybrook Middle School series (starting with Awkward — Chmakova got her start with the OEL Dramacon from Tokyopop) and a comic version of Disney’s W.I.T.C.H.
However, Viz’s size and expansive scope for the project means they could revolutionize graphic novel publishing.