Viz Media has now become the latest manga company to look to original content from American and European sources for growth opportunities. With its announcement that it is reviewing portfolios at San Diego Comic Con (see “Viz Seeks Original Comics”), Viz joins the other two companies in the top three, Del Rey and Tokyopop, by beginning to build content from scratch.
Tokyopop has its Rising Stars of Manga and “world manga” titles; Del Rey’s expanding portfolio includes titles based on literary properties (with and without the Dabel Brothers) and the occasional rock star (Avril Lavigne). And Dark Horse, of course, was a publisher of American titles before it began publishing manga titles decades ago.
Viz also has company as an American subsidiary of Japanese parent(s) looking to material from the Americas. Aurora Publishing, the one-year-old subsidiary of Japanese publisher Ohzora, has also been looking for material here.
With manga market growth in North America slowing (see “Graphic Novels Hit $375 Million”) and limits to the number of titles that can be absorbed, the battleground in the manga business is increasingly expanding to include markets around the world for both talent and sales. And this is a reflection of a broader trend, that extends beyond Japanese material or publishers, toward a growing flow of comic material across borders.
Japan remains the toughest market for material from other countries to crack. But even that may be changing, as the U.S. subsidiary of the two largest manga companies in Japan begins its search for original comics. Viz Media’s Marc Weidenbaum, VP Original Publishing, and Eric Searleman, Senior Editor, the execs handling the search for original content answered in the affirmative when we asked whether there is American material that would sell well in Japan. “Certainly,” they said. “Both countries have their own rich, indigenous graphic-storytelling cultures. There are bridges yet to be built.”