We recently caught up with Associate Publisher of Del Rey Manga, Dallas Middaugh.  In Part Three, we talk about the upcoming Marvel-Del Rey projects, Del Rey's publishing plans for books about manga, and the definition and categorization of manga.  In Part One, we talked about the state of the manga and graphic novel market so far this year and Del Rey’s place in it as well as the challenges of limited shelf space.  In Part Two, we talked about Del Rey’s mix of original English language and Japanese licensed material, the Del Rey and Del Rey Manga imprints, the impact of Kodansha’s plans to publish in the U.S., and the digital distribution of manga.


You referred earlier to your collaboration with Marvel. Is that still on track for early 2009?

Yes, that’s going great.  I’m the editor on the Wolverine manga, so I’m intimately involved with that one, but I’ve also seen the pages for the X-Men shojo manga that we’re doing, and I’m really excited.  The work we’ve got coming from all of our creators is really top notch.


Who is going to distribute the Marvel books and what imprint will be on them?

Those are going to be Del Rey Manga and distribution will be through Random House.


You’ve also done some books about comics--the Jason Thompson book and the Clamp book.  Is that an area that’s going to get more attention from Del Rey in the future?

We don’t have any other book specifically planned beyond those two. Certainly we’re really happy with the response.  I was editor on the Complete Guide to Manga that Jason Thompson did and I was exceptionally happy with that book.  We got nothing but positive reviews.  I was really happy with the sales on it. It’s kind of hard to know what the follow-up to that book would be though, since it’s a comprehensive list of all the manga released in the U.S.  I guess that we could do an updated edition.  But that’s an area that when the right opportunity comes to us, we’ll definitely do something with if we see potential for it.


Going back to the graphic novel space.  There’s been a lot of blurring of the lines between Japanese manga and manga-inspired work produced in the U.S. or other parts of the world.  From Del Rey’s prospective, what should the definition of manga be?

That’s a tough one, because there are a lot of different answers for it.  The simplest way is  to say that manga should be defined as comics from Japan.  But that is a definition that I find too limiting, and one that gets very blurry when you start to add in a number of different types of books.  Take our work Kasumi, which just came out.  Kasumi is a project brought to us by and American writer, Surt Lim, who partnered with a Japanese artist, so is it manga?  It’s a Japanese artist; it looks very much like manga, but it’s never been published in Japan and it clearly was not created in Japan.  My own feeling on it is that it’s just a question of semantics.  It’s not a question that I ever really worry about because at the end of the day it doesn’t really affect what I do and what books I acquire.


I had a really good conversation with someone at the Comic-Con.  This is person from Japan who I work with pretty frequently, and he asked what makes a good manga?  And I started to immediately answer him with all of the things that I look for if somebody’s bringing me an original project, whether the layout of the page is good, whether the art is dynamic, and he stopped me and said, no, the most important thing is whether it has heart.  And I stopped for a moment and thought, he’s right.  When we acquire a project, the first thing we look for is simply, does it have heart?  Is it good?  We’ll apply labels later.  And at the end of the day, we’ll apply labels to help us market and sell the project.  I don’t really care about those labels, they’re just something that exist to help me sell the books.  At the end of the day, whether it looks like manga, whether it doesn’t look like manga, what it comes down to is whether it's a good book; that’s all I really care about.


So was the Dean Koontz book Del Rey Manga or just Del Rey?

We released that under Del Rey, although to be honest I’m glad you asked that, because although we do technically have another imprint, Del Rey Manga, we don’t actually treat it as such.  We have a trade dress that we use for the Del Rey Manga books, but they also just carry the Del Rey logo, the same as a Terry Brooks or a Star Wars novel.  So at the end of the day, they’re really all just Del Rey books.  In this particular case, we didn’t give it the manga trade dress and that was really because of the Dean Koontz connection.


Let’s go at the “what’s manga and what’s not” question another way: how do you think retailers should rack manga-style material that’s produced by creators outside of Japan.  Should they rack it with manga or with American graphic novels?  Is manga too heterogeneous to be racked as a single category these days?

That’s a really, really tough one.  There are a lot of things that get in the way of racking manga differently.  Manga in Japan is broken down, not by genres as we do in the U.S., but by demographics, by shojo, shonen, seinen, josei, yaoi.  Those first four really have much more to do with who the reader is rather than exactly what the content of the book is.  So, you have to ask yourself, how would you break up this stuff on the shelves?  Do we do it by author?  I don’t think so, because a lot of Americans, myself sometimes included, have trouble with Japanese names.  We don’t necessarily remember who the author of a book is but we know the title really well.  Do we separate it out by genre?  That’s a tough one because the genres are often very squishy; they’re not really well-defined.  Do we break it out by demographic?  I think that’s mistake too because if you label a book “for girls” you may have boys who don’t want to look at it and maybe vice versa. 


My own feeling on it at this point is that manga is manga.  If it looks like manga, if it feels like manga, it should all be in the same section.  And until somebody comes up with a better way or until awareness of manga is much broader and deeper than it currently is, I think the system we have works all right.