Tokyopop has announced a major expansion of its manga line, which will double by the end of the year.  This expansion comes at a time that at least one other manga publisher is cutting back its titles dramatically, citing a crowded marketplace and unreasonable licensing fees (see 'Fanboy Restructures').  Tokyopop's manga launches include three Gundam Wing-related titles, a classic Japanese superhero comic, The Skull Man, and five shojo (women's) titles, Paradise Kiss, Marmalade Boy, Kodocha, Mars, and Planet Ladder. The shojo titles will be published in Tokyopop's  shojo anthology, Smile, and then collected into graphic novels.  The Gundam Wing titles will appear first as monthly titles and then collected into trade paperback collections.


Gundam Wing

Tokyopop will publish Gundam Wing: Battlefield of Pacifists as a monthly comic starting in October. Katsuhiko Chiba, author of Battlefield of Pacifists, has also written for the Gundam TV series as well as for Outlaw Star.  The Gundam Wing series established the property here in the U.S. with a strong showing on the Cartoon Network, which is about to launch two new (to the U.S.) Gundam series (see 'New Gundam Series on the Cartoon Network' ).  Tokyopop will publish Battlefield of Pacifists as a five-issue mini series and then as a trade paperback collection.  Like all the Tokyopop Gundam titles, Battlefield of Pacifists doesn't retell the anime stories, it fills in the gaps in the anime continuity by providing the definitive explanation of what happened between the Gundam Wing TV series and the movie, Endless Waltz.  Two other Gundam  manga titles, Endless Waltz, and Gundam Wing G-Unit will follow Battlefield of Pacifists providing over a year's worth of Gundam monthly comics that will be collected into three trade paperback volumes.


The Skull Man

The Skull Man is a Japanese superhero created by Shotaru Ishinomori, better known in the U.S. for another of his creations, Kamen Rider.  Kazuhiko Shimamoto is the writer/artist for this series, which features a masked crusader (the Skull Man) and his shape-shifting companion, Garo.  Look for The Skull Man to appear as a monthly comic beginning in November, with trade paperback collections to follow.


Shojo Titles

Thanks to Sailor Moon, its first manga success, Tokyopop has been a leader and innovator in the introduction of shojo (girl's or women's) comics to the U.S.  Tokyopop's Smile comic anthology magazine is about to gain a number of highly popular new shojo series.  Rather than appearing in monthly comic book format, the shojo titles will appear in Smile and then be collected into trade paperback collections.  This is way of manga publishing in Japan where most titles are serialized in giant comic anthologies and then published in paperback collections.  Two of the new series, Kadocha and Marmalade Boy, will be printed in the Japanese format, reading back to front, and right to left, so that the artwork will not have to be reversed


Paradise Kiss, which debuts in December, is an example of a more mature type of shojo manga aimed at young adult women.  Filled with lots of fashionable clothes (the heroine is a teenage bookworm turned supermodel), Paradise Kiss is drawn in high style by Ai Yazawa.  Even though Kodocha and Marmalade Boy have never appeared in English, these Japanese shojo favorites do have a following here in the U.S.  Another new shojo title Planet Ladder has a science fiction setting and an intriguing heroine who gets to decide which planet will rule over all the others, while yet another new shojo series from Tokyopop, which is called Mars, is a school girl romance saga that doesn't contain any science fiction elements at all.


By this time next year with the first wave of trade paperback collections of all these series in stores, retailers will have an increasing abundance of product of potential interest to female readers.  There is also a steadily increasing supply of domestically produced comics with strong appeal to women and girls, but tapping Japan's rich tradition of shojo manga can provide a wealth of material in a hurry.  Pop culture retailers face both a challenge to attract more female patrons and an opportunity to do so with the increasing number of shojo and crossover manga titles from Tokyopop, Viz, and Dark Horse.