Mike Richardson
We recently caught up with Dark Horse CEO Mike Richardson and two executives deeply involved in the company’s manga program, Director of Licensing--Asia Michael Gombos and Manga Editor Carl Horn, to discuss the state of the manga market in North America and Dark Horse’s place in it.  In Part 2, we talk about how Dark Horse selects titles, its growing omnibus program, and its plan for Shirow titles.  In Part 1, we talked about the overall market, the shojo/shonen mix, and the Hatsune Miku phenomenon.

Is your mix between shojo and shonen changing?
Richardson:  Going back to your original question, we’ve stayed pretty steady with our manga program.  We’re probably going to increase it a little bit this year. Our number of publications will probably go up.  We’ve always had certain success in titles like the Koike titles and the CLAMP titles and those types of books always keep us at a certain level and as we add new titles we’ve seen new successes.  We’re still firmly in the manga business, if that’s what you’re wondering.

In the old days (and these two laugh about it) how I’d pick manga is I’d go over and stand in a Japanese bookstore and just start going down the row and pulling out books I thought by looking at the art that I could sell in the United States.  So we had pretty good luck and then we brought Toren [Smith] on to help with that, and now we have Carl and Michael who both have extensive experience in and with Japanese material.  So it gives us really good insights.  They bring in stuff to me all the time.  CLAMP’s a no-brainer, but some of the other books that they brought in are books that I would have never have noticed without having them here.  Look, we’re staying in manga.  It’s been a great category for us and we’re going to try to continue to find the best manga books we can.

We’re curious about Astro Boy.  You’re going to start to do omnibi in September.  Are the smaller volumes out of print now and you’re starting over?
Richardson:  As they go out of print we’re replacing them.  We’re going to be doing that with a number of the manga series we have where we think now, in this particular market, people really like the perceived value of big, giant collections of Astro Boy or any of the other titles we’re doing now.  We announced at ComicsPro that we will be doing more and more manga omnibi.  We will be doing more of those as we sell out of particular titles.  That’s the direction we’re going with those: great value, good price, and lots of material as we continue to keep our backlist in print.

What’s the schedule on the Astro Boy?  How often are you going to put out the omnibi?
Richardson:  On Astro Boy, probably quarterly.  That’s usually the plan for these.  We don’t want to overwhelm the reader with having to buy these every month so probably a quarterly schedule.

So you’ll have all them back in print pretty soon, it won’t take too long.
Richardson:  No, it won’t take long. We’ll have them back.

What other titles are you going omnibize (to coin a word)?
Horn:  Of course, Oh, My Goddess, which is our longest running manga series.

Richardson:  I think it’s the longest running in the United States…in the world.

Horn:  Yes, it started in ’94 and the final volume is coming out this August.

Richardson:  So we’ve been there since the beginning on that.

Horn:  Our omnibus for Oh, My Goddess is patterned directly on our omnibus program for Cardcaptor Sakura because that was very successful for us.  It’ll not only be a good price, but will have nicer paper in this case, color artwork done with the approval of the original creator.  We’re omnibizing the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.  One thing we’re doing is bringing back a feature that people liked in the early volumes, which is that cardboard cover stock.  It gives you that tactile impression as well as a visual design.

Gombos:  And another one that’s often overlooked but a very important franchise for Dark Hose--we do a number of Evangelion spin-offs, and we are omnibizing The Shinji Ikari Raising Project, which we’ve done 16 volumes for.  It’s been a tremendous seller for us.  And my personal favorite Campus Apocalypse, which is a four-volume series that will be in one neat omnibus.  But those series have done tremendously for us.

Horn:  The Evangelion books have always interested me because it’s a chance to let people know about the phenomenon in Japan.  There are all these spin-off series that fans have supported.  It really gives you an image of what the fans want to see out of the series, not just the official story but also the by-story.

Gombos:  To bring it full circle with Carl and Evangelion, he actually edited the original Evangelion series.  Despite what you might have heard about Tokyopop, the first unflopped manga was in fact, Evangelion edited by Carl Horn far before Tokyopop was even conceived.

Horn:  Evangelion is still a very active franchise in Japan.  This is 2015, which is the year the original series was supposed to take place.  It started in ‘95 and was really futuristic then.  It’s a quadrilogy.  They’ve been doing this style for several years, the third film has come out and the fourth film is supposed to come out.  And God knows where it will go from there.  It’s very exciting to be part of this phenomenon which has never really been surpassed in the last 20 years in Japan as an anime.  There hasn’t been any anime that got people talking as much as this one.

Gombos:  Or spawned as much merchandise.

Richardson:  We’re headed back over to Japan to look at some more deals very shortly.

Don’t you have some Masamune Shirow stuff?
Richardson:  We just looked at rereleasing his Intron Depot books and there’s a new one coming.  Shirow is an important part of Dark Horse’s manga history.

Gombos:  The fact that the Appleseed, Orion stuff, Dark Horse is the only company he’ll work with.  There are a lot of frustrated European publishers that went to Shirow and wanted to know how they could deal with Appleseed.  He likes Mike and doesn’t need to go out and do too much with anyone but Mike.

Richardson:  We have a long and good relationship.

Anything else we should be talking about as far as your manga plans this year?
Richardson:  We’ll be sure to let you know when we make some announcements.

Click here to go back to Part 1.