ICv2: It's been about a year since we talked last (see “ICv2 Interview: Stu Levy of Tokoypop”), so maybe you could talk, first, about the year since we talked last time. What's been going on with Tokyopop, what have your biggest sellers been, your biggest successes?
Stu Levy: Actually, next month will be the first anniversary since we started publishing again. We released, in the beginning, Alice in Wonderland and Finding Nemo for our Disney Manga line.
Since that time, Kilala Princess, which we had originally published the first two of, we've now released four of the five. The fifth is coming out in a couple of weeks. That's definitely our biggest seller, so far. We've got reprints, already, on volume one. We had a Scholastic [Book Clubs] deal, so we've had it published in there. It keeps being re‑ordered.
Nightmare Before Christmas: we did the hardcover limited edition, and it completely sold out. We're out of stock. We'll do a softcover of that this Halloween.
Stitch!: two are out, and the third is coming out in a few weeks. That, for us, like at this con, it's the number one seller. People love it.
On Kilala Princess, did Scholastic buy all the volumes, or just the first one?
So far, the first one.
So that's an opportunity for retailers, then, to sell the rest of the volumes to families that pick up the first?
Absolutely. We're looking, when we have all five, should we do a box set, should we do something collectible? We'll give it a little bit of time and make sure people can collect it.
We also took Bizenghast, which was one of our original manga from the old days, and we created a collector's edition, three‑in‑one. We have two of the three. The third's about to come out. Because it's an eight‑volume manga, the third one has the novel, as well.
They’re all $19.99, so three‑in‑one. They’ve done really well. We've got a lot of bonus art in there; it's a collectible edition.
It's an experiment to see, if this is working, are there other older properties that we've had that we can do collector's editions and put out? We're pretty excited about that.
We have some stock of our older stuff. For instance, Dramacon, which is Svetlana [Chmakova], who has now, since that time, done books with Yen Press. She's actually just put out her new book, called Brave.
There's excitement for what she's doing in the bookstores. Because of that, Dramacon is being restocked pretty proactively.
How many books do you have in print now?
If you include these older books that we've still got stock on, we probably have, I'd say, about 80 in print.
Of course, what just shipped is Beauty and the Beast, Belle's Tale, and The Beast's Tale. The box set is all ready; it's limited edition. That thing we're almost already completely out of. We've sold that into Walmart, some other shops.
We're optimistic that that'll be a big seller for us. Of course, there's the perspective of Beauty, Belle, and then we've got the Beast's perspective. Each book is a counterpart of the other. That's a fun, little novelty, especially if you're a fan.
Our big, exciting thing that we're coming out with in June is Disney Descendants. We're starting with a trilogy. That's full color, all artwork made in Japan. This will be mainly aimed at younger readers, so it'll read left to right, and 80 pages. It’s a trilogy, so you can read one‑by‑one, or at the end we'll combine them, and we'll create a graphic novel version of it, as well.
The first Descendants is the original movie. It's a retelling of the film, and then what we'll do is we'll have new trilogies coming out. Our plan is to be with the Disney Descendants property for a while.
Then we've got Tangled coming out, right when the Disney Channel movie is going to hit. We've got Disney Fairies. We're doing a line of these books.
Like Dance Dance Revolution?
A DDR, one of those. The girl in the story, she's a typical shojo manga girl. She's got two left feet. She has to learn to dance, and it's her dream. Along the way the Disney characters, like Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Stitch, Winnie the Pooh, a bunch of them help her learn, and are with her on her adventure, which is a fun, Disney rarity, I'd say.
Those are the main books that we're doing. Our very special new push is discovering Sophie‑chan. Sophie‑chan is a really unique creator that stands for what Tokyopop always was, not only aspiring to do, but what we were accomplishing.
She's living proof of that. That is somebody from another culture who was inspired by a different culture, and used their love of manga to, basically, give her a chance to fulfill her dreams. She’s a woman who's from the Middle East, from Iraq. She grew up in adversity, in an environment where she didn't have access to this type of pop culture, but she sought it out.
She found it. She got exposed, and then, on her own, she taught herself how to draw. She became a petroleum engineer. When her family emigrated to Canada, she decided to start her own YouTube channel and show how she is learning how to draw.
It became a hit. She's up to 370,000 subscribers. Then she created Ocean of Secrets, her first story. She self‑published it a few years back, and then we discovered it. Now we're putting it out as a manga.
It's thrilling to know that somebody had been a fan of manga, and anime, and Tokyopop in a place as far away as the Middle East, and then went on to chase her dreams. Now she's making them come true, and we can help facilitate that. For me, that's a very special thing.
It looks like it's right to left. Is that right?
She draws it in the authentic style, right to left. To me, she's a role model. There's so many young people that want to draw and want to find a way to express themselves. If someone like her can do it, and commit, and find a way to come through and succeed with it, I think that it's inspiring to others.
Anything else later in the year that we should know about?
We have Grimms Manga coming out for holiday season. That's a story that we originally created in Germany with the Japanese artist who is the sister of the Princess Ai artist. There's some interesting connections there.
She did a series of short stories, manga style, based on Grimm's Fairy Tales. Famous ones like "Little Red Riding Hood," and then less famous ones. They're beautiful, so we're compiling them into a thicker book, because it was two volumes.
We'll be releasing that with color pages, and stuff, for Christmas. That's coming out.
He's with his brother. Right when he goes to save him, he doesn't know he has this power. He turns his brother into gold, and now he lost his brother.
He spends his time trying to find a way to save his brother, but in the meantime, inadvertently, is turning things into gold. Everyone's after him, trying to catch him and get his powers. It's a real One Piece-style adventure, shonen story.