February 12, 2014

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Digital Manga Announces Big Tezuka Plans Via Digital Manga Guild

In an e-mail press release today, Digital Manga announced that they were going to use their crowd-sourced Digital Manga Guild to release the remaining Osamu Tezuka works that have not seen an official English Language release digitally via e-Manga.

As of this writing there was no link to the press release, so I'll quote it at length here:

Tezuka Productions Co. Ltd. (Main Office: Tokyo, Shinjuku, Takadanobaba.  President: Takayuki Matsutani) and Digital Manga, Inc. (Main Office: Los Angeles, California, USA.  President: Hikaru Sasahara), are proud to officially announce its latest partnership deal—to bring Tezuka’s backlist of manga titles, which have not yet been adapted and published beyond the shores of Japan, to the English language market, utilizing Digital Manga’s localizing production strong-arm, the Digital Manga Guild—to publish and distribute in digital editions. 
With over 250 of Tezuka Productions’ works untapped to the rest of the manga reading world, it’s the Digital Manga Guild’s privilege, pride and joy to be able to undertake this huge localization task and to help fulfill every manga translator, editor, and typesetter’s dream to work on such high profile projects. Digital Manga welcomes all localizers, especially Tezuka fans, to join the Digital Manga Guild, digitalmangaguild.com, and participate in the localization efforts to bring these great works to the rest of the world. Some of the most notable works DMG will start will be titles such as The Three-Eyed One, Vampires, Metamorphosis, Big X, and Rainbow Parakeet. 
 I am not well-versed enough in the manga world to speak about the advantages/disadvantages of the idea of the Digital Manga Guild. I admit it seems a bit strange, however, that such a high-profile creator would be given to amateurs for professional sale as the only method of delivery. Is the current state of manga in English that bad?

It's certainly a draw. I have no particular aptitude for such things (I can't read Japanese, so I can't imagine trying to edit it, and anyone who sees my handwriting knows I should *never* letter anything, even my own checks!), and even I was a bit tempted to see what I might be able to do, if it meant working on Tezuka.

However, this is the part that really caught my eye:
Plans for publishing the backlist of titles are tentatively set for Spring 2014, first with releasing digitally, Digital Manga’s already published English Tezuka works—Barbara, Swallowing the Earth, Unico, Atomcat, and Triton of the Sea on eManga.com—in development in the eManga platform, will be a specially dedicated section for all things Tezuka, “Tezuka World”, where Hollywood movie and television directors, script writers, and producers will be able to browse through the Tezuka properties and propose treatments for potential Hollywood projects. 
I know television and movies make money for comics, and I'm really happy that folks in comics are getting money they'll never see in comics when a TV pilot is ordered, but as a fan of the medium, I admit I die a little every time I see things like this. Part of the idea here is to get these ideas into English, not so much to be purchased by readers and fans, but to become the next Netflix Original.

Still, more power to them for being honest about it. And if it means that people like my friend (and former Comics Worth Reading blogger) Ed Sizemore get more Tezuka as a result, then it's a net positive. I just worry that comics as an art form for its own sake is falling apart at the seams, as I see things like this announcement or creators referring to their stories by "seasons" or projects like Cowboys and Aliens or Thief of Thieves that were nothing but blatant movie pitches.

Though Blackjack is pictured, it should be noted that he's firmly in the hands of Vertical, so it should be stressed that this is only for those creations which aren't licensed elsewhere. Given Digital Manga's wide reach across many digital platforms and its well-established Digital Manga Guild, it shouldn't take long to start seeing the results of this new endeavor.

As a person who enjoys Tezuka, I'll be watching this closely to see what transpires. If this works, it could be the start of a new way to get a larger amount of Japanese comics into the English market, with less risk for the parties involved, since it's a digital-driven company. Regardless, this is big news for a company that I most often see on the adult shelf and shows they are more than just steamy comic romances and erotica, something that I know, but may not be as widely understood.