In our 2005 Spring Comics feature, PW surveys the big new books, the big movie-tie-ins and a big new trend—yaoi—in manga.
The big news in graphic novels this spring is that the stratospheric growth rate of manga may finally be cresting—not that Asian comics aren't still huge and getting even more so in America, but the market is becoming a bit more selective when it comes to midsize imprints. ComicsOne's books are on hiatus, some CPM titles have been cancelled, and manga publishers are reportedly beginning to see an increase in returns from bookstores. The biggest manga companies, though, are doing just fine.
Viz has just announced the launch of Shojo Beat magazine, a companion to its enormously successful (175,000 circ.) Shonen Jump anthology, that will specialize in shojo manga aimed at teenage girls. Viz is also introducing a graphic novel line called Shojo Beat to complement its new boys' titles, like Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata's football manga Eyeshield 21.
Tokyopop, while maintaining a breakneck production schedule, is starting to develop its own original manga, produced in America, along with its licensed titles from Asia. The company's fifth Rising Stars of Manga anthology, collecting work of contest winners hoping to break into the manga field, will be out this summer. Lindsay Cibos and Jared Hodges's recent Peach Fuzz, now a full-fledged Tokyopop series, was a previous winner. Tokyopop is also expecting Richard A. Knaak and Jae Hwan Kim's Warcraft title, based on the tremendously popular online World of Warcraft role-playing game, to be enormous. And the house is also enthusiastic about the hit Korean series The Tarot Café by Park Sang Sung, as well as Segamu and Melissa DeJesus's American-drawn Sokora Refugees, a high-school comedy that involves elves, magic and lots of shower scenes, launching in April.
Elsewhere in the manga world, Houston, Tex.—based ADV is enthusiastic about the screwball high school comedy Cromartie High (there's an anime version, too), and expects its biggest release of the summer to be an all-ages series by Azuma, with the unusual title Yotsuba& (pronounced "Yah-tsu-bah-to)." DC Comics's CMX line is looking forward to the March release of Fujii Mihona's wacky Gals, and Del Rey Manga is launching two series, Genshiken and Nodame Cantabile, in May.
Now that every big Japanese series is being snapped up, though, lots of other companies are working on American-made manga. Promoted by an Internet campaign, the new indie manga house Seven Seas Entertainment launched in February with four domestically produced series. Its shojo title Amazing Agent Luna is being written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, who also write New X-Men for Marvel, and Jason DeAngelis and Jennyson Rosero's occult western, No Man's Land, is patterned on successful series like Trigun and Hellsing.
Some publishers are figuring out how to combine the selling points of familiar American franchises and manga. NBM is launching its Papercutz line of mass market graphic novels (priced at $7.99) for tweens, based the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books and drawn in manga-inspired styles by Lea Hernandez and Sho Murase, respectively. NBM publisher Terry Nantier said he's looking for "well-known and successful properties to license"; both of these lines are licensed from S&S, which relaunched an updated prose series last year. The first volumes of each will appear in April, and the second in July. And look for the first of a series of full-color Zorro graphic novels from NBM in May. It turns out there's a new Zorro movie slated to open later this year.
Texas-based manga house Antarctic Press (which was so far ahead of the manga curve that it's celebrating its 20th anniversary this year) has David Hutchinson's L. Frank Baum adaptation, Oz: The Manga in the works.
Of course, conventional American comics are preparing to capitalize on media tie-ins, too. Marvel has been assembling a mountain of Fantastic Four material in preparation for the FF movie opening July 8, including a Best of Fantastic Four hardcover in May and a hardcover collection of the Ultimate Fantastic Four series in June. Meanwhile, Dark Horse will be publishing Miles Lane and Doug Wheatley's graphic novel adaptation of another big action movie of the next few months: Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith.
On the not-a-movie-quite-yet superhero front, DC/Wildstorm is enthusiastic about Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days, collecting the first storyline of Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris and Tom Feister's series about a reluctant hero who becomes the mayor of New York City. And Marvel will be publishing a hardcover collection of Joe Casey and Scott Kolins's successful Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes miniseries.
Finally, 2005 has already seen a couple of noteworthy literary graphic novels, including David B.'s dark memoir, Epileptic(Pantheon), and Ho Che Anderson's Martin Luther King Jr. biography, King (Fantagraphics). The Plot, a fictionalized history of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion due in May from Norton, is, sadly, the final book by the comics legend Will Eisner, who died this past December.
Drawn & Quarterly's spring and summer releases include Michel Rabagliati's Paul Moves Out; a book of Joe Sacco's mid-'90s work called War's End; and Walt & Skeezix, collecting Frank King's early Gasoline Alley strips.
And Fantagraphics has a third volume of its bestselling archival collections of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts due in the spring.