First, let me direct you to the MangaVillage Roundtable regarding the Marvel manga crossovers. I was allowed to participate with some truly instrumental minds, some people that know much much more than I do about manga and comics in general, and I am truly happy to have been a part.
As much as I rallied for the Marvel crossovers, I find myself more and more shaken by comments by John, in particular, about the true purpose of the Marvel crossovers, and for a few reasons. Let me explain myself. Marvel has decided to release two manga that feature characters from their X-men IP, a book aimed at boys about Wolverine, and a book aimed at girls about Kitty Pryde “as the only girl in the all-boys School for Gifted Youngsters” who eventually helps “form the X-men.” Both series will be two volumes long (a fact that disturbs me) and will be at the regular Del Rey price ($10.95 USA).
I really like the idea of a manga that features characters from the X-men world. X-men is by far my most favorite series of comics of all times (barring Calvin and Hobbes), and introducing characters in a format I mostly dislike to a format I like is a good thing for me. X-men also have a great pull for the non-comic book reader, because of their movie time. They’ve caught a bit of the public eye, and they’re more likely now than ever to be picked up at a local Borders or Barnes & Noble than their pamphlet book counterparts. Manga is also a much more accessible format for women, and for people who don’t do normal comics.These reasons give weight to why Marvel would release their characters in a different format.
But, let’s face it, the main reason why Marvel is releasing manga-themed X-men books is clear; they’re trying to make more money off of their characters, and they’re trying to get some exposure in the manga side of comics by releasing manga through a well respected, well known manga publisher. Manga has been doing better than traditional comics as of late, so I think it’s reasonable to want to tap that kind of revenue stream.
The two books coming down the line fit into classic genres of manga. The first book is a shonen version of Wolverine fits surprisingly well with the timeline of the release of Hugh Jackman’s 4th take on the Wolverine IP, and it probably will get sales. My guess is that it’s the safer of the two titles, because it doesn’t really do anything new with the series, and it should probably get regular comics buyers to take a look at it.
The problem with the title is that already, people who buy manga are involved in series that are undoubtably better than this new book, like Naruto or Bleach. So, your main shonen manga purchasers are probably already involved in a series, and will probably skip this one to get the latest volume of their favorite series. That means, by and large, you’re looking at people who normally don’t buy manga and pamphlet comic book guys to pick up the new series. That might not be a good bet.
The second book, the shojoized Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, is more objectable based on content than the former, considering the fact that Kitty Pryde, a character that didn’t exist until 1980 is now the “only girl” at the Xavier Institute which originally started back in 1963, with Jean Grey, our lovable sometimes-Dark Pheonix and Scott Summers love intrest. It seems odd that they chose Kitty to be the shojo heroine, but if you think about it, it’s not that difficult to comprehend. Kitty is the lost and forlorn character in the 3rd X-men movie, and Marvel probably has data that show that she connects well with the segment of the population that they’re targeting with this book. Jean is kind of the bad guy in X-3, after all. Still, this change in storyline doesn’t really affect the people that would care (ie. the comic junkies) because they’re most likely to not read it. It’s not written for them, its written for girls.
So, we have a shonen that will connect with customers, but probably not most of your regular shonen junkies, and a shojo that definitely won’t attract comic book junkies, but may have a significant pull with girls that watched the X-men movies. The more I analyze the subset of people that are going to be interested in these books, the more I realize what a small portion of the manga buying population it is.
To drive things further into the ground, Marvel has decided to only run two books in each series. As an OEL title, coming out and saying “two books for each series,” gives me some bad conceptions, which I’ll go ahead and list:
1) These books are quick shots into the manga industry, and an attempt to make some quick money: If they don’t work out, well, they didn’t lose that much, since they printed a total of 4 books.
2) They probably aren’t expecting these books to be good: If you think you’ve got a good thing coming down the pipe, you at least give it the ability to breathe and see what it does in the market. Coming right out and saying it’s only going to be 2 volumes long tells us that you aren’t investing in the story.
3) Normally, a one or two volume manga is kind of rushed.It’s going to be two books, and that really can only be helpful if you want to, A) stem the flow of blood, B) get out quick while the getting is good. I wish I could see a bit more commitment to the property, but I guess that’s not to be.
4) There’s no room for growth: what if you want to continue? What happens if the series is a hit? Marvel only signed on for two books, so if the series does remarkably well, it will take time to renew contracts and get things geared up for an extension of the series. This means that if the series turns out to be really good, it may lose steam in the process of getting it extended.
I’m supportive of an X-men crossover, but I think it’s pretty stupid the way that Marvel is going about it. I guess time will tell us if the books do anything or not.