Tokyopop closes office. Is the golden age of comic books coming to an end?

When I read on ICV2 that Tokyopop was closing it’s U.S. office, my heart sank a little.

The publisher is largely credited with introducing the manga genre/format to North American readers. (Remember Sailor Moon?)

Writes ICV2:

Tokyopop revolutionized the English-language manga business with its “authentic manga” program in 2002, bringing manga to bookstores and comic stores in a left-to-right trade paperback format similar to the  way manga is published in Japan (see “Tokyopop to Publish Manga in Japanese Format”). The new format, coupled with substantial outreach to new customers, especially teen girls in bookstores, brought legions of new fans to manga and comics in North America.

Comics Alliance says about the announcement:

While the company has suffered a number of setbacks over the last few years — including layoffs; the controversial handling of a line of original English language books; and the loss of the lucrative Kodansha licenses — it would seem that the recent bankruptcy of Borders, a critically important manga reseller in the U.S. market, was the final nail in the TOKYOPOP coffin.

Read More:

I’m not a big reader of manga so can’t say I’m really a fan of the publisher like I might of, say, Vertigo. But I’d recently discovered Brandon Graham’s King City (one of their non-manga books), which I’ve come to discover has quite the loyal following among fans and industry talent. I picked up a few of the Image 2010 editions completely by accident while browsing the shelves at 1,000,000 Comix a few weeks ago. The issues I’ve read have brought me much joy.

Unfortunately Tokyopop’s news comes at the same time as Dark Horse Comics, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2011, announced layoffs – seven people in total. Without knowing how large is its staff, it’s difficult to gauge the impact. Needless to say, these are slim operations, and based on the Twitter chatter, this was difficult news. And in the case of both companies, there are criticisms of mismanagement.

Nevertheless, this has me a little nervous. There are so many talented people putting out books these days. And yet, I’m not sure for how many more generations this medium is going to be around. The fact that sales of comics are stable at best, usually sliding, does not bode well. Ironically you’ll find more good material on the shelves these days that at any time in the history of the industry. I’ve been telling friends for years that we’re enjoying a golden age in comic books. Is the era coming to an end?

King City is a rare find. There are apparently few copies available. Collected editions are selling for big bucks online. There were some rumours the book was being reprinted for re-release, but that seems unlikely now.

So if you happen across a copy while browsing the comic store shelves, grab it and enjoy. This might be one of the last of its kind.


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