Marvel Manga Canceled

Word had trickled through the Twitterverse that the second volumes of X-Men: Misfits and Wolverine: Prodigal Son, Marvel-flavored manga which had been published by Del Rey, have been canceled mid-production. (It sounds like both were written, with at least twenty pages of pencils completed for Misfits.)

About the cancellation of Prodigal Son, writer Antony Johnston blogged,

Unfortunately, the simple truth is that not enough people bought them. Despite WOLVERINE being praised by readers and selected for two library YA lists, despite MISFITS making it onto the New York Times bestseller list, and not least despite all the efforts of Del Rey themselves and our editors there, there just weren’t enough readers to justify the costs. This is, sadly, more common than you might think in comics.

This is an unfortunate tale, but it is one that readers of more traditional Marvel comics have heard often in the last year. In this case, however, it is Del Rey Manga that is responsible for the cancellation. One wonders whether Marvel would have license to publish the already-produced material on their own, but one must also wonder whether it would be worth their while: according to Robot6's reporting of the Bookscan numbers, Misfits sold respectably by manga standards while selling 4,042 copies in bookstores last year. What is the yardstick by which each of these publishing segments measure success? How many units have to move in order for a line to be profitable?

Since they came out, Misfits and Prodigal Son have gotten 10 pulls and 2 pulls respectively here at iFanboy. Is this simply a case of incompatible audiences, with superhero fans being suspicious of manga and manga readers not taking to the X-Men? Putting a shojo spin on Professor Xavier's school seems like a chocolate-and-peanut-butter combination, but apparently it was not enough to sustain the series.

What can we learn from this? Was it a failure of marketing, of product, or nebulous business practices we mortals can never hope to understand? If it was a reasonable success, was it the licensing costs that sank it? Was it something else entirely?

Comments

  1. I was one of the 10 pulls I like Misfits but knew this would not last just like I know Marvel Anime won’t last either.

  2. RUNAWAYS was the perfet answer to hooking the Manga Audience into Marvel. Yet, it has lacked direction since BKV left. Kathryn Immonen had me excited for the tittle agian, but then she gets bounced off the title. New Propties, New Characters, not new skins

  3. Those are all good questions. I certainly don’t have the answers, but my *hunch* would be something like this:

    Lots of kids read manga. Part of the cache of manga is that it’s from Japan. There’s something cool about knowing that you’re engaging in a property that your parents don’t know anything about and don’t understand.  Turning the X-men into manga just for to acquire a newer younger audience strikes me as a move that even kids can see coming. I mean, why take some mainstream, watered down property that even your (:eyeroll:) parents liked, just because they thought they could disguise it in an art style that they think you think is cool.

    (The above is not intended to slight writers like Antony Johnston, who I genuinely like. Just trying to point how possibilities as to why it might not catch on, regardless of story quality.)

  4. And that should have been "cachet of manga." Although there certainly is a cache of manga coming from Japan. 😉

  5. and "point OUT possibilities…" Man, I am NOT having a good Monday of posting. 😀 Please forgive. Typing and not paying attention.

  6. I blame the St. Louis Cardinals

    I find they’re responsible for most things of this nature

  7. 1. I think this is jsut further evidence of what Dave Accampo mentioned above: In the ven diagram of western comic book readers and manga readers, there may not be as much overlap as some might hope. Either that, or the people in the overlap aren’t looking for western superhero manga, they just want Japanese manga.

    2. If sales were the issue and MISFITS was on The New York Times’ Best Seller List… I wonder what the minimum threshold is for that list.

  8. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Hey, whatever happened to those Wolverine and Iron Man animes we reported on a while back? 

  9. It should be noted that the New York Times "Best Seller" list is determined through a combination of actual sales, Borders clerk anecdotes, wishful thinking, and rigorous tea leaf analysis. It is, in other words, not nearly as scientific as I always thought/hoped.

  10. I just don’t want to be one of those 12-year-olds who sits on the floor at Barnes and Nobles’s reading manga without paying for it. It’s a choice you have to make.

  11. @Jimski: As a Border’s clerk, I am happy to know I contribute to the New York Times. 🙂

    I can say that no one, absolutely no one, bought these at my store. Flipping threw them one day, I can see why. Who wants to see the X-Men look like aneroxic women? That especially goes for the guys.

  12. Ah, that’s a reall shame

  13. @RoiVampire Ya me too. My boss let someone go to that stupid baseball game instead of work today leaving us 3 people short.  But if I wanted to go see a movie or maybe a comic related thing its thats stupid so no.

  14. I would think that a product like this would be in more demand in Japan.  It would introduce Japan to western comic culture by offering something more similar to what they are used to reading.  Americans that read manga are already hooked and don’t need Americanized manga. Comics are a niche market and demand for something like this is even smaller. I can’t say I’m surprised Marvel manga didn’t pan out.

  15. I like manga just fine, too bad I had no idea these were being published in the first place.

  16. @Bryce: They were on the Comics page every month.

  17. I think there is just to much of a disconnet between the art style of magna and the requirements of a succesful superhero comic.  Superheros are masculine power fantasies a their most basic and the characters of magna are inherently androgenous, thus non-masculine.  I think a comparison of sushi and hot dogs is more warrented then peanut butter and chocolate.  Same basic shape, completely different results.

  18. D=!!!!!

    =(

    (I liked them)

    @Spoons: That’s not true. Although there are several androgynous tropes in manga it isn’t prevalent in the medium, it’s just like assuming all comics have superheroes in them. I do think you’re on to something about desirable cultural aesthetics in comics though. At the end of the day Marvel going manga suffers much like superhero espionage does for similar reasons, there’s just not enough members of the readership purchasing it to make a profit.

  19. I’ll betcha the licensing and the actual production of the comics caused the overhead to be far more than what Del Rey’s manga division to be able to cope with normally. Although I don’t know how they deal worked out, but since Del Rey was the one doing the canceling I’d guess that means they were the once shouldering the cost while Marvel reaped royalties.

  20. I read both Manga and Western comics, and most of the time, when I see a western superhero dressed up in a book with manga art style, I somehow unconsciously just dismiss it and move on. When I look for Manga, it’s because I want to read something totally different from my regular western books.

    As an added tidbit: 

    During last year’s Free Comic Book Day, the artist for Wolverine: Prodigal Son, Wilson Tortosa was doing signings and sketches at our shop. He was dressed almost like Wolverine was in the cover of that book. By far the only artist I know of who cosplays as one of the characters he draws at an event.

  21. thank goodness it’s gone

  22. I enjoy Manga and Comics both. I don’t think anyone can truly say they hate either entirely. It’s like saying you hate Movies or TV Shows, there is bound to be one you’ll love. With the Marvel manga on the other hand, despite having been made to read it and genuinly enjoyed it, it felt very gimmicky. Something like Movie Poster Movies. Someone was in their office balancing a pencil on their nose, and though "What if the X-Men had big eyes and more angst? We should get someone on that." And despite that it was good, the gimmick of it somewhat always lingered. I feel the same way anytime I see a comic with Deadpool in it, or really with any event cross-over. They can be good, but how good they are don’t matter, they’re there to sell copies and make money, not give you that worthwhile story you haven’t seen in a few years.

  23. @Caleb: Every comic exists to sell copies. And you’re wrong if you think that the creative people behind big crossovers aren’t trying to tell great and worthwhile stories.