NYCC, Xtra: Tokyopop Panel

Sat, February 24th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Scott Meaney, Contributing Writer

After the VIZ crew cleared out, Tokyopop the other juggernaut of American Anime took their place behind the podium at the New York Comic Con. The speakers included Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, Paul Benjamin, Eric Wight, Amy Mebberson, James Barry andSvetlana Chmakova

Unfortunately, disaster briefly struck as Tokyopop couldn't seem to get their slideshow to appear onscreen.

"Ummm… so we don't have any images," said Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, Tokyopop Editor and panel host as we stared at the blank screen.

Stepping away from her machine, Lillian opted to interview the panel while the team worked out the technical difficulties. She posed her first question to Paul Benjamin, writer of "Pantheon High," a story that takes high school archetypes and juxtaposes them with mythological figures. So why he choose to explore demigods and mythology?

"Well, I've always been interested in mythology," Benjamin explained. "I'm a big nerd, I'm outing myself here, I was playing 'Dungeons and Dragons'…"

After a few moments of laughter and shared nerdery, Benjamin continues explaining that the paladin character's direct interaction with the gods has always fascinated him. This greatly influenced his writing.

With "Pantheon High," much of the story comes from mythology. A lot of the characters have god-like powers but are stuck in a bizarre high school setting. Therefore, while they have the ability to save the world, they may opt to use it for more selfish reasons-- like looking at girls' panties.

Lillian's next question was for Amy Mebberson, artist for "Divalicious," a manga that lampoons American pop-culture stars like Britney Spears.

Amy's advice for young artists was standard, but helpful: "It's not gonna happen overnight," she said, "Be patient and just keep drawing. The more you draw, the better you will get."

Suddenly the screen blazed to life as the PowerPoint presentation is finally ready to start working. The other creators were briefly introduced before we got to the nitty-gritty:

Eric Wight, of "My Dead Girlfriend" (and known to fans of "The OC" as the real artist of "Atomic County") describes his main character's plight simply but completely: "He finally meets the right girl, but she's dead…"

James Barry is the artist for "Lost Warrior," an exciting original story that picks up after the line of popular children's stories. The manga is written by Dan Jolley and Erin Hunter.

Svetlana Chmakova was asked which was her favorite character from her book, "Dramacon."

"My favorite character is Christy and my second favorite is Matt," she said, "Christy's kind of a spaz and, well, I'm kind of a spaz."

After these brief introductory questions the setup was ready to go. Lillian Diaz-Przybyl took over for the rest of the show to announce what Tokyopop has going on in 2007. They have begun co-publishing certain books with HarperCollins. The most significant part of this partnership is probably "Avalon High." Written by Meg Cabot, of "The Princess Diaries" fame, it's sure to bring all sorts of new readers into the world of manga. Also available is "Vampire Kisses," a continuing series written by Ellen Schreiber.

The marketing department at Tokyopop has devised a way to group titles with similar action elements together into this new collection. The "Choose Your Weapon" series includes:

  • "Utopia's Avenger"

  • "Phantom"

  • "Gyakushu"

  • "Archlord"

Joining the group in March will be exclusive "Warcraft" stories. That's right, Blizzard's amazing series has conquered PCs, toy stores and now it will have it's own manga!

Speaking of games, the abovementioned "Archlord" also has a video game tie-in Tokyopop is working on with Codemasters.

As we learned next, yes, Tokyopop has it's hand in Jim Henson's cookie jar. Coming later this year you can look forward to both "Return to Labyrinth" and "Legends of the Dark Crystal" mangas. Look forward to these, but Lillian promises far more information by the time the San Diego Comic Con rolls around.

As for other Announcements:

  • "And for our, um, action fans we have Battle Club."

    As Lillian said this an image of a scantily clad girl with her knees behind her ears appears in the slideshow. The crowd bursts out laughing and Lillian states: "I think the appeal is pretty obvious." Look for it later on this year.

  • "CLAMP no Kiseki," TOKYOPOP's long-running series is finally back on schedule. Readers can look forward to getting their "Clamp fix" throughout the coming months.

  • Later in the year, we'll also see some new works from the multitalented Fumi Yoshinaga.

    "She can write everything from historical fiction, to creepy science fiction to everything in between." Her "Lovers in the Night" will have all of this and more crammed into one manga.

  • For the more mature readers comes "King of Thorn," the story of a cryogenically frozen girl who wakes in an unfamiliar world covered with bloodthirsty monsters. She must learn to survive in this dark new future.

  • Based on a feature film, both major manga companies have taken a piece of this pie.

    "Viz has a 'Brave Story' novel, but we have a 'Brave Story' manga!" Lillian boasts.

  • "HEAVEN!!" is Tokyopop's very first Diamond Exclusive property. This slapstick comedy looks like it's going to be a lot of fun.

Here's a list of some of the many other books coming up in 2007:

  • "Wild Adapter" (Feb and June)

  • "Loveless"

  • "Gravitation EX"

  • "Trinity Blood" (March & July)

  • "Vampire Doll" (May)

  • 'Mugen Spiral" (August)

  • "Chibi Vampire" (April & August)

  • "+Anima"

  • "Kingdom Hearts 2"

  • "Monocrome Factor"

  • "Pick of the Litter" (August)

  • "Missing" (August)

  • "Fruits Basket Fanbook" (September)

New from Haruka Fukushima:

  • "Instant Teen"

  • "Cherry Juice"

  • "Kedamono Damono"-- "These are surprisingly mature for titles aimed at 4th graders… so they will be rated accordingly."

New from Mizuki Hakase. Creator of Demon Ororon

  • "Kuruizaki No Hana" (September)

  • "Baku" (October)

POP FICTION:

  • "Chain Mail"

  • "Twelve Kingdoms" (March)

  • "Trinity Blood: Ram and Rom" (April and August) -- "There's two novel series for Trinity Blood. They are going to run flip-flopping. If you've just started to experience the Trinity Blood World with the anime, which I love, the manga goes even deeper into those stories."

POP fiction

  • "Calling You" (June)

  • "Alex Unlimited" (May)

  • "Ai Land Chronicles"

Brand New Announcements:

  • "Welcome to the NHK"

  • "Full Metal Panic"

As for other topics dicussed:

One of the main focuses of the TOKYOPOP this year will be a revamped rating system. They'll be customizing it even further to appeal to discerning customers' wishes. Further news will be available on their website as it develops.

Speaking of their website, according to Lillian, "Toykyopop.com 2.0 coming in May 2007." It will feature fan submission sections and editorial functions like story summaries. "We really want a combination of fun and practicality."

One of the coolest innovations coming to TOKYOPOP in 2007 is Mobile Manga. It's the perfect solution for manga junkies on the go. "You can read them right on your cell phone now!"

Leading the manga digital revolution, this line will include:

  • "Mobile Manga"

  • "Mobile Games"

  • "Video Creator Interviews"

  • "Live action videos"

  • "Wallpapers"

  • "TokyoPop Records"

There will also be options like manga formatted to fit your DVD player, PSP and iPod.

With a cell phone, you can get all sorts of cool digital short animations and Video-On-Demand manga. To demonstrate this technology, Lillian set up a short demonstration.

First was an imanga short called: "I Luv Halloween." It includes full sound effects, soundtrack and voice acting along with an animated comic.

Next, came a fully animated computer graphic short about a Werewolf family being hunted by knights. The actual art resembled something out of a cut scene on the original Playstation. It wasn't the highest quality animation, but it was a fine example of things to come.

There is a ton of cool stuff coming out from Tokyopop in 2007. From their multitude of new manga books to their cutting edge mobile service, it's hard to not be impressed. Fans should keep an eye on their website to learn more about these new developments.

That's just Day One of the New York Comic Con. We've got lots left to see..

 
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