< Piro >
Saturday - March 13, 2004
Sometimes it's hard to believe that I really *am* doing this comic/manga thing for a living. One of the things you end up doing when you get into an "industry" or particular business segment is that you tend to keep tabs on what is going on in that industry. Since technically I'm pretty new to the "Comics" industry, I've have had some catching up to do. I regularly read a lot of different news sites and talk to lots of people, always trying to get a feel for this crazy "industry" and how i might fit into it in my small, insignificant way.
As you might be aware, the "manga" market here in the states has done incredibly well in the past few years. All you have to do is look at how many titles are available and how much shelf space "Manga" has in today's bookstores today compared to three years ago. The growth is pretty remarkable, and is well documented.
For some reason, Megatokyo seems to fit pretty nicely into this category. Technically, it's not really "Manga" because its not done by a Japanese creator and released first in Japanese to a Japanese market. I never set out to fake being Japanese, or to try to create something "Manga-like" because it was popular (I get accused of this sometimes). I've just been heavily influenced by Japanese comics far more than traditional American comics, so it's natural that's my work tends to fall into that category. In fact, you could hardly call my tastes mainstream (I've never watched DBZ and i like dating sims - that's so mainstream :P). Yet, for some odd reason, the Megatokyo graphic novels fit nicely on the shelves next to other manga titles -- enough so that I can even poke fun at the right-to-left nature of most of them with the last page of the books.
Talking about having Megatokyo books on store shelves sure speaks volumes about how things have changed and grown over the years, most of which you readers have been able to follow. That being said, I figure you might be interested in hearing how the MT books have fairing in this "market".
Recently there was a news item on Icv2 (an industry news site) that talked about how Ruronin Kenshin vol. 3 was topping the BookScan charts after it's release on January 24th. Bookscan is a sales ranking system that is based on actual sales of books thru major book retailers like Borders, Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, etc, and is compiled every week. The Dark Horse folks are nice enough to let me see the actual BookScan numbers (It's a service run by Neilson, and is something you have to subscribe to to get) and the Kenshin book was indeed the #1 seller in the Adult Fiction Overall Graphic Novels category for those two weeks, and has actually continued to be #1 up till the most recent week. There are many other titles up there in the top ten, including Fruits Basket vol. 1, Trigun Vol. 2, etc. -- the ratings cover well over 700 titles. So, where has Megatokyo Vol 2 ranked in all of this?
For the first full week that it was available in bookstores, the week ending February 11th, Megatokyo Volume 2 came in at #4, being being outsold by only 3 titles - Kenshin Vol 3, Fruits Basket Vol 1 and Trigun Vol 2.
Holy crap, as they say.
The week after that, MT Vol2 came in at #7, then the third week it came in at #9. On the fourth week it wasn't in the top 10 anymore -- it fell to #13, and in the fifth week (that was last week) it fell to #22. Still, that's really not too shabby in a field of well over 700 titles. Also, another thing to consider is that Bookscan numbers do not include sales outside of major book retailers -- comic shops, specialty retailers, or even the Megatokyo / ThinkGeek store, where many of you purchased books. I don't believe that the Bookscan numbers even reflect sales over at Amazon.com, which has also been selling the book at a pretty good pace.
Not too bad for a "manga" like title that has no TV series on Cartoon Network or DVD anime release to back it up. The only thing backing Megatokyo up is this silly little website, with it's spotty and sketchy release schedule, and the unfaltering support of the Megatokyo fan community. Megatokyo has proven that a Webcomic can hold it's own in the retail market.
I'm telling you all of this not because I feel the need to brag, or to have some sort of "gee, maybe I don't suck as much as I thought I did" revelation (I'm not, if anything I'm even more embarrassed by the fact that I'm published by Dark Horse and I still can't draw hands ;_;) I'm telling you because this is something that people like yourself -- casual reader, regular visitor or crazed fan minion -- have made happen. I just draw and write the stuff, and have worked hard to make it available for you. Without you guys wanting the stuff, MT would be just wasting hard drive space on some server in Texas.
Numbers, as i've said from the start of this, don't lie. I can't weedle out of the fact that Book 2 has done really really well. Thank you. I don't deserve this kind of support and loyalty, but thank you. If you did purchase it, i hope you have enjoyed it.
It'll be interesting to see how the re-issue of Volume 1, which is due out at the end of this month, will do. ^^;;
This comes to a grander point that I think all of you should never forget. Various media industries sometimes think that they are the ones who make "the next big thing" happen, whether it be a movie, or a TV show, or popular book. Manga and Anime is a true examples of an "industry" that exists ONLY because fans here in the states demanded it. Hell, Thanks to the networking made possible by the internet, fans MADE it happen. This "hot thing" we are all fans of was not orchestrated by some media corportation -- in fact, for years it media companies never considered it viable that Japanese anime/manga could ever be 'mainstream'. It's something the fans have made happen by sheer brute force.
Don't ever let the industry change that. You are the ones they watch to find out what you want. Don't ever let yourselves be manipulated into being blind followers that are told to become fans of something and do so because the industry says so. Always remember that it's the fans that are the ones who should decide this. The fact that something like MT can do well with pretty much nothing backing it up but fans is a good thing. The fact that the comics industry got it thru their thick skulls that yes, there ARE women in the world and girls DO read comics, and that we want good, solid stories and we will read manga that isn't all fighting and action and we don't need nudity and violence to be popular and (gasp) consumers have real, working brains...
Keep the brains, don't become media zombies. Media companies are listening to you now, but they'd rather have it the other way around. don't ever ever ever let that happen. Don't ever lose sight of what got us here.