Matthew Alexander recently sat down with the editor of Icarus Publishing
to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes of one of the few American ero-manga publishers still putting out books. Please check out his blog
(NSFW) for news about Icarus and plenty of thoughts on the manga world in general.Mania
> How many titles did Icarus release in 2008 and how many releases are planned for 2009? Icarus Publishing>
For 2008 we released,Blue Eyes 1
(reprint) by Tohru Nishimaki, 1/30/2008 Please Miss Yuri
by Syowmaru, 2/19/2008Elements
by Tanuki Kamogawa, 3/14/2008A Wish of My Sister
by Masahiro Itosugi, 3/18/2008After School Sex Slave Club
by Tuna Empire, 4/23/2008Extract
by Kazu Shimao, 6/19/2008Honeybee Whispers
by Umashika, 7/25/2008Patriot
(reprint) by Mashumaro Jyuubaori, 8/26/2008
Blue Eyes 4 by Tohru Nishimaki, 10/23/2008Aqua Bless
by Yamatogawa, 10/23/2008Schoolgirl Mania
by Fujikatsupiko, 12/2008Sexual Serenade
by Kei Matsuzawa, 12/2008
We aim for 1 book per month. Whether we increase the number of releases in 2009 depends on if we feel the market can bear it. Probably not...Mania
Will there be a big impact to Icarus after Diamond’s recent announcement to drop any comic that doesn’t meet a $2500 wholesale benchmark?Icarus Publishing>
It’s certainly going to affect our ability to relist titles again in Previews, but a lot of our backlist sales go through non-Diamond sources, so I’m not too worried about that. We may also one day decide to stop Comic AG altogether, and start publishing 2 or 3 trades a month. Some people might actually prefer it, but as I mentioned earlier, it depends on whether the market can absorb all that new material. I would also miss the joy of rubbing our 100+ issue count into other publishers’ faces.
What is of more immediate concern to me is the end of the print Previews Adult catalog. I do not know how retailers and consumers are going to react to that. We’ll find out next month.
As for our future… well, we’re a direct market-focused publisher, so anything that happens at Diamond would certainly warrant more attention from us than, say, a manga publisher that does most of its business
in the book trade. But compare the Diamond situation with what mid-list manga publishers are experiencing with the major book chains such as Borders; I don’t think Icarus is in a relatively more perilous position than other manga pubs. But things change… maybe Diamond may raise the minimums again to a number our initial releases might actually have trouble hitting, or Diamond may decide to excise the 18+ genre altogether. I think all manga publishers, not just Icarus, need to re-evaluate the wisdom of being heavily dependent on Diamond, or Borders, or any distribution entity. I’m not casting any aspersions on how those companies conduct their business
; Diamond has actually been very accommodating of us and other small publishers. Nevertheless, what should trouble all of us is that those companies are put in a position where they can pull the rug out from under an otherwise healthy publisher, and we put them there through our own complacency. The situation is not healthy for publishers or retailers. In the long run, it’s not even good for Diamond or Borders. In the wake of Diamond’s policy changes, it’s starting to look like independent comic publishers are gathering much of their weight
behind another distributor. At some point, I imagine manga pubs, especially those who publish adult books and those in the mid-list range, may have to consider that possibility as well.Mania
> Which Icarus title has been your best seller?Icarus Publishing>
In terms of sales velocity, I believe it's MI DA RA
by Yumisuke Kotoyoshi or Please Miss Yuri
by Syowmaru. By aggregate, it would be Innocence
by Tanuki Kamogawa.Mania
> Which Icarus title has been your personal favorite?Icarus Publishing>
Eek, that's a tough one, because I've never really asked myself that. I select all the books we publish, so obviously I enjoy them all. Innocence has special meaning for us. We have three books by Tuna Empire under license, which may mean something... Mania
> Has Icarus considered licensing any doujinshi titles?Icarus Publishing>
There's some confusion about the term "doujinshi" in the US, so let's set that straight first... doujinshi is often self-published *manga*. Manga is an artform, while doujinshi is defined by the method of production and sale (ergo, there are doujinshi which are not manga). Most of the books we've published are collections of short stories serialized in magazines, but some of them also contain manga the artist originally self-published. For example, all of the stories in Gorou Horikawa's books were originally sold as doujinshi in the early 90s, so yes, technically we've published doujinshi.
But I'm guessing what your readers really want to know is whether we would license and publish parody doujinshi, or specifically go out looking for individual doujinshi to license. The answer to both is no. Parody doujinshi is a very uniquely Japanese movement, in terms of its size and popularity, and its relationship with the professional world. It's fan activity, and it should stay that way. Responsible publishers should keep out, lest they mess it up for everybody.Mania
> In 2008, Icarus released Extract
by the female mangaka Kazu Shimao. Do you have any plans to release any other titles by female mangaka?Icarus Publishing>
Several of our books are drawn by women (Masahiro Itosugi is a female mangaka). We don't go out of our way to ask whether the artist/writer is male or female, because I think artists should be given a measure of privacy, and it's the strength of the work we care about anyway. It's just not a big deal. There are many women who work in ero-manga. I remember being told by a Japanese editor that the majority of manga artists in Japan are women.
That said, A Wish of My Sister
kicked much ass, didn't it?Mania
> I’m a fan
Mania> Does Icarus license its titles from Japanese publishers or directly from the original artist?Icarus Publishing>
We do both. But licensing from a publisher is sooo much easier... for us and for the artist. One of the conditions we absolutely will not budge from is access to original artwork. All of our books are scanned from originals to preserve the highest visual quality possible, and to ensure the artwork isn't censored. Often the Japanese publisher has staff that would do the time-consuming work of scanning (or, in some cases, have print-ready files for us).Mania
> Who are the main companies you work with?Icarus Publishing>
We work through Comic House, which represents artists to several different publishers. We have access to them all, but most of our books are from Akaneshinsha.Mania
> How do you choose the titles you pursue for licensing? Is it preference for a particular genre, art style, belief in the marketability of the title, or something else entirely?Icarus Publishing>
All the things you named to varying degrees, plus whether or not I feel we can get away with it in the US. And that last thing is a rather fluid standard.
Now, I know there are many people out there who would complain about this, and this attitude would be very arrogant if I thought they understood the kind of responsibilities we have to retailers, other manga publishers, and artists. We have to publish safe products that will not damage the industry, and make a reasonable profit for the artists who have given precious amounts of their time to work with us.
There are a few genres within ero-manga that are appropriate for publication in the US, but we have not considered due to financial concerns. For example, there are ero-manga drawn in a serious "gekiga" style that feature mostly older women. Not something we're looking to get into... unless I wanted my basement to become even more of a fire hazard.Mania
> Between working with printers, licensing, translating, and getting your product into stores, what do you see as an eromanga publisher’s biggest challenge?Icarus Publishing>
Our toughest challenge is the nature of the product itself. We're not mainstream porn, and we're not mainstream manga, so we don't fit in well in either world. Also, a lot of people seem to be *consumers* of ero-manga, but they're not *customers* of ero-manga. On some levels, I don't think most self-appointed hentai fans are actually manga fans. I guess that's not really a challenge to overcome, more like the reality we just have to deal with. I'm trying to be zen about this. Ero is always going to be a niche of a niche.Mania
> Dream license time; what is that one title that you wanted the most but could not license for whatever reason?Icarus Publishing>
Anything by Nocchi. Beautiful style, but mostly self-published doujinshi parodies, and mostly cake.
Anything by John K Peta or Henmaru Machino. Those dudes are nasty... in a good way. But too much so for commercial release in North America. Or outside Japan, to be honest.
Hanafuda by Okama. That book is drop dead gorgeous. But I don't think any North American publisher could/would publish that book, due to the complex, expensive production involved. (It's oversized, 6-color process, metallic ink, has a raised cover, uses rice paper... that's just crazy for a porno manga.) Also, a minimal amount of cake.
…and a bunch of others which, if I told you, might land me in prison if I were in Iowa.
Mania> For my own curiosity, any chance Icarus will publish any Cuvie titles in the future?Icarus Publishing>
Chances are slim, unfortunately. We’ve asked, and we’ve been turned down. Please continue to enjoy mentally undressing Dorothea.