Last week I read the first volume of The Dreaming, one of TokyoPop’s new OEL (Original English Language) manga titles, so called because they’re created by English-language creators in English, rather than being licensed and translated from works that originated in Japan.
The Dreaming was very good indeed and much better than I’d expected. I was a little hesitant to pre-order it since it seemed to be targeted at teens and I prefer more adult-leaning manga. Still, I thought I’d give it a shot. And I’m glad I did. It’s atmospheric, tense (a comic! a comic that’s actually tense – wow), good looking, and mysterious. And – bonus – it’s a horror mystery, rather than a gorefest. If you like Picnic at Hanging Rock or other atmospheric horror movies or books, you should really check it out.
The problem came, though, when I was done with the book, psyched about it, and wanting to find out when I could buy the next volume.
I went to the website of the book’s creator, Queenie Chan, to see what I could learn there. And what I learned bummed me out quite a bit: the next volume of The Dreaming isn’t due until 2006 (no specific month given), with the third and final volume not due until 2007.
And this is where the problem comes in. Other manga series have new volumes much more often – at least a couple of times a year, if not more – and that works to their advantage. They can come out at that clip because the biggest part of the work on them – the writing and the drawing – has been completed; it’s touch ups and translations and rewrites that have to be done before publishing here. Asia-native manga can also come out faster because TokyoPop is working from a backlog of material, possibly years’ worth, when they start publishing a series.
This seems not to be the case with the OEL. It looks like they’re being created roughly in synch with the publication schedule. I know there’s a lot of work that goes into these books, and I want the creators to take the time they need to make the books great, but potentially having to wait 2 years to finish the story is going to be kind of a bummer, and might kill some of the momentum, both storywise and saleswise, that these books generate.
I know people are willing to wait years and years for masterworks like Charles Burns’ Black Hole, and that’s certainly an argument against my worries (hell, I ws happy to wait for Black Hole, among others. I love that book). But this is a new line TokyoPop is trying to launch, with largely unknown creators, and in that situation you want as much working for you as you can.
I hope the OEL line works. It seems very promising (I can’t wait to see Becky Cloonan’s East Coast Rising, for instance) and could be a huge development for the industry in North America. Maybe TokyoPop should stockpile more of these books before they start releasing them so a title like The Dreaming, which is so good and leaves the audience hungry for an immediate follow up, can have three volumes released in a year or 18 months, instead of 3 years.
Don’t let my concerns keep you from a really good comic. Check out The Dreaming if you like psychological or understated horror. It’s really, really good.