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Q&A: VIZ Media Talks About Relaunch of Original Comics / Manga

By October 9, 2009

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VIZ MediaWhen San Francisco-based manga publisher VIZ Media recently tweeted that they were once again accepting submissions for their original comics project, comics creators and manga industry watchers alike were intrigued. Senior Editor Eric Searleman (ES) posted this note:

ES: Show us what you've got. VIZ Media is now accepting submissions and pitches for original comics. Go to http://bit.ly/1iH8la for details.

In light of current economic conditions and changes at VIZ Media (including the end of the print edition of Shojo Beat Magazine), many had wondered if this project was on indefinite hiatus. So this new burst of activity on this front was a pleasant surprise.

Upon visiting the link to VIZ Media's website, many creators were puzzled to only find a link to a release form, instead of more details about VIZ's plans.

So rather than just shrug it off, I popped off a note to the folks at VIZ and asked for additional information. Here's what Searleman had to say (via email) about VIZ Media's nascent Original Comics program:

Q: You announced the original comics program back at San Diego Comic-Con 2008 and did portfolio reviews there, and VIZ also got proposals from artists through other channels. How did that go?

Eric Searleman: "We've been in contact with hundreds of creators since we announced our intention to publish original comics. And I must say, the talent and enthusiasm of everyone we've talked to has blown me away."

Q: How will VIZ publish these comics? Are you thinking that these comics would be published as stand-alone graphic novels? Monthly "floppies?" Short stories for an anthology? Online publishing?

Eric Searleman: "We're considering everything. The format will suit the material. For example, there's no law that says our original comics need to mirror our manga trim size. Let's mix it up."

"We want to do something fun and fresh. Why bother otherwise? We want our books to be an alternative to what's already out there. It'll be hard work, but we are confident we can get it done. The bottom line is this: the quality of the comic takes precedent over everything else."

Q: Generally speaking, when could readers possibly expect to see the first of these original comics to be published either online or in print? In 2010? 2011?

Eric Searleman: "It's hard to say, we're still very early in the process."

Q: What kind of work are you looking for? Are you looking for comics geared toward a particular audience segment (e.g. teens, kids, adults?) or any particular art/story style?

Eric Searleman: "That's simple: we're looking for good comics."

"We're hoping to publish a wide range of comics by a diverse group of creators. A lot of people are expecting VIZ Media to publish manga (or comics that look like manga) but we don't plan on limiting ourselves, in any way. It doesn't matter to us if you draw like Tite Kubo or Darwyn Cooke. If you've got an awesome idea for a comic book, we want to see it."

Q: How can artists / creators be considered for VIZ's original comics?

Eric Searleman: "Our submission release form is online at www.viz.com/comics."

Q: What should creators send to you? Do you have any advice would you like to share with applicants?

Eric Searleman: "Keep in mind that you are pitching us. Do not send final assets ready for publication. It doesn't work that way. Instead, send a standard pitch-like package: a page (or two) of description, three pages of finished artwork, and maybe some character designs. That should be enough information to sell your idea."

Q: What kind of response should creators expect from VIZ after being accepted?

Eric Searleman: "Creators should expect editorial input starting from the very beginning of the process. We'll be evaluating your pitch, and we'll be offering guidance every step of the way. We feel strongly that the editorial process will help creators produce the best work possible."

Q: Will you be doing portfolio reviews at comic conventions, such as next week's Alternative Press Expo (APE) or Wondercon next Spring?

Eric Searleman: "There won't be any official portfolio reviews at APE, but I'll be in the building and I'll be scouting for talent. If you see me, don't be shy. Come up and introduce yourself."

UPDATE: Manga publisher Simon Jones had a few observations / recommendations /predictions for VIZ Media's original comics project at the Icarus Publishing blog (Site is NSFW, tho this commentary doesn't have any potentially problematic content).

VIZ Media will be showing at Alternative Press Expo next weekend, October 17 - 18, 2009 at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco, California. They will be located at tables 366 - 367, so look for them there.

You can download the release forms and get more information about submitting your comics proposal to VIZ Media at www.viz.com/comics.

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