After the success of their first Kickstarter campaign to reprint Swallowing the Earth by Osamu Tezuka, Digital Manga is back for more. This time, they're taking it a step further by using this online fundraising website to muster up support to publish Barbara, a somewhat controversial graphic novel by Osamu Tezuka that has never been available in English, in print (yet).
Digital Manga has posted a Kickstarter page (with introductory video) with the title "Publish Osamu Tezuka's Barbara in English" that explains the hows and whys of their latest fundraising campaign. Their goal? To get at least $6,500 in pledges before February 13, 2012 in order to publish a brand new edition of this graphic novel for grown-ups by the Godfather of Manga.
UPDATE: As of Saturday noon, less than 24 hours since the start of their campaign, Digital Manga's Kickstarter to publish Barbara has passed the 50% mark towards its pledge goal, raising over $3,600.
UPDATE 2: As of Sunday at 3:45 am Pacific Time, with 28 more days to go, Digital Manga's Kickstarter met its $6,500 goal.
Also to clarify some confusion out there on the interwebs, if you don't pledge before February 13, 2012 to support the publication of Barbara, you'll probably still be able to buy a copy when DMP publishes it sometime in mid-2012. What you won't be able to get is the extra goodies listed below for pledges of $35 and above.
'KICKSTART' BARBARA AND GET EXCLUSIVE GOODIES FROM DMP
To sweeten the deal for fans, the folks at Digital Manga are offering several exclusive incentives that will only be available to people who pledge money to this Kickstarter effort (meaning that these goodies will NOT be available for sale after the Kickstarter campaign is over).
You can donate as little as $5 to support this effort, and you'll get a six free issues of Astro Boy Magazine on eManga.com or $10 credit to buy any digital manga title available on eManga.com. Pledge $25, and you'll get that, plus a copy of Barbara when it's published.
However, once you get up to the $35 pledge level, that's when things get more interesting. If you pledge $35, you'll get the six issues of Astro Boy Magazine or $10 eManga credit, a copy of Barbara and exclusive digital-only content, including translation notes, bonus art and commentary that won't be included in the print edition.
Pledge even more, and you can get a screenprinted art poster or t-shirt created just for this campaign. Once you pledge over $70, you'll also get a say in the production of Barbara, including input in the final design of the cover. Other goodies up for grabs include free manga, autographed copies of the book by translator and Tezuka scholar Frederick Schodt and bonus manga packs of up to 8 free volumes of DMP titles.
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT BARBARA: A CONTROVERSIAL GRAPHIC NOVEL FOR GROWN-UPS
So what is Barbara about anyhow? Here's a short summary of the plot, from DMP:
Wandering the packed tunnels of Shinjuku Station, famous author Yosuke Mikura makes a strange discovery: a seemingly homeless drunk woman who can quote French poetry. Her name is Barbara. He takes her home for a bath and a drink, and before long Barbara has made herself into Mikura's shadow, saving him from egotistical delusions and jealous enemies. But just as Mikura is no saint, Barbara is no benevolent guardian angel, and Mikura grows obsessed with discovering her secrets, tangling with thugs, sadists, magical curses and mythical beings - all the while wondering whether he himself is still sane.
Digital Manga editor and translator Ben Applegate describes Barbara as "unique" and Tezuka's "most visually experimental work." Manga critic David Welsh recently featured Barbara in his "License Request Day" column, describing it as a worthwhile read in the vein of other recently released titles by Tezuka such as The Book of Human Insects and Ayako. Helen McCarthy, author of The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga praised Barbara as "a remarkable work that showcases his maturity, sophistication and wide frame of cultural reference in just over 400 pages." It's already available in a 2-volume French edition from Delacourte. So why hasn't it been translated into English yet?
Quite possibly because of the more controversial aspects of this story. Tezuka in English describes Barbara as delving into the world of "sadomasochistic clubs, black masses, mother goddess cults, voodoo murderers and more." In fact, the novelist's madness takes him to the point where "his hallucinations drive him into sexual encounters with animals and inanimate objects which he imagines to be women." Yep, we're not exactly in Princess Knight or Astro Boy territory here...
So while it sounds like Barbara isn't a 'safe' choice for the next Tezuka title to be published in English, it is an intriguing graphic novel that just might find enough of an audience here in North America to succeed. But to do that, it has to meet its Kickstarter goal first.
If Digital Manga does raise $6,500 in pledges before the deadline, then who knows what will come next? As Applegate mentions in the Kickstarter video, "(Tezuka Productions) is watching this campaign closely. (If we succeed) we can dig deeper into the Tezuka catalog to bring stuff that otherwise wouldn't be possible."
Intriguing, no? Anyhow, if you love manga by Osamu Tezuka or are clamoring for more classic comics from the earlier days of manga's evolution, you kind of owe it to yourself to throw a few bucks toward this Kickstarter.
So what do you think of Digital Manga's Kickstarter campaigns? Are there other classic, perhaps otherwise risky manga titles that you'd like to see get a "kickstart" to be published in English? Add your comments below!
Image credits: © Tezuka Productions, © Digital Manga Publishing