Since its arrival on the U.S. publishing scene in Spring 2004, Del Rey Manga has gone from 4 titles to a roster of over 40 shojo, shonen, seinen and josei manga titles, including Tsubasa: Resevoir Chronicles and xxxHolic from CLAMP, Negima from Ken Akamatsu and Air Gear by Oh! Great.
Armed with years of experience in the manga business, Associate Publisher Dallas Middaugh has been there since the start, guiding the growth of Del Rey Manga. His ability to pick titles that otaku love to read comes naturally, because Dallas is an otaku at heart himself.
I spoke with Dallas after his announcements of several new titles for Del Rey Manga's Winter 2007 / Spring 2008 schedule, including two new original English language (OEL) manga titles, The Reformed and Yokaiden to find out more about these new titles and get his take on where the manga scene is, where it's been, and where it's headed to from here.
SURFING THE MANGA WAVE: FROM FAN TO PUBLISHER
Q: I was looking over some prior interviews with you, and you mention that prior to arriving at Del Rey Manga, you worked at VIZ Media, and at Seven Seas Manga. So you've seen a lot of changes in the manga publishing business since you started....
Dallas Middaugh: Yes, so I really owe my career to the success of the manga industry. I came to VIZ when things were really taking off, so the analogy that I use is that I've feel like I've been a surfer on a seven year wave. (laughs)
Q: So what drew you to the manga publishing industry?
DM: Well, I've been a comic book and graphic reader my entire life. I first became interested in manga in the early 90's when I was at UC Berkeley. And to be honest, I followed manga, but really wasn't a huge fan until I interviewed at VIZ. I was interviewing there, and the person I interviewed with there gave me a copy of Nausicaa (of the Valley of the Wind), the manga by Hayao Miyazaki that they published. And I took it home and read it, and it blew me away. It's really one of the finest works I've ever read, manga or otherwise.
It really opened my eyes to the potential to the form. So when I started working at VIZ, I got access to this immense amount of manga, so I read it all. It turned me into a really big fan, so it's made my job fun for the last several years.
Q: Did you have other favorites from that time?
DM: I remember the first thing that got me into anime was a copy of Laputa (Note: Another Miyazaki animated feature) that my college roommate brought in for us to watch. He had to explain to me what was going on. This was before fan-subbing, so everything was in Japanese, but I was absolutely mesmerized.
But if you're asking me about what I read around that time in the early Nineties and what really clicked for me then, a lot of what I liked then was from VIZ, so I really enjoyed Battle Angel Alita, there was a science fiction series they did called 2001 Nights. My personal tastes lean more toward the sci-fi, seinen-type stuff, but I like to read everything – I read every kind of manga and comics I can get my hands on.
THE MANGA BUSINESS: WHY GRAPHIC NOVELS COST $11
Q: So as someone who's working in a business that you originally loved as a hobby, what do you like the most about working in the publishing business, and what's your least favorite aspect of what you do now?
DM: My most favorite thing is I hope that I never lose that part of me that started out as a fanboy, as a reader of this type of material. To have made it to a point in my career where I'm now an Associate Publisher that I'm in a position to have an effect on this market and this form that I love so much is really just a huge thrill for me. I really, really enjoy that.
I have been talking to some friends that I really need some new hobbies. Reading comics and graphic novels is my hobby, it's my career, and then I also wrote when I was at Seven Seas Manga, so that's what I spent a lot of my time doing as well. But then I know I'm kidding myself. I like this stuff too much and I like that it's taken over my entire life. (laughs)
Q. Because my readers may not know much about the publishing business, can you explain what an associate publisher does?
DM: Well, it's not that there's a specific job description for an associate publisher. My responsibility at the end of the day is to Del Rey Manga. So I work with a lot of really talented people, some of whom are also solely dedicated to the imprint and some whom at Random House (Del Rey Manga's parent company) who work at a variety of imprints at Random House. So what it comes down to is I'm responsible for the program from a mile up; determining how many books we do, how often they come out, working with the sales and marketing team, but it comes to the specifics to running the program, I work with a lot of different people who work on different things.
Q: I see. So you've worked at Seven Seas, you've worked at VIZ, and you're now at Del Rey. So after working for several manga publishers, what makes Del Rey's approach different? Have you done anything specifically to make it different, that is how do you decide what to put out, how do you market them, and so on?
DM: Well, having worked at three very different companies, when I helped found Seven Seas, it was a very small company that I've been very gratified to watch grow. VIZ on the other hand is very much a Japanese publisher and Random House is the largest publisher in the world, so it's much, much larger and more bureaucratic. So the problem is your question is a bit broad.
All three publishers have very different ways that they approach publishing manga. How I approach manga has got less to do what company I was at than what stage the manga market was in at the time. I started working for VIZ in 2000, which was around the beginning of the first big boom. I started Seven Seas I think in 2003, which was kind of in the middle compared to where we are now, and I'm currently overseeing the Del Rey Manga imprint when the market has matured somewhat but still has potential for a lot of growth.(More on Page 2)