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Justice is Still Important - The Sad Circus by the Sea
- - SAG Actor (Voice of GIR from Invader ZIM), creator of comics, writer of books, feeder of cats, Augmented Realist. - - Bio - - Twitter - - FaceBook - - Comics --
December 2010
Wed, May. 28th, 2008 06:00 pm
Justice is Still Important

I know that editors and higher-ups at Tokyopop read my journal, and out of respect for our publishing relationship I don't usually post my feelings about Tokyopop's policies here. But if you haven't seen it already, dear Tokyopop staff, you should probably read what the Internet has to say about your new Pilot Program. I recommend you read the links too.

I know the first thing that some at Tokyopop will think when they read that link: the majority of people screaming about this program don't draw in a style that will make any manga fan pick up their book at Borders. Like a Goth knowing the difference between Bauhaus and Christina Aguilera in black, manga fans know the difference between manga imitation and someone who naturally draws in the style. You do have to make something an authentic manga experience if you want to sell on a manga shelf, and Tokypop's audience still wants this from Tokyopop's creators. Tokyopop will lose nothing by non-manga creators blowing them off and TP sees this. But every year the number of people who really understand the style grows and Tokyopop will lose out when their friends talk them out of the Pilot Program. They will lose their next Tavisha, they will lose their next Svetlana or Queenie Chan long before a submission happens. This is happening right now.

I thought of e-mailing Stu Levy about it — to explain to him that this is not a contract I'd ever sign for any future series. But nothing ever changes when you take that approach, in fact, if anything Tokyopop's contracts only get worse, even after they are scolded for the last one. I don't know exactly why this is. I have theories. Actually, just one very strong theory, supported by facts. I'll just quote Heidi MacDonald:

"A cynical observer might think, looking back at the OEL generation, that this was just an attempt on Tokyopop’s part to cheaply produce IP that could be turned into movies or TV shows, or all that other stuff that actually makes money in the comics industry."

That's not cynicism, Heidi. It's just true. The fact that they have become the number one publisher for bringing in new blood is a positive side effect of a very cynical reality. In fact, if you ask them, they will tell you they are not a publisher.

I have this warm little spot behind my left eye. I named it Tokyopop quite a few years ago because it seems to heat up the most when I think too hard about my publisher. It's a sort of feeling similar to cognitive dissonance, like trying to tackle a Rubik's Cube missing a yellow square, but still ignoring the fact that I can't solve all six sides. People do this with religion all the time. They believe in Religion X because it is a religion for free men but they are still okay with slavery — but even that simile is a sort of misnomer because the only thing I'm trying to solve is my time. I'm trying not to waste it. That is, I'm trying to finish my six volume book series, now with only one volume left to go, while trying to ignore the sort of guilt by association people seem to levy against anyone who publishes with Tokyopop.

But I have to stop feeling the guilt and remind myself that everyone takes their chances.

I am a private entrepreneur. I do not work for Tokyopop. I am published by them, that is all. I care first and foremost, as the saying goes, about what happens to my own works — and if you ask me what I think of creators of comics outside of maybe thirty people I cherish, I will tell you most of them act like douchbags. And yet I'm in a strange position. I don't like to even see douchbags get squashed. I don't have the stomach for it. And the noises they make as the boot-heel slowly lowers! Christ!

I realize that Tavisha and I are one of the lucky ones when it comes to Tokyopop contracts. Correction. Our contract wasn't luck. We're just sometimes smart. It's not the best contract in the world, but it certainly doesn't give away our "moral rights" or our copyright. It could be better though. I see that Tokyopop recently trademarked the title "ShutterBox:" http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=osv4vv.2.1 . Our contract doesn't give them this right. But I would bet how it happened: they tend to blanket trademark everything in their catalogue. Always assume negligence before malice when it comes to Tokyopop. They're sort of like the government. But that is neither here nor there. I know that if I challenge them on this, they will have to remove their claim. If Tavisha and I had signed one of those contracts where Tokyoppo "shared" their copyright with the creator, we wouldn't have any leg to stand on. So too with this new, refreshingly horrible Pilot Program.

Given all that, I suppose the question goes, why did Tavisha and I publish with Tokyopop? Why did we sign our (better) contract with TP in 2003 instead, as one Star Blazers douchbag once put it to me, "go with a real publisher?" Because, my Dear Mr. Bag, however Hollywood Tokyopop wants to be, they were then, when we signed our contract in 2003, and still are, a real publisher. They pay a $21,000 advance for each book that I create with Tavisha. We keep our copyright and allow them use of the copyright while they are publishing us (granting them licensing power). We can tell them goodbye and take our book elsewhere if we ever pay back, or when our sales finish paying down, the advance. In the mean time, they get our books into regular bookstores. I am not looking for a movie deal. I am a writer of illustrated books. This, to me, is justice, and for thousands of authors the world over this kind of agreement has been justice for more than a century.

Publishing is the last medium on Earth where a creator can make something that truly represents their own personalty, without interference, for better or for worse, to take credit for their own mistakes, to not have to put their name on someone else's mistakes, and get paid an advance for it. Even $20,000 is not enough to have someone contract you to publish their mistakes at your expense. You don't live long enough to live down an awful book with your name on it. Giving up your moral rights doesn't fix this problem either, because you can never recover your lost time, and comics take so much time. Oh, God, so much time.

So I conclude, Tokyopop, my Tokyopop, you would benefit, and I say this as someone who wants to see you make good, who wants to see you prosper under a system of justice — dump this Pilot Program and instead issue real contracts like the one you gave Tavisha and I in February of 2003.



Benjamin Roman
Wed, May. 28th, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)

Well said, Rikki.

Wed, May. 28th, 2008 11:43 pm (UTC)

Wow. Excellent response to a difficult situation!

Thu, May. 29th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC)

I whole heartedly agree! Very well said!

Thu, May. 29th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)

Heh. Why do I have the feeling Svetlana signed one of TP's uglier contracts, and is the reason why she opted not to make a 4th Dramacon, and even went with a different publisher for her next title? -_-

Lea Hernandez-DivaLea
Thu, May. 29th, 2008 02:00 am (UTC)

NICE. Thanks for writing this.


Mundee Mo
Thu, May. 29th, 2008 10:57 am (UTC)

You know what TP offered offered Bruce for Cooking with Love, $ 2500 for the rights. The best part was how surprised they were when Bruce rewrote the contract and it is a shame because CWL has a lot of potential but Bruce didn't want to sacrifice it to them.

Hope you are well


Thu, May. 29th, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC)

well thought and well said, as always ^__^

Rivkah רִבְקָה
Thu, May. 29th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC)

Thank you for posting this Rikki. It said everything I wanted to say but didn't quite know how. The contract I signed wasn't as good as yours and Tavi's, but it most certainly wasn't anywhere NEAR as bad as the one for this Pilot Program. Or as you put it:

"I am a private entrepreneur. I do not work for Tokyopop. I am published by them, that is all."

Not only is this our love and passion, but as creators, we also know it's a business as well. Sometimes you must use the user in order to advance your own goals. You give a little, you get a little.

Thu, May. 29th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)

Thanks for posting this, Rikki.

Thu, May. 29th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC)

I've been hearing vague things about this contract for the last couple of days and only recently decided to look into what all the commotion was about.

I think it's safe to say that any artist or writer with an ounce of common sense wouldn't dream of signing the Pilot Program's contract. There are so many red flags they may as well call it Minesweeper.

I think the people who would be most likely to dive into this are the naive starry eyed kids who would love nothing more than to see their work published, damn the consequences. It's pretty obvious by what someone else described as their "Hey, dude." wording of the contract that this is exactly who they're aiming for. And that, to me, is extremely low.

Trying (and hopefully failing) to pull the wool over the eyes of an experienced professional is one thing. But completely screwing over a kid with little to no experience with or knowledge of legally binding contracts or common publishing practice is a whole other thing entirely.

Anyway, a very thoughtful and honest post. I hope things stay fair between TP and you two and hope that maybe you've convinced an aspiring artist or writer to think twice about the Pilot Program.

The Previous Grand Mufti (aka Max Brooks)
Fri, May. 30th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)

I pitched a book to Tokyopop once. Once.

Sucker Love
Fri, May. 30th, 2008 01:31 pm (UTC)

How far?


ReplyThread Parent
Rachel Keslensky
Thu, Jun. 5th, 2008 10:16 am (UTC)

Probably not even as far as your rimshot. ;)

ReplyThread Parent