I recently shared my brief take on the recent manga company news in a post I titled ‘A Little Less Spring in Manga’s Step This Season’. Well, news sadly hasn’t gotten any better since then and that step has officially landed in a pile of shit (excuse the language). To no surprise, the situation stinks.
Via a brief and to-the-point announcement, DC Comics announced that as of July 2010, CMX Manga would no longer be publishing any new titles. The fate of its currently running series remains up in the air and no real reason was given short of the familiar catch-all answer of economic issue.
“Over the course of the last six years, CMX has brought a diverse list of titles to America and we value the books and creators that we helped introduce to a new audience. Given the challenges that manga is facing in the American marketplace, we have decided that CMX will cease publishing new titles as of July 1, 2010. “ (via AnimeNewsNetwork)
This comes as a shocker for sure, and as naturally distressing news not only as a loss of the series they possessed, but as a depressing loss of jobs for many and another rattle of the industry-stability cage.
But should this have surprised us as much as it did? Were there signs this was coming? It got me doing a lot of thinking about where CMX stood in my own life as a manga consumer. Has it really only been six years?
CMX is one of the companies that I always remember being there. Even though I’ve been reading and collecting manga for over ten years, it feels odd recalling a time when CMX wasn’t around. They never had a huge presence but I always knew they were there. When CMX books first started being released, they were also easier to come across then they’d ever prove to be over their next half-decade of life. Local independent stores seemed keen to bring in titles from the new company as the manga market boomed, and with DC as the backer CMX was a manga publisher able to momentarily sneak into the sight of comic retailers in a way that other companies could not.
I indulged in a number of their earlier series, most notably Land of the Blindfold, Monster Collection, Sword of the Dark Ones and Tenryu the Dragon Cycle. At the time I enjoyed these series but CMX quickly become synonymous with unpleasant production values in my mind. The paper quality was nice but the stiffness of the books was horrible and the cover designs suffered from too much consistency, the art lost in a blank canvas of white space and awkward layouts. A friend of mine was collecting Testarotho at the time (another series I predominantly liked reading) and it served as the gateway manga during CMX’s transition to a new publishing style including a visual makeover and new binding (did bug us having a series completely switch appearance mid-way though). While I was happy CMX was changing to a more eye-catching and pleasing format, their presence in the shops I visited quickly began to dwindle and no titles I caught wind of via news on the internet sounded interesting enough to seek out via the process of special order. Having only just become old enough to get a credit card, the ease of online order was still premature for me. The Tenjo Tenge censorship debacle had always exploded into fan-outrage just a short while earlier and, though originally working off an understandable base for complaint, sadly snowballed into a lifelong grudge of fan-entitlement and excuse-to-avoid-buying that haunted the company until the very end.
The trend of diminishing presence continued over the next five years for CMX. Their titles become those little surprise discoveries you’d make at conventions and were those books occasionally slid between other companies’ releases on comic store shelves, often doomed to remain there as the staple-series that were just always there (sadly because no one was buying them). It didn’t help that CMX itself never seemed to stand out much as the internet began to bubble with publisher interaction and information, ever present but generally silent. Around this time, mid-2008, I really began to follow manga blogs and enjoyed the interaction and opinions they offered with other fans. A few choice CMX titles were repeated, most notably Emma and From Erocia With Love, and it wasn’t without notice to me that CMX, though not with anything that screamed ‘you must buy me!’ to my own tastes, did impress by offering something really different from others at the time as big title fever hit the continent with best-selling-effect.
In more at-home observation, there’s been a shift in the content of Canada’s big chain bookstores , Indigo (or their branch better known to me, Chapters) in recent years. Comic books had never been a big part of their selection and here, unlike many other venues, manga actually paved the way for American-mainstream graphic novel publications. First manga sections begun to spring up and then they exploded in size and scale – walls and walls of manga in some places, always with a shelf or two of Marvel and independent graphic novels next to them. But over the last couple of years, DC had begun to filter its way in and in a big way. Today DC comics have their own walls, stocked full of trade paperbacks and hardcover editions. They still sit next to the manga section, now about equal in size as stores scale back on their manga selection. But where in all this was CMX? Nowhere to be found, unfortunately.
DC always seemed keen on holding the lease on CMX and keeping them back at a distant from consumers, even at the manga forefront. Not putting the books in bookstores and only allowing it a sliver of its own publicity, it was a sit-back-and-watch effort. In retrospect CMX was put in a very restricted position – left to be found only by the faithful who sought it out but doomed to obscurity to everyone else. It was a vicious cycle where only those who were already fans of the imprint would in turn continue to actively seek it out, the problem being the lack of effort to create these fans in the first place. What resulted was DC comics ultimately seeing CMX has an imprint not worth the effort in keeping because though it had faithful readers, it simply never gained enough.
Suddenly we come to today where CMX, which had unfortunately never made enough of a ripple in the manga-sphere to even raise the question of its stability, announcing it’s closure in a mere two months. Ironically, consumers had finally gotten the frank and decisive answer they’d been looking for from a company after numerous recent burns from those who faded into bankruptcy with so many unconfirmed statuses. On the other hand, the lack of sign or precursor to foreshadow the decision tripled the shock of the blow.
What perhaps stings the most though is the timing – what are the odds? Just in recent memory it was first Aurora Publishing, the end of print-edition Yen Plus, then Go!Comi and then the Viz layoffs. With the shaking state of the English manga industry flooding the web, is it any wonder though that the executives of DC must’ve seen this as the perfect time to make such a seemingly sudden decision? The perfect smokescreen! Blending into the proverbial crowd, they were less likely to face the scrutiny of why with so many other companies offering a pre-proven answer.
So where do we stand now? One manga publisher less and perhaps most distressingly, one who we had in honesty taken for granted would always be there. Seems little wonder the lacking cause for concern though with CMX having only just updated its website with a number of new titles, solicitations up until 2011 appearing on Amazon and a recent string of new titles that have seen renewed push in both coverage and fanfare.
I know I personally recently took a big dive into CMX’s library which made this announcement all the more ironic. After enjoying a couple new titles, I asked for recommendations of more CMX to explore. Thanks to fellow readers, the library, an amazing sale at local comic store Strange Adventures and the lovely folks at CMX itself, I found myself going from having in my possession 5 CMX titles to over 30 in a little under two weeks. And I read them all, and with only a few exceptions, I loved them. So many series I’d be missing out on! And wonderful production values as well, from the lettering to the covers to the smooth reading experience.
Alas I realized, for Kuriousity had been sorely missing out as well – fellow reviewer Andre and I took the task upon ourselves to bring more CMX titles to light on the site. Recent reviews have included The World I Create, Genghis Khan, The Battle of Genryu, Oh! My Brother, and the absolutely terrifying in an entertaining sort of way, Gon. These were only the tip of the iceberg of the titles I’ve found – I’m enraptured with Key to the Kingdom, in love with King of Cards, amused by Deka Kyoshi! and curious about The Lizard Prince. You Higuri’s old-school series Seimaden has been appeasing my inner boys’ love fangirl and Diamond Girl gave me a reason to crave baseball. Just to name a few.
There still remain so many unanswered questions in regards to the timing of this move on DC’s part. Why and why now? The perfect camouflage? A conglomeration of background circumstances? Or simply a harsh budgetary move on the eve of the fiscal year’s end? Whatever the reason, the loss is great – CMX may not have stood in the spotlight but its individual titles gave off a shine of their own with a level of charm and risk that catered well to an audience often missed even by the most forward of publishers. Whether it was that very risk that saw the imprint’s end or CMX’s restricted ability to ever to evolve past its role as simply DC’s manga-shot-in-the-dark, it’s a true loss to the manga shelves across the English-reading world. It’s a shame that CMX proved in so many ways to be that thing you never truly realize you’ve got until it’s gone, even with six years under its belt.
Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have a really long shopping list of CMX titles to put together for Anime North next week.