By Brigid Alverson
Almost four years after they initially introduced the project, Dark Horse recently announced that they would publish Gate 7, the latest manga from the four-woman Japanese manga team CLAMP, on October 25.
The plot is vintage manga, or rather, vintage YA: shy teenager Chikahito goes on a trip to Kyoto and somehow ends up in a parallel world where he has special powers, and where he must team up with the fierce—but cute!—warrior Hana to protect the world from "violent elemental beasts."
Dark Horse first announced it would be publishing the manga in 2007, and the original plan was to release them in slim, 80-page volumes they called "mangettes." That format is now history, and the Dark Horse edition will contain the standard 200 pages for $10.99.
We reached out to Dark Horse Director of Asian Licensing Michael Gombos with a few questions about the story and how they will present it.
Brigid: There's a lot of manga on the market right now. What makes Gate 7 stand out from the rest of the crowd--and from CLAMP's other work?
Michael: I think the second part answers the first; the fact that it's CLAMP makes it stand out from other manga, or comics, for that matter, but CLAMP is never content to rest on their laurels, and they're really pulling no punches in Gate 7. Stylistically, I think it's really an achievement, too. The artwork is just fantastic, vivid, and the style always seems to fit the tone. I am beyond impressed with what I have seen so far, not only in terms of art, but in terms of story, as well.
Brigid: You first announced this project in 2007. Why has it taken so long? Was it delayed on the Japanese side?
Michael: Most of these deals take time, and especially the important ones. What we announced in 2007 is quite different than what we have today; indeed, we were announcing a format and story. I can't think of a single good deal that didn't take a protracted amount of time to get going. Gantz took me five years, getting some Evangelion series here took some time, too, as did a lot of our other series—so it figures in pretty normally that getting the best-of-the-best, CLAMP, would take a considerable amount of time. Another thing that impact things was the format change (below), and CLAMP is as amazingly busy as they are talented.
Brigid: The original concept was to release mini-volumes, "mangettes." Why did you decide not to go that route?
Michael: Initially, the buyers at the bookstores loved the idea—a great serial, much like American comics, and you get to read the manga exactly as it comes out in Japan! But times changed, and in 2008, the publishing marketing took a dive, and it seemed that value-packaging was what was working. Indeed, we're seeing this as true as our CLAMP omnibus editions (sometimes collecting 3-4 volumes of Japanese material in to one English edition) are moving extremely well. In terms of pamphlet format stuff, single issues or other serials (what the mangettes format was), the thinner, well—let's just say that the top selling comic last month sold 70,000 issues, and there was a time in the industry when that was considered the lower-end of mediocre. Bigger, value-priced packaging is moving well for books, and the smallest I'd go nowadays would be a 150+ page trade (in terms of manga). If you're interested in serialized chapters, it simply has to be available digitally.
Brigid: You have been publishing CLAMP's older works in omnibus editions. It seems they would appeal to a different audience than your other manga like Gantz and Blade of the Immortal. What challenges have they presented from a marketing point of view, and how does Gate 7 fit in with the rest of your line?
Michael: It fits in perfectly, since our line is good comics! I think there are people who are fans of manga, but personally (and I know a lot of people share this), I believe that manga should be divided into genre just like American Comics. Saying that Hellboy and Sin City are both comics seems a lot less pigeonholing than saying both "Gantz" and "Gate 7" are manga; I don't like the classification, because comics are a medium, just like television is a medium. For example, comparing Kazuo Koike's Crying Freeman to Oh My Goddess is like comparing Conan to Peanuts. Crying Freeman is a crime-related book, with a great romance in it. I think you'd be better served comparing it to Sin City because of the content; it's best to ignore the country of origin. Read More...