DMP's Isaac Lew on ROBOT Vol 1
Q: For those who aren't familiar with Digital Manga Publishing, can you explain a little about the company, its history, and what it's currently involved in?
A: Digital Manga Publishing or DMP for short. Was established sometime 2 years ago. We've been co-publishing titles such as Trigun, Hellsing, Berserk, Ring and the popular Vampire Hunter D novel. Nowadays we've been on our own publishing forms of unique manga. Such as IGWP, Worst, Edu-manga, Project-X and Yaoi manga. But most anticipated has been Murata-san's Robot series.
Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself, where your interest in manga comes from, what you do at DMP, and how you came to be involved in bringing Robot to US readers?
A: I myself have been placed as quite the character for this industry. While most are the quiet type, I promote manga like an upcoming record album. You gotta be loud! Robot is no different and I look at Range's series like a group of musicians coming together to do a benefit album. The cause is great and the product will give you two or more tracks that will never been seen anywhere else.
I happened to stumble upon the Japanese version of Robot while checking up on my online store Akadot Retail. It was grabbing a lot of attention and I had met Murata-sensei in Spring of 2003. He was actually one of the first Japanese people I met when I arrived to Japan the first time. It was like a "calling" of sorts you could say. Anyway, my president and I tracked down the publisher of the Robot book Wani magazine and insured that quality like that of Robot, could be possible in the states. Hence, the deal was made!
Q: What's involved in bringing a project like this to a foreign market? Was Mr. Murata involved in the process and consulted on translations and production details? He's obviously someone very attentive to detail, so I'm curious.
A: (Laughs) That's pretty funny, because during the process of working on Robot vol. 1, I had to travel to Murata's home to tell him DMP's ultimate plan for Robot. On the way over there, his agent started telling me about the process of Robot vol. 1 in Japan. Range traveled all the way to the Japanese printer and supervised each print out! They had to keep holding the presses and I heard he was only somewhat satisfied with how the final cover came out. Knowing this, I was sorta freaked outta my mind. But in the end, it seemed he and I shared an mutual appreciation for silver shiny metal things, pimps, and certain artists like Alex Ross, Jim Lee and Michael Turner. So he left the Robot direction up to me in the end. It's a great honor.
In terms of bringing Robot over to the states. It's even rougher than doing it in Japan. Manga is starting to level off in America and to bring in a "Full Color Comic" experiment at 24.95 is no easy task! However, I believe the anime, manga, Japan and art admirers are strongly supporting the Robot series.
Q: Not only is Range Murata incredibly talented and imaginative, but he seems to have a real passion for his work. What was it like to work with him?
A: Well, before Robot came along, I had briefly met him before courtesy of our friends at Gonzo. So meeting up for Robot, was sort of reacquainting of sorts. He finally realized I wasn't some otaku stalker.
But the man wears all black and white, loves beanies, loves to smoke, loves Star Trek type stuff and is from Osaka.
He think's I'm a red headed psycho at promotional events and stuff, so it all works out.
Again, his company and I share a common love for art and also the business of art, so I enjoy working with Wani and Murata as long as that love exists.
I think after AX the biggest difference he (and Wani) realized was in my world, you have to do things at 120% percent in terms of promotions. In Japan, you rarely see the manga-ka public, so most solicitations are very subdued. At Comiket, it's just a list of new titles and that's word enough. So during his time at AX, I had him doing interviews all day, autograph sessions, some local tv, magazine, a panel and a "win a private dinner" contest. It was quite the roller coaster from him, but as promised we allotted the time for him to go fly a P-40 Warhawk plane for the first time.
Maybe next time he'll try an "Immelmann turn"...
Q: Manga has become more mainstream in the US over the past few years, but Robot isn't typical manga. It seems to me a book like this might have a harder time finding the right audience, so what made DMP decide to license this compilation for the US market?
A: DMI as a corporation has always been about doing things differently, and our publishing division is no different. There's so much variety of manga in Japan that's untapped in the states and Robot is the epitome of that trend. As in Japan, DMP will be sharing the same experience of releasing a serial "Full Color Comic" to an audience that generally follows products according to what's on television at the time. But, as stated before, I have faith that the right audience will find and support Robot out here. "With a manga world infected by mediocrity, we need a Robot to purge the area with originality."
Q: While I know Robot is technically a full-color manga anthology, most people usually refer to it as an art book. In Japan, art books are popular. This doesn't seem to have trickled down to the US fan market quite yet, although I get the sense that's changing. Is there a market in the US for art books based on anime, manga, and video games? Or do you feel anthologies like Robot would do better, since an anthology stands on its own and doesn't presume a familiarity with an existing series or game, or an artist?
A: Personally, nothing gets to me more than Japanese artbooks. The time preciously taken, the craft and the depth of what the art is trying to telling you. Like trance or some other rhythmic instrumental music, it's up to you to fill in the rest of the design with your own words and feelings. However, I must admit there are only two major groups that will buy these types of books. Artists and lovers of art. Yes, Robot is an art book, but it's also a manga. So here's to hopes that we can help change the market.
Q: I was amazed by the beautiful art as well as the diversity in tone and style. There's cute stories and deeply disturbing stories, straightforward ones and others that made my brain hurt to try and figure out, and self-contained stories as well as the "to be continued" ones. What do you think will be the appeal of Robot for US readers? The uniqueness? The beautiful art? The continuing stories?
A: I'd be lying if I said it wasn't the naked girl on the cover. HA! But seriously, I think it's going to be the uniqueness of it all that turns into exotic (and sometimes erotic) beauty. Murata's vision for Robot was "freedom" and the artists he hand selected we're giving only one rule: "Draw whatever you've always wanted to draw." This is indeed a manga/artbook you will be proud to have in your collection.
Q: Mr. Murata created Robot as a series and there are three published to date. I noticed the DMP insert advert for Robot #2. Can you tell me a little more about that? What stories from Robot #1 are continued? Does Robot #2 have the same "out of the ordinary" theme and range of diversity in style and tone? More importantly, when will it be out in stores?
A: You can expect Robot 1, but turned up even higher. 14 of the artists will be returning and 3 more will be premiering. Stories will be continuing like ABe's "Wasteland" and my personal favorite "Ebony and Ivory" by Suzuhito Yasuda. You can expect the English version out sometime early next year.
Q: Can we expect Robot #3 as well?
A: If the support Robot is out there enough, you can be sure to see Robot #3 shortly after.
Q: Does DMP plan on publishing any other Japanese manga anthologies or art books? If so, is it possible for you to provide a few details about those plans?
A: Yes, we are very excited to do Yoshitoshi ABe's: lain illustrations ab# rebuild an omnipresence in wired, as it has been a much sought after book. Expect to see some great things and an exclusive "How To" element in our version.
We also have some other artbooks under wraps right now that will surprise a lot of people. Maybe around the end of October, I will say exactly what they are.
Q: I enjoyed the stories in Robot and the Yoshitoshi ABe and Mami Itou stories were particularly creepy but if I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be Ebony and Ivory, which, oddly enough, was mostly black and white. I loved how color, and the lack of color, worked in that story. It was clever and made me smile and also made me think about how much I take for granted the ability to see in color. So I can't help wondering if you had a one story that edged out the others as a favorite? If so, why?
A: Ha! What a strange thing to happen!
I never thought about it like that, but yeah! That's probably why I like it as well, (and here I thought it was just because the maid was hot!) The unsaid story telling of "Ebony and Ivory"...
You are experiencing the same emotion the characters are feeling, the wiping of color only makes the reappearance of it more beautiful. (Recently word was passed down about me from Ugetsu Hakua to Suzuhito Yasuda and rumor has it my likeness may get into the story.)
Q: And, lastly, is there any message you'd like to pass on to Range Murata fans as well as the general fan community?
A: To Range fans: I all thank you for the obvious support of his craft and style with or without the backing of an anime series. You will truly help us revolutionize the anime and manga world... I hope we can show everyone how powerful Murata and his friend's work really is. You will not be disappointed with Robot.
To General Audiences: Dive into the NEW! It's fresh, it's different, it's something I want you to be apart of. Art is a form that can never be compromised and I invite you to explore the artistic minds of these amazing established and up and coming artists. You will not be disappointed with Robot.