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WAITING FOR TOMMY: MARK PANNICCIA
By Richard Johnston

RICHARD: And now you've joined the Advisory Board at The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. Is there nothing holy? Can't you just leave well enough alone? Where else are we going to get future proponents of old-fogey style artwork? Do you think this may affect up-and-coming talent as much as TOKYOPOP has affected the current comic market?
MARK: I hope I somehow I can make a difference. I wanted to go to that school since I was a wee pup, and while I didn't make it big as a comic artist, I think someone out there can benefit from my ups and downs. If there's going to be a hybrid of Japanese and American comic art, there needs to be proper direction and guidance so people have the chance to reach their true potential. If there's one place on Earth that can do that, it's The Kubert School.

 

LONE WOLF 2100 VOLUME 1: SHADOWS ON SAPLINGS TPB

RICHARD: TOKYOPOP seem to have woken up the big boys to the possibilities of the market you've created then tapped in bookstores. Both Marvel and DC are pumping out digest books, DC's CMX imprint looks to take over from Viz as your main competitor, how does TOKYOPOP plan to stay as No 1? What projects do you think will keep you there?
MARK: Who would have thought that girls would be hanging out at the book store and reading graphic novels about cross-dressing teens and girls in love with their stepbrothers? It's literally a market no one knew existed in the States.

What's going to keep TOKYOPOP alive is tapping creators for original content who understand and come from that fan base. They speak the language of manga and bring their own unique voice and aesthetic to it. They'll inspire and influence fans to become creators and the medium will continue to grow and change and spread. Someday manga might become as huge here in America as it is in Japan. Wouldn't that be a great thing for comics?

RICHARD: But CMX will have a media juggernaut behind them They've already admitting to learning about the market from you guys, what's to stop them following your every move and squeezing you out. Can you always stay one step ahead of AOL/Warner Brothers?
MARK
: We'll just have to keep drinking lots of coffee.

RICHARD: Any type of bean you could recommend for other up and coming publishers?
MARK: I actually find that McDonalds has the most potent stuff that's somehow considered legal. It's like jet fuel.

RICHARD: Do you think traditional US comic readers will ever treat manga and manga-esque comics as "proper comics"? Would TOKYOPOP ever publish anything these readers might identity as "proper comics" in their own blinkered mindsets?
MARK: I think manga will continue to influence American comics whether in content or format. Like you mentioned, MARVEL, DC and others are experimenting with TOKYOPOP's size. It's becoming a standard. I wouldn't be surprised if you see more black and white toned stuff coming from other publishers as well. This fan base doesn't need all 10,000 colors from a Pantone Guide to appreciate the art. I think it's over-stimulating and overwhelming to them.

I don't think you'll see TOKYOPOP do anything that resembles traditional comics any time soon, if ever. It's not a direction the company is interested in going. Right now, it makes more sense to create new content in graphic novel form and release it quarterly, bi-annually or, in some cases, annually. The consumer base is used to this format and frequency.

RICHARD: Do you yourself believe you have a full understanding of the market? I'm sometimes given the impression that you guys don't exactly know why some series are a hit and others are not... it's more like throwing spaghetti at the wall, and see which stick, grow and eventually become horribly engorged and distorted like in Akira. Does it ever feel more random than your success might imply?
MARK: There's a philosophy and a mission and we're doing things that we believe in - things we hope will succeed. No one's got a crystal ball, though, and that means there's going to be some experimentation. You learn to try to stack the decks in one form or another, whether it's in the talent or the marketing or other strategies.

 

BUDDHA VOLUME 1 HARDCOVER

RICHARD: What reactions have surprised you, positive and negative, to books you've published? Anything you expected gold sales for that has flopped - and which quirky vanity projects did gangbusters?
MARK
: This is such a new market that I've gone into it with a very, very open mind. We've only put out a few OGNs but have an amazing line-up for 2005 and 2006. I may have to wait a few years before I can be surprised either way.

RICHARD: I hear one of my own "ones-to-watch", Alex De Campi, has something lined up with you guys. Will she ever rule the world?
MARK
: Rumor has it she's in possession of the Cosmic Cube, so anything's possible.

In all seriousness, she's a very talented writer and we've been talking. I'm very interested in working with her.

RICHARD: I feel my next Waiting For Tommy coming along...

ADDENDUM...

RICHARD: As this interview was going to press, I discovered through my deep mysterious inner industry sources... and by reading Newsarama, that you were actually leaving TOKYOPOP... for Marvel.

So, what are your plans for Marvel, what can they offer you that TOKYOPOP cannot and do you see a continuity in what you've achieved at TOKYOPOP... and the dangers that may stymie you at a more complex company such as Marvel? Is superheroes now your one-and-only?
MARK: TOKYOPOP was an amazing place to work and I'll greatly miss the talented people both on staff and on the original titles I edited and developed. You can't discount what the company's done for the medium. No other publisher has done more to reach new readers.

As for Marvel, I used to work for them so there's a nostalgic connection that goes beyond the characters I grew up reading. It's too early to tell what the future holds, but there are things I wanted to do back then that I'll have the chance to revisit.and there's a whole slew of new things I want to do and new talent I want to work with.

I'm extremely excited at the possibilities ahead and the chance to work with Joe Q. and Dan Buckley. It was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up. The goal remains the same. I want to continue breaking out new talent and developing books that will entertain."

RICHARD: I think that's what you call a developing story... looks like Marvel may not have to "figure it out on its own" for much longer.

Pages: 1 | 2

The Waiting For Tommy Archive

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