Dark Horse Comics has been involved in manga since nearly the company’s inception back in the 80’s, bringing out works before it was “cool” to do so. The folks at ICv2 got in a good discussion with them recently and we wanted to pull out one area in particular. The company began releasing Kurosagi Corpse Delivery in omnibus form back in August of last year, doing three-in-in volumes, and it looks like one of those titles that just does very well when you wouldn’t think so. Particularly since the single volumes coming out over a decade ago amid the boom cycle of manga underperformed to the point where itwas stopped for quite awhile.
Looking at 2015, are there any titles that surprised you by performing better or worse than expected?
Horn: A big surprise was the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. We’re about to go into our third printing in eight or nine months. This is a title that has struggled as a regular series, volume to volume. We sold more of the first printing than we sold of any individual volume.
Are you omnibizing that now?
Horn: Yes. This is a title that we’ve began 10 years ago and it’s been struggling in sales, but we went omnibus with it and all of a sudden we’re in the third printing of it. It’s gathering a whole new life and a whole new readership. I would have been satisfied if the first printing of the omnibus sold but now we’re about to go onto the third printing.
Gambos: Another surprise is we can’t keep Berserk in print. It’s selling nonstop. It’s always been a great seller it’ll probably hit a million volumes in print soon. But ever since we switched to Random House, it’s constantly on the reprint list and it’s exploding. Just like Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. I can’t say it’s entirely because of Random House, maybe just people decided to pick up Berserk. It’s an investment when it comes to a series because it’s almost 40 volumes long and each book is $15.00.
People like paper, and I’d like to note that from the licensing perspective, a lot of Japanese publishers like Dark Horse’s commitment to paper. I know that sounds weird. Maybe it’s something old-fashioned, maybe it’s something more traditional, but the fact that we stress how we want to sell our paper books and not digital and our fervor for the paper book lends itself a lot to negotiating and licensing.
Horn: It’s really astonishing. There’s little niches like Scandinavia crime novels and so forth, but there’s no section that compares to manga. There’s no section of French or German books translated into English. Only the Japanese have managed to create a section in bookstores across America. You’ve taken this bit of pop culture that’s been created by a very different culture and you’ve held this space for it in the American bookstore market and expanded it gradually. That’s quite an achievement. It always goes back to the fact that, to this day, with all the development of the American manga market. They’re not made for the Americans, they’re made for the Japanese. They don’t really think about the American readers. It’s rather extraordinary that this has been able to build this share in America.
Series concept: Five students at a Buddhist college in Japan realize the job market is tough these days… among the living, that is! But their unique spiritual and scientific talents might help them get work from the dead, for they can contact the spirits of corpses and speak with them. And if a body is found hanging from a tree or lying in an alley, it’s probably got a story to tell!
The five form The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, specializing in carrying out the last wishes of their dead clients, so their souls can move on. But the Kurosagi gang are magnets for weirdness – not just corpses – and every case gets them involved in disturbing personal obsessions, bizarre modern Tokyo fads, and strange rituals of old Japan… and often all at once!