A few weeks ago my Twitter TL is was filled with comments about a post that went up on Vice about Tokyopop. It is a very long puff piece that espouses the virtues of the old Tokyopop, blames its fall on the economy, and then puffs it back up with all the great things they will be doing. Conveniently, the piece leaves out all the problems Tokyopop created itself, and the sour taste their “OEL” program left with a lot of creators. My TL was filled with people wanting to rectify that. One Twitter user who chimed in was @jaimonster, who made a comment that wasn’t dissimilar to what a lot of other people were saying. But he did get a response from the Tokyopop official Twitter account. You can read his account of it here.
I’d like to think that Tokyopop has learned from its past mistakes, but looking at some of the tweets sent to @jaimonster, its obvious that Tokyopop hasn’t learned a thing, and maybe worse, is buying into its own hype. The author of the tweets, “Michelle”, tries to defend Tokyopop’s treatment of creators as some “good deed.” That by selling back their 50% share, they were better than Marvel or DC who do “work for hire”, and that the creators “knew what they were signing on for.”
This person obviously has no concept of the history of Tokyopop during their OEL program and after their shut down. A lot of the creators were young and new. They did not know what they were signing on for. Many of them didn’t know about contracts or who to get advice from. They trusted Tokyopop to do right by them, and were burned. Tokyopop wasn’t doing anyone favors by going 50/50. They were mitigating their costs. Marvel and DC already have a bullpen of properties that they can hire creators for. They aren’t looking for the creation of new worlds and characters. And last I heard, in Japan, the mangaka own their creations. They are not “work for hire.” The publisher might have a say in the work, but ultimately, the mangaka still own it. And as for buying titles back, I can’t even begin to count how many posts and tweets I saw go by about creators wanting their works back, willing to pay them, only to have Tokyopop tell them no.
This kind of tin-ear response is what helped Tokyopop poison their own well. Were we fans sad to see Tokyopop go? Yes, but Levy made it a whole lot easier to let go by saying things like “Wow #GDC2011 is blowing my mind. Why have I been stuck in such an old-school, out-of-touch industry for so long?! (yes I mean books!)” If the person who created the company doesn’t care about it shutting down, why should we?
If Tokyopop wants to win back readers, it’s going to need to work on its social skills. Responses back like the ones that @jaimonster received is only going to earn it more scorn. For a company that already has a long climb to get back into fans good graces, digging itself deeper isn’t helping any.