Manga Village

CMX, We Hardly Knew Ye

May 22, 2010

On Tuesday, May 18, DC Comics announced that CMX would cease publishing on July 1, 2010. CMX had a turbulent start, with the controversy of editing/censoring of Tenjho Tenge, but with the right staff behind it, it became a company that licensed and released solid titles that appealed to everyone. But DC has pulled the plug, citing the “challenges” in the marketplace right now. So now we must say good-bye, just as CMX was finding its legs and bringing out some really interesting titles.

Katherine Farmar: Noooo! Swan! It isn’t finished yet! ARGH!

…okay, I’ve calmed down now. This is sad but not exactly unexpected news. CMX was always a Cinderella for DC — the neglected, barely-promoted stepdaughter that the bigwigs didn’t seem to know existed most of the time. And that’s a terrible shame from my point of view, because CMX published some seriously good titles. I have a particular interest in the works of the Year 24 Group — the legendary, groundbreaking shoujo artists all born in 1948 who changed the face of manga in the 1970s — and CMX was one of the few publishers/imprints to give us English-language versions of their works. Swan and From Eroica With Love are classics, and it was a thrill to see them in English — though, that said, CMX’s translation of From Eroica With Love was painful to read. Perhaps that was an early warning sign? Then again, a lot of publishers have produced worse translations and still survived. There’s no justice in the markets.

Justin Colussy-Estes: I agree about Swan–Not finishing that series is like a crime against humanity. I believe that series is the most inventive, innovative, and groundbreaking comic I’ve ever seen.

But, overall, CMX was a bewildering company. Unlike every other manga company, they had no identity. I can spot a Viz title, a Yen title, a Tokyopop title from a mile away. You get the sense that the editors have particular tastes or market strategies. Dark Horse, DMP, Del Rey, hell, even downmarket also-rans and promising never-made-its like Broccoli and Go Comi! had identifiable approaches to the kinds of manga they imported. I never got a sense of what CMX was after–visiting their website leaves me puzzled and confused. I keep coming across titles and thinking “oh, CMX published that?” or “huh, I never saw that one!”

My read on this was that half a decade ago, somebody at DC/Warner corporate said, “hey, I keep hearing about this manga thing, and how it’s kicking our ass in the market. We should get ourselves some of that.” Then, they promptly forgot, never promoting, never even thinking anymore about the new imprint. This past year has seen a lot of shake-up at DC, and I’m betting the dust has settled enough that somebody looked into the dusty corner where CMX lay and said, “hey, what’s this thing, and how does it fit into our strategy of mining intellectual property for movies, underwear, picture books, party supplies, etc, etc, etc?”

Alex Hoffman: In that licensing view, I totally agree with Justin. It seems as this cancellation was more of a retreat by DC to things that are both familiar and conventional, publishing safe comics and disregarding an entire population (the female half). It’s this “can we get an option” mentality that is driving the comics industry currently, and it’s stupid. A branch like CMX, which essentially printed some of the best comics in the industry could have literally PRINTED YOU MONEY but instead DC was too concerned with Nolan’s Batman and men in tights to really give a flying crap about manga. Poor distribution, nearly no marketing, and an overall lack of market presence really made CMX seem like a non-player, but the strength of their releases outshone many of their larger competitors.

CMX forever found its way into my heart with three series – Kiichi and the Magic Books, a really beautifully illustrated fairytale-like manga with heart, Diamond Girl, with its great opening volume, and Apothecarium Argentum, the only manga I know that is remotely related to pharmacy (my chosen profession). The folks at CMX made some amazing manga, and it’s with a deep sadness and regret that I didn’t get to try out more of their content before DC pulled the plug.

CMX enriched my life with some really wonderful manga, and I know a lot of people who feel the same way. It was these offbeat, beautiful titles that made CMX one of my favorite publishers, and it saddens me that they’re now gone.

Amy Grocki: One of the first shojo series I ever encountered was I Hate You More Than Anyone and I really hate that I may never know how the series will end. With volumes being released regularly I don’t think most fans saw this coming. More even so than that it is disheartening to see the demise of a publisher that brought out such an array of titles. As someone who is actively seeking a new job I flinch whenever I hear about jobs being slashed, no matter what the industry.

Justin Colussy-Estes (um, again): Today I was reading a CMX title I’d had stashed away until the end of the semester (Dokkaiddo?!), and I took a look at the copyright page. The publisher is actually listed not as CMX, or DC Comics, but as Wildstorm, and seeing that really made some of this make sense. Wildstorm has been adrift as an imprint of DC for awhile now, maybe even since before CMX was created. There’s no real editorial muscle over there, and I think what’s happened to CMX is a reflection of the fact that Wildstorm can barely see the nose on its face, let alone be forward thinking enough, and broad-minded enough to have a publishing strategy.

Lori Henderson: I’ll admit it. I was one of the people who when CMX started was against them over the censoring of Tenjho Tenge. Not that I read the title, it was the principle of the the thing. I wasn’t until, after new management and the introduction of three new titles, King of Cards, Key to the Kingdom and Apothecarium Argentum did I give CMX a second chance, and I’ve never looked back since. DC had something really unique with CMX. The titles they licensed were more on the quirky side, but were really entertaining. They ran the gambit from all ages titles to mature, and hit just about every genre. They didn’t have any “mega-hit” titles, but what they did have was fun to read, and about the only thing as a female that DC put out that I would even look at. I liked their eclectic collection of titles. Their titles stood out in a good way, that is, if you could find them.

DC doesn’t get how to market to women, mostly I think because they don’t care. They didn’t see that CMX should have been the line they were promoting for girls instead of their poorly thought out “Minx” line. They didn’t get their books in bookstores like their trades or EVERY OTHER MANGA PUBLUBISHER so girls could see and buy their books. They didn’t get the word out to librarians that they had this terrific line of books for tweens, so they could stock their shelves. DC is an example of not just doing marketing wrong, but also not at all. In one fell swoop, they told the world they couldn’t care less about women or kids as fans. They just want to keep the status quo of catering to adolescent boys (mentally, not physically). And now, because of the short-sightedness of some execs who just don’t get it, readers will not only NOT get to finish many of the titles already mentioned in this post, but new titles that just started like Stolen Hearts and My Darling! Miss Bancho, and even worse, those titles that will never see the light of day, 51 Ways to Save Her and Nyankoi!.

I give lots of props to the employees at CMX who really cared about the titles and the fans. They did a great job in spite of the corporate culture who didn’t care about them enough to even let them have their own table at cons in the DC booth (at SDCC all the other imprints did). To all of you who fought against the tide of indifference, we love you and will miss you and all the great stories you brought to us. Thank you so much.

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