"India is a large, emerging market for Manga comics"
If Viz Media's interest in the Indian market can be viewed as a sign, then Indian Manga comic buffs have great news in store. Kevin Hamric, their director of publishing, marketing, and sales, was in Mumbai to gauge the Indian market and discuss the future of Manga comics in India. In a telephonic chat with Fiona Fernandez, he tells us more. Excerpts from the interview
Why is Viz Comics looking towards India?
Our research has revealed that India is a large emerging market as far as Manga comics in English is concerned. The Comic Cons held in India have also revealed its impact and popularity among Indian readers. Also, thanks to the network of social media, we are aware of the huge demand here. We are exploring the possibility of tapping into this vibrant market.
Who is the average Manga comic reader?
It’s a mixed readership base: male and female, across age groups. The prime reader falls in the 12-24 age group. But we know of readers who are as young as eight, and of 60-year-old readers too. We are aware of middle-aged readers who pick up a Manga title from friends or even their own kids.
What, according to you, are the factors that contributed to Manga comics’ worldwide appeal?
Viz Media is the largest Manga publisher in the United States, and has been instrumental in spreading its range and popularity by translating it in the English language for worldwide readers. Manga include beautifully told stories with exceptional artwork and have immense collectible value among fans who create home libraries of its titles.
How important is the digital format as far as Manga comics are concerned?
It is very important to us. It is growing hugely as well. However, the print version still pays our bills and is our bread and butter. People like to read the physical form of the comic. At the moment, only 10% of our sales emerge from the digital format. E-books are available in North America at the moment. Yet, plenty of money, time and effort are being streamlined into it. In November 2011, we launched our own iPad app. The good thing about the digital format is that it does not cannibalise print sales. In fact, we know of a set of readers who prefer reading Manga comics in both formats -- print and digial.
Will we see an Indian character or plot in the near future?
I am not sure. It’s a call that publishing and editorial departments will have to take. We are aware of Manga-type comics being created here as well. But for the moment, the Japanese-themed blueprint is what continues to be popular and seems to be drawing in readers.
When can Indian Manga readers pick up Naruto, Bleach or Dragon Ball directly off a bookshelf in the country?
We are still in talks with several names here. We do not want to flood the market. Instead, we prefer to enter after careful planning and strategy. We are looking at potential distributors as we speak. Our goal is to put something out on Indian bookshelves by the end of 2013.
Digital is the way
Viz Media converted their monthly digital magazine, Shonen Jump, to a digital weekly and made it in sync with the Japanese Shonen Jump, so that North American readers get new chapters of Naruto, One Piece, and other Shonen Jump Manga comics on the same day as Japanese readers.