Annual Levitz interview

ICv2 has its annual interveiw with Paul Levitz up in four parts, including his thougths on weekly comics, manga and more, with a few bonus comments from vp Stephanie Fierman. A few callouts:
On the changing audience:

It smells to me like the number of human beings who are regularly reading graphic novel formats in this country is now larger, or about to be larger than the number of human beings regularly reading the periodical formats. I think that’s a very interesting transition, because that has never been true before.


On the weekly format:

I think the weekly is kind of in the same list in my head. I’ve looked for 20 years at the consumer who comes into the comic shop every week and said, ‘There ought to be some combination of content and format that can take advantage of that weekly pace and make it work.’

Action Comics Weekly was a notable failure. The creative format we used in Superman books for a bunch of years under Mike Carlin where the stories flowed week to week to week was a more successful version of it, a subtler one because it wasn’t labeled as a weekly, but it still was an attempt to do that. It’s very difficult to work creatively and never expanded much beyond that to a wider range.


On future manga acquisitions:

The common characteristics are that we’re focused in on is the range of manga that is fiction, that is compatible with what we see as one of the mainstream audiences for manga at this point, either the girls’ titles or the men’s action/adventure or science fiction/ fantasy stuff. We’ve looked at some titles that were nonfiction, we’ve looked at titles that were at a wider creative range. We haven’t yet felt that we’ve had enough strength to do that in the market.

We probably have a more limited range of what would be at the far edge of R-rated to X-rated content than some publishers. We don’t want to do material that is beyond the range we’d publish ourselves in our own lines. That affects the range that we look at as well. The Japanese culture is comfortable with any number of things in manga that American audiences are not necessarily comfortable with. We’re probably not going to be the company that is going to push the limits to the extreme there.


On “manga storyteling”:

The pacing that you identify is certainly a piece of it. The level to which emotional acting is used in the characters is part of the power. How motion takes place. Underneath all of that, beyond my Iliad illustration, when I sit and talk to manga editors in Japan, they begin talking about a very different point of view in what makes a good story — different human characteristics they think drive story than I learned in an English lit class 30 years ago.

I think all of this will synthesize in some fashion. We will have people wanting to tell different types of stories and wanting to tell them in different ways. Some of the projects that we have in development for next year are, in part, steps along that path. I don’t think it’s anywhere near where that synthesis will end up, but it is creative work that probably wouldn’t have happened that way if it hadn’t been for the influence of manga in this country. The writer and the artist are setting out to tell a different story.

Comments

  1. I know many have problems with Levitz, but his dull, yet straight-forward, answers always seem to make sense. I will always applaud DC for trying new things (manga), expanding their own lines (Vertigo going from Sandman/Swamp Thing to Y, Fables, and American Virgin), and not being afraid of continuity.

    Even when they fail — like with the Humanoids debacle — it was failing with something new.

  2. That was a wonderful interview; I never realized before that Paul Levitz was such a reasonably open-minded and sensible person. His take on the syntheses of American and Japanese storytelling, visual mores, and pacing was very interesting, and something I agree with wholeheartedly. While TOKYOPOP tends to take a very optimitic view of the future of manga (and its spinoffs) in the US, Paul’s answer is much more tempered and sensible. The change in the industry is still a gradual thing that takes younger artists and writers influenced by outside art to grow up, gain experience, and share their perspectives with the world. Even those of us taking a part in the industry realize we still have many years ahead of us before realizing our own full potential.

    All the changes we’ve seen in the past decade or so are really just the beginning, and while those changes may not continue at the headlong pace they started out at, the idea that tradition-bound companies like DC is willing to keep sliding their toes back into the water, waiting for it to warm up, is encouraging.

  3. I just read part of it to my fiancee, who pointed out that when she was looking at a manga-style Mary Jane comic, she has a hard time figuring out what’s going on because she expects characters drawn in manga to be Japanese. (We lived in Japan for several years.) I wonder, though, if there is something here that goes beyond the obvious; Levitz’ comment about the character’s and story-teller’s values being represented by the art were incredibly insightful.

  4. It’s interviews like this, without the bombast and Spin of Quesada’s regular appearances on Newsarama, that actually make interesting reading. Paul Levitz is something of a rarity, a passionate fan who’s grown into a very good businessman. While Marvel play it safe with cross overs and pamphlets and collections pandering to the shrinking fan market, DC are trying to grow their market base and move into new areas.

    Levitz obviously appreciates that the pamphlet is very slowly dying and so is looking at Manga and Original Graphic Novels and bookshop sales and anything else he can do to grow the business. With the weight of Warner behind him it’s difficult to be a trend setter but he clearly keeps up with the trends.

  5. As much as I agree with this:

    It’s interviews like this, without the bombast and Spin of Quesada’s regular appearances on Newsarama, that actually make interesting reading.

    I have to nitpick:

    While Marvel play it safe with cross overs and pamphlets and collections pandering to the shrinking fan market, DC are trying to grow their market base and move into new areas.

    It seems to me Marvel is trying to grab readers outside of their current readers (with the success of the digest) but plays that part of the company very quietly, as if the Marvel zombies will be broken from their cries of “Make mine Marvel!” if they realized that titles like Runaways, Spider-Girl and Sentinel were selling to people outside of the fanboy club.

    The big difference that stands out is that Marvel still appears far more corporate than DC, as any attempt at expansion is somehow a part of the Marvel universe, making it a part of the MU’s liscencing portfolio.

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