Monday, August 17, 2009

Getting to Know: ABRAMS Books and Manga Shakespeare Part 2

Please read Part 1 of the interview before reading Part 2

ABRAMS Books + Manga

In 1949, Harry N. Abrams established ABRAMS, and it was the first company in the United States “to specialize in the creation and distribution of art and illustrated books.” Currently, it is a subsidiary of La Martinière Groupe and it “publishes visually stunning illustrated books in the areas of art, photography, cooking, interior and garden design, craft, architecture, entertainment, fashion, sports, pop culture, as well as children’s books and general interest titles.” Along with a variety of artful books, the company’s imprints include Abrams, Abrams ComicArts, Abrams Image, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Amulet Books, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, and STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book. Abrams is also a distributor for companies such as 5 Continents Editions, Booth-Clibborn Editions, Royal Academy Publications, Tate Publishing, The Vendome Press, V&A Publishing, and Editions Alain Ducasse / Editions Culinaires.

Now how does this relate to the comic section of the company? With the objective in mind, Amulet Books publishes middle grade and young adult novels. This age range “includes graphic novels and other visually-based work.” One graphic novel that has caught my attention is Manga Shakespeare. “This is the first manga series we’ve done. We’ve done graphic novel projects (and have a few coming out in the next few years), but no other manga.” The manga series “seemed like a good fit with Abrams’ art book past and the young adult sensibility of Amulet.”

Manga Shakespeare

Ok so Manga Shakespeare is from Self Made Hero, a company located in the United Kingdom. The company “packages the books,” such as hiring the writers, adaptors and artists, to produce the manga series, while ABRAMS “buy copies directly from them.” Even though ABRAMS is the buyer, they do provide their own “input into the covers, and we choose which of their books to add to our list.” Now that ABRAMS has added the Manga Shakespeare series to their Amulet list, it has provided value to the company and the education of William Shakespeare’s work. ABRAMS believes that the series provides a “great concept, and the art in the books was very striking.”

Shakespeare is usually taught in the academics of the US and some of you probably remember the text. I bet some of you could not even understand some of the written dialogue. “Since Manga Shakespeare uses Shakespeare’s original text, but interprets the text in a new way, it’s a particularly useful educational tool.” Educators, such as teachers and librarians, and students “appreciate the modern, vibrant approach to Shakespeare, and we’ve had a big positive response to the series.” Unlike some manga series that exist in the United States, licensed manga and Original English Language series, Manga Shakespeare has provided a unique contribution to the US Manga market. “Manga Shakespeare takes the traditions of manga and uses it to explore the world of Shakespeare—two rich traditions coming together in the US market.” Not only is the combination of Shakespeare’s classic writing and modern manga artistic style that makes it unique, but also it is the “only series of classics in manga form that re-imagine the original texts in new and unique worlds (space operas, for example, or the wild west). We think that adds a special vision to the marketplace.

However, not all great concepts can have a predictable success. Similar to any product, companies will have some worry and concerns about the success and receptions of the item. “If the books had not been successful we would not have continued on taking more Manga Shakespeare books” Not only was the public reception something to be aware of, also competition from other competitors can occur. “B&N, Wiley, Penguin, and Random House all also publish manga adaptations of classic works, which are the primary competition for Manga Shakespeare.” However, judging by the amount of Manga Shakespeare titles I have seen in bookstores and at ABRAMS convention booth, they have been successful in the States. “We will have 10 in the series by the end of the year.” That’s a lot of titles! With the success of Manga Shakespeare, Lehrman hopes that “the readership will continue to grow and that more artists and creators will be inspired by the genre.”
© 2009 Linda Thai

Thank you ABRAMS Books for letting me use their cover images! Thank you Maggie Lehrman for the interview!
To learn more about ABRAMS Books, please check out ABRAMS Books and the history of the company.
Tune in for the continuation of Manga Shakespeare week!

No comments: