PAUL BENJAMIN: Writer, Editor, Supermodel

Moving On From Tokyopop

Yesterday, I read a great piece from comics/TV/book writer Chuck Austen on Comic Book Resources about how those who created books for Tokyopop need to put Tokyopop in the rear view and move on with their careers. Chuck’s a friend and though he’s faced more than his share of criticism, he’s a great writer and true professional. I’m proud of the fabulous sci-fi book Flywires he wrote for me back when I was his editor at Humanoids Publishing. After I left Humanoids to pursue my writing career, Chuck and I both ended up writing manga (Japanese style comics) series for Tokyopop. Chuck’s coming of age series Boys of Summer was pure fun. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you know my series Pantheon High about a high school for demigods in present-day Los Angeles.

The kids of Pantheon High

What you may not know is that Tokyopop stopped publishing their line a few years ago. They didn’t go out of business – they just stopped publishing. Because the company never shut down, a lot of talented creators ended up with their books in limbo. The third volume of Pantheon High was available briefly as a print-on-demand book. I’m glad I bought one for myself before it became unavailable. Despite several attempts, I’ve been unable to regain the rights to the series.

The gist of Chuck’s piece is that those of us in this situation need to move on because Stu Levy clearly has no intention of letting go. It’s up to us to put our creative energy elsewhere. It particularly struck me when he said, “They gave us an opportunity to get our work out there, to develop fans.” As much as I’d like to have the ability to do something with Pantheon High, I signed a contract that prevents me from doing so. I don’t regret making that deal because Pantheon High was my first opportunity to get paid to write a comic book. Though I’d been talking to Marvel editors for over a year, I didn’t get my first offer to write Hulk comics until after Pantheon High hit stores. Having a 160-page book on the stands helped me get other work.

I wrote 480+ pages of Pantheon High in total and like Chuck said, that’s an achievement in and of itself. But I didn’t stop there. I’ve written many, many things since then, from comics and graphic novels to video games and prose. I have several creator-owned series in the works right now and I’m planning to launch my first Kickstarter this summer. Ironically, my in-progress series The Girl With No Name was with Tokyopop but my co-creator Eden Benton and I were able to get the rights back because the first volume was never actually published.

Like Chuck says, “It is upsetting. It is heartbreaking. We have every right to be angry. We deserve to have our creation(s) back. But we never will, and none of these entirely justifiable feelings help us now.” Nobody likes getting the short end of the stick but sometimes that happens in business. The trick is to keep on doing what you love and to keep on doing it well. Learning from your past is probably a good idea as well. I’d walk away from the terms of my Pantheon High contract if those were on the table today. Back then, at the start of my career, it made sense and it was worth it, no matter how much I miss Griffin and Grace and the other kids at Pantheon High. That series got my career started. Now, it’s time to focus on the future.

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