Tokyopop’s publishing arm may have shut down, but that doesn’t mean that creators are about to get the rights to their work back, as The Comics Journal reports:
According to a source formerly at Tokyopop, all but three of Tokyopop’s original series were created under either work-for-hire conditions, or with Tokyopop sharing trademark and copyright with the creators, effectively making the creators unable to reprint or continue their work without permission from Tokyopop… Another former Tokyopop associate, speaking on condition of anonymity, believes that the closure of Tokyopop’s publishing division, and its seemingly inexplicable publishing decisions, are much simpler than they may seem on the surface. “Tokyopop did not die because of pirating or because of Borders,” the source said. “It died because Stu [Levy] was sick of being a publisher.”
The piece quotes East Coast Rising creator Becky Cloonan, Queenie Chan, King City‘s Brandon Graham – “I seem to have gotten away with more than the rest of the artists,” he says, in respect to the revival of his series through Image – and M. Alice Legrow, whose Bizenghast was the only of Tokyopop’s OEL books to survive the 2008 cull of projects. But Ross Campbell may offer up the most appropriate reading of events:
I’d love the rights back but as long as their headquarters and other offices and media stuff is active, I doubt I’ll ever get them back. I always figured that they were holding onto everyone’s rights partly so that even if they became insolvent or completely collapsed or whatever, that they could sell off the catalog of properties to another party and make a quick cash grab before they crashed and burned.
Sad, sad state of affairs. If nothing else, I hope that Graham’s King City experience might allow other publishers to license out and complete some of the books that Tokyopop are keeping hostage.