Dysart speaks on Lavigne manga

Perhaps we were all a little harsh about the new Avril Lavigne manga announced this week by Del Rey. OK, the cover would put most people into insulin shock, but writer Joshua Dysart popped up in several forums this week to ask us not to judge this book by its cover. It’s really a horror story, he says, or more accurately, a tragedy.

Dysart talks at length about the development of the book and his vision of it in this interview with David Doub of Manga Punk. He actually wrote the book for the Asian market, he says; the American release was secondary. And:

I think this Avril piece has the heart and tone of Hakase Mizuki’s work (whom I love, and whose “The Demon Ororon” I did the English adaptation for), but it’s more grounded in reality then her wonderful work. So really what you have is a western tragedy infused with and informed by Eastern elements.

Dysart also reveals how the book was developed: He had worked with artist Camilla D’errico, who told packager House of Parlance that she wanted to work with Dysart. The pair pitched several stories, and Lavigne chose this one. Dysart admits that he hadn’t listened to Lavigne’s music before this project, but he does regard her as a role model. This is a great interview and well worth reading in its entirety.

Earlier this week, Dysart dropped in on comments at The Beat to ask readers not to judge the book by its “candy colored cover.” There’s more at his LiveJournal:

I think when people read it, if they read it, they’ll be very, very surprised by it. Particularly by the second volume. All my standard themes are in place. All the humanist based horror, all the loneliness and, yes, all the tragedy found in my other work can also be found here.

At Tokyopop, editor Tim Beedle thinks it might be worth a look, mainly because he’s impressed by D’errico and Dysart, but he wonders if the story will be watered down. And what if the book really is good, but people dismiss it anyway because of the Avril Lavigne connection?

As one of many editors who has worked on comics and manga that have tried doing something original, fresh and “outside the box,” only to see them meet with less than stellar sales as a result, I would hate to see that happen to ANY well written and drawn graphic novel, no matter who’s name is on the cover and which publisher’s name is on the spine.

EDITED to tone down the rhetoric a bit:

I would have liked to see Dysart get more support from the folks at Del Rey, who usually do a good job of backing their books. I didn’t see them respond in any of the forums linked above, and it seems like he was put in the position of having to defend his work, which is a shame. On the plus side, I’m much more interested in the book now that I’ve heard what he has to say.

 UPDATE: Ali Kokmen answers some questions in the comments section

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  1. Ali T. Kokmen says

    I am, as ever, right here. I’ve commented on some forums, but haven’t gotten to all of them, and frankly, won’t. There are a lot of them, after all…

    So. What, specifically, do you want to know?

    I’m not promising that I’ll answer any and every question—I’m not going to get into trade secrets and proprietary information and all that fun stuff that will and should remain private and confidential to its participants—but go ahead. Ask me something.

  2. OK, here are a few:

    Where did this book come from? Has Del Rey been part of the development from the beginning? Was it indeed originally developed for the Asian market?

    Do you think this book will appeal to your traditional fan base, or is this a new direction for you?

    And the most important question of all:

    Why should I read this book?

  3. Don’t listen to any of those people. Avril Lavigne is a witch, and OEL is a bitch.

    But it sounds pretty good.

  4. I’ve said I’ll give this manga a chance. It looks like what Dysart is saying rings true. I know not many here actually knows much about Asian pop culture other than what’s in the manga, I happen to know that Avril is fairly well-known in Asia. It’s one of the few mainstream acts that was actively promoted in various Asian countries; most young Asian taste of foreign pop has shifted to hip-hop. Avril has her Eastern fanbase, and it makes sense to create a manga with her in it for promotional purposes. I mean, many of you know that manga is used in promotion of many, many things. It’s a good business decision. How do I know this? Let’s just say I watch my Slingbox more than my cable box.

  5. Ali T. Kokmen says

    I’m happy to answer what I can, as I can. Let’s see:

    > Where did this book come from? Has Del Rey been part of the development
    > from the beginning? Was it indeed originally developed for the Asian
    > market?

    This project came to Del Rey from Avril Lavigne’s representatives and RCA Records. It is my understanding that they initially undertook this project to capitalize on opportunities with other markets. Del Rey Manga became involved as soon as they pursued the next logical step of bringing this material to the North American book market.

    > Do you think this book will appeal to your traditional fan base, or is this
    > a new direction for you?

    Camilla d’Errico and Joshua Dysart’s work on this book is not only amazing, but also keenly mindful of its audience, so, yes, I do think that this book will appeal to parts of the traditional manga fan base. For instance, I think that anyone who likes our series THE WALLFLOWER will find much to enjoy in MAKE 5 WISHES.

    Moreover, to speak in generalities for a moment, there are great commonalities between fans of manga and fans of Avril Lavigne—both are predominantly female, young, intelligent, passionate, literate, and creative—so I have to believe there’s a common appeal there. If this book brings a few Avril Lavigne fans over to reading manga, or a few manga fans over to Avril Lavigne’s music, then that’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.

    Ultimately, the first, best direction for Del Rey Manga is to publish the best books we can as well as we can. From that standpoint, MAKE 5 WISHES isn’t really a new direction at all…

    > Why should I read this book?

    Of course, if this is not the kind of thing you like to read, then you’re probably not going to like reading this book, and there’s not a lot I or anyone can say to convince you otherwise.

    But here, Camilla d’Errico’s artwork is haunting and evocative, something to be experienced for oneself. Joshua Dysart has created a story that’s in pitch-perfect tune with natural teenage—or indeed human—melancholy. This work is one would enrapture readers regardless of its celebrity provenance. It is a wonderful thing to think that because of that celebrity connection, more readers will be exposed to this work; it would be a shame indeed if readers avoided this work for no reason other than that same celebrity connection.

  6. I have a question: Is Avril a manga fan? If yes, what titles does she read? If she’s not, well, that sucks cus it’s all just a marketing scheme then. At least Cortney Love lived in Japan and actually is a manga fan.

  7. I’m sorry, but I can not take the art in this manga seriously. It seems as if someone had a friend who could draw well, so let them do the artwork as a result – even though the work is really… really… amateur.

    I believe it would have been much more widely accepted had someone taken the time to make sure the art was up to par instead of having it come across as a glorified sketchbook.

    The Avril character even looks nothing like Avril. :P


  1. […] to Katherine Dacey-Tsuei’s post at Pop Culture Shock. Also: Del Rey’s Ali T. Kokmen answers some of my questions. Katherine has a nice wrapup of the backlash-to-the-backlash at the end of the latest Tokyopop […]