Missing English Translations

By | Wednesday, July 12, 2023 Leave a Comment
The first comic series I remember being axed before the story was resolved was Mirror Walker from 1989, which I talked about a couple years ago here. The publisher went out of business before the second issue could be published. There are, of course, other reasons that a comic might drop off mid-story. Omega the Unknown was famously canned for low sales, but Marvel eventually finished the story in another title. How many webcomics remain unfinished because the creators working on it had to deal with life stuff?

One of the more curious ones to me, though, are when the comics are actually completed, but they were published in another country originally and it's the English translations that stop getting published. I believe the first instance where I encountered that was with Son Hee-joon and Kim Youn-kyung's iD_eNTITY. It originally ran as 유레카 (Yureka) in South Korea in 2000 before Tokyopop picked it up to print in the US in 2005. Tokyopop dropped the series in 2008, which coincided with a corporate "restructuring" that saw the cancellation of a number of other titles. There's a whole book to be had on what the hell happened with Tokyopop around this time, but they effectively shut down publishing entirely from 2011-2015 and when they started back up, they seem to have started from scratch, ignoring whatever titles they had in the pipeline before.

(Seriously, there is a huge black hole of information on what exactly was going at Tokyopop during that timeframe. From my distinctly no-inside-information-whatsoever perspective, it looks like CEO Stu Levy just suddenly decided on a whim that he wanted to become involved in movies and stopped giving a rat's ass about comics. And he only turned his attention back to comics after the movie industry didn't embrace him. I've never met or spoken to Levy personally but the couple times that I've heard him speak, he struck me as pretty narcissistic. But that he just so quickly and casually shit-canned pretty much his entire staff despite the publishing arm seemingly doing pretty well just so that he could take a shot at being a Hollywood person suggests to me that narcissism is borderline sociopathic. I would love someone knowledgable about -- but not beholden to -- Levy and/or Tokyopop to write in detail about what the hell actually happened.)

I liked the story of iD_eNTITY but we only got twelve volumes here in the US. It ran for a total of 41 volumes, eventually wrapping up in 2014. The story was about several kids who had pretty average kid problems in the real world but were involved in a popular MMORPG in which they were vying for a championship title. I found the contrast of their in-game success with their mediocrity of their real world "wins" interesting and, given this was written in the early 2000s, somewhat prescient. But since the official/legal English translations ended barely a quarter of the way through the overall story, I have no idea how it goes.

In theory, some other company could pick up where Tokyopop left off, but that doesn't make much sense financially. The first twelve volumes are now clearly out of print, so you'd have to re-translate and re-print those if you wanted any hope of getting new readers, but those would simultaneously be a hard sell for anyone like me who already read them. Another $150 just to get to a point that I've aleady gotten to? Not likely. So, looking at it from a publishing point of view, it would have to be a massively popular title to even hope to break even.

I've had a few instances since then where I began picking up translated foreign language works that were dropped. The finale of Christophe Blain's Isaac the Pirate has never made it to the US despite it being over fifteen years since the last English installment. Although it still could technically get published, there haven't been any new English translations of Riad Sattouf's Arab of the Future since 2019, so I'm thinking I'm probably screwed out of an ending there as well. Teshkeel's The 99 only got five of its 35 issues seen in the US. (Well, five of the main title issues. There were a couple one-shots and an English-first (I think) crossover with DC Comics. Also, I think a few more issues were translated and published electronically at one point, but none of those seem to be online any longer. Publishing is messy.) All were stories I was really enjoying and actively when we didn't see when the next volume should have dropped, and I'm sure there are plenty of others that I enjoyed well enough but didn't relize when a new volume didn't come out when a regular schedule might suggest it should. Or books that I didn't realize were foreign works. Not to mention all the titles that never even hit my radar in the first place!

I bring all this up because these really bother me. I understand that any number of issues can keep a series I enjoy from getting completed. Creative differences between artist and writer, the creators having to deal with more pressing real life issues, even just the creator realizing the story has gone in a direction they're no longer passionate about. But the translated books falling to the wayside bother me because the bulk of the work is done. The story has been completed. It's written, it's drawn, it's even published. The creator told the story they wanted to tell. But it's in a language I don't understand. And while some of that theoretically a limitation on my part, I'm not a linguist; I can't read Korean and French and Arabic on top of my native English. It's not even like there's a lot of overlap among them, as there is with a set of Romance languages.

So I'm annoyed that these stories are out there, complete, but I am only able to enjoy a portion of them. I get that there are capitalistic reasons why there's not complete Enlgish translations and it's unreasonable to expect them to continue to publish these solely for my entertainment, but it's a particularly frustrating way as a reader to be left hanging.
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