Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose…
Publisher’s Weekly in 2005, in an article by Calvin Reid, exposed that Kurt Hassler, the then Borders and Waldenbooks buyer for graphic novels and considered one of the most powerful people in comics, was the author of Sokora Refugees, a manga title from TokyoPop, originally published as a webcomic. Although the article didn’t state it, Hassler had written the manga under an East Asian pseudonym, Segamu.
Reid quoted Hassler as brazenly saying that he was going to buy lots of copies for the bookstore chain, “Borders is going to give the book a lot of support” and quoted concern from other manga publishers, including one saying “Give me a break. I’d give him a book contract, too, if it would help get me extra shelf space” and “Maybe we should give the manga buyer at B&N a book contract?”
And concern about the new Marvel EIC CB Cebulski having used an East Asian pseudonym to get additional writing work as well as being a Marvel editor as brought this example back into the fore. The biggest difference is that Borders knew about it when it was happening. But other publishers did not.
One of those publishers told me last night “This was an outrageous scam. Kurt bought lots of Tokyo Pop books so that Levy would publish his own authored books. Kurt used a fake Japanese name so that he could buy his own books (I’d guess so Borders and others wouldn’t know) in large numbers, making himself a best selling author. When word came out, nobody seemed to care, except those of us who had been trying to get Hassler to buy our manga.”
Kurt Hassler would leave Borders to set up his own manga publisher, Yen Press, currently very successful. And maybe Kurt is grateful that the story came out then, and not now.
But there were similar reactions at the time. When The Beat ran the story, comments included the following;
And why is he using a pen name? I think it’s kind of insulting that an American author is using a Japanese-sounding pen name.
And the defence,
Is it insulting when a male romance novelist uses a female nom de plume? I don’t really see this as that big a deal.
Plus ca meme chose….