The pioneering digital comics service iVerse Media will launch Comics Plus: Library Edition, a digital comics service for libraries, in April, and their prospects just got a lot brighter with the news that Viz Media, the largest manga publisher in the U.S., will be part of it.
Viz will provide a number of titles, including Cross Game, a baseball/coming of age story; Dawn of the Arcana, a fantasy romance about a princess forced to marry the prince of a rival nation; Kekkaishi, a good-natured battle manga (Shaenon Garrity wrote the best article ever about Kekkaishi); Maoh: Juvenile Remix, Natsume Ono’s indy-ish not simple, Sand Chronicles, and the thoughtful sci-fi tale Saturn Apartments, which is my favorite manga of all time.
These titles have two things in common: All are published by the Japanese publisher Shogakukan, and all but Dawn of the Arcana (which is relatively new) have made the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens lists over the years, which may be why they were highlighted in this press release.
Manga sales may be dipping, but they remain hugely popular in libraries, and Viz’s line includes some of the most popular titles: Naruto, Bleach, Pokemon, One Piece, and Vampire Knight, to name a few. One favorite author who probably won’t be represented, however, is Naoki Urasawa, creator of 20th Century Boys, Pluto, and Monster; he told an interviewer last year that he doesn’t like digital manga.
In addition to the Viz manga, iVerse’s library service will carry all the publishers represented on their Comics Plus app, including Archie Comics, BOOM! Studios, IDW, Image, Marvel, Red 5, Top Cow, and two other manga publishers, Digital and Seven Seas. The total catalog is over 10,000 titles and includes favorites like Adventure Time, Bone, Mouse Guard, and Sesame Street. Like Comics Plus, the app will be available on iOS and Android platforms as well as on the web. The service is currently in beta testing with a number of libraries and will be available on April 1.