Within the last decade UDON Entertainment has been making of a name for themselves. Releasing high quality comics, manga, prints, posters and art books. The Canadian studio has built a strong fan base and a force in publishing. CBNAH caught up with Ash Paulsen, Associate Editor and Chris Butcher, Marketing Director of UDON to chat about SDCC, UDON on ComiXology, Bravoman and more.
CBNAH: How was SDCC this year for UDON? What was the best selling item at the UDON booth?
ASH PAULSEN: This year was an excellent one for UDON at SDCC! Our best-selling item was definitely our core convention debut book for this year, the holofoil hardcover edition of Mega Man 25 (hereinafter "MM25"). We were selling through our stock of MM25 so quickly within the first hour or so of Preview Night that we had to hold some copies back for Thursday through Sunday, just to ensure that other attendees would have a crack at them! But even those sold within the first ten minutes of the exhibit hall opening each morning, with hardcore Mega Man fans lining up outside our booth for the chance to bring home their own hardcover edition of MM25.
CHRIS BUTCHER: MM25 was definitely our fastest seller, but our best-seller was actually Street Fighter Origins: Akuma, the long-awaited graphic novel by Chris Sarracini and Joe Ng! We sent a few more copies of it to Comic-Con than MM25 because it weighed less (rush-shipping books from overseas is expensive!), and we sold every one! Luckily we’ll be doing online sales at UDONSTORE.com beginning August 1st, for folks who couldn’t make it to Comic-Con to pick up our show exclusives.
CBNAH: Speaking of San Diego Comic Con, big news with several UDON titles that will be available on ComiXology. How did the process come about?
CHRIS BUTCHER: Honestly, ComiXology approached us about working together, and since our fans had been asking us to put our comics on that service for a while now, we accepted their lovely invitation. We’re excited to bring our complete line of Street Fighter comics and graphic novels to ComiXology, and we’ve been thrilled with how clean and crisp the art looks! We’re also looking forward to introducing fans to our original projects like Makeshift Miracle and Random Veus, and a selection of our manga and artbook titles too!
CBNAH: Coming out later this year will be Bravoman. Can you tell us what is Bravoman?
ASH PAULSEN: We're very excited to be working with ShiftyLook to release the first volume of Bravoman later this year! Bravoman is a 25-year-old video game that originally came out for the Turbo-Grafx 16 console. It's a side-scrolling platfomer/action game that never really became that well-known, but over the past year and a half or so, ShiftyLook -- a division of video game publisher Namco Bandai that specializes in revitalizing old and current Namco video game IPs and transforming them into new mixed media properties -- has brought Bravoman back stronger than ever with a popular web comic, web cartoon, and -- coming in August -- a new video game for mobile platforms.
UDON's upcoming Bravoman Vol. 1 book focuses on the web comic, collecting its first year of storylines as well as providing lots of bonuses for fans in the form of tribute art, comments from the web comic's creators, and more!
CBNAH: A few years ago UDON release the Silent Mobius. Any chance of seeing UDON picking up any original manga titles in the far future?
CHRIS BUTCHER: The manga market is tough right now… We’ve actually inquired after a few original properties over the past 12 months, but unfortunately the rights were snapped up by other publishers quickly! We’re always looking at all manner of new licensing and translation opportunities, and expanding our art book line with manga- and anime-related releases was a big move for us this past year! I think it’s safe to say you’ll see more manga releases from us in 2014.
CBNAH: This year and in 2014, we'll see more artbooks coming out from UDON. What books people should keep an eye on?
ASH PAULSEN: We've got tons of art books coming out over the next year that we know fans and newcomers will love - way more than I have room to talk about here!
On the Capcom front, we're very pleased that we've been able to answer one of our plans' loudest pleas with the localization of Breath of Fire Official Complete Works, which collects all the gorgeous artwork and character designs from all five games in Capcom's classic Breath of Fire RPG series. We're also showing fans of Falcom RPGs lots of love with a localization of Ys: The Art Book and not one, but two art books based on The Legend of Heroes series!
Of course, we're also continuing our line of beloved Street Fighter graphic novels with Super Street Fighter Vol. 2, as well as keeping our legacy Street Fighter stories alive in a bigger and more beautiful format than ever before with Street Fighter Classic Vol. 2 and the new hardcover edition of Street Fighter IV: Wages of Sin, which includes eight bonus stories and a new, six-page Juri story.
CHRIS BUTCHER: For the rest of 2013 and 2014, in addition to the titles we’ve mentioned, P4: Arena, the next book in our Persona series, is going to blow people away. I’m also excited about our Hyperdimenson Neptunia + Mk2 book, because the anime is airing now in Japan to absolute rave reviews.
Oh, and we’re happy to say that the long-delayed Eyes of Bayonetta art book, probably our most-inquired-after project of all time, will make its way to store shelves sometime in the next little while. I think that one is going to make a LOT of people very happy!
CBNAH: Are there any titles or art books that have floated under the radar that people should check out?
ASH PAULSEN: A personal favorite of a few of us here at UDON that has flown under the radar a bit more than we'd like is Midori Foo's Book of Pictures, which is just brimming with ridiculously gorgeous artwork, costume designs, and more. The barrier of entry may be a little higher for some because the art within is not based on an existing, well-known IP, but don't let that deter you: this book is not to be missed and is one of the most gorgeous, value-packed art books we've ever localized!
CHRIS BUTCHER: Oh I love the Midori Foo collection, it really is stunning. The other two books that I think hardcore art book fans might not know about are Shining Force Feather: Design Works and Atelier: Artworks of Arland. Both of these feature the artworks of (arguably) the most popular character designers in Japan, with Noizi Ito and ‘pako’ on SFF and Mel Kishida on Atelier. They’re beautiful books, with special ink treatments, paper treatments, the whole nine yards. Gorgeous stuff.
CBNAH: UDON has been known to have a great working relationship with CAPCOM. What's it like to work with CAPCOM?
ASH PAULSEN: Capcom has been and is amazing to work with, and to have continuing access to one of video gaming's deepest, most beloved well of characters, worlds, and franchises is something we are always thankful for. It can be said that our initial work with Capcom on Street Fighter is what really propelled us into the public eye to begin with, so even though we work with properties besides Capcom ones now, our relationship with them continues to be one of our most beneficial and rewarding professional partnerships. We're very pleased to have been able to work so closely with Capcom and so many of their flagship games and franchises such as Street Fighter, Mega Man, Okami, Ace Attorney, and Darkstalkers, and we look forward to our continuing relationship with Capcom benefiting fans over the next year with our upcoming Breath of Fire, Devil May Cry, Dragon's Dogma, and Asura's Wrath art books!
CHRIS BUTCHER: I’m actually the newest hire at the company and had never worked with licensors before, and had been warned by colleagues about how difficult working on licensed properties can be…! But working with Capcom has been great, there are a lot of passionate people there that are just as excited to be working with us as we are with them. I feel like we’re pretty lucky to have such a great relationship.
CBNAH: Is there anything you would like to say the fans who supported UDON and its products throughout the years?
ASH PAULSEN: This may sound trite, but it's so true: our fans mean everything to us. It's you, the fans, who allow us to continue to prosper and localize incredible Japanese and Korean art books that would otherwise never see the light of day in the West, and we are so thankful to each and every one of you, whether you are specifically UDON fans, Capcom fans, Street Fighter fans, or just fans of excellent art in general. It's precisely because we love our fans so much that we directly listen to what you want and fulfill those requests as much as possible -- after all, Breath of Fire Official Complete Works and Ys: The Art Book are happening now because you, our passionate fans, have been asking us to localize them! With that in mind, if there are other art books you'd like to see us localize in the future, be sure to let us know on our Facebook page or on Twitter! The entire UDON crew is always on the lookout for new projects to take on, and we at UDON are all about pleasing the fans who have helped us become successful.