Harvard Alum Plans on ‘Disrupting’ the Comic Book Publishing World

Victor Chu will use the $1 million in seed funding to bring certain types of artwork to comic book fans both off and online.

Photo via Manga Magazine

Photo via Manga Magazine

Victor Chu is trying to turn the page on how certain types of comic books are read and distributed.

As cofounder of MangaMagazine.net, the Boston resident is introducing a new way to digest and share a niche type of comic that has a rapidly growing audience in both the city, and on a national level.

After recently securing a $1 million round of seed financing from what he describes as “high net wealth individuals,” Chu, a Harvard alum, plans on augmenting how the entire business is handled.

His next steps are to use his development team, which is based in Bangkok, to lock-up key supply chain partnerships, such as high quality print on demand vendors, so that he can disrupt the online publishing industry and ultimately create a community-driven outlet for Japanese-style anime artists.

Chu says by doing this, fans and comic creators will be able to easily get there work out to the masses, gaining more traction worldwide, and get a chance to make money from their passion to write and illustrate stories.

Can you describe what Manga is a little bit?

Manga at its very basic level means “comic” in Japanese or Chinese. We chose to use this word for our site name because we wanted to show that we are a global publishing platform for any type of graphic novel or comic.

Why do you think it’s so popular, and is that popularity growing?

According to ICv2 and Comichron, comics and graphic novel sales have consistently grown year over year since 2001. New York Comic Con and Fan Expo continues to break new attendance records each year, and we don’t see this trend slowing down. That’s because comics have a unique quality that attracts both young and old readers. It allows the reader to appreciate great art and storytelling, and there is a timelessness to many of the most memorable comics we have read.

So, what is it you hope to bring to the Manga culture with your project?

We want to simplify the publishing and interaction aspects of comic publishing by leveraging new technologies, as well as crowdsourcing. YouTube and Amazon have demonstrated that great content will spread virally, and you don’t always have to have the large marketing departments or budgets of publishing houses to help spread the word about a great story.

What can users do once on your site?

Users can sign up for an account on our site and upload their stories and artwork. From there, the stories that gain the most traction we give additional monetary support and services, such as book publishing and merchandising, to aid in artists’ efforts.

Why did you think there was a serious need for a site like this within the industry?

My cofounder Bancha Dhammarungruang and I have been huge comic fans since we were really young, and we were always frustrated by how fragmented and difficult it was to engage with authors, read and buy their work. There are a million and one obstacles a comic artist needs to navigate to get his or her story out there, and we want to help eliminate as many obstacles as possible by consolidating the process under one roof.  Why do you have to sell your books in one place, sell your merchandise in another, publish your comic somewhere else, and engage with your fans through yet another channel? With all of these activities on one platform, MangaMagazine helps both the reader and author. From there, who knows? What we are trying to accomplish for comics could potentially even be expanded to children’s books, fantasy novels, the list is endless.

How are you going to shake up the print industry with something like this?

The print industry continues to be stuck in a constant cycle of push-based content generation, believing it should be the gatekeeper for taste and preference. We believe that YouTube, Kickstarter and Amazon show that push-based content is no longer king. Why get in the way of what the reader wants? We follow what our readers tell us and help enable the authors who resonate with our readers.

What are the next steps for the project?

We are in the final stages of launching an iPad app to increase our reach across different platforms. We are also working full out to launch a marketplace where our artists can sell their wares. Consistent with our goal for making it easier for authors, we will also offer book publishing and poster printing services for free in return for a share of profits.