A-P founder Kim Cameron talks about bringing comics to her service, creator control for artists, and what the future of the platform will be.

Early this morning Anime-Planet announced that they would be launching their comics vertical that would offer manga, webtoons, and webcomics to its service. Here’s the official press release below:

“Anime-Planet, a recommendation database and social network for fans of anime, manga, and East Asian culture, is breaking into the webcomics game with a premier exclusive title.
Beginning Monday, July 31, fans will be able to read chapter one of the webcomic UNBOY by Narack (Sung Lim), an artist known for his video game-inspired comic creations. “We are just scratching the surface of Anime-Planet’s potential to provide online, legal manga to fans, starting with the popular Korean genre of webtoons,” said Kim Cameron, CEO and founder of Anime-Planet. “We’re excited to partner with Lim to show what our platform can do.”
“I’m thrilled to be working with a company for and by fans that supports authors and artists who want to branch out to a North American audience,” said Lim, who is most known for his internationally read webcomic Meister. Currently, Lim is in the process of Kickstarting a physical version of UNBOY. If funded, fans will not only be able to read the entirety of Lim’s comic on Anime-Planet, but additionally in a printed book format.
Already, fans can watch their favorite anime from Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Viewster directly on the platform. Now, they will be able to do the same with manga, starting with UNBOY’s first chapter, and more titles planned for the future. Anime-Planet will release future chapters of UNBOY every 2 weeks.”

So now that A-P is looking to try and support the comic industry, how would they go about bringing forth their titles? Justin and Helen reached out to Kim Cameron, the founder of A-P, to find out that and a bit more.

Note: Questions are in bold.

Justin: Anime-Planet has been offering anime titles for a few years now, so offering comic content is a natural next step. But when did you have an idea it would be on the platform, and did you expect it to be this year?

Kim Cameron: Our first video partnership was with Crunchyroll three years ago, and adding manga to the site has definitely been on top of the mind for me since this idea got started. I’ve wanted to make Anime-Planet a destination for all kinds of aggregated anime and manga content that supports the industry, and I think we’ve succeeded at that with the 4 video partners we have already (more hopefully in the future!), but we still were missing something else that I think fans really want: manga coverage. We’ve been having ongoing discussions for awhile now so I’m glad that we’re able to announce our first title, UNBOY, today.

So to answer your question, I’ve wanted it to be on the platform since we first started launching videos years ago and I’m glad discussions are starting to produce content our readers can enjoy.

Justin: You mentioned that “We are just scratching the surface of Anime-Planet’s potential to provide online, legal manga to fans, starting with the popular Korean genre of webtoons.” How do you believe A-P will help in allowing fans to read manga legally?

I think a good data point to look at is how successful our watch online feature has been. We were the first anime/manga database and social platform to offer aggregated anime videos, and we get a huge amount of users coming through who know nothing about legal vs illegal, they simply googled places to watch anime online and see us at the top of the list. These folks end up watching industry content, with ads (from the partner) that end up supporting the industry, and many end up going over to sites like Crunchyroll to sign up through our video pages. Even if someone isn’t overtly interested in supporting legal anime, they do anyways, because they find Anime-Planet. It’s also something our community asked for over and over because going between different sites to find content is a hassle, and there’s plenty of people who really want to support legal anime. So it checks all those boxes.

Manga has the same problem, maybe even a bigger problem, than anime, where there’s a zillion illegal sites and nowhere where you can find aggregated content. While this initial announcement is for UNBOY, we’ve set up our codebase and created a design/flow that is scalable for aggregated content, so we’re enthusiastic and excited about what can come in the future. We already know that our community craves for this – the #1 support question we get on Anime-Planet is “how can I read manga here?”, with a massive percentage of that being related to webtoons. The more manga we add or showcase from partners, the more we can channel our community, or others checking out the community, into that legal content, which then supports the industry in turn, etc. Plus the two mediums (anime vs manga) bring in different types of fans who might then discover the other legal content we have, helping the industry even more.

Justin: When did you reach out to Narack (Sung Lim)? How excited are you to start with him on your platform?

Narack and I connected recently, and we were in sync with wanting to provide a place where Korean authors and artists would have a place to branch out to a new audience – specifically, folks who might not have the opportunity to start off with the giants of the industry like Lezhin or Naver (but, who maybe will have a chance to get noticed by senpai because of this!). His Kickstarter timing was opportune because on Anime-Planet’s end, we can now officially start to showcase legal manga for the community; and on Narack’s end, he is able to get exposure through our community (many of which are webtoons or manga fans). Of course, we’re hoping his KS gets funded, and if that does happen, we’ll have the next set of chapters to read online at Anime-Planet as well.

Narack and I have also talked through some exciting other plans for the future that we’ll unveil later. We’re definitely excited to be working with him! He’s super passionate about both the Korean and American industry and our goals/motivations align very well. On a manga-related note I was familiar with Meister already, and UNBOY has great artwork, so I’m glad we can share his work with the community.

Helen: Since you mention exposure and providing a place for Korean authors and artists, will A-P be accepting solicitations in the near future? If so, will these be for new comics only or new and currently established webcomics that want to partner with the A-P platform?

We’d love to work both with individual authors/artists, as well as with established companies that would like to help promote their brand and get more eyes on their content, plus the opportunity for new users to create and/or pay for accounts or services the company offers. On the individual author/artist level, if it’s in our database, or isn’t yet but should be, we’d love to chat! There’s some content we don’t currently list like (most) OEL manga, but we have a wide variety of Japanese manga, manhwa, manhua, and occasional doujins.

Like with our anime catalog, our goal is that users have easy access to legal manga, with the added benefit of being able to track their reading history, getting recommendations, and the other site functionality all in one place. As far as existing manga, we’d love to showcase that, as well! Feasibility for working with individual authors/artists depends on lawyercat topics such as their existing contracts/what rights the creator has – this is similar to anime, where there’s different syndication rights that companies have. tl;dr: yes! We’d love to work with others in the industry and our platform is ready to go. The best way to reach us is the contact form, which will get routed to me. I’m happy to hear about any partnership ideas or thoughts.

Justin: UNBOY is the first title you’ve announced. What would you say the comic is all about?

UNBOY is a fun, action-packed set of battles with game elements (Tetris cubes!) and colorful artwork. Some of the current recommendations made by users include Yu-Gi-Oh! and Shaman King, but I think an added bonus is the old gaming nostalgia. Webtoons often have overly-simplistic artwork, but that’s not the case with UNBOY. I’ve gotten a sneak peek at the 4 chapters that the Kickstarter book contains, and it does well as a standalone/preview arc of what’s possible. I’m hoping we get to book 2 so that I can see what happens next in the UNBOY world.

Helen: Will A-P be offering webcomics/manga as digital only, or will there be an expansion into other content down the line?

Our current plans are digital-only but we’re always looking for new opportunities.

Helen: What kind of editorial content will A-P have with the creator? Will this be similar to the manga system where the creator works closely with the editor or more similar to the typical webcomic system where a creator may be affiliated but works with complete creative authority?

Our goal would be to promote the creator’s work as-is. If it falls outside the realm of something we’d list in our database, for example if it’s hentai, that would probably not be a good fit for our platform. I don’t anticipate us asking a creator to change their content to put it on the site.

Justin: You mention you have more titles coming in the future. How much can you say about what those titles will be? And are they coming soon?

All I can say at this point is that we have more things in the works that we can hopefully share soon!

Justin: Considering how A-P began — started as a anime/manga database and now has video and comic content — how do you see the future of the service down the road?

The site has definitely changed a lot over the past 16 years. Our primary goal has always been recommendations: being the best place to visit when you need to find something new to watch or read. While we have other compelling features now like the video content, expect to see more recommendation-focused functionality moving forward, including better automated suggestions based on your personal interests, better showcasing of relevant content like community lists, and a design better centered on discovery. The video and comic content fits in with that goal perfectly, since that functionality is integrated into your browsing and tracking experience on Anime-Planet.