Q & A Interview With Saturday AM Magazine (Diverse Manga Publisher)

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Saturday AM is the World’s MOST DIVERSE MANGA anthology magazine and has been one of the most popular digital-first magazines.

As the company heads into 2020, the magazine will not only have new and existing sister magazines to continue to drive DIVERSITY throughout ALL genres of manga-style comics… BUT they’re adding several new series and a new format.

Apple Black, Clock Striker, and other popular series will return this year for a minimum of 3 back to back issues (or a ‘season’).

Likewise, new series like ORISHA (from Nigeria), TENDER LOVING PUNCH (from Saudi Arabia) and MMWOG: JUDGEMENT JOKER (from Greece) will continue to introduce amazing new voices and characters to the world in issues of …where else? Saturday AM!

Frederick L. Jones is the Founder and Publisher of the brand and is eager to achieve even bigger things in 2020.

 

1. What’s the meaning behind the name Saturday AM? 

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Frederick Jones, Publisher:

So, when I was a kid, growing up in the ’80s, Saturday Morning was EVERYTHING for a young geek.

Keep in mind, there was no internet for regular folks back then.

Videogames were emerging but looked NOTHING like they do today. Likewise, parents would have to drive their kids to the comic-book store even if your town had one. So, it was ANIMATION on Saturday mornings where geeks could truly be inspired.

While most of them don’t look great by today’s standards, back then, those shows seemed so MAGICAL because the budgets could be whatever the storytellers could imagine.

Superfriends, MIGHTY ORBOTS, Bionic Six, Scooby Doo were just some of the series that really made an impression on me. In fact, most didn’t last more than 1 season so, every year was interesting because new series popped up frequently.

This made the day even more iconic as few families had DVR’s so the event of waking up, going to each network at each hour and seeing what appealed to you allowed some shows to leave indelible marks on kids.

Today, EVERY DAY is like Saturday Morning with streaming services but the name still means something to people of my generation.

When I was thinking of starting an anthology for NEW DIVERSE COMICS, I wanted something memorable ala Shonen Jump but that actually MEANT something to folks from the West.

The name Saturday AM came to me almost immediately. It took about 2 weeks before I saw the logo design but then I KNEW we had created something special.

 

2. What was the inspiration for starting this company, and what drives you? 

Frederick Jones, Publisher:

The idea to start the company, like most things, sounds simple but it’s a tad more complicated. I had come off a decent career as an Executive in the Videogame industry and had tried to take a Pet Food company to new heights.

I was underfunded but we still had tremendous brand gains for the investors. Unfortunately, the RECESSION of ’08 & ’09 cratered us.

We were so close that about eight months later a company from Canada actually contacted me because they wanted to buy the company for the brand that I had built!

I was pretty frustrated at the obstacles in that endeavor because suffice to say, at that point in my career, I had made a LOT of money for a lot of people and yet it was clear that I was being asked to jump through hoops that other execs I knew with fewer success rates were not.

This is, unfortunately, all too common, when you are a POC and thus I had come to the conclusion that my next move would be to head up my own company.

At this time social media was starting to take off and combined with my international travels, I was amazed by how many anime fans there were in countries around Africa and Europe.

More than that, I was downright FLOORED when I saw how many people from these countries could draw impeccable manga style art. It LOOKED like a Japanese artist drew it.

 

This matters to me a lot

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The new Saturday AM mobile app will include diverse manga content from ALL of their publications.

Manga, Anime, and Videogames are industries with tremendous reach but have little diversity.

As a POC I knew that there were TONS of us financially supporting the industry but rarely allowed to be decision-makers in those spaces.

With my connections, I decided to base my new company, MyFutprint Entertainment, around the idea that I could connect these young promising artists (many from smaller, majority-minority countries) to top companies in the videogame, animation, and toy industries.

What quickly became clear, however, was that there was a serious need to have a brand identity and product that could serve as a beacon for these creators to find us and vice versa, provide a platform for them to get maximum exposure.

Saturday AM, our digital magazine anthology, was created to service that.

 

3. What are your main challenges behind promoting diverse Manga

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Frederick Jones, Publisher: 

The challenges in promoting DIVERSITY in the manga category can FILL A BOOK.

Seriously.

When we started the usual story was raised by ignorant folks: “Manga is only Japanese.”

Fun fact: most of the people I heard that from had never been to Japan, never worked with the Japanese, and shockingly, were NOT ASIAN in any shape or form.

This is never said about hip hop or sports which were pioneered largely by Black people when non-black people engage with it but for some reason, non-Japanese people feel very protective of manga from Japan.

We got around that pretty quickly in sales and fan support so we proved there IS a demand but getting coverage for it has been tough.

Whiteness is so ingrained as a default in the anime industry in the West that it impacts the OPPORTUNITIES for everyone else.

For example, why are mostly white actors cast to voice JAPANESE characters?

I’m positive there are plenty of ASIAN voice actors who would love their chance to express these roles in their voice (i.e. accent or no).

I’m not mad at those actors, mind you, many are fantastic but I have to wonder how many POC (people of color) are allowed to voice these characters?

Executives, journalists, actors – in the anime and manga space in the West rarely have women or other minorities.

The point is that if you don’t see the lack of diversity as an issue (i.e. because it doesn’t personally affect you) then naturally, you’re not going to see the actual accomplishments that Saturday AM (or any diverse manga comic or magazine) has made as interesting.

So, when we have a best-seller like APPLE BLACK or introduce shonen manga‘s 1st black female lead character, like our popular CLOCK STRIKER, but are told, “it’s not interesting enough for a bit of coverage” then it is unfortunate.

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Listen, I don’t care what race someone at an anime or manga website is but I do care about how they treat the topic of race in anime and manga because that AFFECTS millions of people.

For example – when we were putting together Saturday AM, I remember speaking to a young African creator and I asked why, considering they had NEVER been to Japan, their manga didn’t have more African elements?

I was told, `It would seem forced.”

‘Forced’ to have black people in a fantasy comic…from a black African. Think about that…

That is an unbelievable statement but I don’t blame the artist – it’s what is being taught when anime and manga continually glorify some aesthetics and completely ignore others.

I’ve NEVER heard someone ask if it’s FORCED to have European elements into Fullmetal Alchemist or Attack on Titan instead of Japanese elements?

And yes, we know representations of Black characters have been pretty embarrassing for years. From Cyborg 009 to OnePunchman.

Likewise, some of my fave series ever feature exhaustive research and respectful depictions of non-Japanese people such as VINLAND SAGA and INNOCENT ROUGE – but they are white European subjects.

The point is that when it’s FANTASY it can (and SHOULD) be about ANYTHING with ANYONE as a main character.

This fact doesn’t get discussed in any meaningful way when it comes to anime or manga sites.

When I’ve spoken to journalists about this and why I started Saturday AM, it’s usually something they will acknowledge privately but seem too worried about to wade into this discussion.

And therein lies the problem: too little diversity in the industry despite massive diversity in the fanbase means getting opportunities for qualified (usually over-qualified) POC is tougher than it should be.

But, Saturday AM is stubborn, our goal is to be SO SUCCESSFUL that they HAVE to acknowledge our mission.

The more we are visible the more the very IDEA of anime and manga (both here and in Asia) being more inclusive becomes less contested and more appreciated.

Related: 7 Types Of Fans That Make The Anime Community TOXIC

 

4. What are your predictions for diverse Manga in the next 5 years? Where do you see it going? 

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Frederick Jones, Publisher:

I’m extremely BULLISH on our business and this new sub-category of diverse manga.

Black women are a massive demographic in any medium from politics to music. I’m seeing more and more black women as customers and while that’s great it also means that the medium has GOT to be respectful to that.

There will not be a next generation of young fans who are of color if their Mothers’ believe the medium systemically tells their sons and daughters that they don’t matter.

Keep in mind, when I started Saturday AM in 2013 there was VERY LITTLE meaningful discussion of REPRESENTATION in manga which was coming off of its’ Western implosion with companies like Borders and Tokyopop suffering.

In fact, aside from the silliness I mentioned earlier about what constitutes ‘real manga’, the bigger issue we faced was the idea of doing a digital magazine.

People (including industry folks that I knew) scoffed at the idea as webcomics were not considered quality products and that digital comics were “easy to steal.”

While scanlations were really exploding at this time, so were sites like INKBLAZERS (now defunct).

Given so many of our artists and fans were online, I just felt that digital was ‘where they were’. Likewise, having a corporate background, I was DETERMINED not to carry much physical inventory.

So we put forth a subscription service for the magazine and went out with modest expectations and we exceeded our goals with the 1st issue.

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Six years and 100+ issues later – we’re continuing to grow.

If you look at the top performing categories as recognized in a 2019 White Paper presentation with ICV2 and NPD – young adult products (usually with diverse protagonists) and Manga are UP while traditional superhero comics are down.

When the new show TRILL LEAGUE was recently announced for Quibi by 50 Cent, it was referenced as an ANIME despite the original work being mostly American Superhero parodies.

So was SEIS MANOS by Viz/ Netflix from this past summer and the great BOONDOCKS from a few years back. So EVERYBODY is on this “ANIME-like” push.

Also, the fact of the matter is that DIVERSITY SELLS.

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Look at Black Panther, Captain Marvel, author Raina Telgemeier, and the LAST OF US video game for examples of solid performance from stellar content anchored by minority characters or teams.

We’ve seen competitors barely have comics out for any comparable SALES SUCCESSES to Saturday AM who were hawking 60 second anime-style teasers within the first 5 months of their existence.

 

We’ve never had that mentality

For us, having the Saturday AM brand and comics PERFORM as quality products with actual fans is what matters.

Six years in, we’re seeing our characters attract interest for licensed products and retail stores want to carry our products because they see the sales successes.

Our future looks strong provided we keep our core mission active.

 

5. Why do you believe diversity in Manga is so underrepresented? 

saturday am diversity

Frederick Jones, Publisher: 

Ultimately, it’s an ouroboros. When I started Saturday AM – I didn’t want it to be all black, all male, or all anything. We have women in high positions and many POC and we have incredibly insightful conversations about content.

There are very few people who are non-White, non-Asian, nor Female in LEADERSHIP positions within the manga industry and as a result, other perspectives are not always given a chance to be considered while other views may be taken as gospel.

It’s extraordinary because so many of the excuses given against diversity are easily debunked and just plain silly.

 

Let’s look at a few one by one:

#1 False claim: People won’t BUY black and brown characters in manga comics.

REALITY: We certainly have proof that is not true but we’re NOT as big as other companies – so when and where has this been tested?

By the way, the same thing was said about MARVEL’S BLACK PANTHER movie and we see how that turned out.

 

#2 False claim: Don’t blame them — the Japanese are just ignorant about other cultures.

REALITY: This one is always insulting.

When I first went to Japan as an Exchange Student in High School nearly 30 years ago, Michael Jordan was one of the most popular athletes (i.e. his shoes were HEAVILY desired there), MC HAMMER / MICHAEL JACKSON were big on radio, and EDDIE MURPHY was a big move star there!

Japan WAS China (i.e. technological marvel, a capitalist haven for US entertainment exports) BEFORE China was and for damn sure, isn’t a third world country.

The idea they’ve never seen successful black Americans with darker complexions is absurd.

Yes, ignorance can persist if you don’t have a chance to personally interact with other cultures but (i.e. African American culture is quite strong globally) based on my experiences which were always POSITIVE — I refuse to accept this disrespectful depiction of the Japanese from people who are not Japanese.

I think if mangaka were challenged a bit more by their Editors, Western journalists, and/or sales – this would change.

 

#3 False claim: The Japanese only care about the Japanese market.

REALITY: While technically true, they would not spend as much time and money finally suing SCANLATION sites that serve other countries if they didn’t realize the importance of international markets.

For example, when I listen to this line of thinking, I cannot imagine how anyone would make this argument in a modern Fortune 500 company.

Few Executives would get away with NOT PURSUING other markets with appropriate content because they would RATHER STAY in fewer markets.

As I said, it’s a vicious cycle because the lack of diverse voices means less adventurous and innovative business strategies continue to succeed despite the data to the contrary.

It’s true that some people just don’t want there to be CHANGE although they can’t stop it.

Marvel Comics went through the same thing a few years back and got silly online hate and even some retailers pushed back. Fortunately, it will change over time but it is frustrating that it has even taken this long.

There is money to be made and fans to be cultivated by manga evolving and that’s what we’re doing in our own little way with Saturday AM.

Related: 6 Things That Need To Happen In The Anime Industry (10 Years From Now)

 

6. Where can people follow Saturday AM to stay up to date with what you’re doing? 

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Frederick Jones, Publisher: 

2020 is a BIG YEAR for Saturday AM and our sister magazines.

You can always follow us on social media. Most of our magazines have dedicated accounts such as @saturday_am for Twitter and Instagram or @_saturdaypm respectively.

Saturday AM’s catalog of diverse manga-style characters will start to pop up in other media as companies are licensing our characters for new products.

Our first collaboration is a STICKER app for Apple devices called CHIBI STUDIO.

Since its launch nearly 20K people have downloaded the contents and played with it!

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When we launched in 2013, there were few storefronts for an interactive digital magazine ala Saturday AM.

We had to partner with new companies like Gumroad then and offered ultra-cheap subscriptions to get folks interested.

Now, our magazines and graphic novel collections are sold on OUR OWN SITE:

and AMAZON.

Over the past few years, we have been approached for a few other online stores but there were always caveats they wanted us to follow such as no articles or ads in our magazines.

This month though, we are very, VERY proud to FINALLY have a mobile app for our fans to discover our content.

The app is called SATURDAY AM – GLOBAL COMICS and will feature all of our manga anthology magazines.

Readers can SUBSCRIBE and get access to previous issues as well as other exclusive content.

It’s our first app we’ve created and we have big plans for it!

We will continue to refine it over the year but it’s been the most requested item from our fans for the past six years, so it feels really terrific to finally release it. We hope our fans and those who don’t know us will give it a download and try it out.

It will be available on iOS, Android, and Amazon and launches around 1.25.20!

 

7. What’s your main goal for your platform, as far as Manga artists and their work? 

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Frederick Jones, Publisher: 

Our core mission never changed from the original premise of MyFutprint Entertainment, LLC. We want to DISCOVER, DEVELOP, and DISTRIBUTE the next hot artist(s) from around the world.

When I met Whyt Manga he had produced a few chapters of APPLE BLACK over a few years and by the end of his 1st year with us, he had 7 chapters, a bigger following, and a successful graphic novel.

I knew he was going to be a megastar when I was introduced him and it’s been one of my great privileges to work with him (and others) and to see the titanic growth first hand.

That said, Saturday AM isn’t for every creator but for determined, talented folks like Whyt — it’s an amazing experience.

We currently produce THREE DIGITAL MAGAZINES:

  • Saturday AM (our marquee magazine and shonen anthology).
  • Saturday PM (our seinen magazine anthology).
  • and Saturday AM presents FANART FRIDAY (a magazine for artists about the tools and lifestyle of artists).

We will soon unveil a NEW MAGAZINE devoted to FEMALE / LGBT friendly content.

These magazines will continue to showcase up and coming creators exclusively.

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Likewise, our art tournament, MARCH ART MADNESS (www.saturday-am.com/madness) will return for its 5th Anniversary!

This year’s tournament will be MASSIVE as we are going to be offering some difficult challenges along with some fantastic new prizes (in past years, we gave away an iPad for Grand Prize Winners).

The sign up for this will be in Issue 2 of Fanart Friday (1.31.20).

Lastly, we have our 4th annual #summerofmanga event where we publish short stories from first-time creators.

Last year, we discovered artists from Greece, Nigeria, Germany, and Mexico and many of them are working with us now for their own creator-owned series!

As always, SUBSCRIBERS to our magazines are the 1st ones to be notified about submission events like this — so SUBSCRIBE!

 

8. How important is the Saturday FM Podcast (and YouTube channel) in spreading your message? 

Frederick Jones, Publisher:

The one thing you can be sure about is that IT ALL MATTERS.

I tell our creators that when I was a kid — you had to DO EVERYTHING just to get noticed:

  • Hire an artist and/or writer
  • Pay a printer
  • Drive to a con
  • Get a con pass and pass out your comics if not buy a booth.
  • Try to make contact with the big publishers (which was harder before the Internet)
  • Possibly REPEAT to either make a big publisher connection or get the stores or Diamond to carry your self-published comic.

I think many young people see how EASY the internet has made distribution and visibility that they’ve forgotten that even if you work for Marvel Comics — you’d STILL better promote your work across EVERY possible media outlet.

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Whyt Manga has a MASSIVE Youtube following (250K+ followers) and Saturday AM and PM combined have an impressive list of followers across social media.

One of the things I’ve made clear is that creators within ANY of our magazines should respect the community we’ve built and PAY IT FORWARD by promoting each other’s work.

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Likewise, as I said before, our efforts have not gotten as much attention from the biggest websites and so, social media has been crucial.

Podcasts are fun and growing but making time for them is hard given how busy we are.

Youtube is the biggest visibility but it’s awful hard to make good videos and to be authentic. I caution our folks that we cannot sacrifice our professionalism (i.e. acting ‘controversial) in videos just to pursue video views.

I’d rather get just a few hundred views than to get hundreds of thousands by having to act outlandish or say shocking things.

So we use ALL of our social media platforms as much as possible.

Expect NEW EPISODES of our Saturday FM podcast very soon with an animation company, gaming company, and more!

 

9. Will Saturday AM come to Europe? 

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Frederick Jones, Publisher:

We are a global brand and publisher and Europe has been one of our most supportive regions.

In 2020 we will make a concerted effort throughout the UK and already have amazing staff members on the ground there.

In fact, we actually appeared at the AKUMACON show in Ireland recently.

Stay tuned, as we hope to make more trips to more countries throughout Western Europe.

See More for Satuday AM:

 

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