For each of the next three days, I’ll be presenting interviews with those involved in the Christian OEL manga industry as part of my week long series on the business. Today’s interview is with Jonathan Lin, founder of Manga Hero.
TWWK: What is Manga Hero all about? Do you have a mission statement?
Jonathan: Our company is dedicated to providing great stories about real heroes and heroines who lead others. The stories highlight the characteristics shared by all those leaders we admire, whether Christian or not: virtues like honor, sacrifice, courage, faith, wisdom and love.
TWWK: How did Manga Hero begin?
Jonathan: I was discussing with my parents about starting a business, and we were thinking about different ideas. Then my father asked how come there are no manga on Biblical stories or on the lives of the saints. I was thinking, that is true, how come there aren’t any, or at least, very little? That’s when the idea for MANGA HERO was born. I’ve also always wanted to do something that positively impacts society. With media playing such an influential role in our culture, especially on the youth, I felt this was an area that I could make a difference.
TWWK: What’s your background? How did you get into publishing?
Jonathan: I’ve always wanted to start a business, but one that could make an impact on society. I started my career at US Bank as a small business banker before joining ZipRealty as a data analyst. I then led product sourcing and sales for Linbro, a specialty food importer and distributor, opening new sales channels and traveling around the world procuring ingredients for customers throughout the US. Most recently, I worked as a brand licensing manager for Wham-O, identifying ways to expand the toy company’s various brands in different categories. I graduated in economics from the College of the Holy Cross and have an MBA from Babson College. While working in these various jobs, I always felt restless because I felt my work wasn’t making much difference in the world. I ended up producing manga because it’s a medium I’m familiar with and I can see how our products impact young readers.
TWWK: What are the particular challenges of publishing the Manga Hero series?
Jonathan: The hardest part is coordinating all the different elements of creating our books because it is a truly global effort. For example, Habemus Papam! is written by Gabrielle in San Diego, illustrated by Sean in Singapore, edited, translated, and compiled at Manga Hero’s offices near San Francisco, printed in Pinto, Spain, and during the entire process we’re always in communication with World Youth Day headquarters in Madrid, Spain, so that their pastoral council and various committees are kept in the loop with what we’re doing. That said, the global scale of the project has also been the most enjoyable. Working with different cultures, in different time zones, and managing all the different facets of this business has been really fun and interesting.
TWWK: What projects are you currently working on?
We’re working on several books. We’re releasing this summer Many Are Called, a manga on Jesus’ parable of the great banquet, and later on in the year, an expanded version of Habemus Papam! that will go into more detail about Pope Benedict XVI’s life. We’re also working on some other concepts but haven’t made a decision yet on whether to proceed with them yet.
TWWK: Do you have any advice for Christians interested in starting a career focused on original English-language manga?
Jonathan: I would say find out what you excel at in the business, whether as a writer, artist, or on the business side (marketing, finance, etc), then pursue those roles relentlessly. Meanwhile stay realistic with what you can or cannot do. You might start out thinking you’re going to be a cartoonist, but you might end up doing better as a designer for an ad agency. Also, talk to those people who are successful in those fields. They’ll give you really good advice.
Head over to Manga Hero for more information on the material Jonathan’s company publishes. And please come back tomorrow for an interview with manga writer Gabrielle Gniewek.