Erik Ko of Udon on New York Cons, Diamond Shutdown and Surviving This

Erik Ko, Chief of UDON Entertainment, the anime and manga publisher, behind the Street Fighter comics, gives Bleeding Cool and update on what his studio has been up to during this pandemic –
"As a little boutique publisher, UDON is lucky to be in a position to not rely on churning out tons of products for cash flow. We don't have any debts so no big loan interest to deal with. I glad to report that I do not need to furlough or cut any of my crew. While the comic publishing world comes to a halt, we are taking this opportunity to get ahead with some long-delayed projects, now ready to print at our own demand. Also working towards an online launch of merchandise that was planned for cons. If the online thing planned out then we shall be able to sustain."
When asked how is the impact of the shut down is affecting sales, Ko said  – "Our publishing sales dropped like 90% for the past 6 weeks." However, he has a different take on Diamond's call for decision.  "Everyone is quick to blame Diamond for shutting down. Everyone is condemning Diamond saying they are not paying. In truth, Diamond is holding the comic market in place as much as they can. They only stopped paying completely for one week, to reorganize their cash flow and figure things out. With everyone else not paying Diamond, where do they get the money to pay us. Everyone is quick to condemn someone and Diamond is an easy target. But my opinion on this is – Diamond has been fronting the cash for the comic industry for years and no one said a word about their deed. You know that they would front the printing cost for smaller publishers? Then deduct off their sales later? And we got paid on a 30 day term after shipping. While we all know Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other big vendors all pay in 90-120 day terms. That means Diamond is paying us before they got paid. The direct market accounts has shorter due dates, but there are also accounts that does not pay diamond on time too. So, when no one is paying Diamond when this whole thing started two months ago, Diamond has no choice but to regroup their finance."
As to UDON Studios' current plans, Ko tells me "UDON has been quiet but we have been business as usual. We have been paying our staff, our printers and our licensors. We even got some new licenses too during the past few weeks. We are just taking this slow time to catch up on projects to stay ahead of production, so we can have books ready to print when things get back to normal. We are also working on expanding our online store. Right now you can buy UDON books via our website and we will ship them out as usual. We will be expanding our merchandise offerings soon so stay tuned if you want to get exclusive pins, t-shirts, posters, and other goodies that normally would only be available at cons. Oh, and we will be doing our first crowdfunding project with one of our creators very soon too. Actually – we just put out our first webstore exclusive Capcom sketchbook for pre-order last week." (below)
Does this mean UDON is not planning to participate in any conventions this year? Ko said
"Anime Expo and SDCC are cancelled, but we shall be participating on the virtual SDCC events.  The other three shows that we normally go to would be PAX, NYCC, and Anime NYC.  Interesting enough, I have been getting calls from both of the New York shows this past week asking me to rebook.  They both highlight the news that "Javits is now clearing out and returning to its management, so we are very hopeful and going on with the plan to have our con going."  I personally am not jumping on renewing yet, as booking a con would need us to pay upfront thousands of dollars on booth cost, and even we are in a decent financial state right now, I think I'd need to keep the cash for payroll first and other ongoing projects when we know income is thinner than usual.  My worries is if it's safe to be at a building with thousands of people packed together, especially we are talking about New York City, which is one of the worst zones in US.  While I sure hope things can go back to normal as soon as possible, any hasty move will only prolong this pandemic and results in more casualty and extended shut down again.  To me, my crew's health and safety will be my top priority. This is the way!"
I asked if at least UDON was being offered a discount. "Nope. Same price. Haha"
Erik Ko of Udon Studios on NYCC, AnimeNYC, Diamond and Surviving This.
Erik Ko of Udon Studios on NYCC, AnimeNYC, Diamond and Surviving This. Art from Udon.

The 48-page UDON X Capcom Sketchbook Alpha gathers over 10 years of convention sketches, rough drafts, original line art, and character designs produced by the UDON crew and friends of the studio! Also included are unused DLC costume concepts from Street Fighter IV, a peek at the artwork and designs of the upcoming Street Fighter Origins: Sagat comics series, and more. Some pieces are pencil art, some markers, some digital,  but all show the energy and skill that goes into raw artwork. Featuring cover artwork by Omar Dogan. CVR A "Chun-LI" connects with CVR B "Morrigan" to form one image of both fighting femmes locked in the ultimate form of competition – video games. CVR A "Chun-Li" also features a virgin flip cover, showcasing the same artwork on the back cover, with no logo or text elements. This special sketchbook is available exclusively through UDON's online shop, and can't be found anywhere else.

UDON X Capcom Sketchbook Alpha
– 48 pages
– comic book format (6.5×10.25")
– no ad pages, it's 100% artwork!

NOTE: This is a PRE-ORDER, and is expected to begin shipping on June 15, 2020. Any in-stock items added to the same order will be held until all items are available to ship together.

Erik Ko of Udon Studios on NYCC, AnimeNYC, Diamond and Surviving This.
Erik Ko of Udon Studios on NYCC, AnimeNYC, Diamond and Surviving This. Art from Udon.
Erik Ko of Udon Studios on NYCC, AnimeNYC, Diamond and Surviving This.
Erik Ko of Udon Studios on NYCC, AnimeNYC, Diamond and Surviving This. Art from Udon.
Erik Ko of Udon Studios on NYCC, AnimeNYC, Diamond and Surviving This.
Erik Ko of Udon Studios on NYCC, AnimeNYC, Diamond and Surviving This. Art from Udon.
Erik Ko of Udon Studios on NYCC, AnimeNYC, Diamond and Surviving This.
Erik Ko of Udon Studios on NYCC, AnimeNYC, Diamond and Surviving This. Art from Udon.

UDONSketchbookAlphapreview5_600x

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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