The concept of formalized storytelling across multiple mass media platforms really came into focus in the 1960s, and it emerged out of the Japanese comic book industry. Unlike
American television, there was no Hollywood machine in Tokyo churning out libraries of animated shorts and simple Hanna-Barbera concepts with which they could jam the airwaves. Japan’s TV studios instead turned to the newly burgeoning manga market for
cartoon ideas. Astro Boy, Speed Racer, The Eighth Man and Gigantor all started out as comic strip serials in weekly telephone book-sized anthologies put out by newspaper companies. Studios like Toei and Tatsunoko adapted the strips, and toy companies like Bandai quickly caught on to the notion of merchandising the characters to eager Asian ‘tweens. A business model was forged, and a close-knit industry was born.
By the ‘70s, while I was watching Jabberjaw and Hong Kong Phooey, the Japanese were producing elaborate kidvid serials where super heroes with dark secrets and complex pasts were engaged in life or death struggles with galactic empires and lurid underground criminal organizations. Storylines ran parallel or jumped back and forth between television, manga and eventually direct-to-video, and when situations got really dire, there would be a theatrical feature to mark the event!
This resulted in a series of rich, fully realized worlds, and they started generating a lot of money!
Jeff Gomez (email@example.com
) is well-versed in the connection between the entertainment business and the toy industy. His company has developed blockbuster trans-media programs companies like Hasbro and Mattel in addition to The Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox, and the Coca-Cola Company.