Talking with Troy and other members of the Tokyopop team at the booth, what I was most struck with was the passion for the work and the universes of Blizzard's games that they display, and, perhaps more importantly, to the art and stories they tell.
Troy laid out three important concepts that they follow in creating the mangas: Telling a solid story, focusing on a few characters, and cross-pollinating with other forms of media.
In telling a solid story, the aim is to create the story such that you don't need to rely on the Warcraft world and characters, per se. In short, even if the story wasn't about Thrall or Varian or the Scarlet Crusade or anything else, you could still connect with the characters themselves.
The Manga stories, while they can still definitely be epic, also tend to focus on specific people, and their thoughts and feelings. By doing this, Troy said, the stories become more intimate and relatable, which in turn keeps the reader hooked and lets them understand the story and its reprecussions on a more intimate level.
Cross-pollination, of course, is inevitable when stories are written in the same universe, and it's already happened to quite a large extent with the manga. Kalec and Anveena, for example, first appeared in the Mangas, as did Trag Highmountain. But, says Troy, they're looking to take it one step further, and make sure that each volume of the Manga ties and interacts with the novels and in-game events in a real, current manner, shedding light on the events and creating understanding.
As an example of the above, volume 5 of the Legends series, to be released in September, includes a story by Richard Knaak that also functions as a prologue of sorts to his upcoming novel, Stormrage. Incidentally, the manga will also include an excerpt of the book.
Legends isn't the only project that Tokyopop is working on. We'll also be seeing a Dragons of Outland series that will follow up the Sunwell Trilogy and give us some insight into Malygos and the Netherwing Dragons.
We've already reported on Warcraft: Death Knight, which will delve into the story of Thassarian, one of my favorite new characters in the Warcraft universe. In addition, however, there will be followups based on the Mage and Shaman classes, and the Shaman book will tie into the new Cataclysm expansion (A perfect example of the cross-pollination thing).
Finally, in non-Warcraft news, Tokyopop will be releasing a new 3 volume Starcraft series. Characters in this series will include Gabriel Tosh, a shady arms dealer in the upcoming Starcraft II, and Nova, the heroine of the scrapped Starcraft: Ghost game. In other words, there's a lot to be excited about in Tokyopop's upcoming releases.
Troy admits that they still have some stigma to overcome from the "manga" angle of their work, but I have to agree with him that any stigma attached to the term is definitely undeserved, especially when it comes to these books. In Legends Volume 5 alone, writers include Christie Golden, Louise Simonson, and Evelyn Fredricksen, all of them established loremasters and writers in the Blizzard universe. The art styles are clean and dynamic (and, in my mind, a lot easier to follow and more aesthetically pleasing than the monthly comic).
In short, if you're hesitant to pick up the Warcraft Mangas, you're depriving yourself not only of valuable insight into the lore of Azeroth, but of some damn good stories as well. They're definitely worth the read, and I left Tokyopop's booth at BlizzCon well convinced that they too have a legitimate place in the library of this lore nerd.