Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Mail Bag

Hey, we got letters, we get stacks and stacks of letters...

James Smith writes:

Couple things about your recent post. No manga presence ten to fifteen years ago? The earliest Robotech series a quick google turned up was first published in 1985, by DC. Lone Wolf and Cub from First Comics began in 1987. Speed Racer from Now Comics, 1987.

They were a novelty. I remember all the series you mention, and in all those cases they were sort of shoehorned into American pamphlet format (to the considerable disadvantage of books like Lone Wolf & Cub). Considering that we had three (possibly a few more) Japanese series being serialized in America, I would not call that a presence at all - and in any event, the average American fanboy, even if they bought one or more of the series, would still have been as basically ignorant of Japanese comics culture afterwards as they would have beforehand. It wasn't until people like Viz and Tokyopop started publishing manga the way it was published at home and deluging the American market that we really saw the nature and breadth of the Japanese beast.

That same Mainichi article you link to I can't read right now. But I'm going to go out on a limb here, and guess that the issue at hand is that many men read overtly sexual manga on the train. Many many Japanese comics and cartoons have a disturbing amount of young girls in short skirts hanging out with men twice their age. However, Japan also has manga about cooking and gardening. Not fictional stories about a gardener or chef. I mean, magazines that adults rea. To get gardening tips and cooking tips. No matter how much lip service we may like to give to Scott McCloud, Japan is the only place where both the creative talent and the *market* exist to prove him right. Not in the future, but right now.

Well, unfortunately, the article doesn't really discuss sex, except to say in passing that there is sex, along with violence, in much of the popular manga. Otherwise, the article (which I will link to again in case you missed it the first time) basically pillories comics in general, regardless of genre, as being unfit for mature readership. And as for the marketplace . . . I don't know. I'm no manga expert - but I have yet to see the Japanese equivilent of a Fantagraphics or a D&Q. The Journal occasionally spotlights someone in the Japanese "underground" but the implication is that those folks are even more "underground" than their American counterparts. Thats the kind of market diversity I'd like to see - comics as something more than a commodity.

As far as I've read, the only American comics folks with any real presence in Japan right now are Mike Mignola and Jim Woodring (the latter of whom claims he had to escape through a backdoor to get away from all the people clamoring for his autograph.

That last link was really cool. I think I had read something before about Woodring's fame there - which is great. It also makes perfect sense that Mignola would be popular. But... is that it? Seems to me like the majority of serious American publishers here are missing a bet.

Anyway, thanks for the letter. Keep 'em coming!

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