Sporadic Sequential
Friday, September 28, 2007
When Is a Manga-Ka Not a Manga-Ka
(But Still a Manga-Ka)?

In the book PulpHope, Paul Pope discusses his experiences working for Kodansha, sharing this observation about working in the Japanese manga market:
After a few years, it became clear to them, while the editors and the artists were happy, the manga done by foreign talent wasn't hitting a popular chord with the usual manga readers. It was just too different, too strange for the maddeningly conservative manga readership. The sales weren't equaling sales from new manga developed by home-grown talent.
I thought this was an interesting quote for a couple reasons. For one, it could be seen as a reason why Pope produced hundreds of pages of material during his association with Kodansha but only a handful saw print. (For an example of a page that was published in Japan, see below.) Secondly, it paints a different picture of the Japanese manga market than I'd imagined. I've always assumed the breadth of material in Japan is fairly wide and diverse, but Pope suggests it's much more narrow and limited. If others have a take on this (Matt Thorn, I'm looking at you!), I'd be interested to hear it: Is the readership in Japan really "maddeningly conservative"? (Or put another way, is it any more maddeningly conservative than the U.S.'s extreme antipathy to anything not adorned in spandex?)

Finally, assuming this characterization is correct, it suggests that there are manga conventions that resonate with Japanese readers, conventions that Western creators are expected to replicate in their work. Takeshi Miyazawa, another Western artist attempting to break into the Japanese market, had a similar experience, also with Kodansha. (Miyazawa later had a much warmer reception from another publisher, Shueisha, but he was still told to add more "manga-isms" to his art.) I'd be curious to hear what creators such as Pope and Miyazawa have to say about such "manga-isms." Pope has mentioned his experiences with Kodansha in various interviews, and even though the experience must have been frustrating, he still sounds upbeat and positive about what he got out of it, likening the ordeal to grad school. So let's have the dissertation, already!

And this is completely unrelated, but I thought it was amusing: How many other books about comics come with an endorsement from Penthouse?

According to Pope, even though the book's contents were toned down from what was originally planned ("we made a late-stage editorial decision to remove all images of sexual penetration and depictions of XXX sex acts (there were more than a few)"), the book was still shrinkwrapped to avoid legal troubles over nudity. I suppose showcasing a quote from Penthouse also helps signal that your book has adult content.

ELSEWHERE: PulpHope review. Another PulpHope review. A third PulpHope review. Paul Gravett on Pope. PulpHope rocks!: Part One, Part Two. The CBR interview. The TCJ interview (excerpt). Ninth Art overview. PULPHOPE (Pope's blog).

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