Anime Reel – Anime & Manga TV News

Thursday Talking Point: American Comics and Japanese Manga

Posted on: November 19, 2009

Ratman, The World's Smallest Hero

Image from Inui Sekihiko

Welcome to the first-ever Thursday Talking Point! We have a pretty good question to start with, so let’s jump right in.

Meansdarling asks: What do you think of the American comic industry compared to the Japanese one? I don’t know enough to know where to compare the two. They seem very different, but I’m sure there’s times where ideas have cross-pollinated, or where they’ve worked together.

Dom says: This is a pretty tricky question, because we’re comparing two entire entertainment juggernauts against each other. There will be some overgeneralizations, but let’s dig right in to the heart of the matter.

The core difference between American comics and Japanese manga is who controls the stories. In general, the American industry is dominated by the iconic characters, who are owned by the publishers and not by the creators.

Writers come and writers go, but in order to keep the characters alive, the publishers will do pretty much anything. One of the most recent and obvious examples of this is the fallout from the “Brand New Day” story in Spider-Man, which led to J. Michael Straczynski’s departure from Marvel Comics due to Joe Quesada’s insistence on pushing through what JMS considered to be a stupid storyline. And, because so much of the American comic book industry is founded on making more money from the same characters, we’ve had 70 years of Batman and are creeping up on 50 years of the X-Men, and there’s no sign that they’ll ever stop.

Meanwhile, Japanese manga is much more of a creator-owned model. A manga series will have one artist and one writer (and the writer and artist are often the same person) through its entire run, and with a few notable exceptions, it will end when the creative team behind it decides that it will end.

I find manga much easier to follow for this reason – the characters don’t have decades of baggage to carry with them. When I read something like Ratman (my current favorite manga, which is amusing because Inui based half of it on his favorite American comics) I don’t have to find out what another writer did with it before, and I don’t have to worry about what will happen if the artist changes.

Now, as I said, there are exceptions to the wide generalizations I’ve made. Famously, Shuueisha forced Toriyama Akira to continue the Dragonball manga against his will, and Death Note continued on long past when it should have. And there are plenty of creator-driven comics in the American industry as well – look at Fables and Invincible, two of the best comics in the business.

Plus, I will never be able to let go of my love for Batman in all of his incarnations.

So that’s my stance on it – there’s a lot to love on each side of the ledger, but when it comes to picking up a book and sticking with it to the end, I lean toward manga.

That’s it for the first Thursday Talking Point – feel free to keep submitting questions like this one before next week!

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1 Response to "Thursday Talking Point: American Comics and Japanese Manga"

I’ve never really been into American comic. Just always been the manga side. Just so much more variety. And, as much as I like some Marvel character, I pretty much hate DC. Superman is weak to rocks and Batman always wins with prep time. Awesome stories there guys…

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