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Ken’s Comic Ramblings #16: Manga is Comics & Comics is Manga

Let me explain my history a bit.

I was very much a child of DC Comics. However, it was around the time of really learning about anime that I began to gravitate towards single issues (the much maligned Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day and the odious Identity Crisis being things at the time helped moved me along) and a great deal of my teens was focused on manga. It was around the time of the reboot at DC that I began to move back towards the American comics scene. But considering the the Big 2’s overzealous attempts at pushing their luck, thought it was high time to take a look at the manga scene again.

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Then I realized how stupid this mentality of one or the other is. Why? Because manga and comics are cut from the same cloth.

I spent this week binge reading the first eight volumes of, if not the highest selling manga, but certainly one that is talked about a lot, Attack on Titan. And why I find it flawed, it is compelling enough that I am going to continue with it. But I do find it so strange that there is still a stigma about manga among “comic fans”.

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Well, that’s a bit of a lie. I don’t find it strange at all. If there has been one thing I have learned in my years, it’s that for all its pretension to be a “liberal” medium, western comics fans can be damn conservative, as evidenced by my recent severing all ties with Marvel for their lack of foresight and self-awareness. Anything not pre-approved by the gatekeeping old fossils that have been keeping the Big 2 comics afloat up until now is oft regarded with scorn.

Oh yes, people who are ready to snarl “SJW” at me like a bunch of hyenas, we’re going there. The fact of the matter is, manga introduced a lot of people to the medium of sequential art storytelling (of which comics also are a part of). And a lot of those people are not straight white men. And as such, the old guard, ever insecure when something doesn’t fully match their narrow perspectives, revolt against it, consider it “lesser” and just outright insult people for liking it.

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It is these same people that seem to think works of art don’t influence one another, which is ridiculous. Many western comic creators that are starting to hit it big were children of the first big manga/anime boom in the west, special looks at artists such as Faith Erin Hicks being greatly influenced by Fullmetal Alchemist creator Hiromu Arakawa and the heavy shojo influence in Babs Tarr’s current work on Batgirl. It flows the opposite way as well. The designs of several villains in the manga Rurouni Kenshin were influenced by X-Men characters of the nineties such as Omega Red and Wolverine.

So we have established that comic fans that dismiss manga may be a bit shortsighted, but the inverse is just as true. When I was deep in manga, there were a couple of elitists amongst the crowd, those who would look down their nose at me or anyone else that dared to talk about Superman instead of Goku. Talk about Civil War instead of the Chunin Exams. It felt just as gatekeeping and snobby as the above with comic fans.

At the end of the day, we are all fans of the sequential art storytelling medium. To try and dismiss one or the other is a dangerous gambit (especially when comics dismiss manga, considering manga sales worldwide are leagues higher than American comics) to play. Be diverse in your selections people. Consume as much and a variety to keep a healthy palate.

This was just an opening to a couple of manga topics to discuss. As I am being further immersed in Attack on Titan and rereading one of my favorite manga ever, Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, I’ll be expanding on my thoughts.

And, to just get these answers out of the way because I’m sure someone will ask:

  • My favorite character is Jean.
  • My favorite Titan design is the Armored Titan.
  • My favorite relationship (romantic or otherwise) is between Mikasa and Levi (also think either of these two would be more interesting main protagonists).
  • I haven’t read any of the spin-offs yet, although I’ll probably read No Regrets soon.

About Kenneth

When he is not working at a library or on his Master's Degree, Ken Godberson III is usually writing comics, prose and screenplays. He tends to be an expert on absolutely nothing except on why Impulse is the greatest superhero ever. He can be found on Twitter @kengodbersoniii or on Tumblr at kengodbersoniii.tumblr.com

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