Noah Berlatsky sums up similar thoughts by David Welsh and Simon Jones on the dearth of manga titles and creators among the recent Eisner Award nominations:
Manga doesn’t need the Eisners. I do wonder, though, whether it’s true that the Eisners don’t need manga. Or, to put it another way — manga has opened comics up to some vastly underserved demographics. It’s inaugurated entirely new genres. It’s helped to change distribution models. It’s vastly changed what comics in America are, and who reads them.
So you would think, maybe, that the industry might want to celebrate that. Maybe comics might want to use their awards show as a chance to point out to the world how things have changed, to embrace new readers, to paint itself as dynamic and exciting and forward looking and inclusive.
But of course the Eisners aren’t all that interested in doing that.
Brigid comes back with a dissenting opinion, but from a more otaku POV:
Take a look at the Best Continuing Series nominations: All Star Superman, Fables, Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Thor, and Usagi Yojimbo. One of these things is not like the others; Monster is so different in format and concept that I would have a hard time comparing it to All Star Superman. Also, to be honest, manga readers can be as provincial as the Wednesday crowd; I try to branch out a bit, but I haven’t read any of the other series. In fact, Robin Brenner is one of the few manga folks I know who reads superhero comics at all. If the rest of us were handed an Eisner ballot, we would probably just check off the manga, just as the superhero guys would just check off their comics.
To be honest, while Berlatsky stresses the “fresh new” aspect of manga, we’re surprised no one has pointed out that — as great as it is — most manga presented here in the US is reprinted from a wide period of time and has the advantage of presenting the “best of.” Pitting the best works of Tatsumi, Inoue, Urasawa, Tezuka, Taniguchi etc in their prime against SWALLOW ME WHOLE seems a great disservice to emerging voices and talents in the US, although it would certainly up the game a lot. The Eisners are pretty clearly devoted to honoring the best in contemporary *American* comics.
But in the future, all this will be moot. Brigid points to Deb Aoki’s commentary which, to us, has a more telling point—the infiltration of more manga-influenced comics among the nominees:
If we include manga-inspired works by international creators, then Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai and “Murder He Wrote,” Nina Matsumoto’s Death Note / Simpsons mash-up with by Ian Boothby and Andrew Pepoy, in The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror #14 from Bongo Comics bring the total to 10. Also worth noting is multiple nominations for Amy Reeder Hadley, the creator of Fool’s Gold from TokyoPop for her work on Madame Xanadu from Vertigo / DC Comics, and a nod for Jo Chen, creator of Other Side of the Mirror from TokyoPop for her beautiful cover art for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Serenity from Dark Horse.
Aoki also lists some overlooked manga, and we’ll reprint her entire list just to give it as much play as possible:
- Emma by Kaoru Mori (CMX Manga)- A beautifully drawn, elegantly told story of a maid, a young man of the gentry and their class-crossing romance in Victorian England.
- Disappearance Diary by Hideo Azuma (Fanfare-Ponent Mon) – Hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, Disappearance Diary is the kinda true account of one manga artist’s adventures as a homeless person in Japan
- Real by Takehiko Inoue (VIZ Signature) – A subtle, masterfully told story about young men who maintain their passion for basketball, despite being wheelchair-bound.
- Astral Project by marginal and Syuji Takeya (CMX Manga) – Mind-bending, exciting metaphysical mystery from the creator of Old Boy.
- Black Jack by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical) – Eisner voters have already proven their love for the godfather of manga — so why not this medical manga series, which is one of his best?
- Black Lagoon by Rei Hiroe (VIZ Media) – With its guns, gals and high-octane action, Black Lagoon blows away most mainstream American action comics if only by sheer firepower, adrenaline and its wicked sense of humor.
Finally, we may soon have no choice in the matter: Japan’s PM, Taro Aso, who is well known for courting the otaku vote, hopes that manga and anime will lead Japan towards economic recovery:
While other countries bail out banks, slash interest rates and prop up struggling industries, Japan is pinning its hopes for economic recovery on a less likely source: manga comic books.
As part of 15 trillion yen of fresh stimulus measures unveiled today, Japan hopes to raise the percentage of its exports of “soft power” – manga, animated films, video games and pop music – from 2% of the total to 18% over the next decade, creating half a million jobs.
“Japanese content, such as anime and video games, and fashion draw attention from consumers around the world,” the prime minister, Taro Aso – a self-confessed manga addict – told reporters this week as he waved copies of magazines from China and Taiwan featuring Japanese pop stars on their covers.
“Unfortunately, this soft power is not being linked to business overseas. By linking the popularity of Japan’s soft power to business, I want to create a 20-30 trillion-yen market by 2020 and create 500,000 new jobs.”
Manga is on the march!