Sunday, May 11, 2008

My issues with manga. (part I)

Ok. First of all, anyone who has seen my deviantart account, or my webcomics, or even my banner will be puzzled at the title of the post. After all, I must like manga, if I'm so heavily influenced by it, right?

Well, of course. I do like manga. I have a pretty big collection of manga in my house, have read even more manga due to my wok, and admire a lot of japanese artists, as well as the people who are influenced by their style* But that doesn't mean that I don't have certain issues with it, and with the assumptions people make about people who like manga, and about people who don't like manga.

When I decided I was going to use this blog to write about comics and such, I originally said (I don't remeber if I actually posted that or not, but let's assume I did) that I wasn't going to talk about manga. I do that in my work. I review about three manga every two weeks for my job, and that's a lot of manga, especially if you take in account that there are some mangas that I read for review purposes that aren't picked for publication. So I was totally against the idea of doing even more reviews for my blog, even for those manga that I had already read.

There's a lot to be said about the idea of 'too much of a good thing', especially when half of those manga aren't that great to begin with.

Now, obviously I've changed my mind, mostly because due to the nature of the reviews, my personal opinion isn't important. I've got to be as impartial as I can, and sometimes, that can be a bit frustrating **

And that's my first issue with manga. That, for many fans, if you like one manga (or even, say, twenty), you must like all manga. Every single genre, every single author, and not find any possible flaw in comercial hits like Naruto or Death Note, and if you don't think the hit of the season is the best thing since sliced bread, then you're a hater. Maybe it's not that extreme with fans from the USA, but in Mexico, you can't say that you like, say, Saint Seiya, but you find its treatment of Greek Mythology and female characters reprehensible (True story, a friend of mine was actually threatened with physical violence for daring to say that she found plot holes in Saint Seiya, and that she didn't like Evangelion. And not just threats. She was actually followed to the bathroom during a convention, and barely managed to escape getting beaten. For not liking an anime, if you can believe that). You can't like Tokyo Babylon but find CLAMP's treatment of cross generation romance sickening at best and problematic at worst, and so on. The almost cult-like following that some animes get is one of those things that actually put me off anime and manga, and the reason why some titles are in my 'only if boss asks' list.

This of course, goes hand to hand with the idea that some fans have that somehow, manga is inherently superior to comics. I have no idea where that one came from, or why is so popular. Of course, there's also the opposite, and t comes to a point where manga-fans don't talk to comic-fans and vice-versa, and, even worse, they sneer at each other. It's like superhero readers and independent comic readers all over again. And meanwhile, there are hidden jewels that go unnoticed due to this attitude.***

Finally, or at least for this part, is the eternal idea that 'Girls love manga' and 'Girls draw manga'. Sure, I'm a woman, and I like manga. But my best friend is a woman, and she doesn't like most manga. And there's a thousand women like her. I don't know if Nicola Scott likes manga, but I can swear her style isn't manga no matter how broad your definition of manga is (Well, unless it is so broad as to include every single comic style). On the other hand, I'm pretty sure Adam Warren isn't a woman and whatever else you may say about him, his style is very manga-influenced. And the problem with this particular stereotype is that it alienates women. Both as readers and as artists. Sure, offering a particulary good manga to someone isn't alienating, but if said someone is a woman who happens to be saying that she wishes there were more strong female characters in, say, X-men or Avengers... it's not going to go well. It's just like saying "No, you can't play with this toys, but here, have a Barbie."

There's also a lot to be said about the myth that manga is somehow more 'girl-friendly'. Yes, it does has a lot more genres than the mainstream american comic industry, and yes, it appears easier for a female author to publish and become popular, however that doesn't mean that there aren't problems, starting with the division of stories 'for girls' and 'for boys'.

But I already went way too long, so that will be for another post.

*I'm not going to go now in the whole mess that is the whole debate about if manga can only be done in Japan or not. That's for another post, another day.
**That is not to say that it doesn't slip from time to time. But my editor is cool with that and understands that there's a point in which no one can find something good to say about a title, no matter how much you're grasping for straws.
***And that's not going into the art style situation, and the thousand of 'how to draw manga' books that are around now. Because, yes, if you're only copying manga you're doing it wrong, and it will take years to unlearn what you're doing now. Oh, I know. I'm still on the process of unlearning many things.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Dear Joss, please stop.

I just read a couple of new scans on the latest Buffy comic, and I've never been more glad that I never listened to peer pressure and spent money on them. Even with the gorgeous covers.

And this is not about the whole 'Buffy is now experimenting' thing from last issue, although that still makes me groan. No, this is about how, once again, one of Xander's girlfriends has ended up dead. Or, at least, impaled from behind with a very big spear.

Now, I'm pretty sure that Rene is not going to even count as a WiR, because that particular trope is not about just being a female character who dies, but you also have to be a female character whose death (or rape, or depowering) is used just to further a male character's story and let's be honest, Xander has never been one to get in the warpath because one of his girlfriends dies. And he's got some experience on that.

What pisses me off is that yet again there's another romantic relationship in the Jossverse that is doomed. And while I get that perpetual happiness won't sell books, coming this close to the whole Brand New Day mess, and with so many mainstream comics showing break ups and separations its getting tiresome.

Seriously, is there any romance in the Jossverse that hasn't ended in disgrace, death, or both members of the couple hating each other?

Othello, an interesting manga surprise.

I am not a very big fan of shojo manga. I liked it back when I was 16 (Sailor Moon and all CLAMP works were my favorite back then) but lately, all the girls in distress and drooling over misterious masked guys were getting on my nerves. However, this week I had to read the first volume of Othello for reviewing, and I have to admit, it was not at all what I was expecting.

Sure, the plot sounds a bit contrived: a girl who is too shy to even stand for herself develops a second personality who goes on avenging wrongs and beating bullies, and, in the middle of it, finding love and a music career for the original personality. It's like modern maho shojo 101, but without the sparkly transformation.

But in practice, Othello ended being quite different. The first thing that I noticed was that there was no sparkly trasnformation in sight, not even when the original 'gimmick' to go between Yaya (the shy, quiet personality) and Nana (the outgoing, and a bit violent) was Yaya looking at her reflection in a mirror. Yaya never remembers what Nana does, and in fact isn't even aware of her existence, while Nana knows everything that Yaya thinks, and at first just works to avenge those who made Yaya feel bad with herself.

There is a cute guy on all this, Matsuyama, who knows Yaya's secret, and swears to protect her all the time, but in truth, he ends up being moral support for Yaya when she finally realizes what's going on, and just stays in the sidelines while Yaya/Nana fix things for themselves.

The art is very shojo-standart, but I'm amazed how you can distinguish perfectly between Nana and Yaya even when Nana is dressed like Yaya. There's no change of hair color, no change of eye shape, just attitude. And while one could dismiss Othello as a 'makeover story' with a gimmick, I can honestly say that it was a worthwhile read.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Sorry for the lateness. Friends of Lulu nominations

Long, long story. In the meantime, in case you haven't heard:

It's that time of year again -- time to nominate the best and brightest for the 2008 Lulu Awards!

Nominations due May 14!

The Friends of Lulu annual Lulu Awards bring honor and recognition to the most inspiring and noteworthy women in the comic book industry, as well as the efforts, achievements, and works that reflect Friends of Lulu's goals. Nominations for the Awards are open to anyone. Once the nominees are chosen, only current members of Friends of Lulu will be able to vote for who should win each award. The Lulu Awards will be handed out this year during the MoCCA Art Festival in New York City, Saturday June 7.

The Women Cartoonists Hall of Fame nominees must have published work, whether self-published, company-published, or Web-published. An individual cannot win more than once.

Women of Distinction nominees must have worked in the comic industry in a non-creator role, such as editing, publishing, reporting, or retail.

The Lulu of the Year Award honors the creator(s), book or other project whose work best exemplifies Friends of Lulu's mission.

The Kim Yale Award nominees must have published work, whether self-published, company-published, or Web-published. Nominees must be nominated for this category within three years of their first published work. An individual may not be nominated more than twice, and cannot win more than once. The award is named for comics writer Kim Yale, a founding Lulu member who passed away in 1997.

The Volunteer of the Year award was introduced in 2002 to recognize those people who have volunteered time and effort to advance Lulu's goals. Current board members are not eligible. The Volunteer of the Year award is nominated by and voted on by the National Board.

To vote -- and read more details about the awards -- go here