The Comics Journal has long been known for the quality (and controversy) of the writing contained within its pages. The magazine is famous for the career-spanning interviews its editors and contributors have conducted with famous and acclaimed writers, artists, cartoonists, editors, etc not only from the varied worlds of comic books, but also from the worlds of comic strips, filmmaking, and editorial cartoons. They’ve also managed to keep an eye on movements within those artistic mediums, which brings us to TCJ #269. This is the “Shoujo Manga Issue,” wherein the editors and writers examine girls’ manga – its history, the practitioners, and the best recent examples.
This issue’s editorial, also known as the “Opening Shot,” is written by the magazine’s Managing Editor, Dirk Deppey and is entitled “She’s Got Her Own Thing Now.” The piece makes several good points. The first is that mainstream comics (read Marvel and DC) have probably lost young female readers, both juvenile and teenage, to English translations of manga published by such companies as TOKYOPOP and Viz. Deppey also takes mainstream, indy, and art comics publishers to task for not making more inroads with female readers, as well as searching for more female talent on the creative end. He doesn’t spare his own magazine, criticizing it for sparse coverage of the manga invasion of America.
As much as I enjoyed the article, I have mixed feelings about the conclusions and opinions. I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing that it took material from other countries to get women and girls to read comics in large numbers. American comics has always been a white boys club, even more so the last decade, whether from within the industry and in its fan make up, and it will take outsiders, both domestic and foreign, to change that.
TCJ #269 is a fabulous issue, and if the wonderful opening editorial weren’t enough, Deppey also has a three-page article on “scanlations,” which is manga translated to English and scanned for online publication. There is a one-age glossary of 34 terms related to Japanese comics. News Editor Michael Dean examines two book shops that sell manga in “A Tale of Two Manga Shops.”
This issue literally has a ton of manga reviews. Johanna Draper Carlson takes a look at TOKYOPOP’s line of manga for mature females, including such titles as Between the Sheets and Nothing But Loving You. Retired cartoonist and comix historian, Trina Robbins, reviews all-ages shoujo (girls) manga including Miss Me from Central Park Media (CPM), Mink from TOKYOPOP, Land of the Blindfolded from DC Comics’ manga imprint, CMX, and many others. Robbins also takes a look at Lindsay Cibos and Jared Hodges’Peach Fuzz Vol. 1; Peach Fuzz is a result of TOKYOPOP’s The Rising Stars of Manga contest. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the manga reviews included in TCJ #269.
There are essays, histories, and other informative articles. Manga legend, Moto Hagio is the subject of a monster 37-page interview, which includes a one-page detailed biography of her work. Not enough for you: how about an eight-page color gallery of her art. Need more? The regular Journal comix section features a 16-page Moto Hagio story translated by Matt Thorn who conducted the interview.
This special issue is not without its regular features. Kenneth Smith is present as usual with another mind-bending column of cultural criticism. Michael Dean takes a five-page look at the settlement of the Stan Lee vs. Marvel lawsuit in the “Newswatch” segment. There is a comic piracy article that is actually tied to the “scanlations” article.
I’ve hardly touched the surface of this issue’s contents. Anyone who wants a manga primer would not go wrong with this special issue. It’s also a prime example of why TCJ should not be left out of the Eisner Awards. No other magazine takes comics as seriously as this long-running periodical.
Mr. Charlie #71 wants you to know that you can buy The Comics Journal directly from the publisher, Fantagraphics Books. You can subscribe to it, or get lucky and find it in your local comic shop or in the magazine section of finer bookstores.