Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Manga and Western Style

I'm a lurker on some local mailing lists on comics, and while I do post occassionally on some, like the Artist's Den mailing list, I just sit back and observe on others (which will remain nameless). Back in my day, it seems there were very few like me who were interested in drawing comics. It's so different now, with aspiring comics writers and artists popping up all over the place.

Once in a while an artist would come up who shows extraordinary potential and eventually make it big, like Leinil Francis Yu and Philip Tan and watch out for this guy: Mico Suayan.

One of the things I notice in these mailing lists is the notion that style is narrowed down to just Manga, and Western Style, like no other style exists but those two. If an artist doesn't draw manga, it automatically means he's drawing in the Western style. And it's a notion that I find to be terribly puzzling.

The question of what Western style is must be answered. Just what is Western style? Is it Jim Lee's popular style? Or Mike Mignola's style? Or Jack Kirby's style? Or is it Alex Raymond's style? Upon closer inspection, all these Western artist's style are so vastly different from one another. How can all these be lumped into one "Western style"?

And we haven't even talked about Moebius, Ladronn, or Herge, proponents of the "clear line style" so popular in Europe, which are so vastly different from art made by Americans. How about the Australians? The South Africans? The Malaysians? They all create comics too, and their artists there have their own unique individual style.

And this is why manga is so unique. The Japanese artists were able to create something that has an undeniably similar look, allowing for a certain amount of individuality between artists.

You take this comic book test. Take a comic book without looking at its cover and look inside. If it's manga, you will be able to tell instantly that it is. But if you were shown the art of someone like Lat, you can immediately tell that it's NOT manga, but most people won't be able to tell just where this art originated. Same is true for Desire Atsain or Ondrej Sekora. You know immediately that it's not manga, but you won't know from where that art comes from. Those three examples come from Malaysia, Ivory Coast and Czechnia respectively.

If the styles outside of Japan are so varied and within Japan so similar, it only goes to show how strong Japan is as a nation, and it is their unity and uncompromising patriotism that makes them a political, economic and cultural force to reckon with.

So yes, there's MORE than just Japanese and "Western" in ways of drawing comics. Lots LOTS more. Check out comics not just manga, or those coming from DC or Marvel, but those coming from the independents too. There's a whole galaxy of comics out there just waiting to be read.