Sunday, August 12, 2012

Things People Don’t Talk about (4): The Difference between Manga and Comic Books

I noticed during my Sunday lunch break that there was no “Things People Don’t Talk about (4)” on my blog. Rummaging through my files, I found the following brief commentary, which I now haven’t the faintest idea whether I’d intended to edit it further, post it as is but just forgotten about it, or deep-six it. The last may be the prudent thing to do, but why waste the time that I invested in doodling about manga and comic books?
. Okay, maybe some people do, but I looked at the Wikipedia entry for “manga” and it says that a “manga artist (mangaka in Japanese) typically works with a few assistants in a small studio and is associated with a creative editor from a commercial publishing company” and leaves it at that, and that’s good enough for me.

The names of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are familiar to even fairly casual observers of the comics scene as the creators of Superman, partly because of the purely iconic nature of the superhero of superheroes but largely, I suspect, because of the long and acrimonious on-and-off-again battle in and out of the courts with the pair and their heirs. And even more people know the name Jack Kirby because, well, because he essentially spawned the Marvel-verse, though Stan Lee made most of the money. Multiple writers, multiple artists, all ultimately interchangeable, multiple storylines, continually feeding off each other, that’s what mainstream US comics are all about. By contrast, Dragonball is Akira Toriyama, even if he let the franchise continue after he stopped writing it for Shonen Jump. And JoJo’s Strange Adventures is Hirohiko Araki’s one-man franchise that’s still going strong after 25 years. In fact, every character and narrative in Japanese manga [usually] lives and dies with the singular artist. Yes, there are professional manga storywriters, some of them highly successful, collaborating with the artists, but even there, the characters that they create are indelibly identified with their creators and are rarely allowed to continue their fictional existence under the imaginations of other artists. Osamu Tezuka’s Atom Boy was revived recently by another artist, but it was a related but separate work, almost an homage to the creator, really. People who like cultural explanations may see the shadows of Henry Ford and Frederick Winslow Taylor in the US approach while conjuring the image of the singular Japanese artisan or samurai immersed in the perfection of his art. But nothing could be so wrong. And I could easily prove that—or at least make a good demonstration to that effect, since cultural explanation can’t even be wrong, to paraphrase one of my favorite sayings.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Are you trying to get me to call you a coward? Is that what you want? But rather than doing that, let’s see if I can play your game better than you…

In case there are any aspiring comic / manga artists out there, here’s an idea for a new series. It’s called “CPC Power Struggle Theory: Why You Don’t Want Western Intelligence Agencies In Your Country.” The idea for the series comes from this WikiLeaks cable:

The series is about the political assassinations that have swept though China over the past decade or so. It’s about the people who control the government by killing officials who support policies they don’t like. It’s about the officials who kill their underlings for fear that they may one day replace them. It’s about the underlings who kill their superiors so that they can indeed replace them. It’s about the evil westerners who orchestrate all this crap for their amusement and their personal wealth.

One of the episodes is about the January 2007 murder of the older son of Wu Guangzheng, the chairman of the CDIC. He was murdered in a hotel room in Qingdao. The police found no evidence at the crime scene, which means that they’re involved in the crime. Wu was devastated. The son who died was his “good son.” Wu had been preparing him to move into politics. His other son was just a slacker who had a working level job. Some people said the murder was a warning.

“My son was sacrificed for my political cause,” he proclaimed.

Wu had made many enemies because of his work at the CDIC. His enemies blamed him for the prosecution of Chen Liangyu. They blamed him for the investigations into certain high level Beijing municipal officials.

Another episode could be about the 2006 plot to kill the son of Hu Jintao. The plot would ultimately fail and Hu would step up the security measures around his son.

Another episode could be about the 2002 attempt on Zeng Peiyan. Zeng was involved in a car accident in Heilongjiang. The “accident” was actually a murder attempt conducted by people who were hurt by his economic reform policies. He made these policies while working at the State Development Planning Commission. Back in the nineties, many state-owned enterprises in the northeast went bankrupt due to his market competition policies.

Another episode takes place in Fujian, where a high ranking official pays 300,000 yuan to have one of his employees murdered. That offocial was worried his employee would take his job. His employee was talented. He was not.

Another episode takes place in Jinan, where the corrupt Municipal People’s Congress Chairman had his lover assassinated after his lover threatened to rat on him, a Shandong Vice Governor, and the Qingdao Party Secretary, Du Shicheng. The chairman hired his nephew to kill her. A car bomb was used. But the nephew was so dumb and incompetent that his bomb, which did indeed kill the intended target, also took out half a city block and injured three other people. The chairman was sentenced to death for ordering the assassination. The murder cast a cloud of suspicion over Yu Zhengsheng. He was the one who made Du the Qingdao Party Secretary. But the clouds soon went away as the party made Yu the Shanghai Party Secretary.

Other episodes take place in Fujian, Liaoning, Henan, and the northern part of Jiangsu. Organized crime, and the shadowy western intelligence agencies that control them, rule those parts of China. They have their claws sunk deep into Li Changchun and the leaders of Xuzhou, particularly the mayor.