Over the last several years, the international academic publisher Bloomsbury has actively embraced the emerging academic field of comics studies, with books such as The Visual Language of Comics, Transnational Perspectives on Graphic Narratives (with chapters on “manga versions of Spider-Man” and “the cultural crossovers” of the manga-inspired Scott Pilgrim series), Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation (containing a chapter on “the global manga of Felipe Smith, and winner of the 2014 Best Scholarly/Academic Work Eisner Award) , and with specific relevance to manga studies, last year’s Manga in America: Transnational Book Publishing and the Domestication of Japanese Comics and Manga and Anime Go to Hollywood.
Bloomsbury has now announced the launch of Comics Studies – a new series of “reference guides…to the many worlds of comics and graphic novels.” Each guide will contain a general overview of a particular genre or style of comics/graphic novels, the works of a particular creator, or major themes, and a summary of major texts, their contexts, and the critical discussions that have occurred around them.
The first two volumes in the series, due out in the fall, will be Superhero Comics and Autobiographical Comics (with a specific discussion of Kenji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen as a “key text”). And, a volume on manga is already in development, although no further details are available at this time. But, when such a volume does appear, presumably next year, it may very well end up serving as the go-to “introduction” to manga for readers who are not familiar with the ideas and practices of critical commentary. It could then serve as a necessary update to Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga (now more than twenty years old), The Rough Guide to Manga (2009, and out of print), and Understanding Manga and Anime and Mostly Manga: A Genre Guide to Popular Manga, Manhwa, Manhua and Anime – both useful books, but also now rather dated, and both designed primarily for librarians who need to make decisions whether a particular manga title is worth adding to a public library’s collection – and could very well become a standard college text on manga as well, or at least a relatively accessible source for class readings!