Recently, the judging panel for the 2016 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, which will be presented in July at Comic-Con International: San Diego and serve to “[highlight] the best publications and creators in comics and graphic novels” from around the world announced this year’s slate of nominees. As has been the case for years now, manga titles are only honored in the Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia category. But, for the first time, a book on Japanese comics has received a Best Scholarly/Academic Work nomination.
Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan is published by the University Press of Mississippi – which has already contributed significantly to anime/manga studies with God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post World War II Manga (2009) and Japanese Animation: East Asian Perspectives (2013). It has been particularly active in comics studies in general – in fact, every year since the Eisners first introduced an award category for academic books on comics in 2012, at least one of their titles has received a nomination.
Earlier this week, Comic-Con International announced the full list of nominees for this year’s Eisner Awards, the major form of recognition of the year’s best comics (widely defined), comics artists and creators, and publications related to comics – including periodicals, general interest books, and academic/scholarly works. Five Japanese comics received nominations in the Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia category (the 1939-1944 and 1944-1953 volumes of Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa: A History of Japan both received a nomination, so the total number in the category can be six), and Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It is a nominee in the Anthology category.
Unlike last year, none of the five books nominated for the Best Scholarly/Academic Work award deal with manga. But, Comics Through Time: A History of Icons, Idols and Ideas is nominated as a Best Comics-Related Work. A comprehensive encyclopedia on a wide range of topics dealing with comics, it focuses primarily on American comic books, but acknowledges that “comics” as a term encompasses a wide variety of approaches and forms. A work of this kind, one that strives to be comprehensive, simply cannot ignore Japanese comics – and so, among the entries in it are several on manga, individual manga titles, and on Osamu Tezuka. Continue reading
Over two posts earlier this year, I discussed the list of nominees in the “Best Scholarly/Academic Work” category for the 2014 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards – two essay collections with chapters on manga, and the International Journal of Comic Art, which has consistently published articles on various topics related to Japanese comics. The 2014 Eisners were announced and presented on July 25 at a San Diego Comic Con ceremony. The title selected to receive the Best Scholarly/Academic Work Eisner was Black Comics: The Politics of Race and Representation (2013, Bloomsbury Academic). The book is an “analytic history of the diverse contributions of Black artists to the medium of comics” – and, as I mentioned when I first found out about it, its scope turns out to include one title that definitely fits under the definition of manga – a comic that is published in Japanese and for a Japanese audience. The comic in question is Felipe Smith’s Peepo Choo, written by a non-Japanese author, but published first in the Japanese magazine Morning 2, and then translated by the author himself for U.S. publication. Casey Brienza (City University London), who has rapidly risen to be one of the most prominent scholars of manga and the manga industry outside Japan discusses it in the chapter ‘Beyond B&W: The global manga of Felipe Smith’. Continue reading
In my earlier post about this year’s nominations for the Eisner Awards Best Scholarly/Academic Work category, I mentioned the chapter on nouvelle manga in Drawing From Life: Memory and Subjectivity and Comic Art, and the many essays on Japanese comics that have appeared over the years in the International Journal of Comic Art. But I will be the first one to admit that I missed one more book that I should have mentioned.
Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation is another of the four books and the one journal nominated in the category this year. The title alone gives no indication that it would be relevant to anime/manga studies. But, as is so often the case with inter-disciplinary essay collections, the title does not adequately represent its contents. And one of the essays in this book is in fact worth bringing up in the context of manga studies.
‘Beyond b&w?: The global manga of Felipe Smith’, by City University London’s Casey Brienza, who is fast emerging as one of the most active and insightful scholars currently writing on manga anywhere outside Japan, is an “in-depth textual and visual analysis” of two works by American comics artist Felipe Smith – the “manga-style” MBQ , which was published in the U.S. along with a number of other “original English language” or OEL titles in the mid-2000’s, and his second, Peepo Choo – published first in a Japanese magazine, and only then brought back to the U.S. In her analysis, Brienza uses both the publication histories of these two works and their author’s personal background to demonstrate how manga is able to speak to audiences across nations, cultures, and perhaps races – but how these messages are received still varies based on regional or local factors.
In academic publishing – in any field or area – how do you differentiate between a good publication – and one that is truly extraordinary? One easy way is through citations – a paper that has been cited a hundred times is probably more influential than one that’s only been cited a couple, or never at all. But in of themselves, citations are not a measure of quality, merely an indication of a connection of some sort between two pieces of scholarship.
Another indicator is awards – the “best paper’ honors that are frequently presented by academic societies and individual academic departments. One such award, for example, is the Stuart L. Bernath Scholarly Article Prize, awarded annually by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations to the “author of a distinguished article appearing in a scholarly journal or edited book, on any topic in United States foreign relations” – in 2011, it went to Andrew McKevitt for his “You are not alone!”: Anime and the globalizing of America (Diplomatic History, 34:5).
But awards like these are only really meant to impress a small circle of other academics in the specific field or area, and rarely mean anything to the general reader. Is there something similar that’s directed not at academic departments, but at wider audiences? If there is anything, it’s the Eisner Awards – more formally, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. The Eisners have been presented at the San Diego Comic-Con since 1988, and although they are generally known – and generally meant – to honor comic artists and writers, in fact, they have consistently included a “Best Comics-Related Book” category, and, since 2012, a specific award for the previous year’s Best Educational/Academic Work.