Subject Bibliography – Scott Pilgrim

One question that is necessarily central to any kind of academic discussion about manga is, simply, “what do we actually mean by ‘manga’?” How we define or operationalize the term directly influences the scope of any such discussion. And indeed, many of the scholars and other commentators who write about manga do take the time to present their working definitions. Of course, these definitions themselves differ, or emphasize particular aspects and approaches.

Jason Thompson, in the introduction to Manga: The Complete Guide, states simply that “[M]anga is Japanese for ‘comics'” (p. xiii) – and goes on to highlight two features that he considers particularly important. “Manga are stories. Long stories. With endings.” “The artist is more important than the property.” (p. xx). Toni Johnson-Woods, introducing the essay collection Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives, also does not feel the need to offer anything than more complicated than equating manga and “Japanese comics” – but she too immediately expands the definition, with the argument that “over the past two decades, manga has spread from being a quirky style of comics to being the new comic-book art format.” And, for Katherine Dicey, in “What is Manga?” (in Manga: Introductions, Challenges, and Best Practices, pp. 5-24), the word refers to “long-form stories spanning hundreds or thousands of pages”.

But, many of these same scholars acknowledge that even starting with what seems to be a fairly straight-forward definition of “manga” leads to the problem of how to respond to a situation where “manga and anime are no longer solely the provenance of Japanese artists” (Marc MacWilliams, “Introduction”, in Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, pp. 3-25), “manga-style comics” are being created outside Japan, and the word itself is being used “to name [the] visual language…loosely conceived of as an ‘aesthetic style'” (Neil Cohn, “Japanese visual language: The Structure of manga”, in Toni Johnson-Woods (Ed.), Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives, pp. 187-203). And one such way it to expand not just the definition, but the term itself – as Casey Brienza has been doing, first in “Beyond B&W? The Global Manga of Felipe Smith”, in the Eisner-nominated 2013 essay collection Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation, and, last year, in her introduction to Global Manga: “Japanese” Comics Without Japan?.

In fact, these kinds of “global manga” (“Original English Language manga”, “Original global manga”, “Amerimanga” and various similar – progressively more awkward – other terms) have themselves been around for almost as long as actual English-language translations of Japanese comics have been. And, just as with manga studies proper, where a major component of establishing it as an academic field is building an awareness of the depth and breadth of published scholarship on manga, I think it also interesting to highlight how scholars have been approaching “global manga” so far. What kinds of questions are they asking? How are they phrasing both the questions and the answers to them, even what kinds of publications they consider when proposing academic publications on global manga?

Scott PilgrimOne particular approach to take here is to focus on academic writing on what is arguably the single most successful “global manga” title that has been published in English so far – Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, brought out over six volumes by Oni Press between 2004 and 2010, and since then, translated into multiple languages, and adapted into a major motion picture and a Playstation 3/Xbox 360 video game. The 12 academic publications (chapters in edited essay collections and articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals) on it listed below do indeed represent a variety of ways of dealing with a particular global manga text and emphasizing particular aspects of it – Scott Pilgrim as a Canadian work first and foremost, Scott Pilgrim as a comic, Scott Pilgrim an an example of a multimodal work, or one with transmedia properties. In fact, only one of the essays specifically approaches it in a “global manga” context, while one more compares Scott Pilgrim side-by-side with an actual Japanese comic.

Perhaps the final question to consider with regard to academic writing on “global manga” goes back to the nature of the term. Does it ultimately refer to a type of comics/graphic novels that existed for several years, and then largely disappeared? Or will “global manga” persist as a distinct – and distinctive – category of visual culture that will continue to attract scholarly attention in the same way that both manga and American comics do.

Scott Pilgrim: An Academic Bibliography Continue reading

Advertisements

Highlighting New Publications: Global Manga

Global Manga: “Japanese” Comics Without Japan?, the new essay collection, edited by City University London’s Casey Brienza, on the “global cultural phenomenon” of comics that may be presented as manga but are not actually created in Japan, is now available for purchase in hard-cover and e-book formats.

*** Special discount: 50% off (hard-cover only) ***

Dr. Brienza introduces the essays with Manga Without Japan?, an overview of the emergence of “original” (i.e., non-Japanese) manga, largely in response to market pressures and conditions. This essay provides working definitions of both “global manga” and “manga” in general, surveys the current state of “cultural production” of global manga around the world – in the U.S. and Canada, in Europe, and in South America, and approaches the underlying question of how to consider manga/global manga – as styles, as marketing functions or labels, or even as “tools” deployed in support of particular activities. Ultimately, as she points out, just some of the questions this book highlights – and that should be involved in any discussion about manga, whether in Japan or elsewhere, include:

  • What do the fields of cultural production of “global manga” look like?
  • Why and under what sorts of conditions do they arise and flourish?
  • Who gets to decide what counts as “manga,” and who benefits from that decision?
  • What are global manga’s implications for contemporary economies of cultural and creative labor?
  • What does it mean…for manga to be “authentically” Japanese and what, precisely, is at stake?

Continue reading

Highlighting Upcoming Publications: Global Manga

When we use the term ‘manga’, what exactly do we mean? What are the components, or features, or characteristics of manga. Are these features or characteristics equal and equally necessary – does a work need to have all of them to qualify, or are some of them more fluid or optional than others. Is something either manga or not manga? Or can we talk about degrees or a spectrum? Can we say that one work is “more manga” than another? And, for that matter, how is the definition created? By whom? Why? When? How has it changed over the years? Are the borders of this definition subject to any kind of friction?

What do different scholars mean when they use the term ‘manga’ is a topic for another post. But it is clear that at least in America, manga has always meant something that can serve as a base or structure, but is open to modification. And a lot of the history of manga in America is a history of taking this term and all of its meanings, and creating new ones. So, from manga came the decidedly awkward Amerimanga (the title of an anthology magazine published over several issues by the long-forgotten Studio Ironcat; though it’s hard not to wonder whether “Amerimanga” was a conscious – or even unconscious – mirror image of the term “Japanimation”, which at one point in time was a perfectly acceptable way of referring to Japanese animation). From manga came OEL (Original English Language) manga, with the marketing and branding power of Tokyopop, for years, easily the most successful publisher of Japanese comics in English. From manga came “original-English language manga”, the preferred turn of phrase still used by the publisher Seven Seas Entertainment. And, from manga came “global manga”. Continue reading