In Bakuman, the manga about making manga created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, two teenage boys pursue their dreams to become professional manga creators. Over the course of 20 volumes, the teens become young men who toil over their drawing boards to reach their goal: to get a popular series featured in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine.
Compare and contrast this dream with the reality that many North American comics creators face today, especially if they create work that is heavily influenced by manga. In today's tough economic climate, risk-adverse publishers are shying away from publishing original comics content. North American readers who love reading Japanese comics in English have been reluctant to show the same support for homegrown comics drawn in a manga-influenced style. And while there are scads of aspiring creators being churned out by art schools throughout the nation, many graduates face daunting prospects for turning their skills into a job that'll pay the bills.
Last weekend, I attended the 2012 Toronto Comic Arts Festival, a show that features comics and comics artists/authors from all over the world, with a focus on original, creator-owned works. While I was there, I was talking with Svetlana Chmakova, the creator of Dramacon, Nightschool, and illustrator for the graphic novel adaptation of James Patterson's Witch and Wizard. She asked me, and several other creators and publishing pros a simple question: What would it take, what needs to change in order to create real career opportunities for North American 'manga' creators?
I asked this question to several pros attending TCAF, including Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim), Becky Cloonan (Demo and East Coast Rising), and Adam Warren (Empowered), and later threw this question out to the Twitterverse. I got a LOT of responses in a very short time; so many that I felt that it was important to collect as many as I could to put this conversation in front of readers who may not have been on Twitter during that tweetstorm.
The result is this -- the first part of a five-part series of articles about Making a Living in Manga. To kick things off, I explain how this conversation got started, and my take on 9 reasons why the manga-makin' economy in North America is broken.
Look for the other four parts in this series, which will cover these topics:
- Part 2: "Real" or "Fake" Manga: The OEL Dilemma
- Part 3: The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Manga Training Gap
- Part 4: Publishers vs. Self-Publishing with Webcomics / Kickstarter
- Part 5: What Needs to Change? Suggestions for Solutions
Anyhow, take a look at Making a Living in Manga Part 1, then if you've got comments, suggestions, or just want to add your two cents on the topic, add 'em below, and join the conversation! More to come soon.
Image credits: Witch & Wizard © James Patterson, Illustrations © Hachette Book Group; BAKUMAN. © 2008 by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata / SHUEISHA Inc.