Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Drifting Life

This book was recommended to me by Marek Bennett. It is a huge (over 800 pages) autobiography told in comic strip form by one of the manga masters of Japan, Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I thought it was fascinating to learn about the history of manga from its humble beginnings in post-war Japan and the devotion and creativity of the young men who showed amazing devotion and innovation to their craft.
Manga, or Japanese comics is an amazing story in itself. Tatsumi explained in an interview,

Manga owes itself to the phenomenon of rental shops. This was a time when the Japanese had no disposable income but for five cents, kids could check out 10 comics and could be influenced by 10 totally different styles. It’s because of this economy of comics that everybody was able to read all these different things and that’s why I think that manga is what it is today, because everyone had a chance to read a lot of different manga.

Manga was born in a time of economic hardship in Japan. And here we are in the present with one magazine after another tanking. Shojo Beat, then Nick Mag. I don't think it spells doom for comics. Look at the comics that kids are eating up. They can get a lot of story for $10 with manga or pay $4 for hardly any story from DC or Marvel. It was neat to read in A Drifting Life how manga at that time really invited reader participation and showcased the efforts of the kid creators. We could learn something from their approach. Make it cheap, and invite kids to participate. I don't think the slickness and glossiness of American comics really matters to kids.

I highly recommend this book to adult readers interested in the comics making process or this time period. Due to some adult situations in the book, however, parental guidance is suggested.

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