Tag: Eisner Awards

Manga in the 2023 Eisner Award Nominations – and 2012-2023

On May 17, the organizers of Comic-Con International: San Diego announced the nominees for this year’s Eisner Awards (for materials published in 2022) – officially the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. Although the Eisner Awards are generally known for honoring specific comics and the work of specific comics artists and writers, since 2012, one of the awards has recognized the year’s Best Educational/Academic Work. The category is now officially titled Best Scholarly/Academic Work, and this year once again, although none of the five titles that have received nominations in it specifically discuss Japanese comics, one is an essay collection with several chapters that do.

The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader: Critical Openings, Future Directions (University Press of Mississippi) includes among its contents 3 very different essays on different aspects of manga, brought together under the section heading “Global Crossings and Intersections”:

First, Prof. Keiko Miyajima (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York), contributes the chapter XX, XY, and XXY: Genderqueer bodies in Hagio Moto’s science fiction manga, a reading of several classic manga titles including Marginal, Star Red, and They Were 11, that emphasizes depictions of trans* identities “as a site of resistance to any coercive gender norms”.

Following this, William S. Armour is the author of An exploration of the birth of the slave through ero-pedagogy in Tagame Gengoroh’s PRIDE. In this follow-up to the 2010 paper Representations of the masculine in Tagame Gengoroh’s ero SM manga (Asian Studies Review, 34:4), Armour introduces non-Japanese audiences to what he refers to as a “Bildungsroman ero-MANGA”, discusses particular aspects of it that may ” resonate with Tagame’s intended audience”, and makes the point that in addition, PRIDE can be viewed as essentially a “how-to manual” or instructional work.

Finally, with Gay fanzines as contact zones: Dokkun’s adventures with “bara” manga in between Japan and France, Edmond Ernest dit Alban (Tulane University) argues that amateur pornographic comics such as those published in the French-language fanzine Dokkun enable and support “contact zones” for local, regional, and global cultures and communities.

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Interview with the Author – Comics and the Origins of Manga

On July 22, Comic-Con International announced the winners of this year’s Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. And, for the first time in the history of the Eisners, the award in the Best Academic/Scholarly Work category went to a book on sequential art in Japan – Comics and the Origins of Manga: A Revisionist History, by Eike Exner. Anime and Manga Studies extends ours congratulations to the book’s author. We are particularly excited to be able to ask several questions about the book, the challenges of actually conducting the research that went into writing it, and the kinds of reactions both publishers and readers have had.

Japanese comics, commonly known as manga, are a global sensation. Critics, scholars, and everyday readers have often viewed this artform through an Orientalist framework, treating manga as the exotic antithesis to American and European comics. In reality, the history of manga is deeply intertwined with Japan’s avid importation of Western technology and popular culture in the early twentieth century.

MK: Just for an introduction, can you give us a bit about who you are and your background?

Eike Exner: I’m originally from Germany and like most Germans grew up with the works of Wilhelm Busch, so it was wild to learn during the research for my book that Busch’s work was quite popular in Japan as well. I started studying Japanese because my German high school offered classes in it (no Italian, no) and I liked languages, so I took every language class available. Without that I probably would have never started studying Japanese and hence would have never written this book, which is strange to think about. I came to the U.S. for college and grad school, with several years spent in Japan in between. Since leaving academia I’ve been financing my research with translation work for the most part.

MK: Along the same lines, how would you describe or promote the book that you just wrote to someone who is not really familiar with the subject?

The book explains (with plenty of images) how comics – as in “stories told via successive panels that include dialog between characters (usually in speech balloons)” – took root in Japan in the 1920s. Many manga histories try to establish some kind of connection between Japanese comics and centuries of older Japanese art but the biggest origin point of modern manga was American comic strips hugely popular in Japan between 1923 and 1940. There’s also a chapter on how and why those comics came about in the U.S around 1900 and why it took two decades for them to become popular in Japan as well. If someone wants to really understand how manga started, they’re going to enjoy the book. I spent two years going through early Japanese comic strips in newspapers and magazines at the National Diet Library in Tokyo, so everything is carefully documented with lots of evidence.

MK: What inspired you to study this particular topic, and to write the book?

I always thought it was odd that “comics” and “manga” are basically the same medium but supposedly evolved from two completely different traditions. That never made sense to me. I started out mostly interested in the translation of visual media more broadly but when I saw how many translated comics there were in Japan in the 1920s and how the first Japanese comics looked like a direct reaction to them, I realized I had stumbled on something really interesting. Because the idea that manga and comics are actually the same thing, with the same origins, is so different from the established narrative – Japanese public schools literally teach middle schoolers that manga is an ancient Japanese tradition – I knew I had to be very thorough and specialize in manga history to make my case as convincing as possible.

MK: How did you go about conducting your actual research?

80% of it was sitting in libraries and archives and scrolling (using a literal hand crank) through microfilm reels for hours, looking for comic strips. Newspapers were the primary vehicle for comics back then, but they didn’t index them or anything, so you basically have to go through newspaper pages one by one to stumble upon them, which is a big reason why this history was lost. There’s an excellent book by a Chinese scholar who wrote her dissertation on children’s manga and who documented a lot of them, but she focused on just five newspapers, so there was still lots to do. There probably still is a lot more material to be found, but I had to stop at some point once I had more than enough evidence. A big chunk of the other 20% was reading autobiographies by people active in cartooning back then, scanning for relevant bits, like a mangaka casually mentioning that he started drawing comics because of Bringing Up Father (the most popular of the American comics in Japan back then and the longest-running prewar manga period).

MK: Were there any things you learned during your research that you were not expecting to find?

Eike Exner: The biggest holy **** discoveries for me were just how popular and long-lived Bringing Up Father was in Japan, how frequently its characters showed up in ads and popular culture more generally, and how many foreign comics were read by Japanese people at the time (I almost screamed when I came across Krazy Kat in Japanese), plus various random finds like coverage of the Japan tour of a circus from Hagenbeck’s Zoo in Hamburg, which I used to go to as a child, or a Japanese comic strip about Babe Ruth. It was also interesting, though perhaps not that surprising, to witness the shift in content from cosmopolitan and liberal towards fascist and militaristic over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. The most popular children’s manga of the 1930s, Norakuro, explicitly taught children that it would be noble to die in a suicide bombing for their country, very different from the more lighthearted comic strips of the mid-1920s.

None of the major academic publishers was interested, one publisher focusing on comics lost interest for unspecified reasons and another took so long to complete the peer review process that I withdrew the manuscript. One peer reviewer tried to sabotage the book by grossly misrepresenting its content, probably because it contradicts something they’ve written.

MK: Did you have any difficulty finding a publisher who would be interested in the project?

Definitely, yes. None of the major academic publishers was interested, one publisher focusing on comics lost interest for unspecified reasons and another took so long to complete the peer review process that I withdrew the manuscript. One peer reviewer tried to sabotage the book by grossly misrepresenting its content, probably because it contradicts something they’ve written. In retrospect it’s funny that a senior academic really wrote “this manuscript does not fulfill minimum standards for publication as a scholarly work,” now that the same manuscript has won an award for “Best Scholarly/Academic Work,” but at the time I was genuinely worried that I might never get the book published because it contradicts too many established academics. I’ve definitely learned from the process how petty and childish academics can be. But everything went smoothly after I approached Rutgers. My editor there, Nicole Solano, thought the book had potential and got it through peer review in record time.

I’ve been branded as anti-Japanese by a Twitter mob of netouyo (Japanese online right-wingers) that called my book racist and cultural appropriation, including the cover image of Bringing Up Father, which they assumed was Japanese in origin.

MK: What kinds of reactions have you received in Japan, from your colleagues, or from others in the comics studies community?

Eike Exner: I’ve been branded as anti-Japanese by a Twitter mob of netouyo (Japanese online right-wingers) that called my book racist and cultural appropriation, including the cover image of Bringing Up Father, which they assumed was Japanese in origin. Their relentless tweets actually helped sell a few copies of the book that very day on the Japanese Amazon site, so apparently it’s true that any publicity is good publicity.

A group of Japanese comics scholars who had already helped me a lot with my research have been very supportive and have organized a Zoom event to talk about it later this month. People familiar with pre-1945 manga generally know that the history of manga as an ancient tradition is nonsense, but given that that narrative is actively promoted in schools and elsewhere (don’t get me started on a recent tech company project), it’s been difficult to correct. Kinokuniya started stocking the book in Tokyo after it won the Eisner and I hope there’ll be a Japanese translation some day.

In general the reaction has been positive, but you can often predict someone’s reaction based on whether they like manga for being Japanese or for being comics. Comics scholars around the globe have been overwhelmingly supportive and I’ve received some extremely kind feedback, whereas some Japan studies people familiar with the book are either ignoring it or have been openly hostile to its core argument.

MK: Do you have any personal advice you could give to someone who is interested in studying either comics or manga, or Japanese literature/culture in general.

Eike Exner: Always look at primary sources as much as possible!

Double-check fundamental assumptions, don’t take conventional wisdom for granted. Look up footnotes; they sometimes don’t support what they’re cited in support of.

Other researchers are often your greatest resource. Don’t be afraid to contact them out of the blue if there’s something you cannot find out on your own. Likewise, if you come across something that might be useful to someone else, share it.

Language skills are essential. One peer reviewer suggested I should include more English-language scholarship but virtually all original scholarship on early manga was in Japanese.

If you’re working on something that runs counter to the Japanese government’s preferred narrative, hide that in your applications for funding from the Japan Foundation (or any other organization that might be ideologically opposed to your research; I learned this the hard way).

If you’re doing a PhD, look for alternatives to a career in academia. Academia is an absurd rat race already and the dwindling jobs are getting worse, with no improvement in sight.

If you’re just starting, consider what kind of department would be best suited to the research you’re interested in. There are extremely few comics studies departments in the world, and expectations will vary greatly between an art history department and a literature department, for example.

2022 Eisner Awards – Manga Studies Nominee

This coming weekend, the organizers of Comic-Con International (returning as a live event after a two-year hiatus) will announce the winners of the 2022 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, established with the goal of “bringing attention to and highlighting the best publications and creators in comics and graphic novels”. For a number of years now, the awards have included one for Best Academic/Scholarly Work, and this year, for the first time ever, one of the titles nominated in this category is a monograph on Japanese comics – Comics and the Origins of Manga: A Revisionist History (Eike Exner, Rutgers University Press).

Exner’s basic goal in this study is to go beyond the simple statement that Western comics were introduced into Japan along with other Western cultural products, and present an in-depth examination of how Japanese audiences consumed Western comics. He is able to demonstrate that Western comics directly influenced the form and shape of Japanese visual culture, in part simply by examining the extent to which Japanese readers were exposed to translated comics.

When I started studying the history of comics and manga, I found it odd how two things so similar could have developed independently of each other

– Eike Exner, p. xi

So far, I have not seen any formal reviews of this book. But it has received extensive praise from the comics/manga studies community – Henry Jenkins praises the author for “groundbreaking archival research”, John A. Lent calls the book “a history-altering masterpiece!”, Gennifer Weisenfeld points out the “meticulous and comprehensive” scholarship. An audio interview with the author is available on the New Books Network.

Ed. note: In previous years, two other titles on Japanese comics received Eisner nominations – Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture and Community in Japan in 2016 and Women’s Manga in Asia and Beyond: Uniting Different Cultures and Identities in 2020. Several other essay collections that have been nominated for the award did not focus on manga, but included chapters that did.

2020 Eisner Awards – Manga Studies Nominee

The organizers of the San Diego Comic Convention / Comic-Con International have announced the titles and individuals nominated for the 2020 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards in various categories, including Best Scholarly/Academic Work. And, for the second time since the category was first introduced in 2012, one of the books nominated in it specifically deals with Japanese comics. The nominated book is Women’s Manga in Asia and Beyond: Uniting Different Cultures and Identities (Palgrave Macmillan).

Women’s Manga in Asia and Beyond offers a variety of perspectives on women’s manga and the nature, scope, and significance of the relationship between women and comics/manga, both globally as well as locally…The edited volume elucidates social and historical aspects of the Asian wave of manga from ever-broader perspectives of transnationalization and glocalization. With a specific focus on women’s direct roles in manga creation, it illustrates how the globalization of manga has united different cultures and identities, focusing on networks of women creators and readerships.

Taking an Asian regional approach combined with investigations of non-Asian cultures which have felt manga’s impact, the book details manga’s shift to a global medium, developing, uniting, and involving increasing numbers of participants worldwide. Unveiling diverse Asian identities and showing ways to unite them, the contributors to this volume recognize the overlaps and unique trends that emerge as a result.”

Edited by Fusami Ogi (Chigushi Jogakuen University), Rebecca Suter (The University of Sydney), Kazumi Nagaike (Center for International Education and Research, Oita University), and John A. Lent, this volume is based on the work of the Women’s MANGA Research Project, with the individual chapters largely expanding on talks and papers that their authors have presented at conferences organized by the Project since it launched in 2009. The key concept around which it is organized is the idea that manga is “a global medium” – with roots in Japan, but no longer limited to Japan. This means that while it certainly includes several studies of “women’s manga in Japan” (such as Matsumoto Katsuji: Modern Tomboys and Early Shōjo Manga and Hailing the Subject: Visual Progression and Queer Reading in Nananan’s Blue), much of the book’s content specifically pushes the borders of its scope. In this way, the introduction to its first section presents the argument that “the term ‘women’ in the title…does not just refer to biological women but includes other non-masculine subjects, as well.” Later, “manga” is expanded to also include “manga-based cultural products and activities, such as cosplay.” 

“the term ‘women’ in the title…does not just refer to biological women but includes other non-masculine subjects, as well.” 

Similarly, “women’s manga” or “shojo manga” can encompass topics like the representation of Asia broadly and Australia narrowly in Japanese girls’ comics. And the book’s final section, “Asian Women Comics Artists and Their Careers”, with both critical studies of the work of several artists in Japan, China, and Hong Kong, and personal reflections essentially takes Women’s Manga outside “just” manga studies, and really into comics studies much more broadly defined! 

Ed. note: The only review for this book that has been published so far is by Jonathan Clements, in AlltheAnime. In Clements’ assessment, this volume is “a compendium of all the left-overs from the last decade of conferencing”, and “a random collection of essays, less of a book and more like a one-issue journal with a vague pop-culture focus and no style-guide”, although several of the individual essays are quite strong.

Ed. note 2: The previous manga-related book to get a nomination was Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan (2015, University Press of Mississippi – nominated in 2016). Prof. Nagaike was one of that volume’s editors as well.

Manga Studies in the 2019 Eisner Awards – Eligibility

2016 Eisner AwardsThe first months of the new year are, among other things, awards season – definitely for television and film (and animation), with the Golden Globes now finished, the Annie Awards coming up next month, and of course then the Oscars. The academic world does not and will never have anything like these awards ceremonies, but research that deserves recognition can receive it. The Society for Animation Studies presents its Norman McLaren/Evelyn Lambart Award for the best scholarly book and best scholarly article on animation – Marco Bellano received the 2010 article award for “The Parts and the Whole: Audiovisual Strategies in the Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Joe Hisaishi” (Animation Journal18, 4-55), and Tzu-Yue G. Hu and Jonathan Clements were runners-up for the best scholarly book one with Frames of Anime: Culture and Image-Building (2011) and Anime: A History (2015). It also presents the Maureen Furniss Award for Best Scholarly Paper in Animated Media – in 2017, to Jacqueline Ristola, for Realist Film Theory and Flowers of Evil: Exploring the Philosophical Possibilities of Rotoscoped Animation. Similarly, when the Comics Studies Society launched its program of prizes last year, it recognized Andrea Horbinski with an honorable mention in the Best Graduate Student Conference Presentation category for her talk “Something Postmodern Going On: The Queering of the Manga Sphere in the 1970s”, at On Belonging: Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in Japan.

The Eisner Awards – the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards – are the Oscars of the comics industry and really, the world of comics. But, unlike the Oscars and other awards ceremonies, the Eisners do have a “best scholarly/academic work” category. And the judges for this year’s awards are now accepting submissions for consideration to be nominated for the award in all categories – including this one. There are no formal criteria for eligibility other than that the title had to have been “shipped to retailers in the U.S.” or available online between January 1 and December 31, 2018. (more…)

Manga Studies in the 2016 Eisner Nominations

2016 Eisner AwardsRecently, 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 BeyondBoys 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.

 

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Books on Manga in the 2015 Eisner Nominations

Comics Through TimeEarlier 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. (more…)

Manga Scholarship in the Eisners – Conclusion

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’. (more…)

Manga Scholarship in the Eisners – Update

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.

Drawing from Life: Memory and Subjectivity in Comic Art – See more at: http://www.comic-con.org/awards/will-eisner-comic-industry-award-nominees-2014#sthash.PMUcWDm1.dpuf

Manga Scholarship in the 2014 Eisner Awards

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.

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