Still, if there’s a manga feel to the books, it’s not an accident. “I went into my local bookstore, and there were two shelves for the entire history of American comics and 12 shelves for manga,” Crilley said. “Whenever kids come up to me and say, ‘Look at this drawing I made,’ nine times out of 10 it is in the manga style. For this generation, comics are manga. This is the language of this generation, and I’d better learn how to speak this language or I’ll never reach them.”
Recently I’ve been finishing writing a book chapter for a new textbook on Japanese manga, so these sorts of comments and discussions are particularly salient for me right now. This quote is revealing about a lot of theoretical issues, beyond simply calling it a “language.” Or, perhaps more accurately, I think manga shows us many of these issues, which are kindly wrapped up into this quote. Among these are:
1) It acknowledges that the system of representation and expression used in manga is different than in American comics. Underlying message: Graphic systems are not universal
2) It notes that one graphic system can influence another one (just like languages do when they have contact with each other). Underlying message: Graphic systems (or rather, human minds that produce graphic systems…) are fluid and changing
3) People who draw in one manner can adopt additional manners of drawing. Underlying message: Multilingualism in visual language!
4) Manga are extremely popular, and that popularity is tapped into by adopting its system of expression. Underlying message: Having a consistent style might increase readership (ahem… among many other factors)
5) Children are choosing the “manga style” en masse to draw in — a consistent style which is beyond the scope of a single author and belongs instead to a community. Underlying message: Children learn to draw by imitating others