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Developing Your Own Style

I felt like writing this blog after changing the art style to my comic, and realizing what a liberating experience it can be. I had been drawing Cute Ninja Girls in a more manga-esque style since it's launch, but faced a bit of an ethical crisis. I'm no fan of manga, and view it as derivative and hack, (this is mostly on the web, but it's not universal by any means) yet here I was drawing my own comic in this style.

I know the kind of art I like to draw, and I know that my personal style would be both easier to handle and would help make the comic itself more original than it already was. I had been using the manga style because the comic originally called for it, and would be an important part of establishing the "cute" factor of Cute Ninja Girls. I couldn't take it anymore.

One day, I said to hell with it, and went for it. It was the best move I could have made.  Now, I'm afraid, I'm going to rant for a bit. I'm not trying to be harsh, or single anyone out; I'm just speaking from experince.

Alright, folks. I've been reading webcomics for years, and drawing/writing one for roughly half a year now. I've experienced the occasionally intense pressure of crafting a unique art style that I can call my own. Of course doing something like this involves studying other artists, and discovering little tricks they use that may work for your own style. Every artist has been influenced by other artists, so don't deny it. Even when I worked in my manga-esque style, I tried to make it different than the general crop out there.

However, I'm seeing a trend developing that disturbs me - there's a definite pattern of new artists seeking to directly copy the style of another webcomic artist. These individuals, God bless 'em, have the idea that by closely copying another artist, they can have a successful comic. They occasionally will simply try to copy an image from another artist's comic panels. I've seen cases where developing artists actually ask (ususally in forums) how to copy an artist, or ask how to draw like artist X. It saddens me that they don't aim for a more unique and personal style. It's a wonderful experience to do so.There are some areas that get hit hard by this particular type of art parasite.

Manga - It's everywhere - both in print and online. If the story to Manga X isn't as cliched as possible, then the art is exceptionally derivative of another artist. I'm not accusing manga artists in general - there's plenty of truly original people in this genre, but there are those that push things too far, in my book. These are the self-indulgent fan-fics that copy the art as closely as they can for an "authentic" feel. There are those who just draw manga characters because they think they could get more traffic. (I can be accused of this - but I defend myself by stating that when the comic originally launched, it was meant to have a manga flavor - the style was not just some trick to get readers - and I abandoned the manga-esque style, admiting I couldn't stand it anymore.) There are the artists who believe that manga is a good area to learn how to draw, and try to do so without studying important details like anatomy. Their characters tend to be highly disproportional, have narrow heads, and lean to one side. They're cutting corners, and it shows.

Furry - I know furry fans are some of the most passionate and rabid fans, but I gotta say it: pretty much all furry comics look alike. There's a general style used across the vast majority of the board; simply read a few and you'll see what I mean. The "talented" furry artists tend to have some sort of canine character that looks like every other canine character. There are details that are prevailent - the general shape of the head, the brow, and the placement of the ears. Don't get me started on the whole cat-girl thing, either. I don't even know if it belongs in this genre, but the world has seen every possible cat-girl it could ever see. We don't want anymore images of a sexy girl with cat ears coming out of the top of her head.

Sprites - There are pixel artists who make their own sprites, and I give credit to them. However, the majority of sprite comics are taken from old videogames, and the lack of effort shows, mostly through the poor jokes, "anytime I feel like it" updates, and piss-poor panel arrangement. Sprite comics tend to be for people who just want to say, "I have a webcomic." If you want that as a status symbol, put a little more effort into it. Some have found success, like 8-Bit Theater, but that comic stands on good writing, and the panels are carefully planned.

For any artists out there who are considering starting up a webcomic, I can only offer the following advice. Don't copy another artist's style. Ever. It's okay to borrow elements to enhance your own style; that's how you develop it. Ripping off another artist WILL draw harsh comparisons, and will be viewed as derivative and possibly hack-work. Before you even start the first strip, make up character sheets that show your character from various angles. See what you can do to make yourself more comfortable drawing said characters. Don't claim that copying another artist directly helps you learn to draw, because it doesn't. All it teaches you is how another artist draws. You won't walk away with a better sense of the figure, and the overall quality of your work will suffer. If you can't handle the basics like figure drawing, then you may want to consider learning a bit more before making the commitment to a comic. Waiting just a little longer can be a boon. If you do just jump in, you'll find that your art improves over time, especially if you make the effort to make it better. Either approach is valid.

I'm not trying to be elitist, or to discourage future webcomic makers; I'm just trying to give out advice. Developing your own, original art style will help define your individualty and, who knows, maybe you'll strike gold and create the new "hip" style that will trigger a wave of copy-cats. Your chances of success through ripping off another artist aren't good. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the comics world, it's generally frowned upon. If I came off harsh or offended anyone, then I apologize. I only want to encourage budding artists to define themselves, and create something they can truly call their own.

Good Discussion But...

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I just think we've gone as far as we can with it.  If you want to keep discussing the topic there is always the forum where a new thread could be started. 

____

Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Aggghr.

m_estrugo's picture

Damn. I've been writing a damm long reply for a couple of hours about what I consider manga and why it became so preponderant lately and then I commited a silly mistake, all the article is gone for good.

So I'm going to cry for a little, and, if I feel in the mood later, I'll try again.


It's not the same to be

It's not the same to be manga-influenced or author-influenced than blatantly copy from someone.

I believe everybody should aim to develop a personal style, no matter the style or influence. You're an artist, you have to add something to it! What's the point on seeing cookie-cutter drawings everywhere? (And I'm not talking about clip art comics or sprite comics, these use recycled art on purpose). I mean the people who draw comics, it's better if people can recognize your art, and even if your name isn't around they can tell you did it.

Maritza
CRFH.net

I should probably clarify

Sean C's picture

I should probably clarify something in my original post that wasn't entirely accurate. I mentioned that Cute Ninja Girls originally called for a manga-esque style, but I was mistaken. I was under the impression that it did, due to a miscommunication. (I was actually free to draw it anyway I chose - eh, mistakes happen.) Once I got going with that style, I didn't really think it would be a good idea to abandon it and go with something else. It just took me a while to reach the conclusion that I would draw CNG differently.

Don't hesitate to procrastinate.
See my stuff at http://www.cuteninjagirls.com

Don't hesitate to procrastinate. My brand new comic: http://cain.bombsheltercomics.com

Of Course It's Not All The Same

Sean C's picture

We all can recognize that manga comes in many a wonderous packages, but, generally, when artists discuss manga, they only refer to the general traits that define the visual style as manga. How else could Will G have picked those samples and define them as manga? (Probably since they were all produced in Japan, duh.) There's a very loose set of rules that encompasses manga; certain types of exagerration, the use of speed lines, panel set-up, etc... that distiguishes it from American comics. I don't think the argument is whether or not manga all manga is the same; the issue is how often the styles of certain manga artists are copied, which in turn has led to a flood of cheaply produced knock-offs that seek to capitalize on the popularity of that particular style. Those circumstances have led a large number of people to generalize manga as "all the same". It's also true that American comic artists (and the American style) is becoming a bit more derivative, but a quick visit to the Digital Webbing Artist Showcase reveals that a good number of determined artists are trying to aim for a more unique, personalized style, and you have to appreciate that effort. However, far too many Americans (and Canadians - it's a North-American thing) are making knock-off manga with cliched stories or, ugh...fanfiction.

Don't hesitate to procrastinate.
See my stuff at http://www.cuteninjagirls.com

Don't hesitate to procrastinate. My brand new comic: http://cain.bombsheltercomics.com

I don't think people are

I don't think people are necessarily out to capitalize on a popular style. Because the style is popular it is only natural that many people will be genuinely interested in doing something similar to what many people like.
And I think most of the anime-influenced art is less from taking directly from particular japanese artists and more about building up the approaches that became popular among people attempting to adopt the style out here. Plenty of it has that "American dude made this" tint - not because you can innately tell when a not japanese person has drawn something, but because of the stylistic approaches that are more common. The artist for Eagle has an approach that several of my friends said looks like an American did it, though obviously one did not.

But anyways, why did most of the people I knew who wanted to get into comics when I was younger focus mostly on creating characters with costumes and super powers? Because that's what they were familiar with in comics. That's what they liked about comics. That's what they wanted to make comics about. The popular elements in art will always be reinforced in this manner.

Now people are into manga. A much wider variety of topics are available for mainstream perusal, so thankfully more people may be inspired to make school dramas or sports comics(it's pretty ridiculous that there's almost no presence for this sort of thing in the US, while Japan has plenty of football and basketball comics which make references to American sports stars). If someone were to learn about a comic called "Cute Ninja Girls" and were familiar with webcomics, they woul almost immediately think it was a webcomic. The title has that familiar tinge to it, as does the art style and writing. People before you guys had a certain way of doing things, and you've sort of fallen into their wake. That's not a knock, it's just the way things are for most people.

Japanese comics cover a wide amount of topics and they most have achieved some sort of mainstream success. It's a story I enjoy telling, but I showed someone one of my "japanese businessman performs business... in japan" comics(which was printed in English in japan before the genre can even hope to make a mark in an english market) and they just look at it and go "seriously?" and think I have it as a joke. Because it isn't funny or full of fighting, or even a character drama in the sense they're familiar with. It's a black and white comic with halftone shading, though everything is clean or more realistically proportioned than big eyed stuff, and the actual story content isn't particularly odd. People just don't like the notion of reading about someone buying up shares to stop a hostile takeover. And they're not going to write that story either.But they're going to take their generic concept and try to give it a unique visual style. And even if that style isn't particularly unique, they'll think it is, by comparing it to what it obviously isn't.

I think the influence of manga on the American market is a good thing. For one, it is not a surprise in the slightest. Japan has a huge comic market and it breaking into the US is not much different than the popularity of American films in foreign markets. Or Japan's huge role in the American video game market. While the comics come with their own sets of cliches and conventions, many of the people looking down on random shoujo or whatever comics aren't basing their criticism on their vast knowledge of the themes present in them and being tired of coming across them so often, but on the notion of someone working from those influences at all. But manga basically imports a broad number of topics into the American mainstream market(and of course, some things aren't well represented out here), and hopefully help people move away from the idea of creating icons. So that rather than creating the next generic superhero who will fight crime indefinitely, or comic strip which will run until an audience won't sustain it so that they can joing the leagues of Batman or Blondie or whatever ele we'll have to take being reimagined and thrown at us over and over again, people will become more use to creating things that will actually end; that will be about things you could previously only find if you rummaged through the back of a comic shop and waited 6 months for each issue because the poor bloke couldn't afford the printing costs for faster installments. Will the art have that "seen this before" scent? Sure. Will the writing be cliche? Probably. But things are always like that.For everything, and it's not because people are milking things. People with cliche ideas probably think they're pretty good =\

Webcomics help in widening the amount of content available to people, but not nearly as much as I would like. Maybe if you're a big fan of comic strips, I guess.

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

Lets see if they look alike

The William G's picture

I always wondered where some people say all manga looks the same.

Now, I can see where they get that idea since this is the style most aped my western manga fans. Even Ghastly's style touches upon it because of the implied innocence of the look.

But then we get things like the more realistic-looking Akira. Where Japanese kids look like Japanese kids and not bug-eyed monsters.

And then we have Lone Wolf and Cub. Which is nothing but motion, even in panels that stand still.

But you cant say these comics look the same. You can say that they come from similar artistic traditions, with different emphasis and trainings. But looking at western comics, you see similarities in approaches

Quitely's pacing is similar to...

Miller's. And while Miller has a adopted a lot of Japanese manga stylisms into his work, he's still steeped in the western artistic tradition.

These artists are/were all at the top of their craft. And I guess I'm showing this so I can say that it's not attempting the generalized "style" that comes with such labels as "Western" or "Manga" that makes you a hack.

What makes one a hack is being unable to move beyond your influences and add to it.

If you look at webcomics, Amy Kim Ganter Kibuishi (Sorry, I dont know what name she's going by now that she's married) Her stuff is clearly manga inspired, but she's managed to put her stamp on it. So whatever tradition you work from, you just need to rise above it.

By the way, all of the comics above... even Sailor Moon... are pretty good and you should take the time to read them. And if you're doing "manga" then I say you should try to add some Marv-type stylism to it.
_____

The William G - Romantic Drama, Post-Apocalyptic Monsters, and More Comic Experimentation


One of my new manga finds

Greg Carter's picture

Great examples, Mr. G. And let's not forget Bambi and her Pink Gun by Atsushi Kaneko - it's a manga that's very much influenced by US/UK indie-style comics.

It's a small world, after all.

Greg Carter
Abandon
UpDown Studio

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

And just to show we're all

Fabricari's picture

And just to show we're all cannibals, Yukito Kishiro drew a graphic novel separate from his Battle Angel Alita work that was an homage to Frank Miller, Ashen Victor.


Fabricari - Sexy Robots and Violent Cyberpunk Comics

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

Gah!

Sean C's picture

Now I gotta go dig those out from monster pile that is my art cabinet. Give me a day or so to find them, scan them, and then make up some photobucket images. I'm at school now, and am here all day. I don't have a good scanner at home, so I'll get the sketches up when I come back tommorow.

Aleph, I'm not encouraging artists to never copy. Every artist takes elements from other artists styles. I also think it's fair if an artist copies an image for the strict purpose of experimentation. If that's the case, they have no right to try to claim the work is original, or is their own. If it's just for the hell of it, that's fine. Copying doesn't work as a learning tool, though, and shouldn't be a method used when one is trying to teach themself to draw. You don't learn by copying other images line for line; you have to draw things on your own in order to flesh things out, and figure out what you need to work on. Occasionally, copying another artist is a method in which you can determine what little tricks or bits of that style you like, and may want to incorporate into your own; that's all copying should be used for, though. Another artist's style shouldn't become your own, and you should never try to pass off a copied image as your own, no matter how long it took you to complete it.

Don't hesitate to procrastinate.
See my stuff at http://www.cuteninjagirls.com

Don't hesitate to procrastinate. My brand new comic: http://cain.bombsheltercomics.com

Great thread! Sean, I was

Greg Carter's picture

Great thread!

Sean, I was just poking a bit of fun above, trying to make a point that manga isn't just the surface pretty. I wasn't trying to belittle your experience. Heck, I threw out the first two years of pages I've done. Deleted the files and burned the originals. That's how bad mine were.

The thing is, you have to start somewhere. So a person picks a style they think they want to work in. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Be glad you discovered that as soon as you did. :-)

I didn't pick manga, it picked me. When I first sketched my characters the had that classic "manga" look to them. Probably because I read so much manga in the last several years. So I went with it and it's worked for me. Although I think I annoy a lot of people because I don't stick to many of the conventions. Hell, maybe my comic isn't really manga either. Terry Moore's "Strangers in Paradise" has always been a huge influence on me. Probably more than any particular manga. Athough Yazawa Ai is a favorite also.

I love conversations like this that make me think about what I'm doing. Usually I just let the characters do the thinking. ;-)

Back to my vacation now.

Greg Carter
Abandon
UpDown Studio

Greg Carter - Abandon: First Vampire - Online Graphic Novel

Quote:; I drew up more

Quote:
; I drew up more traditional-looking manga figures that were more detailed, better looking, and, generally, were of a much, much higher quality than what was actually put on the site.

post em'!

<a xhref="http://www.kiwisbybeat.com" target=blank>Kiwis by beat!</a>

On archetypes

Sean C's picture

Archetypes can be limiting, though, and having the boldness to break with tradition can produce great success. I can argue that in the case of Spider-Man (and Captain Marvel, who predated SM) that the idea of making a younger character the hero was something that was thought to be unheard of, but both of these comics did exceptionally well. Spider-Man remains relevant even to this day because he embodies the hard-luck everyman that so many others have tried to copy, many with far less luck. Sometimes, breaking with tradition can alter the archetype itself, and I personally don't put much stock into those definitions. Look at what Alan Moore did with Watchmen. His storytelling method, which even incorporated a pirate-comic sub-story that mirrored the WM story was brilliant, and was a gamble. Even he admits that he never thought it could work so well. However, these are limited to just storytelling elements, and aren't really relevent to the topic at hand. The overall product of a comic with a "unique style" is the product of both the writer and the artist. An artist like Jack Kirby could take just about any script and make it fantastic. His personal style was so distinct and original that he shattered the traditions of the super-tights genre.

Artists who break with tradition have met with success as well, even if they leave out those hallmarks that define the style. Joe Mad brought a hybrid American-Manga style to the table, and it's everywhere now, in many different forms. He's even considered (by Wizard Magazine) as one of the most influential artists in the print comics world - ever. Robert Crumb and his coven were wild, bold, and daring, and they're legends now. The current crop of "underground artists" might not be seeing the same type of success, but their work is generally well-recieved. You may not see it, but my current style is most influenced by Jim Mahfood. However, rather than just copying his unique visual look, I only borrowed one or two elements of it. It really boils down to how an artist chooses to represent the world, and represent the story. If every little tradition was adhered to, would Will Eisner revolutionized the entire concept of comics? Would Steranko have brought the po-art elements to his work, which redifined the manner in which to actually tell a story? You have to take risks if you feel the story needs something more. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it's like juggling lit firecrackers. One who breaks tradition can be well-recieved, and could help evolve comics themselves.

And, responding to GregC, I never meant to lump all manga works into one category. I did say that there are many, many original people who work in that style. Half a year of working in a manga-esque style taught me that I couldn't work in it. It wasn't that I couldn't grasp the little details or the subtlties that define the general style; I drew up more traditional-looking manga figures that were more detailed, better looking, and, generally, were of a much, much higher quality than what was actually put on the site. I just didn't use that style because it wasn't ME. I was perfectly capable of producing high-quality manga art, but didn't want to fall into the general pool that so many lump manga into. I at least tried to give the art my own, personal touch, but still wasn't happy with the results. I mean, come on, the early CNG strips were ugly, I'll admit it. That's why I moved on, and am working in a style I'm more comfortable with - my own. I was forcing myself to be the artist I wasn't. That's the fate of many copycats. I can only pass on what I learned; that every artist is unique onto themselves, and will approach art differently. Embrace that uniqueness, and cultivate it. Learn your stuff. Study those who came before you, and even if you work in a set "style" like furries, (and arguably manga - just because of the characteristics which set it apart and define it) bring what YOU have to the table, not what someone else before you does. (I know that most of us here already know this, but this is mostly for the beginning artist.)

Don't hesitate to procrastinate.
See my stuff at http://www.cuteninjagirls.com

Don't hesitate to procrastinate. My brand new comic: http://cain.bombsheltercomics.com

Capt. Marvel vs. Spidey

Aleph's picture

The reason I bring up Spider-Man and not Captain Marvel is that Spidey partially (not completely) rejects the archetypical super**** mindset. There is a lot more finality in the series, people do die and loss is real. There are real-life concerns like expenses and real non-melodramatic sacrifices (along with the melodramatic ones) that the hero has to make. Spidey is slight, sometimes downright skinny, Captain Marvel has the huge overshaded muscle going on in most issues. And although Marvel is also the alter-ego of a kid, thanks to the wizard Shazam he is not fighting AS a kid, but as the world's mightiest mortal. Spidey is very much his own vulnerable self when he's fighting-- he has superpowers, but he is far from indestructible, and he gets lastingly hurt. This is not something most of the super**** book clubs appreciate.

I don't really agree that Watchmen was brilliant. I think it started out really well but got overtaken by a jaded and bitter existential slant that decayed the whole thing into a nihilist collapse. A lot of people like it, I think it just started to wallow after a while, my personal take on it. It certainly was different, I'll give it that, but I think what worked about it was that he was trying something that challenged him and worked for what he was trying to say, not that he was trying to be different. Don't forget that Alan Moore spent a great part of his career up to then working in well-established DC and Marvel storylines. So again, I would point out, what you're saying to people-- don't ever copy, go straight to your own style-- well it isn't necessarily what works for everyone.

I'll totally admit it's the approach I took, but mostly due to not having any background in comics, I certainly don't feel bad for the work I did studying other artists in painting.

Learning how another artist draws is not necessarily a bad thing. It's part of learning how images make the transition from reproduction into representation. I'm all for that, and I'm for cutting people a little slack if they start somewhere safe and comfortable before striking out on their own.

Paraphrase of widsom

The William G's picture

I cant remember who said it, but I do believe the person was one of them print comic "legends". And what they said went along the lines of:

"Style is what happens when you learn to work around your weaknessess."

Which is something I think everyone needs to remember when discussing such things.

As for the idea of comic languages (which is what's being called style here), well, it happens in movies and music as well. But I dont see too many people getting up in arms about the Japanese influences in spaghetti westerns, if you know what I mean.

Some people can improve on their influences, some will be copiers forever. But as long as stuff is good, I don't care if "A Fist Full Of Dollars" was originally called "Yojimbo"

Anyway, my metaphors are getting away from me.
_____

The William G - Romantic Drama, Post-Apocalyptic Monsters, and More Comic Experimentation


The Language of Comics

Fabricari's picture

At some point in our development we all copy several artists. We don't pop out of the womb understanding the language of comics, so we steal conventions to add to our comic lexicon.

Manga, more than many comic cultures, is generalized for it's stylistic conventions because they are so different than European comics, yet consistant within that sub-culture.

Manga readers have learned to read the language and appreciate it. I don't mean Japanese, I mean conventions such as detailing the elements of the picture that has focus, switching from highly rendered to cartoony (frowned upon in western comics), the language of action lines, the conventions of vox bubbles, and so on.

This exists in all comic cultures; even webcomics are creating their uniques set of conventions. To generalize manga is like saying "All white people look the same." It depends on your background.

My advice is not to push away any style or comic culture. Allow yourself to steal these conventions and make them your own. But also steal from other cultures. Understand why certain techniques convey a particular type of story.

There are indeed a lot of amature artists out there. But this is because they don't understand the language of comics, and instead of assimilating and understanding, they're just looking at a style on the surface.


Fabricari - Sexy Robots and Violent Cyberpunk Comics

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

There is a language though...

Aleph's picture

There's more to the manga language, too, though, there are conventions that, if ignored, will make people less receptive to the work. The 'look' of certain archetypes has been established, depending on what actual style you're using. Certain plotting styles are heavily favoured, and some even treat the plot as superfluous, providing little more than a means by which to drive the pretty characters around into different situations. Excel Saga is hilarious in the ways it sends up this kind of writing, though it focuses more on anime conventions than manga. Arguably, though, anime owes its plotting heritage to manga :). Fans tend to either reject works which don't show a sense of that symbolic language, or lay the symbolic interpretation on the characters regardless of the mangaka's intent. It's not far off of how many treat Spider-man as a black sheep in the super**** world, it defies significant bits of the visual/story language expected of the spandex world.

You've put your finger on why these 'manga is/isn't a style' discussions start, too. I think a lot of people don't realize that what they think of as a style is really just a stylized symbolic language and a set of conventions that get the most attention. People who are irritated with these conventions will see only those, just like people who are unwelcoming of spandex and huge overshaded muscles, as well as an anti-finality mindset, will tend to avoid super**** comics and say they're all the same.

What people see of manga is generally dictated by what the biggest mass of manga audiences are receptive to, same as super**** comics and graphic novels (OMG SO EMO! Well yeah, if all you're exposed to is Sandman and the Crow and you're the kind of person who yells OMG SO EMO!). There was a time when it seemed like all story-based comics looked like Mary Worth and Prince Valiant, too. Blee-ugh. It's just bias at work, and a limited view of what's there.

Visual accents

Neil Cohn's picture

Beyond vocabulary, which largely has to do with creating meaning, langauge still has a very basic level of what sounds it makes. Spoken English and Japanese use different sounds to create words. This is where I think the "manga style" falls: as an overarching "line pattern" to the Japanese Visual Language that shapes their visual vocabulary. Not all people draw the same (individual's voices), there are variations among sub-groups/genres (accents), yet the broader whole is unified by this systematic patterning.

In contrast, the "individual-minded" American perspective limits the chance for a more systematic style across all genres, though within individual genres, some pervasive styles exist (like how superhero comics look at least similar to each other). This is more like dialect differences.

Relatedly, this is what I wrote in a comixpedia article here a couple years ago:

A narrow field of speakers is probably one reason why popular authors have such vast influence on other people's styles. If the "voices" are limited to a select group, learners can thus consciously select specific styles they wish to imitate (as opposed to acquiring the general "style" of the group). That is, of course, if learners decide to imitate at all, given the emphasis Art has in on our culture for innovation and individuality.

However, a print culture alone does not limit widespread regularity. Take for example the generalized style that permeates most Japanese comics, with facial features like big eyes, pointy noses and slender chins. Originally, that style stemmed from the "God of Comics" Osamu Tezuka (who himself emulated Walt Disney). First, his single popular "voice" influenced the styles of several others. In time though, it spread to so many people that it no longer could be identifiable as the way a small group of individuals drew, but fossilized as a "manga style" permeating a culture. At this point, new learners (such as the American children now reading manga) become more interested in learning the generalized system, regardless of the individual authors associated to it.

In contrast, American comics authors by and large have styles that slightly resemble those of other authors, but not to the degree of allowing for a complete generalized style. Widespread regularity would have difficulty emerging in a culture emphasizing originality of style. For instance, recall the many Jim Lee clone artists from the early and mid-1990s. These people started out like those who originally imitated Tezuka — they all shared common styles derived from an individual influence. However, unlike the Japanese example, most Jim Lee clones that have survived continued to develop their own individual styles, using his as a foundation for broader personal development. As a result, they might be systematic in their own work, but have only with tenuous relations to the rest of the language group. Thus, though the print culture might play a role in the exposure that individual "voices" have on the language users, it alone does not determine how the learners of the visual language might develop.

---------------------
Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - www.emaki.net

------- Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - http://www.emaki.net

Interesting

jsandas's picture

It's been far too long since my last phonetics class, but it seems to me that comparing the elements of a visual style to elements of a language that closely might cause more problems than it solves. Especially if we go all the way down to the phoneme level – we would have to be talking about some very obvious and very consistent differences before comparing them to the sounds that are available in a language would make any sense.

The "line pattern" might qualify, but I have to admit that I'm not really quite sure what you mean. "Big eyes, pointly noses and slender chins" certainly do not – I would place those on the word level at the very least, and probably the phrase level. But you probably didn't mean the whole thing to be taken that literally...

As for the comparison with American comics, I can't help wondering how much of it comes from familiarity. I obviously know next to nothing about your reading habits so I can only talk about myself (well, all right, I wanted to talk about myself all along and this is just a transparent excuse). I'm almost as ignorant about American "mainstream" comics as I am about manga, but my impression is that the "American" style is just as generalized and consistent as the "Japanese" one, especially if the current fad for overly slick photoshop colouring (no doubt unleashed upon the world by some cruel god bent on our destruction) is taken into account.

I can clearly see the differences between different artists, but it would take a lot to convince me that they're not working in the same style. If I may push the language metaphor a bit I would say that they're not only speaking the same visual dialect, they're probably using the same visual catch phrases as well.

To answer the original post: forcing yourself to draw in a style that's not your own and that you don't even like is obviously not going to work in the long run. But for lots of young (and not so young) artists, a manga-influenced style is their own style. They've grown up reading manga more than any other form of comics and when they start to draw their own comics that's going to be where their main influences come from. Of course they're never going to draw exactly like a Japanese artist would, and of course some of them are not going to be very good, but I don't think there's any conection between these two things.

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Unreal City, a Graphic Novel.

Line patterns

Neil Cohn's picture

Actually, I do mean Language quite literally, but its a matter of finding the appropriate placement for the concepts. I don't advocate saying "this=this exactly", but for finding deeper level similarities in the makeup of the structures.

Its not just that "big eyes and pointy chins" are not even close to a "word" level. They might be a morpheme level, but they aren't a whole meaningful chunk in and of themselves (and morphemes are always based on certain sound patterns). But, by "line pattern" (or "photemics"?), I think you can compare the "drawing styles" of nearly any culture. Ancient Greeks, Chinese, Mayans, Indians, Egyptians, etc. – all of them have distinct patterned ways of drawing that are recognizably linked to their cultures, just like manga (and like language phonemics).

As I said before, American books do have sytematic styles as well, though they are confined to genre. Genre differences in Japan have only slight variations on a shared style (accents). Genre differences in America yield completely different styles (dialects).

Beyond the "Art/Language" differences underlying these trends (which I mean as cultural points-of-view), Japan has a long tradition of finding creativity within a rigid form. Noh drama all have very strict guidelines for who and what go where when. Haiku is extremely formalized regarding syllable count and seasonal references.

An even better example is the Shakuhachi flute. Rather than have sound-based notes to hit, the songs are all based on finger positions on the flute. Even though each flute sounds different and musicians might play with the sounds a lot, as long as the fingering is hit properly, the piece is played correctly.

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Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - www.emaki.net

------- Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - http://www.emaki.net

I am aware of your research

jsandas's picture

I am aware of your research about visual language – I haven't read the articles, but I've looked at the pictures...

Before I ran away from linguistics (quite literally; I've still got an unfinished proseminar essay lying around, and a professor I'm hiding from whenever I walk by the English department. But enough about me...) I was mostly into text and discourse, so my approach to any description of language is of course influenced by that.

I would prefer to put any stylistic differences at the discourse level (if we imagine some kind of scale going phoneme-morhpeme-word-phrase-sentence-paragraph-text-discourse. There might be other scales that work better), and describe various styles as discourse communities.

Or in plain English: the people who draw in a manga-like style belong to a community where this style is seen as normal, and would describe themselves as manga artists rather than comic artists and call their work "manga" rather than "comics" (as may of the web-manga people in fact do).

On closer inspection, this community would probably end up being quite different from the comunity of Japanese manga artists, but would to some extent share the same influences. They would also be quite different from the community of webcomic artists who are influenced by superhero comics and those who are influenced by newspaper strips, and so on.

As the old saying goes; when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a discourse community.

It might still be possible to find the visual equivalents of phonemes, by all means ("graphemes" sounds nice, I think), but in my mind these would have to be very basic things like "straight line", "curved line", "angle" and so on. More specifically, they would have to be things that don' carry any meaning in themselves, but using one instead of another would have to change the meaning of the next unit up the line.

It's very likely that different visual languages use different "graphemes", but I'm not sure these visual languages would have the same sets of users as the different verbal languages - there might be a lot of overlap between the people who speak Japanese and the people who draw in a Japanese style, for example, but one probably doesn't require the other.

I think I have some things to say about these things, but I'm straying quite a bit from the topic here. I guess I could write a post of my own about it. I probably should brush up on my linguistic terminology first, though.

-----
Unreal City, a Graphic Novel.

Graphemes and stuff

Neil Cohn's picture

I totally agree with you. Graphemes would certainly exist at a level of line types, but we only see the effects of them when viewed in relation to the stylistic whole. That was what I was trying to say. I also think that there is no big tie between the manga style of drawing and Japanese phonology at least on the "stylistic" level.

Of course, beyond drawing style, once we get into deeper semantic things I think there are potentials for overlap, in which case these could be a factor in what makes manga by Americans seem less "authentic."

As you hit on, community and exposure is everything in establishing the style, which is largely what I was trying to invoke with distinctions between genre/subculture distinctions with style.

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Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - www.emaki.net

------- Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - http://www.emaki.net

Re: Interesting

Fabricari's picture

[quote=jsandas]The "line pattern" might qualify, but I have to admit that I'm not really quite sure what you mean. "Big eyes, pointly noses and slender chins" certainly do not – I would place those on the word level at the very least, and probably the phrase level. But you probably didn't mean the whole thing to be taken that literally...[/quote]

The big-eye small chin convention is not unique to manga. People have always been attracted to characters that evoke symbols of youth. Think of the old Disney cartoons or european comics. This imagery takes advantage of a natural instinct of sympathize for a more youthful/feminine character. In the same way villians often sport symbols of aged masculinity (cleft chin, widows peak, etc).

Artists play with stereotypes constantly. These are tools, like any other. Perhaps it can be argued that they are over-used, just as a writer might overuse slang. But I think understanding how to use these tools and add it to your own style will make you a better story teller.

Learning the conventions also allows you to play with contradicting them. Like they say - you learn the rules so you can break them.

That said, welcome to Comixpedia!


Fabricari - Sexy Robots and Violent Cyberpunk Comics

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

Thanks for the welcome

jsandas's picture

I am quite aware of the the theory that these particular things are more or less globally used symbols. For symbols that people have "always" been attracted to, they're curously little used before the 20th century, though.

Big eyes in late Roman/early medieval art usually means that the depicted person is seeing visions or otherwise particularly close to heaven, for example, and the same thing seems to be the case in some earlier art. Sumerian, perhaps, or Akkadian. Something like that. One of the commedia dell'arte masks has big eyes to show that the character is easily frightened (Il Capitano, for those of you who are taking notes) and in some 19th century Japanese woodblock prints the human characters have normal-sized eyes while the ghosts and demons have huge eyes. And so on.

That is not to say that the symbols aren't useful, of course, or that you're wrong (it's mostly just an excuse for me to flaunt my education. It's not like I'm ever going to have any real use for it). No matter if you're going to follow or break a rule, or just politely ignore it, you have to know about it first – knowledge is the most important tool any artist can have. Well, that and one of those fancy Winsor&Newton brushes, of course.

-----
Unreal City, a Graphic Novel.

They don't /actually/ all look the same.

Aleph's picture

The language of manga as a generalization might be more pervasive and codified, but I don't think they're as limited as is being said here, not if you're talking about actual working professionals. There are just as many mangaka whose work is identifiable on sight and traceable through derivatives as there are western comics. The artists need to adhere to the generalized language of manga as a requirement of doing business, and to satisfy a demanding audience, but they do each develop their individual voice very quickly if you know what to pay attention to. There as many people who couldn't possibly tell the difference between two muscly spandex squarejaws as can't tell the difference between two shiny-eyed catgirls.

I think one major point of difference in what we perceive is that the million zillion clones of western comic style don't go very far, whereas the manga culture gobbles up doujinshi and derivative work indiscriminately. Fan comics are not a cultural thing in the US. Most of your clone art doesn't get further than college newspapers or detective novels which are sold from under the counter, if you catch my drift. Plenty of it gets /made/ though. Open a collection of college papers and see how many wannabe garfields and wannabe Cathys and wannabe Far Sides and wannabe Boondocks etc etc etc you can find.

The other major point of difference is that manga must be drawn quickly, cheaply, and in a prolific manner. The business over there is set up so that in order to profit you must have several titles running consecutively, which does not leave a creator a lot of room to be individual. Very simplified work allows them to do what they need to in order to turn out comics at a rate sufficient to pay the bills. Same thing happens in high-demand art markets in America, as Smurfs/Snorks/etc and Million-zillion-detective-shows-with-animal-sidekick prove quite well. There's just much less consumption of comic books in America period, regardless of art, so we see this effect in animation much more regularly than in comics. Mangaka often start with less /control/ over the manga, as well, and publishers can dictate style changes. On top of that, mimicry is what prepares a would-be mangaka for the entry-level inker/filler work that will get them into the business.

So you get a greater /volume/ of manga in general, and the highest volume of manga is forced into these easy-to-produce styles, and that can lead to the idea that there is less individuality, especially given a limited import sample. Importers bring over what is tried, true, and salesworthy. Imitators from outside Japanese culture further narrow the field by imitating only what is best-received from this narrow sample. It's as if you were judging all Western comics given only a few titles from the DC/Marvel books and a smattering from Dark Horse.

Much of the derivative and style-copying work in Western culture is just concentrated into the heritage system of Marvel/DC books, the animation culture, or in copying Japanese art. It's not that the West is less limited and more able to derive individual styles, it's that the market is set up to be less receptive to things that do not stand out from the crowd. It's less an emphasis on art and its quality than an emphasis on marketability and shelfspace. The storm of copies did happen, it was called the Golden Age. The Golden Age taught us the Western consumer is easily bored away from comics in general, that when everything looks like everything else and reads like everything else, sales of everything-- even tried and true titles-- sag like an old stripper. I would agree that indicated an emphasis on individual art except that the rebirth of comics did not actually come with a diversification of art style so much as a narrowing of titles and more emphasis on writing/polish on all titles across the board. Publishing houses here look for art that will stand apart because that's generally what it takes to snag the western consumer, it's an insistance not so much on art individuality-- who does the art for what book is often switched around, in fact-- as on individuality in the title itself.

There's less in common between Bakuretsu Hunters and FLCL or Pokemon or Sailor Moon than there is between Penny Arcade and Stephen Silver, or between Dave Gibbons and Tom Yeates, or Mike McKone and Salvadore Larocca and all the other people who developed off Jim Lee. There seem to be more Burton/Vasquez fusions out there every day, each kind of style fad gets its own following same as the manga styles do. They just don't turn into the kind of fast-blooming fad-craze you see with some manga styles. It's not the emphasis on art, it's the attention we focus and how we apply it, combined with the business climate. If the Western consumer started buying in the kind of volume the Japanese consumer does, and if the Western artist were willing to accept the kind of contracts and pay schedule the Japanese artist does, you can bet the big companies would be churning out art as fast as they could, and the false impression that Western art is more individual would evaporate.

More

Neil Cohn's picture

I'm not saying that people in America don't imitate people at all. In fact, I think the natural tendency for learning is imitation. You may be correct that there are market forces going on too, but there is an underlying trend for our culture to say "you should draw with your own individual style instead of like others" (as was done throughout this thread). The sheer presence of this thread shows that these two forces are at work. Regarding the market presence, couldn't you also say that the lack of consumption/notice/supply of imitated styles in America might also be due to a preference for individualism?

And, while all the manga artists you list may have their own individual "visual voices" distinct from each other, you can tell that they all belong to a broader style that is recognizable as "Japanese" at a glance, beyond genre and individuals.

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Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - www.emaki.net

------- Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - http://www.emaki.net

I don't think being able to

I don't think being able to recognize the region a comic came from or was influenced by is particularly meaningful. You could just as easily see Spiderman and Charlie Brown as being American, but that isn't because they're part of a broad American style. It's because they're two approaches that you know developed in America.

I think the main unifier of manga is that the vast majority is black and white. How comics are produced plays a big role in how styles develop. Like with how comic strips tend to have squat characters which fit nicely in the tiny boxes made for them. American independent press comics are black and white, but usually without heavy half-tones; perhaps because the old halftone film was pretty expensive and the books didn't make a lot of money to justify the costs, unlike the mass produced manga. But these things are seen as pure stylistic choices by the young artist, and so they adopt them for the sake of their appeal rather than necessity. They grow up designing squished cartoon characters, working in the similar black and white "sometimes + 1" style of their favorite comics; the manga fans want their grays to be created by halftones instead of ink washes or pencils, etc.

And I think the "followers of Jim Lee broke away into new individual styles unlike manga artists" seems like a terrible example. There aren't any manga artists I can think of who made their career by just mimicking someone they like, or at least certainly not to any degree greater than what I tend to see when glancing at the old Super Hero books or graphic novels.

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Regions

Neil Cohn's picture

I'm less trying to invoke meaning from regional difference as I am for subcultural groups. We certainly have a cultural group of "comics", under which falls Charlie Brown and Spiderman. However, they belong to two different sub-groupings within this idealized abstract "comics" that is associated with their visual style – cartoony versus "muscle-bound."

What I was trying to show is that this style/subculture split is very similar to that of dialects and accents in language. We recognize a broader standard English in America, but we also see that there are variations based on regional accents (Southern Drawl, Boston's lack of R's), or subcultural dialects (Black English). Visual styles and spoken variations aren't so much about region as they are about subculture – and that is what becomes associated by region (but less so more and more because of globalization).

And you're right, most manga artists don't make their career mimicking someone else – they do it largely by imitating a style that has permeated across a whole culture. You skipped over my point that the manga style initially grew from imitation of Tezuka and then grew beyond being associated with any one person. This is exactly my individualism vs. communalism point.

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Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - www.emaki.net

------- Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - http://www.emaki.net

All your research proves is that Japan is under-researched.

Aleph's picture

You skipped over the bolded, italicized text that pointed out that I believe what you perceive about manga is influenced by market forces and the inordinate amount of material available, very little of which makes its way to people who don't, like, actually go into Japanese bookstores. In an actual Japanese bookstore, the manga section is HUGE and styles range from edgy and realistic to exaggerations that make 'chibi' look downright normal.

But here's why I'll leave this to cooler heads:

[quote] You skipped over my point that the manga style initially grew from imitation of Tezuka and then grew beyond being associated with any one person. This is exactly my individualism vs. communalism point.[/quote]

I didn't skip over it, I politely didn't mention it, because I found it to be ignorant and upsetting.

Just to throw out a few names: Hagio Moto (!!!), Takashima Kazusa, Chrono (Kurono) Nanae, and Nobuhiro Watsuki.

And I don't even READ manga. I just actually, like, know some Japanese people who do and those are names they've mentioned enough to stick in my gaijin brain. There are a wealth of others. We have friends in Yokohama, people who have been really good to us. And that's why I gotta back out of this discussion, because I'm just barely biting my tongue and keeping myself from biting off yours for the things you're implying about Japanese people and their inability to be individuals, based on your IGNORANCE of their cultures, which is MYSTIFYING considering the things you've said you've done to learn about them. I don't care if you have gotten academic credentials here. If you really believe what you're saying, I'm sad for you.

Not getting me

Neil Cohn's picture

Ok, I think you're just not getting me. First off, I would hardly think I have under-researched Japan, considering that I majored in Japanese culture as an undergrad and have lived there. I know very well the diversity of Japanese artists in bookstores, since I've actually, y'know, gone to a countless number of them all over Japan and was in one last weekend here in America.

Secondly, all of the variety of artists you've mentioned post-date Tezuka, and all of them play off of the theme that he brought to the manga style. Yes, there are plenty of variations in the style of both those and other authors, and those variations often are tied to particular genres, but all of them have some recognizable base that originated in his style. (And, admittedly, some hardly follow that style at all, to which I say that they simply fall outside the established visual manga style).

The notion of a "manga style" is an abstract ideal, not where everybody is some carbon-copy of each other. This is just like how "pure" "English" is idealized. Though each of us use roughly the same sounds, none of us sound exactly the same. This is true for manga.

And, if you don't think it began with Tezuka, then find me proof that predates his and I'll agree whole-heartedly (other than Disney, which he claimed as his influence). Hokusai's work, who coined the term "manga", doesn't look that way. The < a href="http://www.jai2.com/HK.htm">"Four Immigrants Manga" doesn't look that way. And, to be very clear on this, I'm not saying that every single person happened to imitate just one individual (Tezuka or otherwise). I'm saying that Tezuka established a style that then became extremely widespread so as to transcend individuals – yet it still allows for individual voices.

Finally, if you think I am discounting the ability of Japanese to be individuals, then you are completely missing what I'm getting at. I'm not saying that Japanese artists or people aren't individuals, or that the Japanese culture is somehow more community oriented (which is a frequent stereotype of Asians in general that I'm not interested in debating).

Rather, I'm saying that there are two competing cultural forces regarding the creation of images in any culture/individual:

1. There is one cultural force that says drawing like an established style – from an individual or group – is okay, and that a person could find their own unique visual voice within that style. (which I termed "Language")

2. The other point of view says that imitating others is not kosher, and that people should find their own individual style unattached from that of a group. (which I termed "Art")

These forces compete with each other in Japan, in America, in Europe... all over the place. What I am curious about is how different cultures respond to these forces. Japanese seems to favor the first type, though not monolithically like some borg. Americans seem to favor the second type, also not covered by every single American.

In fact, any time we see "American made manga" that uses the generalized manga style (as was pointed out at the first post of this thread), those individuals are choosing the first tact over the second. Gosh, I hope you don't think I'm saying all those Americans aren't individuals too, cause wouldn't that rip through the fiber of our cultural stereotypes!

Edit: With all that said, there is always more research to be done, both by me and others. I hardly know everything about Japan (or America!), though I believe I know enough to draw arguable conclusions. If you (or someone else) does the research that can conclusively show something different from any of my ideas, then I'll be the first in line to read it.

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Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - www.emaki.net

------- Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - http://www.emaki.net

There's the comic strip

There's the comic strip Sazae san, which you already know about. You can see it's mark - or at least the mark of things like it - on some of the simpler comics - chibi maruko chan, etc. Nakahara Junichiro who was using large eyes with flowery lashes possibly before Tezuka was a teenager.Mizuki Shigeru who looked to classic japanese monster art amongst other things, and the only character I can think of in his comics I've read who resembled the "classic manga" look was a lone "cute girl". There are the artistic traditions more steeped in realism which have little reason to be influenced severely by someone drawing Disney-esque characters. You can see these now in the comics evocative of what I've heard called the "hong kong" style since apparently it's more popular out there, but it's influence on works like Rokudenashi BLUES, Crying Freeman,etc are obvious, not in the Tezuka mold, and not uncommon in manga in the slightest. This is besides the fact that approaches that break away from his style could surely be developed from stuff largely influenced by him, but there's no way they'll be recognized as such when the scope of "similar" is broad enough to put Doraemon and Fist of the North Star in the same group. But I think it's a bit of a useless classification at that point. There is no loss of classifications for the various approaches to japanese comics that serve the same role and vary from each other as much as your "cartoony" and "muscle-bound", and they come with their own sets of expectations, distinctions, and exceptions.In the great game of language, people will probably people will stick to using those. I wonder if the "American comic" style in japan refers specifically to super hero stuff or the stuff that came from old comic strips in general.(A quick search included Spiderman, Archie/Sandman and Peanuts in the general description. As "super hero","not superhero" and "comic strip" respectively. I like the putting of Archie and Sandman in the single "not superhero" group. Then mentions that there sure are a lot of super hero comics, followed by explanations of why there are a lot of superhero comics and the issue of so many of the main characters being constant in them. You'll probably be more interested in reading it than I am, and I'm guessing would have an easier time of it. Here: http://ameque.cool.ne.jp/amefaq1.htm )

)

Interestingly enough, I found an image on a japanese website showing an image by Tezuka paying an obvious nod to the old japanese comic Norakuro. http://www.zolge.com/graphic/diary05.html (the image in the center of the page)
It's not unreasonable to believe that he had taken from already existing japanese comics as well as Disney. I'd guess that Doraemon was influenced at least visually by that strip, but I can't pick up a volume of it like I can with Krazy Kat or something and see. But if in your adventures in japan you read a lot of pre-60s/pre-Tezuka japanese comics and picked up some books maybe, it'd sure be nice if you made a barnaclepress type site for them =\

The cute girl thing about Mizuki is interesting. I know bakabon is full of goofy looking characters, the exceptions being the mother and baby boy. Playing it safe when its time to be cute.

It's interesting though. Mainstream American comics have been reinforcing the same themes with the same characters in similar styles for decades. In general, it seems to suggest less individuality over time because it doesn't have the benefits of the large amount of creators who come with the great mainstream appeal manga has reached in japan. Were things much different in the brief heyday of American comics? Even with comic strips, in the mainstream we're being regularly presented rehashes of comics by creators long dead. The strong wish for originality amongst artists could possibly be seen as a reaction to being dealt the same iconic figures in similar situations over and over again. Because many genres aren't well represented in mainstream comics. people are desperate to fill in the blanks

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Good points

Neil Cohn's picture

Thanks for the links rezo, and you make some good points that allow me to repeat a point I've been trying to make clear. I definitely think there is a diverse range of styles in Japan that depart from the classic Tezuka look. In fact, let's leave Tezuka out of it, cause he was a very old influence anyhow. Let's just talk about abstracts.

There is a generalized abstract manga style – let's call it "manga standard" (like we have Standard English). This is the stereotype: big eyes, pointy chins, etc. There are also huge variations on this that retain only small semblence to it, like the "Hong Kong" style and the "chibi" style (among others). We can still recognize that there are similarities, however slight, yet we also very clearly see the differences. I don't think Doraemon and Crying Freeman are directly grouped together, but they are still associated to the same broader style (maybe akin to comparing Black English with Cockney?).

So, we can make a kind of manga style (language) family-tree, with the abstracted ideal at the top, while the others radiate out with their different tendencies. At pivotal points, we could probably demarcate the most influential voice(s) in establishing the styles. Tezuka would be near the top (himself with other potential nodes going to him), then others like Moto Hagio could be high up on their nodes. Of course, if we're talking about direct influences, the reality wouldn't be a clean tree. That way, the diversity within commonallity could be shown decently well.

You make a really interesting point about the consistency of mainstream American styles and genres too. I don't know if I'd attribute stylistic originality as a reaction to oppressive thematic tendencies. I'd think it's more a combinatin of what people are exposed to and what they hear in the culture around them. But, the "less individuality over time" suggestion is interesting. I'm inclined to say there is more individuality in American comics now than there used to be, but that isn't remotely a researched statement.

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Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - www.emaki.net

------- Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - http://www.emaki.net

My main disagreement is that

My main disagreement is that similarities on that level(of Doraemon vs. Crying Freeman) aren't really unique to japan in comparison to America. Which I took was part of your earlier argument. It's hard to make a real case for American individuality when such disparate works are linked together. Modern American comics have their roots largely based in classic comic strips. You can see the moves towards squat characters as well as the more detailed figures of action comics in the older strips which I believe had a larger amount of cartoony but more realistically proportioned characters. The tree that ties Spiderman to Peanuts can be made just as easily as they can for the two comics in my first sentence. You can even connect America and Japan to the same tree if you like. Early japanese strips owe a lot to American strips. Look at Sazae and you can see the similarities to something like Bringing up Father(which also rendered young woman in attractive not particularly cartoony fashion!) and other old American strips. Conventions we regard as obviously dated, like bounding or something in response to stupid comments are still pretty common in Japan. If you are using language development in different regions as an analogy, that's the perfect example of it. In fact, they even do it regularly in live action TV shows. Like, even if they're not particularly heavy on comedy. It is pretty ridiculous. Other things are more likely to be emphasized over there, etc.

But basically, I think your argument for distinguishing between individualistic and communal perspectives in comparing America and Japan is just a bad one. Using examples such as the mainstream people that were influenced by Jim Lee as an example of that difference was simply terrible and highlights a bias in what passes for individualistic in your eyes.The broad scope of what you mark as the singular japanese comic language makes comparisons useless. Put under the same scope, American comics would yield similar results. So Peanuts is Southern English, and Spidey is the Bronx.

The argument focused on Tezuka because you highlighted that point as something that was ignored. So I gave examples of people who were using the elements you specifically marked as a singular branching point before he went into comics, how he was influenced by early japanese work and people who worked around his time who did not take on the same cues he did, and whose approaches still have a role in modern manga styles. Of course you will say that he was just a big influence like Kirby, that's the rational thing and everyone understood that before getting into this topic. But it seemed to imply something different when... you said something different. So that point is lost.

The same thing was bound to happen when you mentioned "How to draw manga" books as some sort of proof of that basic approach everything is derived from. I don't even feel like arguing against it because you already know that they neither teach a definitive manga style, nor are such books unique to japanese approaches, nor are they even limited to singular approaches etc. And an attempt to point that out to you would be followed by some form of "I know." Which just makes mentioning them at all another bad example.

So for all of the reasons I've stated, I don't see how your viewpoint when honestly looking over American comic art can make any worthwhile comment on how American comics emphasize individuality over Japanese.In the first article you linked to, you mentioned how people don't really mind similar styles in Japan. But of course, that is the same for styles in the US and you know that, I don't need to repeat why, but if you don't recognize that in conclusions then it's really just a case of passing certain criticisms onto one general group and absolving another.

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Yes

Neil Cohn's picture

I agree with most everything you've said, and I think you raise some very good points. As you've probably noticed, I've been trying to show that my opinions of the diversity of Japanese styles is more varied than what I originally wrote in that first essay (two years ago). That's the nature of research... you learn and you adapt.

I used the Jim Lee clone example as one where people in America weren't individualistic, but where our cultural emphasis derided them for it. I was trying to defend their imitating, not say they were individuals in spite of it.

I totally agree that a family tree could be made of American comics, and it would naturally connect to the Japanese tree in various ways. But, I still think that the connection of Crying Freeman to Doraemon is stylistically closer than Jim Lee to Peanuts. Think, branches closer together perhaps? They are all still extremely distinct from each other of course though.

I think maybe I can articulate this better... Often, genres in both America and Japan have a group style. In America, genre styles seem very different from each other, though still associated via broader culturual associations and influences. In Japan, genre styles, while still distinct, seem to have at least some level of similarity (broadly speaking). In both cultures there will always be styles that are further from each other than others, and individuals will always create exceptions.

Would you agree with that statement or do you find it off-base?

I've also realized that in some places here I've been guilty of making a linguistic no-no, mixing historical development and atemporal analysis. (Doh!) So... two trees would be better (for both cultures), one of stylistic differences and one of stylistic development and influences. Those would probably overlap too (both within and outside of cultures), but at least it would be clearer...

Jim Lee and Peanuts would probably not connect at all in the A-Style tree, but would connect in the A-Development tree. Crying Freeman and Doraemon would connect very distantly in both the J-Style tree and the J-Development tree. Japanese authors would appear in the A-Development tree and vice-versa, as would Japanese and American styles appear at distinct places in each other's Style trees.

How's that sound?

What I'd really love to see, though don't have the time/motivation to do myself (attention all you students out there desperate for a project!), is formulate a way to measure and calculate various styles and then do broad scale analysis of hundreds of authors/genres. That would show how distinct/common various styles are decently well. I mean, all of us are just eyeballing it, lending to the "but I've seen this and you haven't" type arguments. It would be nice to have some real data in this regard.

---------------------
Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - www.emaki.net

------- Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - http://www.emaki.net

That's what I said was MYSTIFYING

Aleph's picture

I'm well aware of all the things you talk about doing, which is why I find this utterly mystifying! And while we're comparing here, I live with somebody who travels to Japan to work, I work with somebody who's travelled Japan extensively and goes back every chance she gets, and I grew up with first-gen immigrants and people who were only in Hawai'i to work, so if you think I'm going to be intimidated by that you're dead wrong. All you're proving is that exposure to a foreign country doesn't necessarily mean someone will become informed, which is depressing.

You don't even speak with enough awareness of 'the' culture to know that nobody speaking kansai-ben has as much in common with someone speaking tokyo-ben as someone from Florida has with someone from Los Angeles. You throw things around like references to their 'communalism' and then you try to separate yourself from stereotypes about Asian hive-identity?

Tezuka worked for FOUR DECADES! He adapted to changes in the styles just like any other artist. He didn't invent them /all/. If you're going to play the 'predate' card then ALL your individual artists lose out to Will Eisner. All the ones you cited, to a man.

Moto was the mother of girl comics for crissakes! She was a huge influence! Takashima Kazusa brought a hyper-realism that spawned an entire sub-genre of art that paid homage to his insight into how the form could be interpreted. There are shelves and shelves full of people trying to push that style further. Chrono Nanae, I've been told, brought maturity to some of the art that was at the time unmatched, especially when it came to bringing bloody realism to historical comics which often shied away from depictions of the ugly realities of history, and still doing so in an attractive way. Nobu I didn't find out much about, that's a recent name that's been bounced off me.

Doujinshi are not considered to be art by the artist in their own respect, they are a kind of fandom. Passing off completely derivative and stolen characters of another work as your own is deeply frowned upon and ridiculed in Japanese manga fandom. Many artists who go on to do their own work in their own style start out in this kind of fandom, but they do not pass their doujinshi off as anything but and they MUST develop their own styles to be taken seriously. Just because they all look alike and derivative to you doesn't mean they are, there are traditions in linestyles, eye styles, anatomy, even wrinkling that have their own distinct heritages and their own individual interpretations.

Place what you said in the opposite bias, and you get this:

"Well, Western art is more geared towards selfishness and decadence, so they're not really capable of creating any kind of solidarity or defining characteristics. It's just that their mentality shows a tendency to choose the self-absorbed and materialistic, so that they would not know how to appreciate the influences that came before. The fact that they do not recognize one single fathering influence in their comics is just proof of their self-absorbed vs. culturally sensitive mentality. Since they do not tend to choose deference to those who paved the way for them, it is only natural that they would not recognize their defining influences or be willing to accept elements of each others' styles that would improve their own."

It's wrong, it's uninformed, and it's upsetting.

I offered to bow out of this because I do take it personally, so, I make no claim to having no bias here. I hate people who act the way you do, as if you could just sum up an entire people into a set of 'they seem to do this' and 'they're just wired this way' crap.

You find me proof that predates Will Eisner, you find me comics that are made in America that don't use his basic tenets of sequential storytelling and his 22 panels that work. Find me books free of his ideas of space and weight and emphasis, his thoughts on handling bubbles and lettering, and make sure they all predate him. That is the very nature of a founding father in an industry. It doesn't mean no one since derived an influential voice, and it doesn't mean an entire culture is less appreciative of individuality than another. It means YOU got an idea in your head about the motives and the nature of another set of people and you decided for them what they did and did not believe. The fact that you seem to manage to know Japanese people who think that way and I don't know a single one who thinks that way only further goes to prove my point that there is no overbearing influence toward communality here, that the influence is on what you are and aren't accepting as valid.

You can read Japanese, fluently, I do not get why you don't read some of the interviews with these various mangaka and listen to what they cite as influences. Yes, all of them pay some respect to the guy who made these things household names, the one who pushed the hardest and produced the most and became the top of the field. Just because less people in Western comics bother to show that they've learned about the cultural background of their comics and the history of those who did the most work in the field when paying respect to influences doesn't mean that we're any less influenced, and it doesn't mean the entire Japanese country is less single-minded and less individual.

Deep breath...

Neil Cohn's picture

I'm not questioning your creditentials to speak with knowledge about Japan, and I wasn't trying to "intimidate" you. You clearly have a strong understanding of Japanese culture yourself, in some respects admittedly more than my own. And, for full disclosure, I don't speak or read Japanese fluently, just proficiently (largely kanto-ben with lots of inaka-ben thrown in).

To repeat, I'm not saying that the Japanese have some sort of "communality" mentality or "wiring", nor have I been saying that anywhere in my writings. I don't think Japanese are community oriented and I don't think Americans are individualistic. I think that you're lumping me in with an argument that I'm not making, simply because its something you're senstive about (and rightly so, IMO, it's something worth being sensitive about).

My reference to "communalism" is only in the context of creating graphic images. A better word for it would be "conventionality," cause that's what I'm talking about – establishing conventionalized ways of drawing. Superhero comics have a certain degree of conventionalized style; so do cartoony drawings (three fingers!?). Native Australian sand narratives are entirely communal/conventional. Does that mean that "as a culture" they are somehow more community-oriented? I'm certainly not going to make that claim, but I can say there is a high degree of conventionality to their drawings.

I haven't said that other people beyond Tezuka didn't have an influence. I said that his influence was initially very strong, that's all. If that wasn't clear, then my bad. Of course other people have had influences on Japan's style(s), and it would be ridiculous to think that every single person in Japan tries/d to imitate only Tezuka.

I also keep acknowledging that there ARE different styles in Japan, and individuals DO have their own styles, though they play off a common abstract base. That abstracted base is very conventional – and if it weren't there wouldn't be "how to draw manga" books. I CAN see there is individuality within communality (in drawing styles).

Comparatively, American superhero comics were profoundly influenced by Kirby. Is he the only influence? Not at all. And the "individualism" they show permeates enough that there is a significant departure from his style, though they can still be associated to the broader superhero style. Am I saying that Americans as a subculture who read/draw superhero books are "individualistic with a dash of communalism"? No.

I understand and sympathize with why you would feel strongly about this, but I really don't think I'm making the claims you think I am.

---------------------
Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - www.emaki.net

------- Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - http://www.emaki.net

Your words, not mine.

Aleph's picture

Yeah, well, your pages make you out to be proficient in the language and your claims make you out to be well acquainted in the region, so, you can hardly fault me for thinking you were fluent enough to read Shonen Jump after looking you up.

[quote]
I'm not saying that people in America don't imitate people at all. In fact, I think the natural tendency for learning is imitation. You may be correct that there are market forces going on too, but there is an underlying trend for our culture to say "you should draw with your own individual style instead of like others" (as was done throughout this thread). The sheer presence of this thread shows that these two forces are at work. Regarding the market presence, couldn't you also say that the lack of consumption/notice/supply of imitated styles in America might also be due to a preference for individualism?

And, while all the manga artists you list may have their own individual "visual voices" distinct from each other, you can tell that they all belong to a broader style that is recognizable as "Japanese" at a glance, beyond genre and individuals.
[/quote]

Emphasis mine, words, entirely yours.

[quote]
I'm less trying to invoke meaning from regional difference as I am for subcultural groups. We certainly have a cultural group of "comics", under which falls Charlie Brown and Spiderman. However, they belong to two different sub-groupings within this idealized abstract "comics" that is associated with their visual style – cartoony versus "muscle-bound."[/quote]

Why is it valid to separate cartoony versus muscle-bound and call that a valid division, whereas it's not valid to separate the wide variety of hyper-realistic Takashima Kasuza inspired comics from the ultra-cute Super Milk Chan types and the edgy sketchy FLCL experimental comics? Why is American diversification from type valid and not Japanese?

[quote]
I haven't said that other people beyond Tezuka didn't have an influence. I said that his influence was initially very strong, that's all. If that wasn't clear, then my bad. Of course other people have had influences on Japan's style(s), and it would be ridiculous to think that every single person in Japan tries/d to imitate only Tezuka.
[/quote]

And yet...

[quote]
However, a print culture alone does not limit widespread regularity. Take for example the generalized style that permeates most Japanese comics, with facial features like big eyes, pointy noses and slender chins. Originally, that style stemmed from the "God of Comics" Osamu Tezuka (who himself emulated Walt Disney). First, his single popular "voice" influenced the styles of several others. In time though, it spread to so many people that it no longer could be identifiable as the way a small group of individuals drew, but fossilized as a "manga style" permeating a culture. At this point, new learners (such as the American children now reading manga) become more interested in learning the generalized system, regardless of the individual authors associated to it.

In contrast, American comics authors by and large have styles that slightly resemble those of other authors, but not to the degree of allowing for a complete generalized style. Widespread regularity would have difficulty emerging in a culture emphasizing originality of style. For instance, recall the many Jim Lee clone artists from the early and mid-1990s. These people started out like those who originally imitated Tezuka — they all shared common styles derived from an individual influence. However, unlike the Japanese example, most Jim Lee clones that have survived continued to develop their own individual styles, using his as a foundation for broader personal development. As a result, they might be systematic in their own work, but have only with tenuous relations to the rest of the language group. Thus, though the print culture might play a role in the exposure that individual "voices" have on the language users, it alone does not determine how the learners of the visual language might develop.
[/quote]

AND...

[quote]
You skipped over my point that the manga style initially grew from imitation of Tezuka and then grew beyond being associated with any one person. This is exactly my individualism vs. communalism point.[/quote]

YOU'RE the one who defined your communalism point. I didn't take it out of context or just 'not get you'.

So how am I 'just not getting you'? These are your words, completely in the context you are giving them, I didn't snip a single pretentious self-quoting word. You recognize that there are dialects in Japanese language, that there are differences in their styles, and yet somehow that still does not DENT your idea that only the West has dialects in their THINKING and only the West has valid differences in style.

[quote]
I also keep acknowledging that there ARE different styles in Japan, and individuals DO have their own styles, though they play off a common abstract base. That abstracted base is very conventional – and if it weren't there wouldn't be "how to draw manga" books. I CAN see there is individuality within communality (in drawing styles).

Comparatively, American superhero comics were profoundly influenced by Kirby. Is he the only influence? Not at all. And the "individualism" they show permeates enough that there is a significant departure from his style, though they can still be associated to the broader superhero style. [/quote]

Again, I point out, EVERY SINGLE ONE of those oh-so-unique Jim Lee clones or Kirby derivatives looks like Will Eisner more than any generalized 'manga style' looks like Tezuka. And every single frigging comic ever shares more commonality with Will Eisner than 90 percent of individual Japanese comic shares with Tezuka. You know, Will Eisner? 1930s father of comics? Inventor of the graphic novel? Practically the inventor of comics that made use of sequential art in the way we all consider standard today? That guy Disney stole the handwriting of? That guy we give awards named after? The guy Stan Lee wanted to be? The guy who just died last year?

You are ruling one culture's ideas as validly different and another's as not based on YOUR biases and your puffed up imaginary xenophilia and it is aggravating, and every single Japanese person I've pointed to this has found it aggravating, it's not just me. This is really no different than the 'those people all look alike' crap, you're just dressing it up in pretty trappings but it's UPSETTING. To you, Western ideas are beautiful unique snowflakes and Japanese are all beholden to one style. And I am telling you that from the outside, you can look at Western comics and say the same damn thing. You take the most indefensible position-- Jim Lee styles, which are used by different artists to do the SAME DAMN BOOKS, interchangeably-- and make a case for America's individuality-driven mindset, and then you act like you're not making a cultural statement in the process? You're the one who attributed this to a cultural mindset, not me. I didn't take something you said and DaVinci Code my way to an offensive statement here. Your words. YOUR WORDS.

Just because you, in all your education, have never stopped to appreciate the differences in the ways people express their individual creativity in another culture, does not mean it does not exist. Just because you, from your vantage point of Western superiority, discount the people that the actual mangaka say are important to them, including western influences like Marvel and DC, and proclaim them all to be culturally geared toward communalism in their artistic expression, does not make it true. There is as much communalism in American comics as there is in Japanese comics and it is only your personal bias which can lump all those things together and say that this is a culturally driven phenomenon. There is no more communalism in the big eyes tiny chins conventions than there is in the big-chest full-lips broad-shouldered conventions in the very art you cited as so all-fired individual. 'How To Draw Manga' is no more proof of Japanese artistic tendency to group-think than How to Draw Comic Heroes and Villains or 'How to Draw Cartoons for Comic Strips' are, and the fact is that 'Manga University' is capitalizing on a /foreign/ market of fascination.

Western art looks unique to you because you grew up in the midst of it, you grew up with greater sensitivity to its design. Guess what, sand narratives meant something to the people who made them, and they weren't 'communal' either. The Central Arrernte told stories to their children using a few conventions, such as only drawing the visible features of a scene, leaving tracks when things moved, deepening the tracks of things that stayed in one place longer, drawing as if from above, and the ego-centric orientation, and the conditions under which a scene was 'wiped', but the tales themselves were so individual as to have few recorded 'standards'. These 'communalist' ideas have more to do with the nature of Arrernte language, their handling of existential verbs and their perspective tied to the idea of narrative, but the reason they permeate has to do with honouring culture and keeping it strong, not with sacrificing individuality to a communal idea. The central Arrernte are so far from communal, they aren't even an unified people, they are a smattering of tribes that share only versions of the same language and a few traditions. But, surprise surprise, you refer to them as 'Native Australian' despite a websearch (had to check my spelling of 'Arrernte', since most people find 'Aranda' confusing) betraying that you know better than that.

Westerners tell stories based on a few conventions, they even use codified openings like 'once upon a time' and create tales so formulaic that you can read Hamlet in gangsterlicious, cartoon lion, broadway dance, "the original Klingon" or whatever form you like. THE PEOPLE YOU GREW UP WITH ARE NOT MORE INDIVIDUAL JUST BECAUSE YOU KNOW THEM WELL ENOUGH TO RECOGNIZE THEIR INDIVIDUALITY AS REAL.

'The Japanese' are much more diverse than you are giving them credit for, and every single point you are bringing up here ONLY WORKS if you assume, a priori, that American diversity is valid and Japanese diversity is not. That Western departure from style is SIGNIFICANT (YOUR WORD) but Japanese departure from style is not. How did such a good school turn out such a poor analyst?

Don't 'sympathise' with me. You have zero foundation for claiming to understand my perspective here, and you're not helping your case treating me as though I'm simply not comprehending what you're saying. You deal with others based on their points and their analysis, but with me you just repeat yourself with the statement that I'm just not 'getting' you? Guess what, you're not talking over my head here. You haven't said one thing so far I haven't been able to grasp. I just think you're WRONG.

Last time

Neil Cohn's picture

Ok, this is the last time I'm going to say this, because I think at this point no matter what I say, you're not going to listen to what words I'm actually saying, and instead substituting what you think I'm saying.

And, while I could take you point by point and show where you are misunderstanding and distorting my own meaning (despite the words being left in their original context), I'll instead try to restate and re-explain my ideas as clear and concise as possible. If you don't get it from here, then that's your problem not mine (can someone else respond to what I'm saying too, just so I know if I'm being clear in what I think I'm saying?)

I hope you also note that I will refrain from hurling personal attacks and insults throughout my response. If you were to meet me in person or follow my statements online, you'd find that I try to be one of the most unpretentious, unorientalist, and accepting people you'll ever meet, both to cultures and individuals. I really don't care what people's backgrounds are and generally welcome feedback and discussion from anyone who wants to engage me. If anything, I have tried to champion the value and acceptance of the balance of both commonality and diversity in all of my writings and theories, and have railed against entrenched theories saying otherwise.

Any time I write the words "communalism" or "individualism" it does not mean I am making broad scale sweeping cultural assumptions about the Japanese (or other) "cultural mentality." To you, these words are red flags of my supposed bigotry because they are commonly used terms for stereotypes (that I'm not making), but to me they are shorthand for an extensive theory only in the context of my theories about graphic creation.

Similarly, it is easier to say "Native Australian" than "Native Central Australian tribes" or "Arrernte, Warlpiri, and other native tribes of Central Australia that share many broad scale conventions though they each have departures in styles." Brevity does not mean bigotry or misinformation.

That said... before you read my statements, take a deep breath, try to forget the entire discussion we've had before, and try to imagine that I'm making this case for the first time. Then, after you've read what I've said, see if it matches what you think my opinion is from before...

Let me make a claim far stronger than any you think I've been making:

I believe that the mentality of conventionality for creating graphic images is actually the predisposed nature for ALL humans. The cognitive preference for everybody is for imitation. The human mind is a pattern receiving/making machine, whether you're Japanese, American, Arrernte, Warlpiri, French, Chinese, Somalian... whatever.

The "cultural force" I speak of (that I call "Art") works against that natural inclination for conventionality that is naturally wired into all people by insisting on individuality of drawing style. The evidence that this influence exists is right in the quandry from the very first post of this thread, which is why I commented on it.

A community is a collection of individuals. Each of those individuals responds to the balance between conventionality and the Art pespective in different ways (probably more like a gradient, but discrete here for clarity):

1. Some use conventionality to a maximal degree and don't care about individuality at all (though as a unique individual mind there is always some degree of individuality).
2. Some embrace conventionality to a high degree and mark out their individuality in small and fine-grained ways.
3. Others make huge breaks with conventionality to create styles that hardly look like any other person or group at all.

Cultures are created by the collection of these communities composed of individuals. Various communities and cultures respond to all of the things I've described above in different ways, based on the choices the individuals make in response to the stimuli around them (both graphic stimuli and community attitudes). Some may respond more like #1, some may do more like #2, and some more like #3. These responses happen in all cultures, distributed in different ways: in America, in Japan, in Australia, in France... all of them. In no culture will every single person follow any one type of tendency, so long as the influence of Art is present in that culture (which is just about everywhere at this point).

I do not think Americans are more individualistic culturally. I do not think Japanese are more communal culturally. I do not think that the various tribes of Central Australia are more communal culturally.

---------------------
Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - www.emaki.net

------- Studying the Visual Language of "Comics" - http://www.emaki.net

Last time here too.

Aleph's picture

1) I characterized your behaviour as pretentious, and your statements. I find self-citation to be unbearably pretentious, as I do the type of argument which does not back itself with anything beyond more supposition and generalization. I found your patronizing statements, your conviction that I simply didn't 'get' you, and your unwillingness to deal with counterexamples all built a picture of close-mindedness and assumption. I backed every one of those opinions up with the statements that formed them. I found your unwillingness to examine the a priori requirements of your statements betrayed a very poor analysis. At no time did I attack anything but the attitudes you were depicting with the statements you were making. I'm sorry if the way I phrased them was too strong and too heated, but I warned you about my bias right away and offered to stay clear of the discussion.

If you think it's not insulting, if you think it's not a personal attack to be told that I am distorting things or reacting to 'red flag words' with no substance, then you really don't place as much value on intelligence, integrity and substantive thought as I do. If you think it's any more polite to be told that, despite having made a meticulous effort to be fair in my quotations and to back every statement I made with supporting examples and reasonable thought, than to be told that self-citation is pretentious, then I really don't know what to make of you. If you think it's less insulting to be mocked based on an argument I didn't make, sympathized with based on things I don't feel, etc, than to be told in a detailed way how your statements are skewed toward an inflated idea of how much you understand, then I question your grasp of the importance of individualism in general.

2) I did not react to any red-flag words, you contrasted the value placed on individuality between one culture and another. You contrasted the value placed on individuality, on several occasions, between Western culture and Japanese, and you did so based on an utterly false premise you've yet to support. I quoted your statement saying /exactly/ what you defined your argument to be. That your word choice belied the statements you later made was simply a fact, not the entire cause and foundation of my response. If you'd simply chosen a poor word to say what you were saying, and the premise of your argument had nothing to do with contrasting an individually-minded Western culture with a supposedly un-individual uncreative Japanese culture, I would not have reacted.

3) It boggles the mind how someone can possibly distort the meaning of someone else's words by reprinting them, unedited, in their original context. That is some kind of voodoo I don't grasp. You've finally said something that I just don't get.

4) Regardless of whether you believe these are characteristics of all human beings or not, you still contrasted the values by culture and placed value and significance on the digressions in one culture while dismissing entirely the digressions in another. You dismissed entirely the mangakas' own statements about their influences and dismissed the people that have made impact on their industry, while bringing out parallel figures in the Western industry and touting their impact and importance.

I am not, neurologically nor personally, capable of pretending that what has been said has not been said, period. That's just not a way I can operate. So I can't engage in the hypothetical with you. I can only point out, once again, that your statements discount the individuality of one nation's artists while contrasting it with the supposed individuality of another nation's artists, and repeatedly assert that this difference is attributable to cultural emphasis or de-emphasis on individuality in art. That is what I object to, that is what I find to be bigoted and insulting, and that is what I have taken great pains to show is utterly without foundation.

Here's brevity for you: Just because you're not aware of the influences and diversity in Japanese art does not mean they do not exist.

And I'll end on a thought: A penguin can recognize another penguin on sight in a crowd of thousands upon thousands. It's not super penguin senses. Penguins don't think they all look alike, and neither do I.

Just spare us, please.

Gordon McAlpin's picture

Neil's statements absolutely DO NOT discount the diversity of styles and influences in Japanese comics. He was simply calling out their similiarities -- and there ARE similarities. This does not mean they are indiscernable from each other, as you seem to believe you have logically inferred from it: it simply means that there are distinct similarities. It's true of Japanese film as much as it is of comics: this isn't to say that Ozu and Kurosawa and Miyazaki are indiscernable from each other, only that they have some notable similarities (some of which arise from Japanese culture).

If anyone here is being pretentious, it's you. But what's worse is your willful and deliberate evasion of any semblance of an understanding of his article, which was perfectly clear to anyone who would just choose to understand it. Disagree with him if you like, but don't ignorantly accuse the man of being a bigot in the most back-handed and cowardly way possible. That's just f--king despicable.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

Whoa.

LineItemVito's picture

Sorry, but this is over the line for me. To characterize Aleph's comments with the adverbs/adjectives "ignorantly", "cowardly", and "despicable" is too much. If you don't like what's being said, stop reading. Don't attack.

Besides, I think Aleph's reaction is valid.

It's a kind of reaction that often occurs when theoretical abstraction & deconstruction is applied to human beings and their artistic activity (art, writing, music, behavior). Neil grouped people together and drew conclusions about that people based on that grouping. But the grouping itself is too broad to properly capture the actual diversity of the actual people.

I repeat, this reaction is common and valid. The intensity of the reaction may vary, depending on the nearness / dearness of the people in question and by the nearness / dearness of the opinion-purveyor. But the reaction is completely valid and should not be insulted.

Now I'm not going to post anymore to this thread. If you want me, you can send me email at eddiec(at)lineitemvito.com. I may or may not answer your email, but I certainly won't answer here.

Eddie
--
Vote Vito: Line Item Vito

--
Vote Vito: Line Item Vito

Been Following This Part of the Thread And...

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

It is possible, you know, that the two of you just strongly disagree and while sometimes people can try to explain their positions to each other, it is not always possible to convince each other that they are wrong and you are right.

If we've reached that point here, perhaps it's time to agree to disagree (or agree to fail to understand each other if that's more accurate) in this thread.

____

Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Hey, I offered to back out

Aleph's picture

I offered to back out of this thread when I knew he was hitting a nerve knowing how important my otaku friends were, he decided to keep on calling me out and pretending I just didn't 'get' him. He's gone far past hitting that nerve to basically discounting the people I grew up with, and their entire nation, I think I've been pretty restrained considering. My statements are supported with quotes, counterexamples, and analysis. His are supported with nothing more than self-citation and assumption. Assumption which must, in order to be accepted, automatically discount the validity of individuality in the Japanese.

I don't care if he ever agrees with me, it's not important to me. I'm fine with agreeing to disagree. But if you're going to support the possibility that I'm just not understanding, I'd like you to back up that statement. I've backed up my statements with more than self-citation, he just keeps repeating the initial position and not only has he not refuted my counterexamples but he fails to acknowledge most of them. Instead I get saccharine banter about positions I never stated, like:

[quote]
In fact, any time we see "American made manga" that uses the generalized manga style (as was pointed out at the first post of this thread), those individuals are choosing the first tact over the second. Gosh, I hope you don't think I'm saying all those Americans aren't individuals too, cause wouldn't that rip through the fiber of our cultural stereotypes!
[/quote]

Find me anywhere in my statements where I made the case that he was saying anybody who mimicked style was not an individual, rather than making the case that his argument about communality was making a false cultural argument towards a communalist mindset versus placing value on the individual-- something he stated for himself, which I have repeatedly quoted. And not only did I not rise to patronizing statements like that, I did not even jab him for misuse of words.

I may criticize his analysis and I admit I did blurt out a couple of my personal opinions as to what he's depicting about a Western superiority mindset, but all things considered I have not been betraying any lack of understanding here. Just a failure to agree or defer to him, neither of which he's earned here in my view.

[edit] And if you're going to jump like this into every discussion in which I dig into hard fact and information, ask people to back their claims and pursue the issue past the surface, I'm going to take that as a message that serious discussion isn't welcome here and just move on. I don't need a referee, I've proven in several threads that I'm perfectly capable of leaving a thread once it goes past the point where constructive dialogue is possible.

I'm sorry if you're taking this personally

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

[quote=Aleph][edit] And if you're going to jump like this into every discussion in which I dig into hard fact and information, ask people to back their claims and pursue the issue past the surface, I'm going to take that as a message that serious discussion isn't welcome here and just move on. I don't need a referee, I've proven in several threads that I'm perfectly capable of leaving a thread once it goes past the point where constructive dialogue is possible.[/quote]

 

I must have missed this part of your post - please don't make this into a personal thing - I have not made any effort to focus on you (Aleph) as opposed to anyone else on this site.

What I am doing is to focus on the website as a whole.  I decided earlier this year because of things which have always happened in webcomics, but frankly accelerated last year to reinforce Comixpedia as a place for serious discussion and to keep the personal stuff and drama to a minimum.  There are other sites where threads can and do turn rather nasty and I don't want that here - I want to keep focused on, as you say, serious discussion.

What I am doing right now is proactively reminding the community as gently as I can that there are boundaries to discussion here.  Most of the advice I've read on keeping a public discussion forum healthy seem to suggest a light, proactive hand is actually quite effective at setting and reinforcing community stds and expectations.

So my apologies if you've taken any of my comments personally - they're not intended that way and I'm pretty sure I've been careful to always note that for the most part I am not calling people out for bad behavior but rather trying to show where I do not want the conversation here to go. 

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Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Yeah, no problem :)

Aleph's picture

Like I said in my above post, which I think we were writing simultaneously, I'm hypersensitive to pattern.

But since you've explained, I'm certainly going to take your word as to your motives over my pattern-sensitivity, no worries.

Cross Posting!

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

 Aleph,

Thanks for those two posts - I definitely didn't realize that's how you were perceiving it and I'll keep that in mind for the future.

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Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

The Tapering Tapistry of Topical Tantrums

Fabricari's picture

A really neat feature of this site is that threads like these will phsically taper. I think this post will show up as a quarter inch wide on my monitor!

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

yah!

The William G's picture

Letsee if we cant get it down to one letter wide!
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The William G - Romantic Drama, Post-Apocalyptic Monsters, and More Comic Experimentation


cool!

The William G's picture

I'm liking how it's putting my avatar on top of my message, you should make that a regular feature, Xaviar
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The William G - Romantic Drama, Post-Apocalyptic Monsters, and More Comic Experimentation


Aleph...

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I'm not taking any sides at all here - it's been an interesting discussion between you and Neil and I was only pointing out that sometimes there's only so far you can go in a specific discussion - sometimes you either don't agree or you don't understand each other and that's about it

I can't read your mind or Neil's so I don't know exactly what either of you are thinking.  As long as things stay civil, you and Neil can go round and round for the rest of the year if you want - I'm not trying to cut you off, just offering an observation, that's all.

Also I'm not saying you or Neil are being uncivil - I just pop in now and then on threads to try and reinforce to everyone that Comixpedia is a place for civil discussion - aggressive yes, but also civil. 

 

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Xaviar Xerexes 

I am a Modern Major Generality.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.