It feels like manga has been around since deep dark in history; in reality, Manga as we know and recognize it, is a modern artform that came together after the second world war.
Long before Shonen Jump was released in the late 1960’s by long time book publisher Shiuesha, GI’s brought American comics to Allied occupied Japan; inspiring local comics artists who developed it into what we know today as manga; while still sequential art is well recognized as being distinct from both American and European comics. Two of these artists are now credited with laying the path of not only manga itself but the two most recognized genres of Shonen and Shojo (boys and girls comics respectively)
While in Osaka, he mentored several influential mangaka, including Yoshihiro Tatsumi (creator of gekiga, aka “dramatic pictures”) and Masahiko Matsumoto (who coined the term “komaga,” aka “panel pictures”). In the early 1950’s a squabble over techniques between Tezuka and these two creators, where Tezuka put down their comic techniques “Atarashii hyōgen” or “New Expressions” as he called them. These, now fundamental, techniques were panels of cartooning shorthand, slow filmstrip breakdowns, isolated sketchy skies, black panels, panels of whirling speed lines, and other such representational art. While he initially called them out as dishonest and lazy, he later incorporated them into his own Disney inspired style, completely shifting the history of manga art in a combination we recognize today as quintessential to manga art. For more details on this so-called “Fukui-Eiichi incident”, I encourage you read this incredible deep dive by manga historian Ryan Holmberg
Some of the other well-known works by Tezuka include “The Phoenix Cycle,” which he considered his magnum opus, “Black Jack,” which was inspired by his formal education in medicine – he was a licensed physician prior to becoming a mangaka, although he never practiced medicine – and “Buddha,” an epic manga about the life of Siddhārtha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. Although Tezuka passed away in 1989 after a battle with stomach cancer, his work continues to influence manga and anime to this day, as well as inspiring additional adaptations from his original work (such as the 2001 film “Metropolis”).
Source on Tezuka
Don’t let anyone convince you that manga isn’t diverse. Tezuka’s own Funny Magazine (1969-1973) featured primarily female artists. Right at the foundations manga was created, published and enjoyed by both men and women.
It's important for us to be familiar with the history of our artform, especially as we work to establish it more firmly back here in the states. In a strange way the baton has returned and it feel like things are coming full circle; while Americans once inspired Japanese cartoonists, now they, in turn are inspiring us. As we learn about the fundamentals that define manga and how it's made, by knowing it's history we can see how the art grew and developed into so much more than simply "the Japanese word for comics" .
What do you think? What makes manga Manga?
Let me know in the comments below, share the post with your manga friends and see what they think or join us on the Mayapple Discord where we talk a lot about making our own!