Joe Lawler recently posted Can women learn to enjoy comics? on his bog, which is about ways to get female readers interested in comics (mainstream US comics that is). It struck what must be a tired nerve with a number of female comics bloggers this week. Kate Dacey of the Manga Critic, Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading, and Heidi MacDonald of the Beat, had understandable reactions to Lawler’s post. It does bring up a very interesting gender issue in readership in both comics and manga. I’m a typical guy that grew up on traditional American style comics, so I can sort of see where Lawler was coming from. It is that club house mentality which can often get us men in trouble. I think Johanna had the best comment in all this saying that people should recommend things based on the individual’s interests and not their gender. It certainly does not help that the majority of western comics are geared towards males, which can make it challenging to recommend things to new readers let alone new female readers.
The reason all this caught my interest is because I’m so late as a new reader to manga that it has lead to me experiencing something of a gender reversal of this issue. I started with Naoki Urawasa’s work since it is becoming quite popular with traditional US comics fans. When Ed Brubaker, in a recent Word Balloon interview, mentioned Lady Snowblood being the inspiration for the Lady Bullseye character in Daredevil, I picked up that series and enjoyed it. After that I was hooked and wanted to read more manga. I started out with the few things I already knew of like Akira, but after that I became completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of manga titles out there and did not know where to turn next.
I started looking at the various manga blogs and websites for recommendations. The majority of which were written by women. Understandably the recommendations leaned towards female interests which left me frustrated in trying to find titles that suited my interests. I suddenly understood what it is like for women new to comics having men recommend things to them. It quickly becomes confusing and overwhelming. As I have been learning more about the history of manga it is not hard to see why so many women are interested in manga. It was in the early 70s when the manga industry saw a large influx of female creators that created female friendly manga on top of the female friendly titles by male creators already out then. That long history along with manga’s diverse genres makes it more likely that females of any age will find something they are interested in. It is quite the dramatic contrast to the history of American comics.
I’m still overwhelmed with the choices in manga and at this point it is just force of will that is keeping me reading. It is easy to just assume manga is all like Naruto or Dragon Ball Z, but those are just titles geared towards young boys (the most popular genre). The challenge is sifting through all the genres to find titles that apeal to a person like me who grew up on the kind of comics you find in a typical US comic book store. I’m sure someone new to American comics has similar problems. I think it is safe to say that recommending manga or comics to new readers is not quite as simple as it might seem.
Well this went much longer then I intended. I was going to post some things not related to the gender talk but I will save them for next time.