Real1 500Noah Berlatsky sums up similar thoughts by David Welsh and Simon Jones on the dearth of manga titles and creators among the recent Eisner Award nominations:

Manga doesn’t need the Eisners. I do wonder, though, whether it’s true that the Eisners don’t need manga. Or, to put it another way — manga has opened comics up to some vastly underserved demographics. It’s inaugurated entirely new genres. It’s helped to change distribution models. It’s vastly changed what comics in America are, and who reads them.

So you would think, maybe, that the industry might want to celebrate that. Maybe comics might want to use their awards show as a chance to point out to the world how things have changed, to embrace new readers, to paint itself as dynamic and exciting and forward looking and inclusive.

But of course the Eisners aren’t all that interested in doing that.

Brigid comes back with a dissenting opinion, but from a more otaku POV:

Take a look at the Best Continuing Series nominations: All Star Superman, Fables, Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Thor, and Usagi Yojimbo. One of these things is not like the others; Monster is so different in format and concept that I would have a hard time comparing it to All Star Superman. Also, to be honest, manga readers can be as provincial as the Wednesday crowd; I try to branch out a bit, but I haven’t read any of the other series. In fact, Robin Brenner is one of the few manga folks I know who reads superhero comics at all. If the rest of us were handed an Eisner ballot, we would probably just check off the manga, just as the superhero guys would just check off their comics.

To be honest, while Berlatsky stresses the “fresh new” aspect of manga, we’re surprised no one has pointed out that — as great as it is — most manga presented here in the US is reprinted from a wide period of time and has the advantage of presenting the “best of.” Pitting the best works of Tatsumi, Inoue, Urasawa, Tezuka, Taniguchi etc in their prime against SWALLOW ME WHOLE seems a great disservice to emerging voices and talents in the US, although it would certainly up the game a lot. The Eisners are pretty clearly devoted to honoring the best in contemporary *American* comics.

But in the future, all this will be moot. Brigid points to Deb Aoki’s commentary which, to us, has a more telling point—the infiltration of more manga-influenced comics among the nominees:

If we include manga-inspired works by international creators, then Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai and “Murder He Wrote,” Nina Matsumoto’s Death Note / Simpsons mash-up with by Ian Boothby and Andrew Pepoy, in The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror #14 from Bongo Comics bring the total to 10. Also worth noting is multiple nominations for Amy Reeder Hadley, the creator of Fool’s Gold from TokyoPop for her work on Madame Xanadu from Vertigo / DC Comics, and a nod for Jo Chen, creator of Other Side of the Mirror from TokyoPop for her beautiful cover art for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Serenity from Dark Horse.

Aoki also lists some overlooked manga, and we’ll reprint her entire list just to give it as much play as possible:

  • Emma by Kaoru Mori (CMX Manga)- A beautifully drawn, elegantly told story of a maid, a young man of the gentry and their class-crossing romance in Victorian England.
  • Disappearance Diary by Hideo Azuma (Fanfare-Ponent Mon) – Hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, Disappearance Diary is the kinda true account of one manga artist’s adventures as a homeless person in Japan
  • Real by Takehiko Inoue (VIZ Signature) – A subtle, masterfully told story about young men who maintain their passion for basketball, despite being wheelchair-bound.
  • Astral Project by marginal and Syuji Takeya (CMX Manga) – Mind-bending, exciting metaphysical mystery from the creator of Old Boy.
  • Black Jack by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical) – Eisner voters have already proven their love for the godfather of manga — so why not this medical manga series, which is one of his best?
  • Black Lagoon by Rei Hiroe (VIZ Media) – With its guns, gals and high-octane action, Black Lagoon blows away most mainstream American action comics if only by sheer firepower, adrenaline and its wicked sense of humor.

Finally, we may soon have no choice in the matter: Japan’s PM, Taro Aso, who is well known for courting the otaku vote, hopes that manga and anime will lead Japan towards economic recovery:

While other countries bail out banks, slash interest rates and prop up struggling industries, Japan is pinning its hopes for economic recovery on a less likely source: manga comic books.

As part of 15 trillion yen of fresh stimulus measures unveiled today, Japan hopes to raise the percentage of its exports of “soft power” – manga, animated films, video games and pop music – from 2% of the total to 18% over the next decade, creating half a million jobs.

“Japanese content, such as anime and video games, and fashion draw attention from consumers around the world,” the prime minister, Taro Aso – a self-confessed manga addict – told reporters this week as he waved copies of magazines from China and Taiwan featuring Japanese pop stars on their covers.

“Unfortunately, this soft power is not being linked to business overseas. By linking the popularity of Japan’s soft power to business, I want to create a 20-30 trillion-yen market by 2020 and create 500,000 new jobs.”

Manga is on the march!


  1. So, how many manga titles would need to be nominated for the manga proponents to be “happy”?

    15? 20? one manga book in each category?

    From my increasingly-poor memory, I seem to recall manga books and creators being nominated and winning Eisners in the past. So, it’s not like they’re ignored or shunned.

    Do they need to make sure have a “manga-friendly” judge to make sure there are nominations?

    I read some manga, but not very much anymore, in addition to reading superhero books and indy books. Does that mean I would or would not be inclined to have manga nominations? It depends on what was submitted.

  2. “From my increasingly-poor memory, I seem to recall manga books and creators being nominated and winning Eisners in the past. So, it’s not like they’re ignored or shunned.”

    See this.


  3. How many indie titles need to be nominated for the indie proponents to be “happy”? I think the purpose of having a “manga-friendly” judge is the same as having an indie-friendly judge, a superhero-friendly judge, etc. It’s to ensure the jury has the best chance possible to become familiar with all aspects of the comic industry in America for that year.

    It’s the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. Aren’t VIZ, Tokyopop, Fanfare/Ponent Mon, Yen Press, DMP, and Vertical also part of the comic industry in the US? Shouldn’t their books get the same attention DC, Marvel, Top Shelf, D&Q, Dark Horse, and Oni get?

    I guess my question is, why shouldn’t manga be represented in categories outside the International – Japan category? No one ever seems to have a problem when the European comics bleed over into other boxes. If, as Heidi says, manga has the advantage of being the best of what Japan has to offer (and if you read as much manga as I do, you know that just isn’t true – there is as much crappy manga being licensed as there are crappy Western comics that are released every Wednesday), it’s still the first time most American readers have experienced the story, the same way it’s their first time reading Swallow Me Whole. Nate Powell is going up against Emmanuel Guibert. How is that any easier than going up against Taniguchi would be?

    When there are only five or six slots available in any one category, the cream should rise to the top. Why shouldn’t part of that cream be made up of comics from Japan? Or Korea? Or Belgium, for that matter? Why shouldn’t the writing of Inoue go up against the writing of Brubaker? Why shouldn’t the talents of Yoshinaga Fumi be compared/contrasted to those of Terry Moore or Lewis Trondheim? They are all extremely talented creators, their books are distributed in English in the US, and their styles and subject matters aren’t mutually exclusive. Why can’t their works compete against each other?

    The biggest obstacle at the moment is that the manga publishers aren’t submitting their books for consideration. If the books aren’t nominated, the jury can’t vote on them. And if the books aren’t nominated outside the International – Japan category, it takes the lobbying of a “manga-friendly” judge to bump that book into another box and the rest of the jury to agree to the move.

  4. The Eisner awards seem to be improving when it comes to manga and discussions like this can only help.

  5. as much as I am mostly a ‘contemporary American comic book collector’, I agree that the Eisners need to be more worldly in their recognition of comic books from other countries.

  6. Different genres of ‘real’ literature have separate awards, so I would see no problem with having separate awards programs for ‘lowbrow’ literature.

  7. The Eisners used to have one category for Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material. In 2007 the judges split it into two categories: Best U.S. Edition of International Material and Best U.S. Edition of International Material–Japan, effectively doubling the number of nominations. The judges over the past several years have also nominated international works in many of the regular categories, including short story, Reality-Based Work, Archival, Graphic Album-New, writer/artist, etc.

    This year’s ballot has not only manga titles in other categories besides the Japan one, but also European titles in several spots on the ballot other than International, including Alan’s War (in three categories), Blue Pills, and Three Shadows (two categories). In addition, there are four nominations for the Canadian graphic novel “Skim” and one for Michel Rabaligati’s “Paul Goes Fishing.” Other nominations on the ballot are works involving international creators, from Canadians to Brazilians.

    The judges do not have nomination “quotas” to fill of manga, international, racial, gender, or other demographics. They base their scoring and choices on the quality of the material, period. This year was especially challenging because there were more than five ballot-worthy titles in many of the categories. Some of my personal favorites didn’t make it. Regarding the titles that Deb listed, all but one were submitted by the publishers and were included in the judging.

  8. I would like to add that I didn’t write my list of overlooked manga to dis the Eisner judges, who have an admittedly difficult job — but to draw attention to some manga that I thought were worthy of attention from ‘mainstream’ comics fans.

    i know there are lots of comics fans who have cosmopolitan tastes, but wanted to reach out to those who may write off manga as ‘all naruto all the time,’ just as i sometimes write off superhero comics as ‘all capes/spandex and crisises all the time’. ;-) there is much more to each genre than that, and i think we all benefit when we reach across the comic book aisle and appreciate that good comics is good comics, irregardless of whether it comes from the u.s., europe or asia.

  9. I am another manga reader who also reads LOTS of American and European comics. I read just about everything. And I will tell you, as someone who has been an Eisner judge, it is VERY difficult, because there’s so much out there in comics. The process of selecting the five nominated titles in each category is NOT easy at all and involves a lot of discussion among all the judges. Speaking for the panel with which I served in 2005, we really agonized over titles in most of the categories.

    People can second-guess the nominations all they like. Until they’ve served as an Eisner judge, they won’t be able to fully understand the incredible amount of CRITICAL reading we must do in a fairly short period of just a few months.

  10. Just because something is good doesn’t mean it deserves an award. (Technically, everything should be good or it shouldn’t be published.) If you simply give out Eisners to anything you enjoy, it dilutes the meaning. I’ve read many of the big ’08 releases and enjoyed them, but I can’t think of any that have moved the medium forward or has made any special mark on a genre. Do we really need to have token winners every year just to keep the awards show going?

  11. The unspoken, deep hatred of American comics fans for fumetto once again rears its head without serious comment.

  12. As much as I hate to see Manga ghettoized I think the best solution is to have categories for translated works.

    As Heidi pointed out Manga publishers get to cherry-pick the best works of Japan (usually lumping in HK, Taiwan and South Korea) over tiem while the English-world nominations are actually published in one year.

    But manga and Euro comics have the disadvange of translation and can only be as good as the translator makes them.

    I’ve seen some pretty good books ruined by indifferent translators.

    So maybe we just can’t compare them.

    The Oscars seperate out foreign language works, why not the Eisners?