Over at Icarus comics, Simon notes that manga didn’t get too many Eisner nominations. He argues, though, that manga fans shouldn’t be bitter; they should just create their own awards. Precocious Curmudgeon agrees. (Thanks to Brigid for the links.)
Simon’s point is that awards are more about industry promotion and celebrating creativity than they are about objective quality…and that manga is big enough and independent enough to promote itself.
This is certainly correct…for manga. 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. And the reason is that the old institutions of American comics still haven’t come to terms with the changes in manga. They’ve watched the demographics expand without being able to figure out how to take advantage of it; they’ve adapted to some of the distribution changes but haven’t been able to embrace even those whole-heartedly.
So while the lack of manga at the Eisners isn’t a big deal for manga, I think it is maybe a big deal for the Eisners, and for the industry they represent. In short, it’s a sign of a a big, fat failure on the part of American comics. As is so often the case, a snub says more about the quality of the perpetrator than it does about the object of scorn.
Update: Brigid offers a polite dissent, pointing out that many of the Eisner judges are quite aware of manga, and suggesting again that manga needs its own awards. She also suggests that the Eisner’s should maybe expand to include more manga categories in the meantime…which they should, and which, if they did it whole hog enough, would preclude the need for a separate set of manga. If you’re the Eisners, why not create a whole parallel set of manga categories? You’ve got a leg up to begin with, so why not become the prestigious award for manga as well as for comics? Again, that seems like a great way to seem, and for that matter, to actually be, relevant to a whole new group of comics consumers.
Brigid also offers a mini-apology of sorts for the fact that manga fans (and she herself) aren’t necessarily all that into Western comics. I don’t think any apology is ever necessary for matters of taste like that; there isn’t any moral duty to read one comic or the other. With an institution like the Eisners, it would make sense for marketing and industry reasons for the awards as a whole to be more open to manga, but that’s really a different issue than saying, “this judge should like manga more” (especially since, as Brigid notes, many of the judges like manga fine.)
Update 2: And as long as this seems to be generating some interest, I thought I’d point out a couple of other recent manga posts which might be of interest: Kinukitty kicks off her column “Gluey Tart: Adventures in Manporn” with a review of prettyboy assassin manga Blank Slate; I talk about the Japanese Superman; and, from a bit longer ago, Bill Randall talks about perfect girlfriend’s and Sungiku Uchida’s bizarre manga Minami’s Sweetheart.
By the by, everybody who has posted on this knows more about the Eisners and more about manga than I do. Just in case that wasn’t already clear….