January 24, 2009

Manga and Visual Language

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell ya.
Ive been thinking alot lately about comics. By lately I of course mean the past 4 years, but recently ive been jumping on that shit like never before. I feel like in the past ive disrespected manga and anime a decent bit, but let me tell ya, good manga has got it goin on in ways that alot of stuff from america can't come close too. I read Akira all the way through awhile back and man oh man is it good or what.

The line quality is pretty unmatchable and the level of detail that Otomo puts into his images is out of this world. Look at the detail just in the buildings in the background, and look at the trees and even just the grime and scratches on the playground equipment. Thats how comics are done my friend.

Whew! look how freakin' fast that page is moving! I love the iconography and visual language of manga. the "speed lines" give the impression of movement because it looks like a photograph where the camera is following the subject so that the world around the subject blurs, rather than a photograph where the subject blurs and the environment remains static. As well, the dust coming off the wheels of the motorcycles in the top panel adds to the movement because it shows you where the motorcycle has been. Its the same sort of thing Paul Pope does with light.

What Pope's style lends to it is that it combines the movement within the panel (speed lines/light trails) and a kirby-esque exaggeration of forms (warped/extreme perspective) to push the movement off the page.

He relies less on the speed lines and more on particle movement, meaning things like the blood coming off Batman's wound, the dust scraped up by his boots, the light on the neon signs as he moves by, and the spit from the dogs mouths. He also uses material spectacularly. The fabric of Batman's clothes stretches and waves perfectly and his cape waves behind him which add to the illusion of movement. All this is exaggerated and warped by Pope's super stylized linework. Keep in mind that Pope is one of the only american artists to ever have worked for Kodansha, Japans most renowned Manga publisher.
It's hard to look at quality american comics today and not see the influence manga has on western art. Since I've always had a little bit of a grudge against manga and anime (hey, my early days were spent surfing deviant art for hours at a time, its hard not to get sick of manga when every other image you see is terrible fan art) I've never really gotten a chance to explore it as its own thing. If you have any recommendations I'd love to hear them! Give me some good manga to read!


  1. Love Otomo! I'm pretty sure that guy has a sexual fixation on creating elaborate complexes in insane detail and then blowing them all up.

    I've always personally felt that the Japanese have captured motion much more elegantly on a comic page than any others. Maybe elegantly isn't the right word. I certainly feel it more.

    In the case of Taiyō Matsumoto it's certainly elegent, and effortless, and a fresh break from animu style that can grate on me after a while.

    I've only read Ping Pong, but from what I've seen of his other work it looks like it only gets better.


    ^above is a post with a few pictures that don't quite illustrate what I'm talking about, but may interest neither the less. It's also an ace blog about all things underground manga. (with a leaning towards gag and horror)

  2. or great manga check out Urasawa's Monster, Inoue's Vagabond, and Miura's Berserk. Also worth checking out is the classic series Lone Wolf and Cub and pretty much anything by Osamu Tezuka, particularly the Buddha and Phoenix series.

    Personally, I never could get into most American comics, I think I was just used to the Japanese style being raised on videogames from a young age.