Many of us have thought about the business ramifications of the choices made in this artist’s story, but I liked the way this post summed it all up.
Becca Hillburn writes about how she grew up wanting to make manga for Japanese audiences. It wasn’t until later, when she was actually trying to get work, that she realized that her refusal (and that of others like her) to support American comics meant no market for her work, since “manga style doesn’t sell”.
OEL manga doesn’t sell in the US. At least, not to the people we’d like to sell it to. When I go to anime conventions, my comics don’t sell to the audience. They sell to other artists tabling at that convention…. I might as well not even bring comics to anime conventions, because that audience isn’t interested in seeing comics from American artists. If I only attended anime conventions, I’d be better off churning out fanart prints, charms, and buttons….
What’s sad is that, when polled, a lot of those customers who are skipping my comics for my charms and buttons tell me that they draw comics too. They tell me that they draw manga, and that they plan on moving to Japan one day. They tell me that they aren’t interested in reading American-drawn manga, but they sure are interested in producing it.
Why do so many young artists fantasize about working in another country, one with ridiculous expectations for output and work effort? Why do they think that they can overcome cultural biases (both American and Japanese) to be the one who breaks through when they’re so blind to the lack of market or interest from those hiring?
If you want to be a working artist, you have to sell to a willing audience. If no one wants to buy what you’re making, then you have to
a) build the market — which isn’t likely to happen at this point, when people have been trying for decades
b) create work that an audience does want
or c) find another way to make money so you can make art on your own terms and your own time.
We’ve seen posts like this before, telling people that if they want to make a certain kind of art, they need to support that art as well. I’m not sure the message will ever sink in, given how much “authenticity” is fetishized amongst a certain type of customer. They buy what they want, and they want Japanese manga, not OEL. It doesn’t matter how badly an artist wants to create it, it’s not a case of “if you build it, they will come” (aka the Field of Dreams fallacy). When they buy your fanart of Naruto, it’s because they like Naruto, not because of your art.
There’s nothing wrong with having a manga style, in my opinion, but realize that you need to make comics, not manga. You aren’t part of a weekly serialization system with assistants and strong editors driving your choices. Tell your own stories, aimed at this market and set in a country you’ve actually lived in.
It’s an important lesson, to point out the hypocrisy of artists who don’t like to consume what they’re trying to make, to try and educate them about the effect of their choices and how they’re not really a “special snowflake”, but I’m not sure it will sink in. American comics have had this problem for years, in another form. There are artists who keep agreeing to work with companies whose behavior has been less-than-ideal, even unethical, under the perception that “things will be different for me”. When it’s not, they seem surprised — but why should anything be different just because you want so badly for it to be?