Manga and Comic Books
The relationship between Japan and comic books goes quite a ways back, and the two still remain an inseparable match to this day. In fact, Japanese comic books or “manga” have been a staple of the country’s literary diet since the post-war era, accounting for about 25 percent of all printed materials. The most popular of which have been in serialization for decades, often illustrated and written by a single author. This differs slightly from the American comic book industry where a particular comic book franchise can be picked up or revived with a completely new illustrator, writer, or entire production team. Of course, there are quite a few parallels we can draw between the two styles and while it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact origins, it would be impossible to ignore the influence the American comic books had on the development and popularity of Japan’s own manga culture.
From California to Japan
Welcome to Tokyo Comic Con. In its third year of operation, this comic convention has proven Japan’s growing interest in the aesthetics, characters, and stories of American comics. Tokyo Comic Con celebrated its inaugural year in 2016 with pop culture legends such as Japanese actor Ryoma Takeuchi, Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak, and none other than the “Godfather of Modern Comic Book Superheroes,” Stan Lee acting as ambassadors to the convention. And although many regular manga, anime, videogame, and entertainment media conventions have existed for years in a country best known for its distinctive art and animation styles, the foundation of the Tokyo comic book convention can trace its genetics to the very first San Diego Comic Con nearly five decades ago.
The interest and scope of comic conventions have evolved since their early days in Southern California. Today, most iterations are much more inclusive celebrations of movies, games, and animated versions of the colorful illustrations we have all come to know and love. And Tokyo Comic Con is no exception. Thanks to the likes of the global popularity of the cinematic universes of major comic book studios like Marvel and DC, Japan has been enthralled by the latest adventures of The Avengers, amused with the shenanigans of Deadpool, and excited for the next chapter of Batman. Moreover, conventions like this gives long time fans another opportunity to connect with not just the source material, but more importantly, the other draw of these conventions is to offer a space for the entire comic-book loving community to meet and share!
From meeting the artists and writers behind your childhood heroes and even some of the biggest names in the business to others that share the same passion and excitement for the magic just like you, conventions like these bring everyone together where we can all experience the fun and craziness of “the con”. And of course no con is complete without the most dedicated of fans that suit up or suit down as their favorite characters.
We’ve covered cosplaying in the past and that’s because it’s not only a big competition, but it’s also such an important form of expression and appreciation for many people as well. It would be rather difficult to imagine any kind of comic book, video game, or animation convention without the creative troops of fans and their intricate costumes. Having been to five different comic book conventions, I would even describe it as an outward display of respect as much as it is an appreciation for the original artwork and creators, especially when you take into account the absurd amount of time and effort it must take bring these characters to life!
A Tribute to A Legend
On November 12, 2018, the comic book community and the world lost one of it’s greatest superheroes in the untimely passing of Stan Lee. Being one of the pioneers of American comic books and a champion for creativity and imagination, Mr. Lee and his work has transcended cultural boundaries and influenced generations of dreamers and creators. As mentioned, he served as an ambassador to the Tokyo Comic Con and attended the inaugural celebration of the community he spent over 60 years to help propel into an international sensation. This year, he was honored with a monument in the center floor with framed pictures and a radiant bouquet of flowers in a Japanese-style arrangement. Visitors also had the chance to show their appreciation to Mr. Lee with a wall of handwritten messages. Excelsior.