Today on the site, Ryan Holmberg is here with another of his invaluable columns on the secret history of manga. This time, he opens with a more-personal-than-usual essay on his connection with the avant-garde mangaka Sasaki Maki, and reprints his 2009 contribution to Japan Today on the same artist. Here is an excerpt from that article:
In the spring of 1969, the manga author Sasaki Maki (b. 1946) was invited to publish work in the gravure pages of the Asahi Journal, a popular weekly of leftwing orientation. The commission lasted for forty-one issues between June 1969 and March 1970, resulting in a series of three-page works – most manga, some photocollage, some of mixed media – that provided coded comments on recent political history through the experimental use of the representational conventions of manga. An art of the sequential panel frame, manga is also a medium in which the speech balloon and the graphic representation of speaking bodies are central.
It is thus not altogether surprising that a number of manga artists, particularly those who did not take representational convention for granted, came to thematize in their work of the latter 1960s and early 1970s a widespread crisis of the spoken word. The work of Sasaki Maki was at the center of this inquiry.
One work from his Asahi Journal series sets out the core issues in an interesting if elaborate manner. It is titled ‘The dog goes’ (Inu ga yuku), published in January 1970. In the last panel of this short, three-page work, a dog dies, expiring a speech balloon. No graphic content is placed inside. An arrow designates this blank speech balloon as ‘nansensu’, the Japanese transliteration of the English ‘nonsense’, but a word with a different semantic compass than that from which it was derived. The proposition is thus: this, the indicated thing, is or has the qualities of nansensu. The blank speech balloon is nansensu.
—Reviews & Commentary. Chris Randle, who’s one of the best contemporary writers on comics around, writes about Junji Ito’s horror manga for The Guardian, and speaks to our own Joe McCulloch.
—History. Michael Hill has a lengthy explanation of the original “Marvel Method,” as seen from Jack Kirby’s perspective.
—Misc. Megan Cerulla at the Vineyard Gazette writes about New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, subject of a new documentary, Very Semi-Serious.
In the same publication, Paul Karasik has a comic about how not to sell cartoons to The New Yorker.
—Contests. The Guardian has announced #OpenComics, a competition looking for “interesting untold stories from around the world.” Joe Sacco and Paul Gravett are two of the judges. I see no mention of payment for entries.