“Germangaka” article

March 14, 2008

German readers might be interested in an article recently published in the Bookfair-special edition of the Leipzig newspaper: Dragon Ball und die Folgen. According to the article, “Almost all up-and-coming German comic artists draw in this style.” It also lists some sales numbers for various authors, and gives summaries of the most well-known titles published.


Evergrey Article

December 14, 2006

The following is a translation of a Swiss article about Evergrey, a new series by Lime Manga. It’s being published by Tokyopop. The article was originally published in Die Berner Zeitung.

No infringement is intended.

First Swiss manga – Vampires, Witches, Kidney Failure

Normally, manga come from Japan. Now, for the first time, a Swiss has worked in this artistic comic genre. The fantasy story Evergrey, however, came into being under dramatic circumstances.

At first sight, Evergrey doesn’t look any different from Japanese comics. But this manga is not from the homeland of sushi. Evergrey is drawn by a Swiss, written by an American, and published in Germany.
Artist David Boller, who emigrated to the USA in 1992, was a manga fan long before comics from Japan were translated into German. It started in primary school [dm: ?]. “My best friend was Japanese. He always had manga lying around at his place,” says the artist from Zurich.

From superhero to vampire
In the USA, the 38 year old made a name for himself as an artist of superhero comics for the big publishers Marvel and DC. But then, suddenly, the manga-fever broke out. So Boller reestablished contact with his old acquaintance, Joachim Kaps, head of the German manga publisher Tokyopop. Mary Hildebrandt, Boller’s wife, developed the story about the impossible love between the vampire Szandor and the witch Kyrania. Evergrey tells the story of two tribes that have been foes since the beginning of time. The title refers to the futile hopes for peace. The only glimpse of light is the the child of Szandor and Kyrania, Danika.

Autobiographical Traits
Danika grows up with foster parents in the human world. Shortly after her 16th birthday, she dreams more and more about her true heritage. But because no one understands her, the student feels excluded.
This could be read as the psychological profile of any teenager, but does have autobiographical traits as well. The author felt like an outsider in her childhood and youth due to her diabetes.

The Kidney of the Husband Fits
During work on the first of three planned volumes, her health worsened. Hildebrandt had to get dialysis. A kidney donation became necessary. Chance had it that of all tested friends and relatives, her husband, David’s kidney was the best match.
What sounds like a kitschy Hollywood movie is true. And even more: the experience influenced the story as well. Mary Hildebrandt: “Vampires and witches have always fascinated me. But when the kidney situation become truly dangerous, the topic of mortality forced itself upon me. There I was on dialysis, feeling miserable, but having to find the strength to get through it. Writing was one of the reasons I didn’t give up.”

Understanding of the Publisher
When publisher Joachim Kaps learned about the dramatic circumstances, he pushed back the planned publication of Evergrey. Boller and Hildebrandt, who live about a 45 minute drive West of New York, both stress how important the support and motivation from the side of the German publisher was at that time. The collaboration went so well that the two are already working on a second manga for Tokyopop. Yaru, a supernatural fantasy-adventure with a touch of comedy, is supposed to appear next spring — again, under Boller’s and Hildebrandt’s pseudonym Lime.

The Course of Work
David Boller describes the creation of a manga like so: “Mary comes up with an idea, and we discuss it. She sketches the plot, and together we work out layouts. When Mary has specific pictures in her head for how something should look, she doesn’t hesitate to act them out for me.” Then she writes the final version of the script, which he translates into German. In the end, he draws with ink and fills in tones.

Foreign Art, Real Style
The result is a black and white comic that looks like a real Japanese manga. Still, David Boller’s personal style is very distinct. As in the fanzine Shadow, which he published at the end of the 80s in Switzerland, Boller’s approach is of a more aesthetic than realistic nature. Art Nouveau-like ornaments wind through the heroine’s flowing hair. That works very well with the story, which, despite the vampires, is not scary, but romantic.
Reto Baer

Assorted News

December 4, 2006

Animexx has an Advent calender up (for those who don’t know the tradition, you open a door every day from December 1st to Christmas, and find a little present), and so far, three pencilboards designed by Nina Werner (author of Jibun-Jishin) have been up for grabs. We’ll keep an eye out for other global manga goodies!

David Boller of Lime Manga (Evergrey, Yaru) informed us that “Die Berner Zeitung”, a large Swiss newspaper, published an article on Evergrey. We’ll update with a translation soon! He also told us that Lime Manga are likely to be featured in the weekly culture show of Swiss National TV early next year.

EMA has announced new signing dates in addition to those we already posted about in their newsletter:

12/08, at 3pm
Signing with DuO (Indépendent)
Medienzentrum in the Hamburg main station

12/10, at 2pm
Signing with Alexandra Völker (Catwalk)
Presse und Buch in the Oberhausen main station

SplashComics also mentions that Indépendent v1 has gone into its second print run.

US-German scene comparisons

November 4, 2006

The Goethe Institute site has two articles on “deutsche mangaka”– both in English, which is a rare sight, but very appreciated.

The article about Christina Plaka (author of Yonen Buzz, being released by Tokyopop.de and Tokyopop US) touches upon a key point in the production of “original German manga”…

…[it] involves not only adhering closely to the Japanese aesthetic, but also adopting the authentic reading direction for manga.

I’ve yet to see any of the backlash in the German scene that American authors have to deal with if they even mention wanting to work right-to-left.  This is somewhat confusing, considering the publishers- Tokyopop US is very adament about its global manga being left-to-right, but all of the “home-grown” manga Tokyopop.de has put out so far have been done right to left. This is the same with CarlsenComics and EMA- all global works are in the Japanese reading direction, and the only exceptions I know of come from smaller, indie-publishers (Es war Keinmal, from Schwarzer Turm, etc)… which is almost the opposite of the American scene.
A number of publishers have also published global manga that take place in Japan (In the End, from Tokyopop.de, and Y-Square and Jibun Jishin, both from CarlsenComics), a concept that is openly frowned upon in the US-scene.  Yonen Buzz, often called the first German manga, also takes place in Japan- the series also happens to be the first German work to be brought over to America by Tokyopop.

In an interesting twist, the only German global manga artist to have been published in Japan actually started out there.  The Goethe Institute’s article on Jürgen Seebeck provides his publishing history.

However, his most successful work to date is the two-volume short-story manga Bloody Circus, which was initially published by the Japanese publishing giant Kodansha as an online comic and was published in Germany in 2000.

What makes his work interesting, the article goes on to say, is how he “straddles the reality of life in Europe and Asia… and then link them elegantly together.” Seems like an idea the other German mangaka could take to heart.

The following is the translation of an article from Stern TV. Judith Park was a guest on the program in 2005. Click for accompanying images and samples of her work.
No infringement is intended.

07/12/2005 – Manga-Boom: Asian Heroes Conquer Germany

Manga-mania in Germany: The Japanese comic stories are becoming more popular in Germany. A guest on stern TV: Judith Park, one of the most successful German manga-artists.

The 21 year old Judith Park drew her first cartoons at the age of seven. She decided to work in the Japanese manga style about eight years ago; back then, the series Sailor Moon was on German tv.

The series was the breakthrough of asian comic strips in Germany. While Carlsen gained about 400,000 Euro with manga in 1995, their gain in 2000 was 4 million. Today, the entire manga business makes about 50 million Euro in Germany. There’s no end in sight for the manga-mania.

Manga grew to be a passion for Judith Park as well. Three years ago, she submitted her works to a contest that Carlsen Comics held – she impressed them in every way. Park invested her prize money into more professional tools, and soon afterwards signed her first contract with the Carlsen publishing house.

This was the start of a rapidly-growing career: By now, Park is the most successful mangaka the publisher has, and some of her books sell better than Japanese series. At the Leipzig Bookfair, she won the people’s choice award. Y Square, Park’s second book, has a print run of 13,000.

However: What counts as a remarkable success in Germany would probably fail to be taken seriously in the homeland of manga. Over there, the most successful series reach print runs of several millions. But after all, Judith Park just started drawing manga professionally.

The following is the translation of an article from Sajonara.de.

No infringement is intended.

09/08/2006 – Mangaka [sic] made in Germany

Manga are, to somewhat simplify it, Japanese comics. Mangaka are what the makers of such comics are called. In Japan, the term mangaka has been institutionalized, and is an official job description. Oversized almond eyes are reknowned as the most obligatory mark of comics in this style. In Germany, the business is currently winning ground with the help of young girls.

Polish-Ukrainian DuO
The 21 year old Reami was born in Poland, and Asu, 19, comes from the Ukraine. The two young women met in the Sankt Augustin school near Bonn. Born of a friendship and too much boredom, the happenstance team DuO is still their artist name today. While the younger Asu mainly draws on paper and at the computer, while the other half, Reami, takes care of everything else. The profile on their homepage states that she’s involved in everything, but doesn’t draw or ink.
Mangaka Asu und Raemi 2005 in Bayerns Hauptstadt
Mangaka Asu (l.) and Raemi (r.) at a signing , on the Comic-Fest 2005 in Munich.
Source: Wikipedia, User “Fantasy”

DuO was contracted in 2002 by the comic publisher EMA, and the two girls now travel through Germany for their employer– they are, for example, regular guests at the Leipzig Bookfair. Their debut Mon-Star Attack is one of the publisher’s bestsellers. The comic, which was only published in a collected volume in December of 2004, is slightly crazy… it’s a comedy about an alien girl in space, who attempts to conquer the solar system. The second volume appeared in September of 2005. The newest work of this polisj-ukranian creative force is no less crazy – Indépendent has a female protagonist as well: a young girl from a mafia family who dives into absurd adventures and gets into plenty of trouble…

Prussian Blue
Prussian Blue is the title of Christina Plaka’s first big publication. The Offenbach-born artist is 23 years old, and her comic tells the story of a band by the same name as the title of the book. The members of Prussian Blue enter a music contest and struggle to win against the competition. The originally all-male band gets a female singer, who ends up moving into an apartment with the other band members. In the events that follow, love and interpersonal conflicts act as the focus of the story, and the result is much less crazy than the happenings in DuO’s comics.
In 2003, Christina Plaka’s manga was published by the Carlsen publishing house in Hamburg– three years after Plaka had applied to the publisher and was turned out down with the argument that there was no market for german manga. Things seem to have changed. Plaka’s sequel, Yonen Buzz, was published by Tokyopop, despite being a continuation of Prussian Blue. Tokyopop is last of the “big three” manga publishers, EMA and Carlsen being the other two.

More than just Passion – Hard Work
In an interview from 2004, one Christina Plaka gave for the TV station Arte, it becomes obvious why the word “mangaka” is a job title in Japan. Even if you are able to make a job out of your hobby, it is hard work. Plaka drew 35-page chapters, which had to be sent to the publisher monthly. A combination of time pressure, wishes and “harsh criticism by readers” meant that working on the comics wasn’t always easy. Illness and college work are not accepted as excuses. There were moments, Plaka told the interviewer, in which she doubted being able to deal with the immense pressure.

A Question of Technique?!
One thing is clear for Plaka: She draws by hand. She wouldn’t have the patience to spend hours in front of the computer. In addition she values a “natural”, puristic style, which indeed defines her comics. The drawing half of DuO, Asu, apparantly has a very different view of technical devices, as the 19 year old also draws by hand quite a bit, but she uses her graphic tablet as well. She is also well versed in digital graphic work – her software includes OpenCanvas as well as Photoshop.

Need to Catch Up
The business is still slowly developing. Manga made in Germany have established themselves in the eyes of German readers, but that wasn’t always the case. Currently, German manga have print runs of up to 20,000. In some cases, that’s enough to get into the bestsellers list. The business is still budding. Of the 80 to 90 titles that come out each month in Germany, less than ten percent of those are global manga. Merchandising is also still starting out, but it has a lot of potential to create new sources of income for the creators of the titles. The head of Tokyopop Germany, Joachim Kaps, told the magazine KulturSPIEGEL [dm: click for our translation] that publishers (have to) feel responsible for their authors.

A need to catch up also exists in terms of equal rights. In the last couple of years, mainly girls have been contracted by publishers. Shooting star Anike Hage, at least, voiced the careful suspicion that girls might be more disciplined and reliable. Her work, Gothic Sports, is currently being published by Tokyopop.

Drawing contests: For those interested, here are two URLS.

The following is the translation of an article from Offenbach-Post Online.

No infringement is intended.

04/12/2006 – A Young Girl from Offenbachen Celebrates Success with Japanese Manga

23 year old Christina Plaka from Bürgel sells her books in the USA

By Clara Görtz

Offenbach – Word has it that Japan uses more paper for comics than for toilet paper. This claim at least makes it clear how humongous the Japanese consumption of manga is, something that’s about comparable to the comic-shopping of Americans. Germany is a far leap back from that- in particular, the market for Japanese manga is still in the making.

The Offenbach-born Christina Plaka is the only manga artist (mangaka) in all of Europe who has had her stories published in both Germany and the USA. Her first manga, “Prussian Blue” has been available in America since the beginning of the year. Even the French can already buy it.

The focus of “Prussian Blue” is on the Japanese school band by the same name. Before the band can participate in a music contest, they have to overcome musical and interpersonal hurdles. Two succeeding volumes have been published in Germany under the title “Yonen Buzz” (literally, “Childish Buzz”). The band, now called “Plastic Chew”, stays the main focus. The 23 year old from Bürgel plans to continue the story. “They are going to be about ‘Plastic Chew’, but I would like to have the manga take place in Germany of the US, and integrate other bands”, the graduate of Marienschule says.

Plaka was discovered in 2002, at a Talent Contest held by Carlsen Comics at the Leipzig Bookfair. Carlsen first published “Prussian Blue” in a manga-mag aimed at girls. Later, she switched to the Tokyopop publishing house, where the sequels were published.

At the age of four, Plaka was already drawing pictures of horses. “Later, humans became much more interesting to me.” When she first saw “anime” (cartoons in manga-style) ten years ago, her passion for Japanese comics was awakened. “They seemed incredibly exotic to me, with their foreign culture and language. I wanted to master the kanji and learn Japanese. Their writing seemed like a secret language to me.” This passion probably also influenced her choice of major- she studies Japanese at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, is in her eighth semester, and has never taken a drawing class in her life.

The sources of inspiration for her manga are music and television. “First, I form an idea for a character or story. Then I sketch a couple of scenes, and send it to my editor, Michael Schweitzer,” says Plaka of the origins of a manga.

The detail work follows, done with an ink pen. “Authentic, close to nature, and pure”- she can only work with paper and pen, and not at a computer.

Especially important in manga drawing is working with different perspectives, according to Christina Plaka. She tries to vary between perspectives like panoramic, bird’s-eye, and from below. The readers like it: “Yonen Buzz” has gone into its second printing already. All this is done by a full-time college student. “I often think that I won’t be able to make it, and won’t be able to publish even a volume a year,” she reports. She would prefer being able to get a full-time job at Tokyopop after she graduates, of course.

‘ZEIT online’ article

October 18, 2006

The following is the translation of an article from ‘ZEIT online’.  Click for accompanying image.

No infringement is intended.

06/16/2006 – German Manga Girls Conquer the Comic Market

The stories are called “Mon-Star Attack”, “Losing Neverland”, or “Orcus Star”, and are about the joys of living and loving- but also about serious topics like child prostitution: “Manga made in German” is the current trend in the comic market.

It’s especially artists like Anike Hage, Judith Park, and DuO, who are able to compete with the leading Japanese artists in the field.  At the 12th International Comic-Salon in Erlangen, they have their own show.

According to estimations, around 75-80% of the German language comic market consists of Japanese graphic novels.  Readers are mainly between 8 and 25.  “What is remarkable is that manga manages to spark an interest in comics in girls and women,” says the comic agent and field specialist Christina Walz.

After all, some of the female readers become artists themselves.  “The German female manga-artists are on the rise,” says Michael Groenewald of Carlsen Comics, one of the main publishers in the field.  A few German manga, like those by Anike Hage or Christina Plaka, are by now so successful that they’re also being published in other countries.

But German artists are also gaining in the “classic” comics field.  “After a long break, there’s finally a thriving German scene again- they’ve found their own visual language,” says Groenewald. “The potential is enormous,” field specialist Christina Walz confirms.  For a long time, the publishers mainly focused on licensing products from abroad.  They’ve started rethinking all of that.  Lately, several small publishing houses have been founded to provide opportunities for German artists.  Field-giants like Carlsen and Ehapa (EMA) recognize the trend as well.  An example is the novel series “The Chronical of the Undead”, written by the successful fantasy author Wolfgang Hohlbein, and which is now being adapted into a comic by the artist Thomas von Kummant.

The Erlangen Comic-Salon, with 300 artists and an expected 25,000 visitors, is the most important convention for the field in the German language area (Germany, Austria & Switzerland).  It impressively shows that comics are far more than just “Asterix” and “Mickey Mouse”, and doesn’t have to be comical at all.  An example is the project “Cargo”, by six young artists from Germany and Israel, which is a comic report, in which each artist writes about the other country.  Autobiographical comics are also playing a larger role- such is the case with the South African Karlien de Villiers, who, in her first volume, “My Mother is a Beautiful Woman” (which is being introduced at Erlangen), talks about her childhood and the political history of the republic at the cape.

The business aspect in regards to comics with serious subject matters remains difficult, according to the field experts.  A high number of sales isn’t common.  But there’s still the possibility of winning the Max and Moritz Prize, the most important award in the German language comic field.  The judges usually base their choice on literary power of the work, rather than on sales.

German global manga article

September 17, 2006

This is the translation of an article originally published in the September 2006 issue of KulturSPIEGEL, and is written by Joerg Boeckem. For the images that accompanied it, see my last post.

Aren’t They Cuuuuute!

Almond eyes and blond pigtails: The best manga in are drawn by girls.

“It’s as if Martians had landed here,” says the man in the grey suit. Munich’s main station, early Friday evening: The man is in his late twenties, a computer sciences major and on his way home to start the weekend… but he’ll take a later train today. He doesn’t really fit in here: the dozens of boys and girls in the line before and after him are at least ten years younger. Some wear baggy pants and shirts promoting their favorite bands, others wear studded belts and black make-up; some of the younger ones wear colorful hairclips and have braces. A lot of them have sketchbooks decorated by screamingly colorful stickers.

Behind the table, at the end of the line, sit the extra-terrestrials. They’re called Anike, Detta, and Marie, are between 19 and 22 years old, and are not from Mars, but from Wolfenbuettel, Neuss and Berlin. They’re mangaka of the Hamburg publisher Tokyopop; artists who tell their stories in the style of Japanese comics. Within the last ten years, this style has had a lot of influence on youth culture, on TV, in video games, magazines and comics, but still appears exotic to most people over 25. This includes the computer sciences major, who’s been a fan of French-Belgian comics like Tintin and Asterix since childhood. He stopped by out of curiosity. He says he’s never seen anything like this, and he doesn’t just mean the comic book he has in his hands and opens from the wrong direction. As opposed to western comics, the Japanese ones are read from back to front and from right to left.

Indeed, something like the girls behind the table has never existed before in the German comic scene. For the teenagers in the line, the artists hardly older than themselves are stars as much as they are role-models. The 15-year-old Manuela and her 12-year-old sister have traveled here from a small town in Bavaria; the ride took them 1 ½ hours. Manuela has her sketchbook under her arm. In it, she has her own manga drawings, which she wants to show the Tokyopop representatives and the artists at the table. What bands like Echt or Tokio Hotel have demonstrated for pop music now works in the universe of comics for the first time – young German artists not much older than their fans (and hence easy to identify with) are conquering the market. They are between 19 and 23 years old, write and draw their own stories, and created a job niche for themselves in a time where young people are having trouble finding jobs, and the quality of the school system has gone down. More than a dozen of them have contracts with one of the three biggest manga-publishers- CarlsenComics, Egmont manga & anime (EMA), and Tokyopop. They are able to support themselves through drawing, even if the payment is still relatively low.

The bookstore in Hamburg main station, a few weeks later: on the second floor, EMA’s “roadshow” stops by. You can hear the girls upstairs when going up the stairwell. They sing the opening of Sailor Moon happily and out of tune, and after that the Aerzte hit “Men are Pigs”. The scene upstairs would make any cultural-integrator swoon – behind the table sit six girls with roots in the same number of countries; they are from the Czech Republic, , , , and . One in a black goth outfit, one in a traditional Chinese dress, two others wear plastic crowns on their heads. In front of the table there is a similarly colorful mix of nations; boys and girls with Asian, African, or European heritage, a Turkish girl with head shawl… all of them lined up peacefully. A 14-year-old girl from Hannover is photographed again and again by the others. She wears a colorful fantasy costume, just like the heroine in her favorite manga. She sewed it herself.

Behind the table Reami and Asu sing especially loudly while they sign their comics for the fans and leave a little doodle. Reami, 21, was born in . Asu, 19, in the . They met in school in Saint Augustine, near Bonn. They’ve worked together under the pseudonym DuO since 1999. Their manga “Mon-Star Attack”, a crazy space-comedy about an alien girl that wants to conquer the solar system, is one of EMA’s top sellers, and has been licensed in and . In September, their new series “Independent” will be released. It’s about a young girl from a mafia family who ends up getting into a number of misadventures.

The German-Japanese girl-wonder started roughly four years ago. Christina Plaka was one of the first to manage the step from manga-fan to professional mangaka. In 2003, the Hamburg publisher CarlsenComics, which started the manga-boom in 1997 with the Japanese series Dragon Ball, published her series “Prussian Blue”, the debut manga of the then-20 year old. Like most of her colleagues, Christina had long-loved drawings from due to TV shows like Sailor Moon. She applied to CarlsenComics for the first time in 2000 without success. Back then, she was told that there was no market for German artists.

That changed when Carlsen and EMA brought monthly manga magazines onto the market, in which German mangaka were published alongside the stars from . In the beginning, the “Japanese” comics from were unaccepted by readers. A lot of fans were of the opinion that Germans couldn’t and weren’t allowed to draw manga, Plaka remembers. Anything not from was seen by many as a cheap rip-off.

But she persevered. Her works, which are now published by Tokyopop, are selling in five-digit numbers, and appear in and the . For fans and colleagues, she is a huge inspiration. Apart from her work as a mangaka, the 23-year-old, who was born in Offenbach with a Greek passport, studies Japanese at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. This major has profited enormously from the manga hype in – “in 2002, when I started my studies, there were 60 students going into Japanese at my university,” she says. “One year later, it was 140. It’s obvious that my generation grew up with manga, anime, and video games from .”

Manga, for the first time, managed to create a large female comic fanbase. The so-called shoujo manga tell dreamy fantasy adventures; others take place in the fashion world or at school, and tell of relationship problems, friends or scheming, first love or rock bands.

In the past few years, those to get publishing contracts have been almost all girls. “Girls apparently work with more discipline and are more reliable,” says Anike Hage, big star of the scene, whose comic “Gothic Sports” is one of the best sellers of Tokyopop, a publisher that specializes in manga. Indeed, Anike, Asu, Reami, Marie Sann and their colleagues often sit up to twelve hours a day drawing; some draw in addition to school, at nights and on weekends.

Today, manga from are published with up to 20,000 issued per print; this number which can mean a spot on the best sellers list in the book market. Nevertheless, the development is still in its early stages. Manga from still dominate the market. The net-total German publishers make through manga is about 65-70 million Euro in the current year, estimated Joachim Kaps, ex-head publisher of CarlsenComics and current head of Tokyopop.

In , between 80 and 90 titles are published per month; German titles are still below 10% of that. “Our goal in the long run is to raise the share of the German-productions at Tokyopop to 20%,” says Kaps, who supported the rising manga stars at Carlsen before coming to Tokyopop.

Nevertheless, the works of German artists currently cost the publisher much more initially than the licensing of Japanese series. “Right now we invest into German mangaka. But our own productions are a chance for us to create something of worth rather than import it,” says Kaps. “Namely: to sell licenses abroad and maybe soon have merchandise and video games for German series.” For Anike Hage’s manga “Gothic Sports,” about a girl’s soccer team at a German high school, the publisher will offer notebooks, erasers, and notepads with the series’ logo, as well as t-shirts that look like the extravagant uniforms of the soccer team. These will all be available at next year’s Leipzig Book Fair in a small edition. This will be a first, tentative test. The chances look good – already, for the start of the series, fans of Gothic Sports showed up last March in Leipzig with self-made soccer uniforms, designed to look like those in Anike Hage’s series.

“Merchandise is also an attempt to create new sources of income- not only for the publisher, but also for the artists,” says Kaps. “We as the publisher have a special responsibility, especially because a lot of them are young when we take them under contract.” The publishers have learned a lot – unlike in the 80’s and early 90’s, when German artists were often cancelled from the program if their first work wasn’t a success, the German mangaka have time to develop. On average, the contracts are for several volumes, and the publishers try to create a specially-designed marketing strategy that includes appearances at cons, book fairs, and signings.

Part of the success of German manga is due to TV and internet forums, but is also due to drawing contests in which the publishers recruit new mangaka. “Contests are a great opportunity to present one’s work to the audience, and especially to the publishers. They’re also good because you can measure your skills against those of your competition,” says Judith Park, 22, an artist from Duisburg. Her manga “YSQUARE”, about a boy who really has to learn a lot about dealing with girls and can’t find a girlfriend, is one of CarlsenComics’ best sellers, and appears in France, Greece, Italy, Russia, and South Korea- the country Park’s family is originally from. This month, the continuation of the series, “YSQUARE PLUS”, appears in the magazine Daisuki. Park also owes her contract to a contest.

The most important component of the German manga market, however, is the fans. Manga-readers get very involved with the characters and their creators. Cosplay, dressing up like a manga character in self-made costumes, is one of the big attractions at fan-meetings, the cons. Every new series will often be discussed on internet forums, even before they’re released. Most fans also draw and post their works online. The scene created its own platform; for the publishers, this presents a chance to easily find out what the audience likes and what they’re interested in. “This is one reason for the big success of manga worldwide,” says Joachim Kaps. “Finally, authors, artists, and publishers are returning to paying attention to what 12 and 13-year-olds want.”

This is a big advantage for German mangaka – they have much more of a presence at signings, cons, and online than their Japanese colleagues. More and more, they tell stories that take place in the German everyday reality of the readers. Most of all, however, they present an accessible role-model – after all, every German mangaka admired by fans today used to be a fan themselves. And for most of them, that wasn’t very long ago at all.

Comics: Anike Hage: “Gothic Sports (Tokyopop, volume 2 in December); Christina Plaka: “Yonen Buzz” (Tokyopop, volume 0 in October); DuO: “Independent” (EMA, volume 1 in September); Judith Park: “YSQUARE” (Carlsen).

Drawing Contests: Manga-Talente (www.comicsinleipzig.de); Comic Campus (www.comic-campus.com)




Here’s the translation of a summary (credit goes to PummelDex for that, & translation is by my ever-helpful girlfriend). The article is available online, but I don’t personally feel like paying $6 for it if no one’s interested… ;/
If enough people are interested in knowing what the article says, I’ll go ahead and purchase it- so if you want it, speak up!

In the August 2006 issue of KultureSPIEGEL (CultureMIRROR), the monthly magazine insert of the big German news magazine Der Spiegel (the Mirror), there is an article on German manga-drawers (female).

They demonstrate the fast-growing boom of German manga, especially focusing on the artists of Tokyopop, but also on DuO of Egmont and Judith Park from Carlsen, and explain it with the sense of identification the fans feel towards artists barely younger than themselves. (“hardly older fans” is a direct quote from the article, as odd as that seems). After their earlier defensiveness against everything non-Japanese, by now the fans have stopped talking about cheap replicas when referring to manga from their own country.

According to Joachim Kaps, head of Tokyopop (Germany), the “marketshare of German volumes”, which is currently below ten percent, “is supposed to be raised to 20%”, at least with Tokyopop. Also, with the surprise-hit series Gothic Sports by Anike Hage, they’re launching the first attempt to sell merchandise for a German series. At next year’s Leipziger Bookfair, there will be soccer uniforms, t-shirts, and writing stuff (pencils, erasers, rulers, etc… we don’t have a word for this that we can think of) based on the series. This is also “an attempt to create a new source of income for the artists”, says Kaps.

Also praised were the different drawing contests in the German area. Judith Park called these “a good opportunity to present one’s work to the publishers and audience.” It is also possible to better measure your skill when you can see your competition, according to her.
An important aspect of the German manga-market, if not the most important one, is the fans. Through internet forums and similar things, a broad palette of opportunities for discussing the works is offered, and through which the wishes of the fans can be better taken into account.

Personally, I think it’s pretty interesting to see how OGM are taking off- especially concerning the merchandising TP is doing. We have yet to really get something like that here in America– while the newspaper runs are a start, the manga fans still have yet to really get behind a series here like they have with Gothic Sports. It’s a shame, but hey… this means there’s hope, right?