THE SETTING: The Manga Pavilion in the German Publisher hall at Frankfurt Book Fair, the biggest book and publishing fair in the entire world.
THE CAST: Me talking to a white German teenage girl, dressed in an H&M-meets-Harjuku-cosplay outfit with dyed streaks in her hair.
THE SCENE: The German teenager is part of a queue of about 250 other girls, in a line waiting to get their comics signed by SOMEONE that looks like a Japanese or Asian American hip hop girl.
ME: So, who are you guys waiting in line to meet?
German teenybopper: It's Judith Park!
ME: Oh, is she an American comic artist?
German teenybopper: You don't know Judith Park? She is the most famous manga-ka in Germany!!
ME: [Stunned silence]
For those new to the blog, this post is the penultimate dispatch in a series of posts based on things I saw and people I met while in Ireland and Germany last Fall.
And making this clear from the start-- I don't have any stunning insight on what exactly this means. I also am probably going to use all the wrong terminology here. But figuring that manga-influenced comics made in English by non-Japanese creators are referred to as Original English-language manga (OEL manga), I am gonna try calling these comics Original German-langauge manga (OGL manga). The main impetus for this post was that the scene at Frankfurt got the weird little motor in my brain spinning. And it made me also realize a few other things:
1) The European reading population and comic buying scene (Esp. in Germany/France/Spain) might have figured out manga in a major, commerically-viable way before us (where, us = Americans). I make this declaration based solely on the breadth of manga available in translation there, the # of Japan-related magazines and publications, and the level of maturity of the OGL/OFL/OSL manga scenes in each country.
2) Teenage girls and cosplayers in Germany appear to be just as fascinated and empowered to participate in comics BECAUSE OF manga as their American counterparts. If the concept of manga sparking larger female participation in comics (financially, creatively, etc) makes you raise an eyebrow then you must have missed the memo in the early '00s.
3) The OGL manga scene has its own young stars, and it looks like they're coming to our shores soon.
I'm really hoping this is one of those posts where people who know way more about this scene (and the implications and embedded arguements therein) jump in via comments and get a proper discussion going-- If I've said anything idiotic or misinformed, then let me know.
But back to my task for today: Who, exactly, is Judith Park (other than the biggest manga-ka in germany, DUH)?
I've done the basics of web research (Lambiek, Wikipedia (DE), and her homepage) , so let me lay it on you. She was born in 1984 in Duisberg (near Dusseldorf), and according to her english profile, she's into Frank Miller, Michael Bay blockbusters, Rocco's Modern Life and Miyazaki films. It's not clear where she is based right now, but I did learn while I was in Germany that Frankfurt is home to the biggest Korean expatriate population in Europe.
Her most famous comics pictured above, Y Square and Distopia. It also sounds like she's now working on a new yet-unnamed book.
Judith is scheduled to appear at number of appearances at German book and comic fairs, and her site contains lots of pics from recent events she's attended. I read the Google Translate version of this profile of Judith from November 2005, where she says that she draws for about 9 hours a day, and got her start by winning a manga competition held by the publisher Carlsen, which is one of the three big German comic book publishers. You can also see more of Judith's art at her deviantART page. (She also has a YouTube channel documenting her "gay chinchillas"-- her words).
More recent pics of Judith from her site:
Now, this is not to say that the German OGL manga scene (as far as I could feebly decipher) is just about Judith Park. I also had the dumb luck to see another rising German comics star, Anike Hage, signing at the pavillion. Anike Hage is even younger (only 21!) and has a number of OGL titles out with Tokyopop DE. I just read here that Anike Hage's Gothic Sports has been licensed to be released by Tokyopop US, as part of their ambitious international comics push. The release date on Amazon for this book is May 8, 2007.
A few last tidbits, I found a German con report that has some pics of Judith signing and of German cosplayers (the theme of the last post in this series). In his archives, I also found that Jeff Smith posted details on the German manga scene, and pics from hanging out with Anike on his blog around the time of Frankfurt Book Fair. Finally, here is a translated article about Judith Park's sales figures and continuing popularity in Germany.
Fone Bone & Anike Hage's protagonist together
Jeff Smith and Anike Hage, exhausted after signing comics all day
Okay, my brain has run out of steam, but I want to hear more from you guys about manga in Europe (Germany specifically), any thoughts on Judith & Anike, or generally about Original-English/German/etc language manga in all of its international incarnations!
EDIT: I should have directly mentioned Elae's awesome site Deutsche Mangaka, which is specifically about the OGL manga scene. From her site, I just learned that Judith Park's Y Square was licensed in English, but no official release date yet. Very interesting cross-pollination news :)