Sunday, April 08, 2007

TRANS-EUROPE EXPRESS 6: "Judith Park is the most famous manga-ka in Germany"

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 :)


Anonymous said...

German teenybopper: You don't know Judith Park? She is the most famous manga-ka in Germany!!

People like this need to be kicked in the face. Unless you're Japanese, or speaking in Japanese to a Japanese person, there is no reason to say things like "manga-ka." If you speak English, you say "manga artist." Sprinkling your everyday language with Japanese words, eating Pocky and listening to J-rock bands doesn't all of a sudden make you Japanese. It makes you a weeaboo.



Anonymous said...

I don't want to start an off-topic flame war, but I disagree with anonymous. I use the term "manga-ka" because it's more specific. Manga is usually written and illustrated by the same person, so "manga artist" doesn't cover it. I either use "creator" (which sometimes sounds weird in context) or "manga-ka." I don't like Pocky and I don't sprinkle my everyday conversation with Japanese words, but in some cases, the Japanese term is the most precise.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you got most of your facts straight, no worries! Judith Park also recently released LUXUS, and is currently working on a serialized sequel to Y-Square called Y-Square PLUS.
I run the blog you linked to a few times ( ), so if you've got any questions I'll be glad to help. Hope you don't mind if we link to this post!

MaryRachel said...

Yeah, David's friend, Jo Kaps back from the German fanzine days is Editor-in-Chief at Tokyopop DE. He also discovered Christina Plaka, another German mangaka. David Boller (Swiss/German) Born in Switzerland and myself were among the first group of creators who signed with TPDE. Our books came out after the others. We fell behind due to my kidney transplant, David was the donor. We continue "working" globally on manga- inspired comics. Evergrey and Yaru with Tpop DE and Executrices Women for Shogun Manga Anthology with Humanoids Associe in France. Unlike Tpop US, Jo hand picked a small group of creators. It is a very different experience working with people "Globally" on manga as opposed to having work licensed globally. We've done both and I can say communicating and working personally with people in other countries,speaking different languages and living in a culture so different from the one I am used to (I was born and raised in the US) is challenging, exciting and a very enlightening experience. David and I truly feel like Global Citizens. The Countries we work with open their doors to us with such warmth, honesty and closeness it's hard not to feel peace and wholeness. Can ya tell, I have only GREAT things to say about working with our extended family!

Anonymous said...

@ brigid:

I'm Anonymous. It's not my intention to start a flamewar, but how is saying "manga-ka" more specific? Surely manga is often written and drawn by the same person, but not all are. As for non-Japanese comics, what would you refer to creators of those comics as? Jeff Smith both wrote and drew Bone, so what should I call him? Comic-ka?

Frankly, referring to a manga writer/artist simply as a "manga artist" is fine in my opinion, since writing is an artform itself. Not to mention the fact that comics are a primarily visual storytelling format anyway.

I agree that saying "comic creator" or "manga creator" is a bit awkward, though.

It just bugs me when you get these fangirl/fanboy types that think that using random Japanese phrases earns them otaku-cred or something, while more often than not butchering the language with piss-poor pronunciation.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you really did a lot of research on German Manga!

Actually the current manga scene in Germany is aimed mainly at female readers. A lot more girls'/womens' manga get released here than manga aimed at male readers, so it's no big surprise that the OGL scene mainly has female artists doing those types of works.
Quite a different picture from 15 years ago, when male-oriented stuff like Akira, Crying Freeman or 3x3 Eyes first got the manga ball rolling. I think in the US it's still more evenly divided between male/female.

A girl friend of mine lent me the first volume of Gothic Sports, and it's actually very cool, I'm happy to see that it'll be released in the US.

I don't know about the quality of the other OGL artists though, haven't read any of their stuff.

Tivome said...

I get more annoyed at these self-professed "weeaboo haters". Who cares if a kids sprinkle Japanese words here and there? It's their hobby and their right to use it. It sure doesn't offend the Japanese one bit; they're more surprised and amused.

I wonder about people who does hating anonymously in the first place, but boy I can't help but wonder if there're some subtle racism to all that hate, like those who are against white kids emulating blacks.

Anonymous said...

Waste of skills, Christopher Hart style. If you are going to co-opt a style, at least make it refreshing, and somewhat original. No one ever does though. OEL, OGL, it's kind of ridiculous really. American comics suffer in a bad way from this, too. Except it's Americans copying other Americans drawing styles, and that might be a slight bit more retarded. Or not. But both foreign manga creators and the current crop of Marvel/DC/Image artists are pilfering from comicbook marketing success stories. Simple as that. Nowhere do you see people co-opting Shigeru Sugiura, or Russ Manning. If so, I would be stoked, because they probably would be smart enough to do it as an homage, not as a crass, hollow, technique ripping-offing decision for the sake of an originality poor career choice. I'm sure that "anonymous" is not at all racist. For fuck's sake, he wrote Japanese in romaji. Maybe he's a purist, but can you blame him?

Ryan said...

Anonymous 1 & Brigid,

A1 - I can totally see your point about cloying kids using Japanese as a badge of coolness, and peppering random japanese words IS kindof dorky. BUT, that said-- it hurts to admit, but weren't a lot of us that nerdy once? I know I was probably like that my first time in Japan, 10 years ago as a high school sophomore.

and, I can't necessarily diss on these girls for being ... um, exuberant-- since i was mostly just really pleased to see so many girls reading comics. But, then again, I don't really have any firsthand experience with hyper-manga-obsessed teenagers in 2007.

That said, I would probably use the term mangaka myself in a blogpost or email, but maybe not in spoken conversation. I think it's actually one of those edge words that probably wont ever cross over and become its own term in english, but it definitely fills in as an umbrella term that isn't convenient in ENglish, as Brigid points out. All in all, it's a little less strange than other things I've heard.

An obvious one, that anybody that has studied or fluently speaks Japanese runs into is... how do you pronounce karaoke? When I lived in Japan it was definitely kah-rah-Oh-Kay, but these days when we go out it's to carry-o-KEY.
But maybe that's besides the point.

The main thing i felt when i was at the german booth was that even as a hardcore manga nerd with eclectic tastes and a pretty long track record with comics/japan/japanese, what was going on with this OGL/female teenager scene was something very interesting and not something I knew much about. It's mostly just fascinating to see a scene like that that is marketed for, created by, and payrolled by non-Japanese female teenagers.

-Lunch break murmurs from your friendly blogger :)


Ryan said...

Elae: Thanks for your approval :) You are the german manga/ OGL expert-- but I'm glad I could share my thoughts and pics as an American dude. I'm going to be checking up on your site, and would love to see similar sites from other countries' perspective--- European manga scenes are really unclear to most americans (I think) and it's always fascinating to see what Japanese stuff is released there (like Maruo's popularity in Spain, etc) and to compare/contrast the homegrown manga scenes !

Glad you dig our site!

Ryan said...

ben: Glad I didn't mess up :) It sounds like the US/German publishing and homegrown manga scenes have some parallels. You might have guessed, but I'm really really not familiar with any OEL manga over here, but I'm starting to warm up to some titles. I read Manga in Japanese, Manga in translation, American mainstream (well, sortof) and lots of American indie stuff, zines, why not the gems of OEL too?

Also, it looks like a friend of ours is going to be signing a deal with Tokyopop soon, and his book will ostensibly be classified as OEL manga. My GF and others noted this, but it's pretty obvious that the term O?L manga is probably not going to be relevant within 5-10 years, as the % of comics creates that are influenced transitions from the fringes of indie/manga scenes (oh, and um.. Frank Miller, etc?) and is a basic fact of all comics creators in the US/EU.

but anywayz. I read a preview of Gothic Sports on, and it sounds pretty charming and cool-- I'm going to check it out when it comes out :)


reboot said...

Thanks for posting an interesting article. I don't know anything about the german manga scene either and it was a great starting point for activating my curiosity. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

you people seriously need to shut up. if someone wants to say manga-ka then let them.......Judith Park rocks!!

Anonymous said...

That one picture of the girl signing and handing someone a sheet of paper, that's not Anike Hage, that's Nina Werner, another German manga artist of Carlsen publishing house.