I am not one of those people. I don't read a lot of manga - I am rather bewildered by it all and wouldn't know where to start, though the seven volumes of Nausicaa and a few volumes of Astro Boy do sit as favourite reads on my bookshelf, and I'm sure I'll be reading more in the future. Added to that, my affinity for things-Japan goes back to the mid-eighties when I started studying karate and harboured an ambition to eventually study under a high-ranking Japanese instructor (which I eventually did). Before I knew manga even existed I would spend ages studying and drawing from old Japanese prints of samurai - an important contribution to my love of the clear-line style. Another reason I'm in favour of manga is the amazing injection of enthusiasm it has given to the world of comics. It has helped revive the industry, and now not only do we have hundreds of thousands of new young readers of comics, but aspiring creators too, not to mention the range of publishers wanting to get in on the action. It's healthy and it's positive.
There's a lot of argument and confusion over what manga is. I'm sure if Corto Maltese or Freddy Lombard stories appeared in Japanese in a Tokyo bookshop, they'd be called manga, that is, comics. But when we say manga in Europe or the US a certain image comes to mind - big eyes, pointy chins and all the rest of it. In other words - a certain style of drawing. I'm a good enough artist, that if I chose to, I could draw in a manga style - quite possibly fairly well (though mastering it would be another matter entirely). If I did, I'd boost my readership, and could even possibly have a quicker chance at publication with a book publisher right now. In fact, in the early 1990s, comic artist Alan Davis actually told me I should look at some of the popular Image artists at the time and take elements of their style to help me get a job in comics (I didn't take his advice).
In 1997, when Rainbow Orchid had its first false start, I made a conscious decision to take on elements of the European clear-line style, as I wanted to invoke the atmosphere that I myself got from Tintin, Blake and Mortimer and Yves Chaland, so I don't mind people saying it reminds them of Tintin - that's the point. It reminds me of Tintin too. I don't mind this coming as a criticism, or as a compliment. I'm confident there's enough of 'me' in there, especially the writing, that I can take it all with a nice cup of tea. (Though I have to admit that I was very pleased when one of the first people I showed Orchid to, a well-respected professional designer, said 'it's lovely, it looks like Winsor McCay!').
You can't easily escape the overcoat of style. Artists are inspired by art. When your flame's burning low, it's other people's art that can re-ignite it and fan the flames. Comic art is especially prone to stylistic inheritance - partly for reasons of nostalgia, partly for reasons of inspiration, and partly for reasons of conveying a particular tone for the story. All artists are influenced. Most quickly outgrow imitation, as the mix of influences widen and a voice is found and developed. But certain works will push our buttons and we'll go and hope to find something similar. In the end, it's all about telling a good story with pictures.
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