Interview with Newtype Editor
Kevin Gifford

Kevin Gifford: What do you think a comic needs in order to deserve being called "manga"? Do you consider the professional work you produce to be manga?

Lindsay Cibos: This is tricky to define, since manga is not just one particular style of art, or a particular type of story genre, but instead a full spectrum of genres and art styles that differ greatly from one creator's work to the next, making it difficult to pinpoint just what makes manga a manga. Is it the unique panel layouts, the black-and-white line art coupled with screen tone, a fluid and detailed inking style, the amount of dialogue on a page, story pacing, art style, camera angles, backgrounds (or lack thereof in some cases)? A black-and-white comic alone probably isn't enough to be a manga, even if it has screen tone and characters popping out of panels, but if it has a careful balance of all the above, with, most importantly, a strong influence of Japanese comics, then chances are that it can be called manga.

Purists might argue that to be considered manga, a comic needs to have been created by specifically a Japanese artist born in Japan to be considered manga, and given its primary meaning, "Japanese comics" they're partially correct.

However, if you think of manga as an amalgam of Japanese stylistic sensibilities, there's no reason why one's ethnicity and origin should define whether or not a particular work is manga, so long as the creator can capture the qualities and spirit of manga.

I use the words "manga", "graphic novel", "sequential art" and "comic" interchangeably to describe Peach Fuzz, and whether or not an individual considers it manga is less important than whether or not they find the book to be an enjoyable read. Still, when it comes down to it, I grew up being far more influenced by manga then by traditional American comics, and these influences materialize in the comics I create, making Peach Fuzz more manga than anything else.

KG: Do you see yourself in competition with Japan-produced comics, or do you see yourselves as all in the same boat -- or something different altogether?

LC: Considering how limited shelf space still is in the graphic novel/manga section of bookstores and comic book stores, I see myself in competition with all comics, not just ones produced by Japanese artists. I guess in that way, I do consider all creators to be in the same boat. On the other hand, due to a lingering bias towards Western-produced manga, it's difficult to even get carried in stores and then accepted by manga fans, giving Japanese-produced manga the advantage.

KG: Do you see any reader bias against your professional work because you aren't from Japan, or because your work stars Americans living in the U.S. dealing with commonly American issues?

LC: I don't see any bias towards Peach Fuzz specifically because of its decidedly American setting and cast of characters. There are plenty of manga that aren't set in Japan or centered around Japanese culture, and in fact having a unique story and an American setting helps set it apart from the rest of the crowd.

However, there definitely still is a lot of bias from readers towards work produced by non-Japanese creators, though I hope that this will change as time goes on and more and more quality manga are produced outside of Japan. Just as manhwa (Korean comics) were faced with a similar bias when they first hit the American marketplace, but achieved a general acceptance as more were released over a period of time, I expect the same will happen for Western manga. In the meantime though, it's going to be an uphill climb for Western creators seeking acceptance.

KG: How do you think Western manga will expand in the future? Do you think it could take a significant chunk from sales of more traditional U.S. comics, or will it continue to be a niche marketplace?

LC: As more creators are influenced by manga, and companies continue to support them, and as long as manga fans embrace them, we should continue to see more Western manga titles. And that's a good thing, because there are plenty of talented Western creators who have worthwhile stories to tell. 

Manga's popularity, and more importantly sales, may eventually play a major role in how American comic companies view the industry. We've already seen both major players in the American comic industry take tentative steps to try to pull in fans of manga.

As far as manga taking over the industry, probably not. The American comic companies have a tried-and-true formula that has stood the test of time as well as evolved to suit the needs of its key audience, generation after generation. I don't think manga is pulling fans away from traditional American comic so much as it's giving people who didn't previously have comics that appealed to them something to read.