Yesterday night saw Turnaround’s Heather and Clara schlepp down from Turnaround Towers in Wood Green to Gosh! in Soho for Let’s Talk Intersectionality: Feminism and Comics Part 2. (Read about Heather’s experience at Part 1, including her summary of what Intersectionality is, here.)
It had been raining all day, there had been nothing good in the biscuit tin and the office printer had broken, wreaking mayhem on the mail-out of the monthly catalogue*. No one wanted to verbalise the thought hanging in the air, something vague that could only be eluded too: we were tired, maybe we could just, ooh, only this once, um, resting up being important and all that, err?
We marshalled ourselves, ate some chocolate on the tube and went, so I mention our initial reticence only so you will understand by way of contrast how utterly inspiring this evening was. How does going out after work when you’re tired actually give you energy?
First of all, there is something life-affirming about visiting Gosh! In Heather’s words; “being around beautiful things made by people who give a fuck is just always good, isn’t it?”
Second of all, our minds were genuinely blown by the ideas discussed.
A couple of these were:
1) Why is Manga considered a separate genre and thus kept in a separate section of the book shop?
A former illustration student in our group shared how on day one of her course she was told, proudly, “we don’t teach Manga here.” ‘Manga’ is no more a uniting genre than ‘western drawing’ would be. A western drawing section in a comic shop would have to cover subjects as disparate as superheroes, science fiction, erotica and comics journalism about the Middle East.
Essentially, the term ‘Manga’ designates a style and not a subject matter. That Manga is always kept together in one section rather than distributed throughout comics shops by subject matter is perhaps revealing of a Western reductionism. “It’s all roughly the same, that stuff drawn in East Asia, right?”
Though organising a book shop is complicated and multi-faceted and we aren’t quite meddlesome enough to call for the immediate dismantling of manga sections yet, this did make us think about our own assumptions.
Here’s a few picks of hugely variant Manga titles from the Turnaround archive. We’ll be reading a few, so feel free to read along with us:
Fukishima Devil Fish by Katsumata Susuma (144pp, p/b, £14.99, published March 2016 by Breakdown Press)
One to look forward to, this title will be released in March to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the tragic Fukushima Daiichi disaster. An example of manga artists commitment to the darker truths behind Japan’s idolised economic miracle.
An astonishingly honest work about a young girl suffering with an eating disorder.
xxxHoLic Omnibus 1 by CLAMP (560pp, p/b, £14.99, available now, published by Kodansha)
An omnibus edition of the science-fiction mystery manga series that has sold more than 800,000 copies internationally.
2) Why are some comics called ‘autobiography’ while others which deal with similar topics are referred to as ‘journalism?’ Is this a gendered distinction?
It has long been the case that writing by women is more likely to be considered as autobiography then writing by men (which of course, speaks to ‘the human condition’). It appears that this sucky trend in critical reception has carried over into the comics medium. Although Joe Sacco’s Palestine is peppered with plenty of personal anecdotes, no one has used this to undermine the extent of its educational capacity. Meanwhile Persepolis, which covers the conflicts in Iran over a period of 20 years, is widely written about as ‘the story of a young girl’ due to the use of a first person perspective.
As a counter, here’s are an upcoming example of comic-autobiography by a woman that ought to also be accredited as journalism:
Through a series of charming, self-deprecating vignettes that take place in North America, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey, Sezen’s depictions of her experiences of having to come out as a lesbian afresh in each country teaches us about the intricacies of modern homophobia in each place.
Other highlights of the night include Lauren Murphy’s opening speech. She commented that subculture and comics culture matters enough to deserve the energy that it will take to make them more inclusive being spent, leaving a feeling of the excitement and the importance of being in attendance that night lingering in the air as other sub discussion groups formed.
Thanks go to her and to Lisa Woynarski for hosting the event, as well as to all Gosh! staff.
*you can view online copies of our monthly catalogues here, or join the mailing list for print copies by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org