In less than a month, I’m going to participate in a panel on cyberpunk comics at Michigan State University Comics Forum. Here’s the abstract for my paper, which is closely connected to my PhD research:
Between the late 1980s and early 1990s, interest in the cyberpunk genre peaked in the Western world, perhaps most evidently when Terminator 2: Judgment Day became the highest-grossing film of 1991. It has been argued that the translation of Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s manga Akira into several European languages at just that time (from 1988 in English, from 1991 in French, German, Italian and Spanish) was no coincidence. In hindsight, cyberpunk tropes are easily identified in Akira to the extent that it is nowadays widely regarded as a classic cyberpunk comic. But has this always been the case? When Akira was first published in America and Europe, did readers see it as part of a wave of cyberpunk fiction? Did they draw the connections to previous works of the cyberpunk genre across different media that today seem obvious? In this paper, magazine reviews of Akira in English and German from the time when it first came out in these languages are analysed in order to gauge the past readers’ genre awareness. The attribution of the cyberpunk label to Akira competed with others such as the post-apocalyptic, or science fiction in general. Alternatively, Akira was sometimes regarded as an exceptional, novel work that transcended genre boundaries. In contrast, reviewers of the Akira anime adaptation, which was released at roughly the same time as the manga in the West (1989 in Germany and the United States), more readily drew comparisons to other cyberpunk films such as Blade Runner.
de la Iglesia, Martin 2016, ‘The Task of Manga Translation: Akira in the West’. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship 6(1), http://dx.doi.org/10.16995/cg.59
There’s also a PDF version.
Translated editions of Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s manga Akira played an important role in the popularisation of manga in the Western world. Published in Japan between 1982 and 1990, editions in European languages followed as soon as the late 1980s. In the first US edition (Epic 1988–1995) the originally black and white manga was printed in colour and published in 38 issues, which were designed not unlike typical American comic books. The first German edition (Carlsen 1991–1996) marked the beginning of Carlsen’s manga publishing efforts. It was based on the English-language edition and also printed in colour, and combined two American issues in one.
This article analyses the materiality of these two translated editions with a focus on three main issues – the mirroring (or ‘flipping’) which changes the reading direction from right-to-left into left-to-right, the colouring of the originally black and white artwork, and the translation of different kinds of script (sound effects, speech bubble text, and inscriptions or labels) – before concluding with a brief examination of their critical reception.
Last year at a conference on “the translation and adaptation of comics” in Hildesheim, Germany, I gave a talk on the first English and German editions of Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s Akira . The conference proceedings have now been published as a book, albeit with most of the papers in German, including my own. I’m working on making an English-language, Open Access version of my talk available soon. Anyway, here’s the bibliographic data:
de la Iglesia, Martin. “Akira im Westen.” In Comics. Übersetzungen und Adaptionen, edited by Nathalie Mälzer, 355-373. Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2015.
The ISBN of the book is: 978-3-7329-0131-9
I’m looking forward to present some more preliminary results from my PhD research, more precisely on Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s manga Akira and its first English and German editions, at a conference on “Übersetzungen und Adaptionen von Comics / The Translation and Adaptation of Comics” at Hildesheim University, Germany, from October 31 – November 2, 2014. Information on where to read this paper to follow.
In November last year, I gave a talk at Comics Forum in Leeds on “Early manga translations in the West: underground cult or mainstream failure?”
That paper is now online at the Comics Forum website: http://comicsforum.org/2014/07/14/early-manga-translations-in-the-west-underground-cult-or-mainstream-failure-by-martin-de-la-iglesia/.
If you always wanted to know what my PhD research is about, this is the place to go.
It wasn’t until about a year ago that the relevance of Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s manga masterpiece Akira for my PhD thesis dawned on me. At first I had thought I’d focus on earlier titles. When I realised I should concentrate my research on Akira instead, I started buying used copies of volumes from the first English-language edition (Epic Comics 1988-1995).
In contrast to the current six-volume edition, the Epic edition consists of 38 issues. Since last week, with the arrival of #25 in my mailbox, my collection is now complete.
My sources were Ebay (.de), Amazon (.com) Marketplace, and the online comic shop Sammlerecke (.de). Overall, I ordered my Akira copies from 7 or 8 different sellers. The downside of this approach, as opposed to buying all 38 issues as a set from one seller, was that the shipping costs (particularly from the US to Germany) quickly added up and turned out to be higher than the price for the actual comics. Plus, it takes a long time to find all issues and then to have them shipped.
The advantage of splitting the purchases is that you can select the best offers for each issue (or batch of issues), so that the average cost per issue (not including shipping) is very low. After some time I was even able to find the final issue at a reasonable price. For some reason, #38 seems to be rarer than the others and is otherwise offered only for three-figure sums. The aforementioned #25 turned out to be the most expensive issue instead, because it was the last one I was still lacking and thus it couldn’t be shipped together with other items from the same seller, so I ended up paying $5 for the comic itself and $15 for postage.
The Comics Forum conference in Leeds is around the corner again (21-22 November), and this time I’m going to present a paper. It’s titled “Early manga translations in the West: underground cult or mainstream failure?”, and it will cover some aspects of my PhD research on manga reception primarily in the 1980s. I hope to publish the paper soon after the conference – more information to follow.