TCJ.com posts Andrew Farago’s lengthy interview with Jason Thompson, cartoonist, editor and author of Manga: The Complete Guide. In the Q&A, they discuss the growth of Viz Media, Thompson’s comic The Stiff, and the genesis of his manga encyclopedia:
Way back in 2000, when I was working full-time at Viz, I had the idea that someone should do a manga encyclopedia, listing all the artists who had been translated and all the important artists in Japan. When I was writing for PULP Magazine and Animerica, one of the signs of my immaturity as an employee, perhaps, was that I really believed I could work to make manga more popular and respected in America. In the indy comics circles in which I also traveled, there was very little interest in manga. With a few exceptions, like Scott Pilgrim, the situation is probably even worse today. Manga no longer even pretends to be American comics, and has sort of branched off into its own thing entirely. It’s increasingly a background influence for everybody, but people no longer feel that Ranma 1/2 has to be on a shelf next to Peepshow or whatever.
So I came up with an idea for a guidebook to manga by artist, to make people recognize the styles and contributions of different manga artists, and not think of it as this mass of stuff created by people who all draw the same. I pitched that, but at the time it got lost in the shuffle. Viz was sort of going out of the business of doing original prose books, which they’d done in the past with things like Japan Edge [a collection of essays on Japan]. At that time, I did a lot of the basic groundwork, looking up all the titles that had been published prior to that point.
In late 2005, I was approached by Dallas Middaugh [head of manga publishing for Del Rey]. He knew about the idea because he was working at Viz when I initially pitched it, and he suggested that I work on the book for Del Rey. Del Rey had already assigned someone else to write a manga guide, but that person hadn’t delivered a manuscript. They told me that they wanted me to do the guide, and I was pretty much allowed to do exactly the book that I wanted, with the one exception that they wanted it to be organized by title, not by artist. That was fine by me, because frankly it’s easier to speak about titles than artists. It’s often hard to get personal information on Japanese artists. It sort of evolved in the direction of, say, a book about movies rather than a book about film directors.
I’ve only skimmed the interview, but it looks to be a fascinating read — particularly the look behind the curtain at Viz. Thompson’s Manga: The Complete Guide is due in stores next week.