Oh yeah I study at the college here and I'm a .... comic book artist.
It's a funny thing when you're talking to random people. I've been working at the local Gap in Savannah's main street for a few weeks now and every now and then I get someone asking me if study at the college here.
It's almost expected to for the reply to be "yes," but when I mention that I'm studying Sequential Art, the response is always a mix of slight confusion. Once I mention that it's another term for comics and that I'm a comic book artist, the confusion gives way to some interest.
I find these reactions to be incredibly interesting, as I gauge my converastional partner's exposure to the comics culture.
Some of the responses I've gotten are: "Oh cool, so what's that like?" "Can you DRAW?!" "Oh so you draw superheroes?" "Do you do like an American thing or more of a Japanese thing? Like anime?"
That usually describes the range of acknowledgement that I get from people. It varies with age groups.. older people tend to ask the superhero question, while younger people are kinda just suprised that it's my major (maybe I look like a film major?).
I think it is pretty surprising that people know what anime is at all. It just goes to show how much of it has permeated through American entertainment culture and reached a point of acknowledgement to people who one might think would not know about such things. That might just be my own bias, however, since I tend to think of the Gap's target audience to be more into I dunno... sports, tv and more popular fields of education such as business and marketing.
So after the questions been asked, I do the, "Well... I don't exactly draw superhero comics... I do more of a Japanese comic book thing." To which I then get, "Oh! Anime?" "Yeah, something like that."
I tend to leave it at that and not really correct them on how... anime is for stuff that's animated while manga refers to comics. That just makes me sound like the nyyyrrrrhhh comic book nerd that I'm trying not to portray. For some reason I just have this idea of people imaginging me drawing Lucky Star in a room full of schoolgirl models.
Of course, this isn't something recent: I remember when I was still in highschool and just doodling in my sketchbook, some businessman came up to me and looked at what I was drawing and innocently asked me if it was hentai (it was some fanart or something). He didn't know the difference between anime and hentai and thought they were the same thing. Of course once I cleared up his misunderstanding, he promptly thanked me and walked off.
The other day while I was talking to some customers and we got to the "I draw anime" stage of the conversation, one customer actually corrected the other and said, "He draws manga, it's a Japanese *hand gesture* art ." Needless to say, I was taken back. This person actually knew what I was talking about it.
So what's the point of all this? I know America is a verrry big place, but comics have been on the upswing in popularity, obviously due in part by all these comics movie adaptations. Soon enough we'll be getting a influx of manga movie adaptions by Hollywood, but will this prompt people to read more manga? Or will it negatively skew their perceptions of it. Dragonball is fairly established here in the US, I'd say. There wasn't a kid in my generation who didn't watch it, so we all knew that the Dragonball movie was going to be shit.
But what about for people who've never read a Naoki Urasawa book? Or Yukito Kishiro? Or even Katsushiro Otomo? When the live action movie adaptations of these author's stories come out... how will the public see them?
In any case, I've heard people talk about the limitless boundaries of manga and the fact that anything can be manga. Western comics with manga influences are usually noted as such. "A mix of western and eastern storytelling."
On the more positive side, I've read some reviews or comments where its said that the author has taken the manga style of storytelling and made it their own. To be so fluent in the eastern language of storytelling that you can be mistaken for a native speaker... that is my goal.
I don't just want to be a comic book artist. I want to be a mangaka. The best mangaka of the west!