Saturday Special Volume Two: Comics vs Manga

Hello and welcome to a very late Saturday Special!

Today we are going to be talking about a topic that I find to be quite interesting, and that is what I believe are the fundamental differences between comics and manga.

On the surface, they are very similar. They are forms of sequential art, telling stories through art and text boxes, albeit from opposite directions but that is because of a difference in language.

Other than that, what are the differences?

Let’s get talking!

Color

The most obvious difference between manga and comics are a difference in color.

Barring any art differences, most comics sold in the West are done in full color, with plenty of exceptions either due to budget or artistic vision. Generally speaking, you will most likely find a comic in color.

Manga, on the other hand, is more often done in black and white, with some colored pages at the beginning of some chapters of manga.

Now why is this the case? Well from my understanding, which can be completely off base, it is partially due to cost.

A lot of modern comics, from what I can tell, are printed on thicker sheets of paper which tend to hold a lot of colored ink well, while manga is often printed on thinner sheets of paper, which can only really hold black ink well.

Why is this the case? Well that leads to the next major difference.

Production

Comics are an interesting medium in that modern comics average about thirty pages of content, with a third of that space dedicated to advertising with a cost ranging from $3 to $6 per comic every month.

Now, using Weekly Shonen Jump as an example, the way manga is produced is very different. Each chapter is released with about 20 pages, but it is produced in a magazine that has multiple different series manga chapters, seven from what I can tell looking around online.

With manga, there is also the variety of titles, when the magazines are released and the overall cheaper price, with a Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump subscription costing about $20-$25 a year.

If you are interested in multiple comic series, then there is a high probability that you will be spending a lot of money per month to keep up with your favorite comics while, in Japan at least, you can pay an upfront cost to get a single magazine with multiple different series in it.

Now, not in Japan, what is the manga production to cost ratio? On average I generally find manga to be priced between $10-$15 per volume, with each volume generally having about 200 pages for monthly-ish releases.

So for the price of two to three expensive comics you can get one volume of manga, which has the content of a little over six comics.

Hard to beat that price per content ratio. Of course again, you could by multiple comics as opposed to one volume of a manga (not counting the exceedingly cheap online versions for both comics and manga, this is all about paper), but there is also another major factor that can affect a comic in a major way.

Ownership

This is a big one, especially in the comics industry.

There are of course exceptions, but generally the comics that sell the best tend to be superhero comics. A lot of these superheroes have been around for decades, nearly a century in some cases.

The original creators of these superhero comics have either passed, or are older, and most of them are not writing for the characters that they have created.

The reason for that is because they technically don’t own the characters that they have created. They can say that they made a character and can be credited as such, but they do not own the character most of the time.

The characters that they create belong to the company, generally speaking. Superman belongs to DC Comics, Iron Man belongs to Marvel, etc. They are not owned by their original creators, they are company products, which means that there are a lot more people that dictate how a story using these characters goes.

You have the writer of the story (whoever the higher ups want, or if the writer is a big name whatever they want), the editorial team for that character, the editorial team for any team that character is associated with, the editorial team for the overall storyline, the head editor, there are a lot of people who are looking at every part of the story.

It is because of all that micromanaging that can cause a lot of modern comics to feel samey and safe.

There are exceptions of course, Image Comics being the standard bearer for creator owned comics and Image only acting as a publisher while the creators own their comics, but the industry by and large do not do comics this way.

Manga, on the other hand, behaves much more like Image Comics, in that the creators (to my understanding) own the properties that they make.

Manga magazine publishers tap a creative team (usually an individual) and have them create a manga for their magazine. If a series does well and is consistent, then the series can go for as long as possible, but if it isn’t doing well then the magazine can tell the author to finish up the story.

This can be very cutthroat, and can cause a lot of stress for manga creators, especially for weekly series.

Health

I do want to finish up the points by talking about the health of the creators.

While I do generally see plenty of behind the scenes issues with comics, these issues are generally not based on the writer’s or artist’s health.

With manga creators, the industry is rampant with stories like these.

Manga creators taking time off for their mental health, developing health issues from overworking, and also potentially dying from those health issues.

That speaks more about the work ethic of Japan, but the point is that for a manga team, having one bad chapter can make or break your series.

In comics, if you have a bad issue, you just keep going. There have been plenty of times where stories are poorly written by a writer and that writer stays writing that comic for months or possibly years.

Sure some bad comics get cancelled quickly, but the bigger names don’t have the luxury of cancelling. You aren’t going to cancel a Batman comic just because a few issues are bad. You finish the storyline, get a new writer and move on.

Manga doesn’t get that luxury. From what I can tell, a manga series doesn’t often get passed to a new writer, and if it does it is a severely rare occurrence.

You have some bad chapters and people don’t like what’s going on? You have so many chapters to wrap it up.

That can cause significant amount of stress on someone. Then it manifests into worse symptoms, which unless your a major writer with a team of people (which isn’t always the case in manga) you have a serious potential to lose your livelihood.

In Conclusion

There is a lot more I can say about the differences between comics and manga, but I think that this is enough for now.

Which do I prefer?

I can’t really pick a favorite, but since I am talking about manga on this site I will have to side with manga on this one, at least for the time being.

There are plenty of issues with the comics industry, but there are also plenty of issues with the manga industry that I hope will change in the future.

Speaking of the future, on Wednesday I will be talking about a manga that I know literally nothing about! I will be talking about the first volume of Kaiju No. 8.

So until then,

Heiwa to sayonara!

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