A Quick Confession
I have to admit to something that might put a negative light on me to some comic book readers. Everyone goes through periods where they lose interest in their hobby. My first comic book lull came in 2009, when I stopped a year after picking up single issues again. In 2010, I started my love affair with sequential art again, but this time I was drawn in by comics that didn’t originate in the United States. Yes, it’s true -- I’m a big fan of manga.
This doesn’t bother every American comic book reader, but some are very offended by it. They feel that if it doesn’t come from our shores that it’s not really worth reading. I’m proud to disagree. The last time that I came out of my comic book retirement was all because of a volume of manga by an artist and writer named Natsume Ono. Ms. Ono showed me the power of slice-of-life storytelling in comics with her story Not Simple, and since then I’ve read just about everything she’s done.
This week’s Alternative Comics Beat follows the latest volume of Ono’s work that collects a series of short stories about life, people, gelato, and time travel.
Each of the stories in this collection has different plots and characters, but all of them revolve around the theme of being a foreigner. We can be foreigners in our own family, among our co-workers, or in one case our timeline. The work concentrates on what Ono is best at writing and drawing, which are stories about people’s relationships with one another.
Manga – Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid
This column is all about branching out, and reaching over to another country falls right in that category. The cultural differences might be jarring, and the stories take place all across the globe, but human beings are the same no matter where you go. That’s why we shouldn’t be afraid of being a foreigner to a new form of comic book storytelling (see what I did there) and we should embrace the medium in all formats.
Sure, the idea of reading “backwards” can be scary, but once you get the hang of reading right to left the story comes to life.
Why It’s A Great Alternative
Danza is one of those volumes that will make you smile as you read it. There are no big disasters going on, and there are no supernatural elements (besides the time travel) that drive the story. What we care about when we read stories are characters. Many popular characters in American comics have some sort of powers or special gimmick, but the character’s in Ono’s works are just real people. And I want to stress that they’re real people. They remind you of the type of people you meet on the street, or of the relatives you wish you saw more often.
This volume is a great chance to kick back with a cup of coffee, tea, or an ice cold beer and drink in the beautiful layouts, interesting art style, and minimalistic writing style that Ono is known for. If you’re willing to take the risk, you might end up becoming a fan of manga yourself.
Ken Porter also writes comic books with his latest being "Ink Ribbon" from Visionary Comics.