Recently (Tuesday, February 7 2012), Collateral Damage Studios posted on their Facebook wall a short rant by member Haimerejzero regarding the graphic illustration market as a whole.
Find it on Facebook here.
I’d like to say a few things about this issue.
Because it’s ridiculously long and I have no intention of copy-pasting the entire paragraph here (I’ve tried to find a blog that I could link but apparently there is none), I will just address two points that I’d like to talk about, namely:
- Style copying
- The fundamental difference between the origin of Western and Eastern styles
1. Style Copying
To be honest, one of my biggest peeves nowadays is seeing an artist’s style, completely and utterly reproduced by another hand. I personally have nothing against one or two imitations (indeed, I have some in my gallery myself), but when a person’s entire gallery comprises entirely of purposefully-drawn carbon copies of other artists’ work, I get angry. There’s obviously no personality, no attempt to create something of his own, merely copying for the sake of views and for the sake of seeing less able people praise him for his “talent in drawing”. Copying blindly is not talent. Copying blindly is being a printer.
If I will reference you to the post, Haimerejzero quotes members of the industry in saying that copying makes them “feel disgusted” and how it can be recognised “from a mile away”. This is taken to the extreme in referring to Eastern comic styles, which are all lumped together in one big mishmash labelled “anime-manga style”.
This makes me even angrier.
Of course, this may seem self-contradictory. Above, I said I hated style copiers. Below, I quote how industry members say they hate them too, and then I say it makes me mad. Why get mad at them when what they say agrees with my point of view?
Because each artist (or should I say illustrator) has chosen his own style to follow, and if he chose a predecessor to base his own style on, I say good luck, hope you go far with it.
The reason why illustrators are copied is because their work is good. If their work were to be mediocre and the style jaded, they would not even be famous enough to be copied, let alone for anyone to want to do so. Fairy Tail‘s Hiro Mashima obviously took stylistic cues from One Piece‘s Eiichiro Oda; Okemeken, in drawing the manga for Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko, obviously took his style from Kantoku. What they did, however, was take that style and make it their own; make it big, make it popular, make it known.
Every illustrator is, without a doubt, influenced by people before him. My personal style is the amalgamation of seven years of Eastern comic artists, Western comic artists and real life counterparts. Within its lines you can see the influence of Eastern illustrators like Ken Akamatsu, Kantoku, Shigenori Soejima, Takeuchi Takashi and the dozens of other artists past and present whose comics I have read and whose artworks I have seen. There is also influence from illustrators I personally know like mushopea, who started me off on the whole Copic mess. Other Western artists from way back, when I was just starting out on comics and my style was more Western than anything else, also put me on a track to my current standing.
The result? Something not quite belonging to anyone in particular, but still having a stylistic semblance of everyone who influenced it.
In other words, my style. And this is why I hate people who say they hate people who copy styles.
2. The Fundamental Difference between Eastern and Western styles
This doesn’t quite draw away from the fact that if you’re a fan of manga, you’re a lot less likely to show it openly than a person who’s equally as much a fan of the Western style of things. This, in addition to the fact that while many call the Eastern style “bland” and “generic” and “generally all looking the same”, the same is not often used to illustrators of the Western style.
Some argue against this. They say that Western illustrators are the ones giving the comments, and that precisely because they draw in the Western style, they are unable to understand how the Eastern styles differ from each other.
Balls to everything. I stand on the East side of things, and personally, the Eastern style of comics is a whole stinking pile of sameness, and nothing is going to change that.
The reason for this is the original business model used to push out comics. While the Western model focuses itself around the idea of the comic (or, if you like it, the graphic novel) as an art unto itself, the Eastern model focuses on the idea of the comic as a commodity to be purchased and consumed by the average man.
Western graphic novelists and comic book artists are celebrities in their own right. They give talks, they hold press conferences, they take liberties in what they choose to write and draw. The number of companies are few but huge, and they take pride in creating, in-house, huge collaborative works that combine the skills of multiple people. What this results in is every person involved trying to stand out from the crowd, from the story to the penciller to the inker to the letterer to the colourist, trying to reach for the fame and glory that awaits the ones that stick out the most.
Western graphic novels therefore showcase a wide variety of ideas and styles, with the same series potentially showing a huge difference going from one chapter to the next (I personally recommend The Sandman by Neil Gaiman for a lucid demonstration of this in effect). However, what this means is that the market for Western graphic novels is limited; in their quest for individuality, the Western comic market has developed a kind of literary quality, turning it into a kind of art auction rather than a place for common satisfaction. Add to this the high resistance to initial startup due to the extreme length of various comic book series, and you have a recipe for limited distribution.
Eastern comic artists, on the other hand, are treated by companies strictly as business. Everything is decided by money, by views, by ratings, by cold, hard statistics. Eventually, this results in people going by the path of least resistance, taking popular styles, popular story types, popular character models, tweaking them slightly to create a semblance of originality, then pushing it as best they can.
Consumers of Eastern comics, therefore, have a wide variety of works to choose from by many different artists, all pandering enough to the common population to make the market an economic powerhouse. It is all but an illusion of choice, however; dig deep enough below the surface and eventually the fact that many of the stories and styles share the same heart will be revealed.
Western artists are like the Howard Roarks of the illustration world; Eastern artists, the Peter Keatings. The first may stand out from the rest and be different, but the second is the one that brings in the cash.
This has been a rant on the industry brought to you by a Carillus in what can only be described as a “no faith in humanity” mood. It will pass eventually. Once again, for any clarifications, please do state them in the comments below.