Please stop calling your work manga, and yourself mangaka.
Before I explain why I’m asking for this favor, I should tell you a bit about myself. Growing up I had a friend who was into comics, stuff like THE PUNISHER, VENOM, SPAWN, really grim dark stuff. When he took me to my first comic book store I was about 12 years old, and I wanted to read about rad cartoony kids like me having adventures, running away from home and searching for treasures armed with firecrackers, yoyos, and baseball bats. All I could find in the 90’s were super muscled old dudes, guns, grimdark, and then there were archie and sonic comics. Sonic comics were action cartoony so I bought those but they didn’t really hold my interest (loved the cartoon though). Anyway I gave up on comics, I drew them but I was always inspired by videogames which had the heros I liked. I was drawn to Megaman, Goonies, Mario Bros which all either had kid heros or bright poppy colors and cool art in the instruction booklets. I stayed influenced by videogames until middleschool. I remember seeing a cartoon (anime) called Unico when I was a about 4-5? on a rental, it blew my mind so bad I was sort of convinced it was just a dream and it didn’t really exist, every other cartoon was nothing like that. But I remember watching Sailormoon and DBZ on TV about middleschool-highschool and it once again blew my mind that type of animation really did exist. From there I started buying over priced anime VHS from suncoast (mostly ranma 1/2), started reading manga, going to conventions, cosplaying and my art even started emulating my favorite anime/mangas from there. Later on I even got published under Tokyopop and THEY called my work manga ( I didn’t agree, but who was I going to argue with when they were paying me to draw comics? ). So by all accounts I understand the “But no manga is different!" feeling and that’s my biggest issue.
-It shouldn’t be different.
People see are the way the industries are run. The most powerful comic publishers in America flood the market with superheros written for males in their 30s-40s. Japan’s powerful comic publishers…well take Shueisha for example, publish comics for all genders all ages, while story lines move at much faster rates. These industries are important because they are the spots where lively hood from making comics is more possible, and because their distribution is more powerful they effect the general public’s perception of comics. In Japan comics are made for everyone so almost everyone reads comics, in America comics are seen as a culture and less of a medium for everyone. This makes the lures to people like me with thoughts of going to Japan and being a mangaka, but that would not only be MORE difficult and also that wouldn’t help solve any of the problems we have in America. Instead of attempting to separate yourself from other comics artists, we should be working together to change the industry to our standards. With stuff like the internet, webcomics, kickstarter, apps, now more than ever it’s possible to change the world of comics into the world we want it to be. Personally I have no patience for people who superficially look down on others based on their art style, because they are annoyed by diversity which is the centerpiece of making comics a format that is acceptable to the general public. Everything you like from japan is accomplish-able in any other country and viceversa.
-People put too much importance on art style in a storytelling telling medium.
You can tell any story you like in any art style you like. Just to reiterate myself, manga isn’t a style, it’s not any more of a style than the words “movie” “newspaper” “tv show” “comic” Those perimeters are not specific enough to consider them styles, they are formats. Manga (comics from japan) do use symbolic features as part of the language there, but some do not. Some manga are drawn incredibly realistic (vagabond), some are cartoony and have more of those trademark symbols you recognize like big shiny eyes, or sweatdrops or whatever. If you use those symbols you’re only using superficial tools, these tools are useful in certain cases but they are hardly the heart of comics/manga which is STORYTELLING. So really the distinction most people see is superficial, what matters is the STORY.
-You don’t need that label of Manga / Mangaka and no one should be labeling you.
If you’re a comic artist and someone tried to tell you you don’t belong because of your art style? They are shallow and you shouldn’t waste your time with people like that. Don’t try to fit into what people want you to fit into, work to change things so what YOU prefer becomes the norm. Using the internet finding people who share your interests and will follow your work has been easier than ever. Yes you’ll go to publishers to show your portfolio, and even if you are skilled enough you will be snubbed based on your style. That is their short sighted mistake, in truth publishers don’t usually know what’s going to be good, they can only look at sales and say “oh if we put tits on the cover it sells more, so we should do that”. Punish them by being successful without them, make comics on your own, make a webcomic,and then if you’ve pulled followers on your own you’ll have more muscle to deal with publishers on your terms. If you are intent on working with a publisher keep searching until you can find a specific person from a publisher who will believe in you and support your work.
-Lastly although I hate to mention it, calling yourself a mangaka / manga artist unless you are from Japan makes people take you less seriously.
It shouldn’t really impact your decision to whether you do call yourself a mangaka / manga artist, but just know people are going to assume you are trying to be a special snowflake, that you’re not in the trenches with the rest of the comic artists, you’re above all that. But the fact is if you’re in America our comics industry and culture effects you, no matter how you try to separate yourself from the issue if you’re in a country and the people, economy, and culture all effect your success.
So worry less about your label and help change things so what you like doesn’t need to be distinguished from the rest of comics. Perhaps tell Deviant art to stop influencing youth to think otherwise through distinguishing galleries by “manga style” and “everything else”. Have them distinguish styles by Realistic, Cartoons, Isometric which are much better indicators of style. CHECK THE PYRAMID