The OEL/American Manga/Webcomics Thread
OEL Stands for Original English Language. This thread is for discussing anything pertaining to attempts at creating 'Manga' or manga styled webcomics targeting the American market.
I'll start off by talking about my own relationship with OEL manga. I first heard of OEL manga back in high school (2003 ish) when another contributor from an online art board I frequented became a finalist for a manga talent search contest called 'Rising Stars of Manga' by the now semi-defunct Tokyopop. Since drawing manga was one of my dreams back then (and still now), I tried to find out everything I could about the contest. I don't know if people here still remember, but the basic idea was that the applicant would submit an original manga one-shot consisting 20-25 pages and the top 8-10 entrants would receive cash prizes and get printed in a collection made specifically for the contest. The entrant rankings as as well as prizes differed for each contest as well, but the #1 winner was guaranteed a 3 book contract with Tokyopop to produce their own OEL manga. Of course if you were a finalist there was a good chance Tokyopop would have been interested in offering you a contract anyways. Basically, for a kid who wanted to publish his own manga, this was like a dream come true. The US didn't have the kind of manga publishing system Japan had, so for kids who weren't into drawing American comics, getting your own manga printed was a pretty much impossible. The fact that some of the early winners had already put out their own books showed that the dream could become a reality.
Long story short, I entered the 2003 RSOM3 contest, failed to make the deadline (it wouldn't have placed anyways). I didn't try again until 2006 where I entered again for RSOM6 where I failed to place again. However, I did make the final 20 in RSOM7 and RSOM8. In RSOM8, I was ridiculously close to winning too. Unfortunately it was either in that year or the year before that the winner selection was changed to 1 winner per genre, and my entry only fit in the comedy genre, and it lost to another entry. I was totally fired up to win the next RSOM contest but unfortunately that year was the last time Tokyopop held that contest. OEL titles didn't sell very well and Tokyopop wasn't very good at picking up licenses either so they were hemorrhaging money. A lot of OEL books were cancelled and they dropped a lot their artists. It also didn't help that people were finally speaking out against the terrible contracts the artists were forced to sign. Tokyopop's collapse pretty much killed off OEL manga in the US.
The current state of OEL manga is not particularly good. Yen Press puts out quite a few titles, but almost all of it consists of manga adaptations of American YA novels, often featuring a Japanese or Korean artist. I think the closet OEL book they publish is Witch and Wizard, an OEL manga adaptation of an YA novel, but the artist has worked on quite a few OEL manga with Tokyopop in the past and was one of the first RSOM winners. Yen press holds a talent search every year but so far they haven't had any 'winners' that they felt were strong enough to do an original book yet since it's way too risky with today's economy and market. I think the US version of Shonen Jump has started a contest where they will print small shorts (2-3 pages) in special issues of SJ, but it's not particularly big yet.
Most of the developments of OEL in the last 1-2 years have been digital via webcomics. There's also a few online sites that have been trying to put together something like naver (the korean webtoon service) like mangamagazine.net where people can upload their own original OEL mangas/webcomics and it'll be hosted on the site with a interface similar to most online manga readers. There's a whole adsense system with some monetary rewards but I didn't look too much into it. This could grow into something big in the next couple of years so I'm definitely keeping an eye on it, especially since quite a few of the more 'manga'-esque webcomics I already read on featured on it.
I think 4-5 years back, OEL manga was definitely not something you'd bring up in more hardcore anime/manga forums. There was quite a bit of disdain towards westerners who tried to imitate Japanese manga. Not all of it was unfounded as a lot of the RSOM entries were really poor imitations of manga. However, some of them were quite interesting and I was sure people would get better as the market for OEL manga grew. Even though OEL manga kind of fizzled, I feel there's a good chance for a resurgence, especially since most people online are more accepting of non-Japanese mangas now thanks to the huge surge in Korean manhwa and Chinese manhua scanlations. If Korea and China can challenge Japan with their own manga, then the US should have the potential to do so too.
I'm hoping I'm not the only one with an interest in homegrown manga here, so let's discuss!
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