Tracking her two daughters’ reading habits got journalist Alverson into the world of manga, or Japanese comics. In 2005, Alverson created Manga-Blog (www.mangablog
.net), blogging about “everything but superheroes.” Assistant to Melrose’s mayor by day, Alverson also freelances for Publishers Weekly Comics Week, MTV Geek, Robot 6, and edits the Good Comics for Kids blog. Alverson is one of six judges for the annual Eisner Awards, known as the “Oscars” of comic books and graphic novels. Eisner winners will be announced during Comic-Con 2012, held Thursday through Sunday in
Q. There’s an “Oscars” for comic books?
A. Just like there’s recognition for excellence in movies, the Eisners [the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards] cover the whole of the comics industry, anything published in the US — comics, graphic novels — all of it.
Q. How were you selected to judge?
A. I have absolutely no idea (laughing). I know people who know [awards administrator] Jackie Estrada. I got an e-mail from her Oct. 12, out of the blue, asking if I’d like to judge. It took 10 seconds to decide.
Q. What’s it like being an Eisner judge?
A. It was a cool experience. You’re looking at a very intimidating, huge work of comics. I was reading comics intensely for months. One judge said, “It’s like we’re in a parallel universe where comics are important.”
Q. How did the judging process work?
A. For four days in March, we were locked up in a San Diego hotel room where we read and argued about comics, two things I like to do most. My peers all had varied experiences. I wasn’t the only manga expert. I learned a lot. We did a sort, then created a list of five to six nominees for 20 categories. Artists, writers, editors, and other industry professionals voted on them.
Q. Ever read comics before your girls got into manga?
A. I got into manga because of my girls, but was always into comics — since 1963, about age 3 or 4. My father was into reading comics. We had a shop near us growing up in Mishawaka, Ind., South Bend’s twin city, where you could buy and trade in old comics. When we lived in Ireland and Scotland, I got into British comics. In high school, I read Marvel/DC superhero comics and in college, underground comics. I stopped reading comics in 1986 for a very specific reason.
Q. Which was?
A. There’s a big problem with how women are treated in comic stores. With total distain. Not in Boston, though! So I quit reading comics. Twenty years later, I came back because of manga.
‘[Manga’s] given an inroad to jobs in comics for many talented teams of writers and artists who can make their own comics.’
Q. How’s manga different than superhero comics?
A. There’s different types. Shonen manga, made in Japan specifically for boys 10 and up, is all about battles. Most popular for girls is Shojo manga which tend to be more emotionally complex stories centered around romance, but also sports, science fiction, etc. Any manga series is self-contained. You start with Book 1 and continue. With Spider-Man, for example, the story is constantly changing.
Q. Any other distinctions?
A. Manga is consumed differently. You go into a bookstore, or online. With superhero comics, when new comics come out, usually every Wednesday, you go out and buy them at a comics specialty store. In manga, a problem is posed on page one and resolved by the end, usually 200 pages later.
Manga has a very specific format: The cover is always in color, the insides are black and white. It reads right to left. You pay $10-$12 for 200 pages. A single issue of a superheroes comic costs about $2.99, for a 32-page story. Manga is a better value, in my opinion. You get more story.
Q. Has manga changed the comics industry?
A. Manga’s brought comics back into the mainstream. In the old days, you bought comics at newsstands. In the ’80s and ’90s, comics moved to the specialty store. They became more adult, in every meaning of the word. Very male-oriented. Manga brought girls to comics and comics into bookstores. It’s given an inroad to jobs in comics for many talented teams of writers and artists who can make their own comics, but might not have considered it before.
Q. Are your daughters still into manga?
A. No, they’ve moved on, which is not unusual, to whatever the latest fad is. My husband, however, reads a lot of Web comics.
Q. What’s on your summer reading list?
A. A great manga series, “The Drops of God,” (Kami no Shizuku), a New York Times best-selling manga about wine. It’s a long series. The US licensed a piece of it, four books at 400 pages. And there’s more. I always have a bunch of books going on at once.
Kathy Shiels Tully
Kathy Shiels Tully can be reached at kathyshielstully