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An extra Waffle: Questions from a new comics reader answered.

One of the effects of the interest generated by the "Let's make Comics!" thing (the video has been viewed more than 700 times on Facebook alone) is that a lot of people who haven't ever really read comics much have seen it and had their interest sparked.

I've been seriously collecting comics for more than thirty years. There are so many aspects to them which are such second nature to me now that I don't even think about them anymore, but which are strange if you haven't grown up with the conventions.

So, here are some "random questions" (their words) from a new customer, with the most comprehensive answers I can give. (Which means expect this blog to be edited as I think of better ways to explain myself.)

Remember - if you've been reading comics for a long time, some of this might seem obvious, but it's only really obvious is you know. We disapprove of "Gatekeeping" here at Destination Venus. We reckon this wonderful medium we love should be available to absolutely everyone - there are NO "stupid questions". So. If you're unsure about something, feel free to ask us. For now, here are some of the questions we've been asked:

"Do comics in other cultures work differently- do they run right to left if the written language does for example, or are comics a western juggernaut and everyone else has to comply?"

That's a really good question. Anglophone comics (forgive the big word, I used to be a teacher - it it just means "English Language") run left to right, because English does. All European comics do too (Comics are massively popular in Europe, particularly in France and Belgium) because all of their languages also run left to right.

Whether comics are a "western juggernaut" is a question for another time - Anglophone comics are certainly dominated by the North American market, just because it's so big. European comics tend to be different from their Anglophone cousins in both style and tone, but as with all generalisations that's not always true.

The reading track in Western Comics

The Reading track in Western Comics - Manga runs in the opposite direction.

But comics in countries with languages reading right to left do indeed operate "backwards". The obvious example* is Japanese Manga. Since Japanese is read from right to left the "reading track" (the path your eyes follow as they read the page" is also reversed in relation to Anglophone comics. Which brings us to the next question:

"Is manga different in Japan than the version we see? Is it like book translation where you have to choose whether to just translate the words or to translate the idioms as well?"

The easy answer to this is "Yes, sort of" - but as ever, the real answer is a little more complex.

Manga published of an Anglophone audience used to be "flipped", which is to sat the panels on the pages were reversed so you could read the narrative left to right. This did make the page look a little clumsy, however, and meant that the speech bubbles were not always in the right place.

These days most Manga that is published in the west is presented in Japanese format, meaning you read the panels right to left and start at what always feels like the "back" of the book. It feels weird for a bit, but you get used to it remarkably quickly.

As to whether it's "like book translation where you have to choose whether to just translate the words or to translate the idioms as well?" - yes. It's exactly like that. Perhaps the only difference is that for great works of prose literature you can find many different translations, for Manga (at the moment anyway) there will only be one - so unless you actually speak Japanese - you have no way of knowing how good the translation is.

Perhaps the only other difference between Manga in the West and Manga in Japan is the range. Here in the Anglophone world we tend to only get the SciFi, Horror and Thriller titles, because that's what the Japanese think the Western audience will buy.

And to be fair, they're almost certainly correct, if you look at the stuff we publish for ourselves.

But while comics in the west may no longer be regarded as "just for kids" they are still regarded as something of a geeky niche. In Japan they are mainstream - you can see grey suited salarymen, of the kind whose British equivalent might once have worn Bowler Hats and read the Telegraph on the Tube, reading Manga on their commute.