Only days after the November issue of Wired hit newsstands Monday, two videos appeared on YouTube featuring the magazine’s cover and cover story, “Manga Conquers America.” What exactly is manga? And why all the hype about the issue?
“Wired is the first major American magazine to publish an authentic manga on the cover,” explains Wired creative director Scott Dadich. Manga is the term that refers to Japanese comic books, which are typically printed in black-and-white and range from 100 to 300 pages in length. Like traditional Japanese writing, manga reads right to left.
“Manga is increasingly becoming more popular in the United States,” says Dadich. “It’s something that tech geeks who read Wired can relate to, but is something many of them may not be familiar with. Plus, our editor Chris Anderson is a big manga fan. Manga is completely in the appetite of smart, curious geeks, and we knew we wanted to cover it in the magazine and give the topic a pretty big treatment.”
For the main story, the Wired editorial team sent contributing writer Daniel Pink to Tokyo to apprentice with a manga master. “Dan’s story ( Japan, Ink: Inside the Manga Industrial Complex) came in and we really loved it,” Dadich says. “We decided we wanted to tell the story of manga in America, so we assigned a ‘real’ 10-page manga project to accompany the main story. We wanted to find a real manga artist to do it, and another to do a cover.”
For the cover, the Wired team wanted to find an “authentic” manga artist. Art director Carl DeTorres “spent a week in Tokyo, burrowing through the manga underground, talking to publishers and sleuthing around for the hot new manga artist,” Dadich says. “He found Yoichiro Ono, who has about 20 mangas to his name. He was perfect.”
Over the next three weeks, Ono and the Wired creative team drew up about 40 versions of the cover. “We started with the initial sketches, then tighter sketches to tighter pencils to tighter inks, to using features to using posture, then from using two figures to using one,” Dadich says. “When manga artists are working on their covers, quality is an issue but they’re so used to producing in volume. Looking for the quality of line work and form that we demand on a cover, it was tougher to communicate that. That’s reflective of the amount of revisions we made, but Ono was amazingly cooperative. I think he learned a lot about American magazines in the process.”
For the 10-page “authentic manga” comic—a visual history of manga in America—Dadich went with artist Atsuhisa Okura. “Having an illustration on our cover isn’t a huge departure for us, but manga is something we’ve never done before,” Dadich says. “We always try to do things either first or best. I think we’ve accomplished that here.”