ESL Class at Portland State

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of speaking to an ESL class at Portland State University. Being from Japan, Korea, Thailand, and the like, they were all into manga. The best question I received was, “American comics, superhero. Manga, friend help friend. Would you ever do this kind?”

“Yes,” I said. “I like friend help friend.”

The students asked me why a broader demographic of Americans don’t read comics… I tried to explain the differences in our markets, the origins of American comics, yadda yadda… but really, I don’t have a better answer than the perceived lack of “friend help friend” material.

I had a great time with the students. It felt a little like that scene in Good Morning Vietnam where Robin Williams takes over an ESL class and befuddles everything.

Back to drawing now. Funny enough, my work today is stylistically closer to manga than anything I’ve done, and I’m really enjoying it. I needed a storytelling vocabulary for a certain piece that allowed me to get cartoony, and manga does that really well— when you’re not beholden to drawing a character just one way, but can use ovals for yelling mouths, googley eyes for fear or surprise, then switch back to something naturalistic and subtle as needed, it’s pretty invigorating.