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Manga Answerman - Is It Common For Mangaka To Have A Lot Of Uncredited Assistants?




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Lord Geo



Joined: 18 Sep 2005
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Location: North Brunswick, New Jersey
PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 11:18 am Reply with quote
It's actually fun to sometimes look up a mangaka, only to find a direct lineage, of sorts, of assistants who would go on to become notable names, get assistants of their own, & then those assistants wind up becoming big names. For example, during the serialization of insane baseball manga Team Astro in the mid-70s, artist Norihiro Nakajima had an assistant by the name of Shinji Hiramatsu, who would then go pro & make manga like Doberman Deka & Black Angels. Later, Hiramatsu would have an assistant by the name of Tetsuya Saruwatari, who would then go pro & make the long-running MMA manga Tough, plus other crazy action manga, like Riki-Oh & Dog Solider. Then, decades later, Saruwatari would have an assistant by the name of Masao Otake, who would then go pro & make the manga Hinamatsuri, which just had an anime adaptation end recently. And to think it all started with an over-the-top baseball manga over 40 years ago...

Probably the most infamous case of assistants, though, would be the "Watsuki-gumi", i.e. the people who worked at the same time under Nobuhiro Watsuki, who himself was a bit of an infamous wandering assistant (as he'd work for a bunch of notable Jump mangaka before going pro), & a number of which would go on to become successful in their own rights. This group was made up of Eiichiro Oda, Hiroyuki Takei, Shin'ya Suzuki, Gin Shinga, & Mikio Itou. The latter two didn't go on to much notoriety, but the other three would create One Piece, Shaman King, & Mr. Fullswing, which were all very popular manga for their time (or still is, in One Piece's case).
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Nonaka Machine Gun B



Joined: 03 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 11:34 am Reply with quote
Yasuhiro Nightow (Trigun, Blood Blockade Battlefront) and Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro (Toriko) were also Watsuki assistants. Learning about Nightow after watching Trigun, it feels really obvious now.

(and unfortunately Shimabukuro's checkered past coupled with Watsuki's transgressions brings other unwanted, unsavory thoughts)
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KandorLives



Joined: 14 Apr 2018
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:00 pm Reply with quote
The most notable assistant that I can think of is when Satoshi Kon worked on Akira. He really did learn from the best.
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Theodore Relic



Joined: 21 Aug 2017
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:20 pm Reply with quote
It isn't a common practice for assistants on comics in the US, but it used to be in the early days, with artists like Joe Shuster (Superman co-creator) and Bob Kane employing plenty of assistants in their studios. Kane was notorious for doing that, using artists like Jerry Robinson, Sheldon Moldoff and especially Dick Sprang to, in essence, draw the Batman series, have Bill Finger write it and Bob Kane write his name on the first page!

Not quite the same thing as the current system of assisting a mangaka with his/her work, though.

Closer would be the "ghost artists" in the comic strip business, where the strip's creator would have another artist ink or draw over their layouts. One famous ghost artist was Frank Frazetta, who "ghosted" for Al Capp on his Lil' Abner strip for nine years, up to 1964. And Capp, before he made it big, assisted Ham Fisher on his then-famous Joe Palooka boxing strip.

And sometimes you'd have a studio buddy help out. The late Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man and creator of Dr. Strange) shared a studio with noted bondage artist Eric Stanton from 1957-1967, and one would sometimes help the other when faced with a deadline.
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WingKing



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 6:00 pm Reply with quote
Theodore Relic wrote:
It isn't a common practice for assistants on comics in the US, but it used to be in the early days, with artists like Joe Shuster (Superman co-creator) and Bob Kane employing plenty of assistants in their studios. Kane was notorious for doing that, using artists like Jerry Robinson, Sheldon Moldoff and especially Dick Sprang to, in essence, draw the Batman series, have Bill Finger write it and Bob Kane write his name on the first page!


I know less about comic books, but it is actually fairly common in American newspaper comics, although it's funny because the two arguably most famous newspaper cartoonists of the modern era (Schulz and Watterson) both worked 100% solo. But it's not unusual at all for a syndicated cartoonist to have at least one or two assistants for the daily strips, with some like Jim Davis (Garfield) and Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey/Hagar) going further and employing entire creative teams. Dan Barry, for instance, employed over 30 different assistants (not all at the same time) during his 40-year run on Flash Gordon, including the likes of Frazetta, Bob Fujitani (who also worked on early issues of Turok and Dr. Solar for Gold Key), and Fred Kida (who later took over the Spider-Man newspaper comic in the 1980s). Jim Davis himself labored as an assistant for about a decade (mostly on the strip "Tumbleweeds") before he launched Garfield. It's also not unusual for one of the assistants to take over a comic strip when the creator dies or retires, since newspaper comics aren't usually tied to their creator the same way manga is - Schulz and Watterson again being the very rare exceptions to that who were allowed to end their strips on their own terms.
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leafy sea dragon



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 6:38 pm Reply with quote
Wait a minute, where do these assistants get credited, at least in the ones officially translated into English? I've only ever seen it once in any of the English manga I have, which was the first volume of Barrage in which Kouhei Horikoshi drew a full-page illustration of a bunch of people at a table and labeled them as his assitants, though in a sort-of-joking way in that he drew them as random steampunk-looking characters in a steampunk-looking office. One of the assistants is drawn as the existing Barrage character Okikuna, and one of the assistants, who is described as male, is drawn as a busty female.

Horikoshi himself would appear at the end of the second volume of Barrage. His self-depiction is that of a scrawny blonde movie director. He bears a passing resemblance to the out-of-power All Might if he wore big thick glasses.

WingKing wrote:
I know less about comic books, but it is actually fairly common in American newspaper comics, although it's funny because the two arguably most famous newspaper cartoonists of the modern era (Schulz and Watterson) both worked 100% solo. But it's not unusual at all for a syndicated cartoonist to have at least one or two assistants for the daily strips, with some like Jim Davis (Garfield) and Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey/Hagar) going further and employing entire creative teams. Dan Barry, for instance, employed over 30 different assistants (not all at the same time) during his 40-year run on Flash Gordon, including the likes of Frazetta, Bob Fujitani (who also worked on early issues of Turok and Dr. Solar for Gold Key), and Fred Kida (who later took over the Spider-Man newspaper comic in the 1980s). Jim Davis himself labored as an assistant for about a decade (mostly on the strip "Tumbleweeds") before he launched Garfield. It's also not unusual for one of the assistants to take over a comic strip when the creator dies or retires, since newspaper comics aren't usually tied to their creator the same way manga is - Schulz and Watterson again being the very rare exceptions to that who were allowed to end their strips on their own terms.


Yep, I mentioned elsewhere that I feel that newspaper comic strips are a closer analogue to manga than the traditonal American comic books (and European ones, for that matter), whose production process is much different.

If I recall correctly, American comic books, by and large, are done by a small team, each of whom is delegated to a particular task and rarely have their own assistants. Most often, there is one writer (sometimes two), a penciler, a letterer, an inker, a colorist, and a liaison to the rest of the publisher. This is the opposite of manga, where there is a clear leader who does all of the above tasks (except as liaison, which is what the editor does. In other words, western comic books, at least at the major publishers, run on an assembly line production process. There isn't really much room to squeeze an assistant into there, at least one that wouldn't make someone else's work redundant, especially since this format is designed so one person can be quickly replaced with another (and it'd cause problems if an assistant were to frequently shift mentors or assigned to different projects too much).
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teferi



Joined: 16 May 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 8:41 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
Wait a minute, where do these assistants get credited, at least in the ones officially translated into English? I've only ever seen it once in any of the English manga I have, which was the first volume of Barrage in which Kouhei Horikoshi drew a full-page illustration of a bunch of people at a table and labeled them as his assitants, though in a sort-of-joking way in that he drew them as random steampunk-looking characters in a steampunk-looking office. One of the assistants is drawn as the existing Barrage character Okikuna, and one of the assistants, who is described as male, is drawn as a busty female.


Aside from the thank you pages the article referenced they mostly don't as far as I can tell (I went and thumbed through my bookshelf and could only find some staff credits at the end of some volumes of Pretty Face). A lot of volumes don't even have said thank you pages. I found the answer in the article a bit lazy since it seems like the manga industry is fine with that. That stands in contrast to many lines of work so it feels like an incomplete answer.
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WingKing



Joined: 27 Apr 2015
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2018 1:46 am Reply with quote
teferi wrote:
Aside from the thank you pages the article referenced they mostly don't as far as I can tell (I went and thumbed through my bookshelf and could only find some staff credits at the end of some volumes of Pretty Face). A lot of volumes don't even have said thank you pages. I found the answer in the article a bit lazy since it seems like the manga industry is fine with that. That stands in contrast to many lines of work so it feels like an incomplete answer.


It does seem to depend on the series. I'm on vacation right now so I could only look at my digital manga, but Saki gave full credits to all the assistants at the back of every volume I checked. The other two series I checked only had "thank yous" for their editors, if anything. And all three are Yen Press titles, so the difference can't be attributed to the US publisher.
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