Blog 11: Manga as Textbooks,
How Japanese Manga began in a French prison in 1832
How Japanese Manga began in a French prison in 1832
In September 2004, one of Japan’s leading manga authors, Takemiya Keiko, was approached by a medical university to write an educational manga depicting surgical procedures (see technical instruction comic – Blog 5). Kyoto Seika University professor, Makino Keiichi explained, “Manga can exaggerate details in a way photographs can't.” Additionally, illustrations have another advantage over photography in that they can key in on a specific subject or event, simplify it, and delete any extraneous elements that would interfere in the clearness of the information they are conveying. Dr. Su Soon Peng, associate professor of English in University of Malaya, believes that ‘The reader should not see the graphic form as a full and accurate version of the original text. A comic cannot capture the full essence of the original text.” (Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, 2004) While I will concede this point to a degree, only in that I feel it is impossible to adequately adapt certain works graphically (Lord of the Rings, The Metamorphosis, etc.), I do not feel that it is possible for any author to adapt Art Spiegelman’s Maus strictly to text, and still “capture the full essence of the original.” So what do manga-style graphic textbooks do better than text-only books?
Dr. Eric Luczaj, a professor in Miami University’s Department of Computer & Information Technology uses Manga Guide to Databases (2009) as an optional text in his database class. According to Dr. Luczaj, while the book does not contain as much depth as a traditional textbook it is a good introduction to the subject. “It makes the material accessible to students by putting a difficult subject into a format that was not so academically dense. Not all students learn in the same way, and I like to have as many options available to them for learning the material.” (Luczaj, 2012) Not so coincidentally, Manga Guide to Databases is one of several manga textbooks the Virginia Department of Education's Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) at Virginia Commonwealth University recommends to its faculty.
Manga Guide to Databases is one of a series of educational textbooks produced by No Starch Press. Other books in the series include: Manga Guide to Molecular Biology (2009), Manga Guide to Calculus (2009), Manga Guide to Relativity (2011), and Manga Guide to Regression Analysis (coming 2013) to name a few. These EduManga books are translations of a bestselling series in Japan, co-published with Ohmsha, Ltd., of Tokyo, a publisher of science and engineering books. All of the books are written by accredited authors, lending to the credibility of the content material. For example, Mana Takahashi, the author of Manga Guide to Databases is a graduate of the Tokyo University where she teaches Economics, and Dr. Masaharu Takemura, the author of Manga Guide to Molecular Biology has written several books on biology, and lectures on biology, molecular biology, and life sciences at the Tokyo University of Science.
In Blogs #1 & 3 I mentioned the attitudinal instruction “manga” comic, Japan Inc., An Introduction to Japanese Economics (University of California Press, 1988. 313-pages), by Ishinomori Shōtarō (1938–1998). “Manga” Nihon keizai nyumon (1986), as it was titled in Japan, was the “trigger for the growth of educational manga for adult readers.” (Murakami & Bryce, 2009, 49) In “Manga as an Educational Medium” (The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Number 10, 2009, 47-55), Satsuki Murakami and Mio Bryce, both from Macquarie University, NSW, Australia, believe that it is manga’s (sequential art’s) hybridity of the visual and linguistic that makes this artform such a powerful learning tool (see Blog #7 for my take on Duel Coding Theory and sequential art). The following is Murakami’s and Bryce’s review of the literature, which I am reprinting here for the benefit of those who do not have access to the article.
Many scholars have shown those hybrid texts of the verbal and the visual help readers’ efficient understanding and learning. For example, using Dual Coding Theory, Paivio (1986) explains that our cognitive system consists of two parts, the verbal system and the non-verbal systems, which are processed through different channels. When images or figures match the verbal input, they are encoded by both the verbal and non-verbal systems, thus promoting memory more strongly than in the case of verbal or visual input alone. Anderson and Bower (1973) likewise state that memory of verbal information is enhanced when relevant visual images are provided. Larkin and Simon (1987) also emphasize that the ability to process information is enhanced when text is augmented with pictures. McCrudden, Schraw, Lehman & Poliquin (2007) further showed that the underlying cause-and-effect in sentences are understood more easily when there are visual clues of the cause-and-effect. Moreno and Mayer (1999) also demonstrate that multimedia is effective for learning.
Using the abovementioned approaches, Tamada (2008) asserted the effectiveness of manga as an educational tool. Likewize, Murata (2008) found that manga promotes readers’ effective understanding by spelling out the thematic focuses in the illustrations. Additionally, Hasegawa (2002) demonstrated that manga can be read in a shorter time and give a stronger impression than conventional text books.
William Spencer Armour refers to the use of manga for educational texts as “The Rise of ‘Soft Power Pedagogy.’” (Armour, 2011) Armour asserts that there are multiple ways of knowing, and that there is validity and value in different approaches. Armour also believes that integrating different approaches “results in a more complete understanding of complex issues.” (Armour, 2011, 128) In “The Graphic Novel: a ‘Cool’ Format for Communicating to Generation Y” (Business Communication Quarterly, Volume 72, Number 4, December 2009, 414-430), Jeremy C. Short and Terrie C. Reeves feel that the “dense, pompous, and largely impenetrable writing” of business negatively impacts learning, and that the “graphic novel format would allow our field to keep pace with other disciplines while incorporating a more accessible format and has the potential to influence society while simultaneously utilizing a more engaging medium appropriate for today’s generation of business students.” (Short & Reeves, 428) Essentially, all of this is identical to the conclusions drawn earlier by Luczaj.
Much has been said regarding the benefits of, and need for using a combined visual/verbal artform in helping students learn. So when will we finally see a full-blown graphic textbook meant for teachers to build a class around? When will graphic textbooks no longer be considered “optional,” but rather “primary” textbooks?
Charles Wirgman and the Beginning of Manga
Those who know the history of Manga have heard the name, Charles Wirgman (1832–1891) before. Wirgman was a graphic journalist/news correspondent for The Illustrated London News. Wirgman arrived in Yokohama in 1861, just two years after it opened as Japan’s first international port of commerce, and lived there the rest of his life. In 1862, Wirgman began publishing his monthly illustrated humor publication, The Japan Punch, which satirized the Europeans living in the protected Kannai ("inside the barrier") district of the city. Unfortunately, that is pretty much the extent of what most people know about Wirgman. However, how Wirgman arrived in Yokohama, and how European visual social parody became such a huge influence on Japanese culture is an amazing journey that began thirty years earlier in France.
Subversive Imagery and the “Liberty of the Crayon”
Following The French Revolution of 1830, freedom of the press was restricted, and political caricatures were deemed more seditious than words because of their visceral nature and broad appeal. It was perceived that the illiterate populace, referred to as the “dark masses,” was “highly susceptible to subversive imagery.” (Goldstein, 1998, 785) Surprisingly, illustrations were not subject to pre-publication censorship restrictions the same way text articles were, but post-publication prosecutions were profuse. From 1831–1835, there were 736 prosecutions brought against the press, yet over 60% of these ended in acquittals.” (Goldstein, 1998, 789)
La Silhouette (1829–1831) was one of the publications targeted by the monarchy. La Silhouette was the first French publication to give text and illustrations equal importance. It was the prototype for political satire publications, and was co-founded by French caricaturist, Charles Philipon (1800–1861). Originally intended to be politically moderate, La Silhouette became increasingly liberal, and in the 1 April 1830 issue Philipon furtively inserted an unsigned caricature of Charles X of France dressed as a Jesuit. The image caused a scandal due to the strict government censorship laws that prevented the publishing of caricatures of politicians. The paper’s manager Benjamin-Louis Bellet (not Philipon) was sentenced to six months in prison and fined 1,000 francs. La Silhouette was financially crippled, but before he was fired, Philipon began a second political satire newspaper, La Caricature (1830–1835). (Goldstein, 1998, 789)
Censorship of the press grew more intense, and so too did the punishments. In its early years La Caricature was seized close to thirty times post–publication for its caricatures, which resulted in ten prosecutions. French historian, Paul Thureau-Dangin (1837–1913) believed that Philipon was “one of the most dangerous adversaries for [King Louis-Philippe].” (Goldstein. 2000, 143) For his cartoon depicting the king plastering over the promises of 1830, Philipon was sentenced to six months in prison and fined 2,000 francs. (Goldstein, 1998, 790) At his hearing Philipon stated that his drawing was symbolic and that since the royal insignia was not present in the illustration, the figure was not actually the king. Furthermore, arguing that the court had no control over the “liberty of the crayon,” Philipon drew his infamous, four panel sequence, Les Poires (The Pears), transforming the face of Louis-Philippe into a pear. Philipon asked the court if the resemblance between the king and the pear meant that artists could no longer draw the fruit? (Childs, 51) While the exercise did not help his case, the iconic Les Poires, which was also French slang for “simpleton,” became a derogatory icon among political caricaturists for Louis–Philippe’s July Monarchy.
There is one aspect of the Louis-Philippe 4-part sequence that, as far as I know, has never been broached. Beginning in 1827, Swiss schoolmaster, Rodolphe Töpffer (1799–1846) began creating sequential narratives or “picture stories” that he shared with his friends and students. Töpffer has long been considered the Father of the Comic Strip with the publication of his first album, Histoire de Monsour Jabot in May 1833. However, Charles Philipon’s 4-panel Les Poires (redrawn left by Daumier) appeared in La Caricature a year-and-a-half earlier on 24 November 1831. Though it was never intended to be a new artform, Les Poires is actually the world’s first published sequential newspaper comic narrative; technically making Philipon the “Father of the Comic Strip.”
Philipon, along with other non-violent criminals, was placed in the "Pavilion of Princes" section of the Sainte-Pélagie prison in Paris. In this bizarre judicial form of incarceration, Philipon not only edited La Caricature, but also continued producing political cartoons from his prison cell. It was not uncommon for journalists to reserve their favorite cells ahead of time, or to be taken to court from jail to answer censorship charges for articles written while in prison. Other than being besieged by fellow inmates to draw their portraits, Philipon weathered his “captivity” well. It was while he was imprisoned that Philipon, with the help of one of his most prominent artists, Honoré Daumier (1808–1879), (who was at the time confined for his caricature, Gargantua) conceived of his next publishing venture. (Goldstein, 1998, 794; Spencer, 26; Passeron, 67-72) Philipon, along with his brother–in–law Gabriel Aubert, created a third illustrated newspaper, Le Charivari (meaning Hullabaloo in English, 1832–1937). The publication dealt primarily with social commentary, thereby evading many of the censorship problems that plagued La Silhouette and La Caricature.
Philipon (left) was following in the tradition of pictorial satirist and social critic, William Hogarth (1697–1764), and his publications had a tremendous impact on nineteenth century illustration and painting. Other French artists who began their impressive careers with Philipon included J. J. Grandville, Paul Gavarni, Achille Jacques-Jean-Marie Devéria, André Gill, Henri Monnier, Charles J. Traviés, Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, and Paul Gustave Doré, who lived with Philipon after he moved to Paris at the age of fifteen.
In 1832, Philipon undoubtedly knew that censorship laws would become increasingly more constrictive, and they did. By focusing on social commentary, he had hoped to not only avoid further fines and incarcerations (which, unfortunately, did not happen), but also speak to a broader readership (which, thankfully, did happen). Since Le Charivari was not politically driven, it did not polarize potential subscribers against it. This type of broad market appeal would become the basis for not only the Illustrated Press, but modern news reporting as well.
The influence of Philipon’s publications reached beyond the borders of France. In England, journalist and co-editor Henry Mayhew, co-editor Mark Lemon, printer Joseph William Last, and wood-engraver Ebenezer Landells (who apprenticed under Thomas Bewick, the man who redefined wood engraving for the nineteenth century) created their own illustrated review of social eccentricities titled, Punch (1841–1992; 1996–2002). Mayhew, an avid reader of Le Charivari, conceived of Punch while he was living in Paris, avoiding his creditors back in England. It was decided that Punch would take a “comedy of manners” approach to humor, abandoning Regency caricatures altogether, and focus wholly on the foibles of the upper class. As an acknowledgment to its source, and probably conceived as a marketing strategy as well, Punch was subtitled, The London Charivari.
In the wake of the Fieschi Plot, designed to assassinate King Louis-Philippe, censorship of the press reached its apex, and freedom of the press was, essentially, eliminated in France (until 1881). Many political caricaturists turned their skills to social commentary to avoid prison. Daumier, one of the leading satirists of his time, abandoned political parody entirely and focused on caricatures of Parisians. This abrupt shift away from overt political satire towards a more subtle critique of French society brought about a close examination of bourgeois life that surfaced in the Realist movement that emerged during the mid-nineteenth century. It was in this climate of oppression that the weekly French newspaper, L’Illustration was born just one year after the stunning success of The Illustrated London News in 1842.
Charles Wirgman and The Japan Punch
In 1862 illustrator and humorist, Charles Wirgman published his first issue of The Japan Punch, eventually producing 220 issues during its twenty-five-year run. (Cooper, 484) Wirgman had lived in Paris in the early 1850s, and his cartoons share a stylistic resemblance to some of L’Illustration’s leading cartoonists/social satirists such as: “Cham,” “Marcelin,” “Stop,” “Randon,” and Töpffer. Wirgman was a freelance correspondent for L’Illustration and a staff artist for The Illustrated London News. In 1857, after the death of The Illustrated London News’ correspondent Arthur V. Johns, Esq. H.C.S., Wirgman was sent to China to cover the Second Opium War. Following the war the multi-lingual Wirgman went to Yokohama where he not only acted as a mediator and translator between Europeans and Japanese, but also played a vital role as a mentor and teacher of Western-style oil painting to Japanese artists. Yet Wirgman’s most notable contribution to the world of illustration was The Japan Punch.
Based on the original British magazine, Punch, Wirgman’s The Japan Punch was a humorous, satiric periodical intent on lampooning the politics and society of Yokohama. Although it was intended for Western audiences, The Japan Punch made its way into the hands of Euro-curious Japanese for whom political satire became another cultural import. The Japanese loanword, ponchi-e (meaning Punch pictures, or satirical sketches) is directly attributed to The Japan Punch and became that language’s first loan-word for cartoon. (Duus, 996) Publication of intellectually stimulating and funny drawings with underlying, sometimes hidden, meanings became so popular that it spawned several Japanese versions including: Eshinbun Nipponchi (1874, three issues) by Kanagaki Robun (pseudonym) and Kawanabe Kyosai; Kisho Shimbun (1875) by Hashizume Kinzo and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi; Marumaru Chinbun (1877–1882) by Nomura Fumio; and Garakuta-chinpō (1879) (Meech-Pekarik, 179; Schodt, 1996)
By the 1890s, the word, ponchi-e took on derogatory connotations, and was replaced by the word, Manga. (Gravett, 21) Wirgman was a valuable observer to the opening of Japan to the Western world during the late-nineteenth century Meiji Restoration, and spent three decades chronicling in print the political and social evolution of that country. Through the influence of The Japan Punch, Wirgman became one of the fore-fathers of the hugely popular Japanese graphic narrative format called Manga. What began as a discussion in a French prison in 1832 between two artists developed into a Japanese art form that has become a multi-billion dollar international phenomenon.
The Exporting and Importing of Visual Culture
Le Charivari created a paradigm shift in publishing that changed the direction of graphic storytelling, and created a cascade effect whose impact resonated internationally. Punch came to America by way of the many tourists and (especially) artists who traveled to Europe in the latter part of the nineteenth century. One such artist, Robert Henri (aka Robert Henry Cozad 1865–1929), shared them with The Philadelphia Four (William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John French Sloan), all of whom would go on to form the core of the Ashcan School, or, to use the less deprecating title, the Urban Realists.
Several of the Urban Realists taught at The Art Students League in New York, and it is not surprising that their style of socio-cultural representational art came to influence Norman Rockwell (1894–1978), and many other twentieth century artists who studied there. For American visual satirists, Punch was also the forerunner of Harvey Kurtzman’s (1924–1993) incredibly popular and widely influential Mad magazine. Comic books and graphic novels are part of a rich visual culture history that ties back to Hogarth, Le Charivari, and Punch.
Topics for Discussion
1) What other Manga textbooks that have not been translated into English can be adapted into undergraduate graphic textbooks?
2) What is missing from this research?
Next Blog: The Dark Side of Digital, The Graphic Textbook Model, & Concluding Remarks
Addendum: Unpublished Information About Charles Wirgman
The following is new information I uncovered regarding Charles Wirgman while working on my Master’s Degree in History of Art. It is unpublished, but I shared it with Wirgman scholar, Professor John Clark, a member of the Art History and Film Studies department within the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sydney, Australia. Some of this material was referenced by Dr. Clark in a paper he delivered in 2011 at the Wirgman exhibition in Yokohama (the paper has since been published in Kindai Garon). Since this information has only tangential meaning to my dissertation on graphic textbooks, and since I do not plan on developing a paper about it, I decided to make it available here for other Wirgman scholars to use (please credit appropriately). While researching Wirgman, I found the writings of both Professor Clark and Jozef Rogala invaluable. I also saw that there were holes in the research. Three things remained unknown about Wirgman: 1) With whom did he study with in Paris; 2) When did he move to London and how did he end up working for The Illustrated London News; and 3) What prompted his being selected to go to China as a news correspondent?
One watercolor titled “My academy dinner/March 3d 1854” I believe answers the first question. The piece illustrates Wirgman sitting by himself at a makeshift table eating his meal. Wirgman’s reference to “My academy” rather than to a specific academy is a significant clue. It is also important to note the date because the Paris Salon made its selections in the spring. Rather than portraying himself surrounded by a whirlwind of confusion and chaos, which would be the norm for students in the academy or the atelier of a named artist prior to the Salon opening, Wirgman is alone. There is no documentation for Wirgman ever receiving formal artistic education because, I believe, he was never accepted into a studio; however, I am certain he worked for the weekly newspaper, L’Illustration in some capacity.
The answer for the first part of question two was found by accident. While looking through copies of L’Illustration for another project I came across a Wirgman illustration dated eight months after he painted “My academy dinner.” Wirgman’s first credited illustration as a “correspondent” appeared on 11 November 1854. For the next two years L’Illustration published several illustrations by Wirgman. The amount of work he produced for L’Illustration would not have been enough to support him, and after June of 1856, his contributions ceased. It was probably around this time that Wirgman began working for The Illustrated London News.
The Illustrated London News (ILN) employed dozens of artists and craftsmen around the clock to make its weekly deadline. Among ILN’s leading correspondents during the 1850s were E.A. Goodall, J.A. Crowe, J.W. Carmichael, and R. Landells. While the names of these distinguished correspondents appeared in print under their illustrations the majority of the newspaper’s images were uncredited. Though it is impossible to conclude beyond all doubt that Wirgman produced some of these uncredited pieces for ILN prior to his leaving for China, several illustrations, similar to Wirgman’s style, begin to appear in ILN shortly after he arrived in London. It was not uncommon for L’Illustration and ILN to use the same prominent freelance artists, such as Gustave Doré (1832-1883) or Edmund Morin (1824-1882), but it may have been unusual for a staff artist to be permitted to work for the competition, which may explain the abrupt cessation of Wirgman’s art in L’Illustration. If these Wirgman-like illustrations are indeed Wirgman’s, and if he was on ILN’s staff, then it would help to explain why he was chosen to go to China, since it is inconceivable for ILN to have sent someone without having previously worked with them, and known what they were capable of producing.
Though no documents exist to confirm precisely why Wirgman was sent abroad in 1857 to cover the Second Opium War, we may conclude that he was probably selected to fill an immediate vacancy due to the death of Arthur V. Johns, Esq. H.C.S., one of ILN’s Graphic Journalists reporting from China. The obituary for Johns appeared in the 11 April 1857 issue of ILN along with his final illustrations. While publication of the obituary appeared after Wirgman left for China it must be remembered that notification of John’s death would have arrived well before the paper received his drawings, and had them made into engravings. The fact that Wirgman could draw and was fluent in English, French, German, Italian, and Dutch, knew Latin and Greek, and could write in Spanish and Portuguese made him the perfect foreign correspondent. At just twenty-four, Wirgman left for the war and the Far East.
Analysis of Wirgman’s Art
By examining Wirgman’s sketches and watercolors critically, we can conclude that he did not have a sophisticated understanding of the basic principles of perspective. This lack of comprehension on the part of Wirgman is further affirmation that he never received formal art training. A thorough knowledge was crucial in nineteenth century representational art, and painters such as Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904) hired a professional perspectivist to help design his paintings (Note: the perspectivist left Paris due to the Franco-Prussian War and never returned, which is why the perspective in Gérôme’s paintings after Pollice Verso is sometimes off). While some people look at Wirgman’s work for ILN and remark on his skill as an illustrator, others look at his cartoons for The Japan Punch and marvel at the dichotomy between the two styles and the talent needed to produce both. However, we cannot use Wirgman’s illustrations for either ILN or L’Illustration as a means to gauge his artistic skill because the process used in creating the printed image obfuscates the original artist’s contribution.
Due to the great distance Wirgman could only send drawings back to ILN, which were then redrawn onto the woodblocks for engraving. While the basic idea for the image was Wirgman’s it was the responsibility of the transcriber to correct for any design or perspective problems. By comparing a Wirgman sketch and watercolor with the accompanying ILN wood engravings we can see how much of the art was redrawn, and just how little Wirgman knew of perspective. The following images are from (1) A Sketch Book of Japan By C. Wirgman, Yokohama: R. Meiklejohn & Co., circa 1884; (2) Watercolor by Charles Wirgman, circa 1864; and (3) Japanese Party at Meals (based on a sketch by Charles Wirgman), The Illustrated London News, 23 July 1864.
If Wirgman did not have formalized art training then how was he able to become proficient enough to find work as a Graphic Journalist? It has been said of Wirgman that he was merely a talented amateur and there is considerable merit to that allegation. One of the unanswered questions in nineteenth century visual culture relates to ascertaining the factors that contributed to the proliferation of artists during the last quarter of the century. While formal art education was not available to young, middle class children, used copies of illustrated newspapers were plentiful. Children who like to draw will find anything to copy and the lure of scenes of battles and faraway lands that were portrayed so vividly, so dramatically in the illustrated press were like manna to the imaginations of youthful artists. For disadvantaged children, born during and after the 1830s, The Illustrated London News and L’Illustration were, undoubtedly, their first art primers. Though unintentional, the art in these weekly, illustrated newspapers achieved a greater purpose than merely being a vehicle to sell commodities and inform the public. These black & white illustrations were the provenance for the increase of artists in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Wirgman, like many others of his generation, appears to have learned his craft by copying illustrations. This type of top-down learning would explain his lack of understanding of the basic underlying principles of perspective and why his art appears to be that of a “talented amateur.”
On the back of Wirgman’s 1876/1877 sketchbook, written fifteen years after he arrived, he wrote, “There are some countries one gets tired of but Japan is as fresh today as it was the first time Punch saw it, and charms as much.” (Clark, 2001, 75) Wirgman truly loved Japan, even though he was almost assassinated several times! After all of his European friends eventually moved away in the early 1880s, Wirgman stayed until his death in 1891. Of his art, it could be said of him that he was the proverbial “big fish in a small pond.” As a talented amateur it is unlikely he would have ever amounted to much had he stayed in Europe; however, in Japan he was needed, he was useful, he was admired, and he played a considerable role in establishing relations between “foreigners” and his adopted home.
Of Wirgman’s contribution John Clark wrote: “Despite its limitations, his work has always remained as the first significant body of drawings and paintings by a Western artist working in Japan with which Japanese were in contact.” (Clark, 1990) After hundreds of illustrations, countless paintings, tinted photographs, and thousands of pages of caricatures, Wirgman’s legacy lies not just in his skill as an artist, but in his ability as a teacher as well. Today, Wirgman is considered “the patron saint of the modern Japanese cartoon,” and a ceremony is held annually at his grave in Yokohama. (Schodt, 40) On the grave are inscribed the Bard’s words: “He was a man of infinite jest,” in remembrance of good old Punch. Though forgotten by Western audiences, Charles Wirgman should be remembered as a major contributing force in shaping Japan’s visual culture.