Saturday, February 9, 2008

News from the Fish Bowl: An Addendum


A couple days ago, Deej posted a press release for a comic called Mecha Manga Bible Heroes. Since then, Snuffles has been poking around and has found a number of other "manga" adaptations of Scripture, including The Manga Bible and Manga Messiah. Snuffles and Deej argued over the subject and afterwards had the following comments:

D. G. D.: I'll stick with what I said before; Mecha Manga Bible Heroes may have a good idea in it, but I don't think it's a good idea to simply tell the biblical stories straight with mechs and monsters thrown in. Such a massive alteration to the stories' background calls for a massive revamping of the stories. To really make Bible Heroes worthwhile, I think the writer should consider expanding the biblical stories and making the biblical heroes into fully developed characters. I hope, too, that the mecha technology and the world are fully developed and not merely atmospheric flourishes. I don't see the point of putting stories from the Bible into an sf setting if that setting is meaningless.

I would point readers again to Rod Espinosa's Amerimanga, Neotopia, which will be interesting to compare with the first issue of Bible Heroes, "David vs. Goliath." Neotopia also features aliens, mechs, manga-influenced artwork, and the story of David and Goliath with Goliath played by a mech, but all of it is couched in a fully developed world and a larger narrative.

To stick close to the biblical narrative in a mecha setting while neither being slavish to the Scriptures nor merely using biblical motifs in an essentially non-biblical story, a writer could do something like the following: the tale of David and Goliath could be the first encounter of the Hebrews with a superior alien mech technology; after defeating the robotic Goliath, David removes its mechanical head and some of its weapons and carries them to the Temple so that the priests might study them and build their own mechs; over several generations, this developing mecha technology leads to the construction of a prototype super-mech, but unfortunately, it is developed too late for use against the invading Babylonians; however, after the exile, Judas Maccabeus discovers this super-mech hidden away in a secret cave in Jerusalem and uses it in his battles against Antiochus. Such a story sticks more-or-less to the biblical narrative but makes the introduction of aliens and mechs relevant to the overall story, transforming the biblical histories into a generational mecha adventure.

But for those who are skeptical of the entire Bible-to-sequential-art idea, I will note that it is nothing new. Comic book Bibles are a Medieval invention, not a modern one. The so-called Biblia Pauperum or "poor-man's Bible" is essentially a collection of biblical stories told in illustrated panels.

Snuffles the Dragon: Yes, yes, all that, but let's look at these titles: Mecha Manga Bible Heroes, Manga Bible, and Manga Messiah. There's a desperate crying out here: "Look! It's manga! Really!" Why in the world would anyone put manga in a title? Especially when none of these is really manga.

I know Deej is more relaxed on this issue than I am, but honestly, manga is a Japanese word referring to a Japanese product. It is not an art style. An American comic in which the characters have big eyes should not be called manga. The stereotypical style of Japanese comics, in which this so-called "Amerimanga" is drawn, is not the only style of Japanese comics. Mecha Manga-Influenced Bible Heroes or Manga-Inspired Bible would be more accurate titles. Besides, when I see a book called Manga Bible, I naturally expect it to be a book about manga.

For a list of links to other sites and blogs that have posted about Mecha Manga Bible Heroes, see Enlightened Words.
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