You know, I’m really surprised I have not read more Manga.
It’s funny, but growing up when I did there just wasn’t much interest in Japanese or Japanese style comics, at least at the shops I frequented. The closest thing I found was Lone Wolf and Cub, an amazing series that I loved a great deal, but that surprisingly never sparked an interest that drove me to seek out other books like that.
This has changed a little for me in recent years. Several of my friends have encouraged me to seek out books beyond my normal, western comic interests, and the results have been mixed. On the one hand, I’ve read some truly amazing comics I never would have read before (and watched some awesome anime that I never saw the first go around), but on the other hand I feel a bit like any new comic reader diving into a long running series.
There’s just so much manga out there, and every time I find a series I enjoy, it feels like there are a million other books I need to read first. I’m spoiled for choice, and that can make it hard sometimes to even think about starting a new series. I’m a completist, so if I like a book I’m going to go back and want to start from the beginning, and read all the way to the end. This is a problem, because I really enjoy One Piece, and dear lord, pray for me.
I’m not the only western comic fan who has started exploring what our friends from Japan have to offer, and if the manga section at my local 2nd and Charles is any indication, a lot of people, especially new, young readers, are into as well. Heck, as a teacher I see tons of kinds reading manga and sporting anime shirts. I hear a lot of them talk about superhero comic book movies, but you know, I never see them reading actual American comic books.
And that makes sense. Manga has worked hard to cover multiple genres, from action to horror to romance. Manga has been much more open to different gender identities and non traditional relationships. Manga also provides readers with a lot more story for their money. You can get a complete volume of a manga book for around $10, where that same money would only get you 2-3 issues of a western comic series, and even American comic trades regularly retail anywhere from $20-50.
So, how do we bridge this gap? How do we get kids interested in manga to read western comics as well? How do we justify the cost? How do we show them that western comics, especially indie comics, are more than just endless superhero story loops? Well I think today’s comic is a good first step.
Today I’ll be looking at Ghost Cage #1 from artist/ writer Nick Dragotta and writer Caleb Goellner, a fantastic new book that wears its manga inspiration proudly. Let’s dive in!
Here’s the blurb: The highly anticipated follow-up project from critically lauded EAST OF WEST artist NICK DRAGOTTA! This ALL-NEW, EXTRA-LENGTH LIMITED SERIES teams artistic dynamo DRAGOTTA with rising-star writer CALEB GOELLNER (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures). When his megacorp power plant falls under attack by terrorists, the super-scientist who revolutionized and controls all energy on Earth sends his ultimate creation (and an adequate employee) in to destroy his most monstrous secrets.
I knew nothing about Ghost Cage going in, but within a single page I got a lot of what this book was going for. The heavy line work, the creepy body horror, the mad scientist with ridiculous facial hair, this book could have been sold in the manga section and it would have been right at home.
In fact, I was so convinced Ghost Cage was actually a manga that I paused my reading and did a little research just to double check I wasn’t reading a western translation! (I get my review books digitally so I only saw the title before I started reading. I’m sure if I saw this book in the flesh, er, paper, I would have got it, just to be clear).
Happily I was wrong, and this is a brand new series by some pretty heavy hitting western comic writers!
The book itself is part 1 of a 3 issue series, and I have to say, you get a lot of comic for your money here. I’m a fast reader, and this issue still took me about 10 minutes to read, and that’s without spending too much time checking out the frankly gorgeous artwork. For younger readers into manga, Ghost Cage is definitely a book they will get (even if it’s structured left to right instead of the other way around).
The story itself is super fun. A rich energy CEO has created the ultimate power supply, built out of the spirits of other types of energy, but those spirits have escaped and it’s up to his newest creation, SAM, a bizarre, giant eyeball headed robot, to recapture those spirits and claim his spot at the top of the energy food chain.
SAM is aided by a young up and coming tech support worker named Doyle, a nerdy young lady who has been tasked by the CEO to provide SAM with tech support, tossing her right in the way of the giant monster fights SAM has to endure, with predictable, and not so predictable results.
Ghost Cage was a lot of fun to read. The art is, as I said, a gorgeous homage to manga culture, and the plot is full of not only action, but also a lot of surprising heart as well.
If you have a young manga fan in your life, or are one yourself, Ghost Cage is definitely a book you’re going to want to check out! A fun read with some awesome action, it’s just the kind of gap bridger we need to show kids that indie comics are worth their time as well!
Until next time, stay safe!