Antonia Levi, Mark McHarry, and Dru Pagliasotti, eds.
Boys' Love Manga
Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre
New Books in ArtNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network July 13, 2011 Jeanne Gillespie
Growing up in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Indy-car racing offered my friends and me some very exciting heroes. As children, we played “Indy 500” on our bikes in the cul-de-sac. As we became teenagers, the Indy-car drivers who descended on our city in April and May became some of our most tangible idols. Not surprisingly, this proximity to Indy racing also fueled a fascination with the cartoon series “Speed Racer.”
“Speed Racer” always managed to pull out the victory after he learned his lesson. What I didn’t really understand (in addition to why their lip movements never quite matched what they said) was that this program was a Japanese production and that this was one of the first American glimpses of what has become the international phenomenon that we call “anime.” I also did not know that this particular series grew out of a graphic tradition known to us now as “manga.” Even more interesting, manga specifically designed for boys, often based on robots, warriors, or battling creatures, is different from manga designed for girls, featuring themes of school and amorous relationships. Further, many fans of the genre engage in producing and sharing their own work.
While my friends and I never engaged in drawing our own “Speed Racer” stories, we did discuss plots and think up new twists and turns for him to navigate. Some of us wanted to replace his girlfriend, Trixie; others preferred Speed’s mysterious big brother, Racer X, who was conveniently unattached. Other story lines put us in the driver’s seat competing against Speed!
Boy’s Love Manga, like our own teenaged fantasies, derives from fans’ responses to commercial examples of manga created specifically for female audiences. This fantasy genre has become an international, fan-driven form of expression where readers create their own fantasy fiction and share it at conventions and on the internet. In Germany, this form of artistic exchange represents a substantial portion of the entire comic market. What is even more fascinating is that, although much of this work is created by women for other women, Boy’s Love Manga texts portray male-male romantic encounters.
Co-editor Mark McHarry and one of the contributors, Paul Malone, talked with me about the collection of essays Boys’ Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre (McFarland, 2010). This collection of essays represents one of the first critical explorations of this wildly popular, wide-reaching, and incredibly profitable phenomenon.