What is the big idea behind Massive: Gay Erotic Manga and The Men Who Make It? Featuring illustrations rarely seen in the United States outside of pirated, poorly duplicated content available online, Massive showcases big, hypermasculine men with soft edges, along with nine in-depth interviews of some of the most talented comic artists producing work for a gay male audience in Japan.
Massivewhich Chip Kidd designed and Anne Ishii and Graham Kolbeins editedis a follow-up to The Passion of Gengorah Tagame: Master of Gay Erotic Manga and marks the second the time the trio have worked together in this genre. With Massive, now in its second print run, the Western world is introduced to the first English-language anthology featuring the masters of Japanese gay manga.
Fantagraphics, which publishes Massive, will participate in CAKE ( Chicago Alternative Comics Expo ) at the Center on Halsted on June 6-7, featuring comics for sale, including Massive, along with workshops, exhibitions and panel discussions.
In an effort to get the big picture on Massive, WCT chatted with Ishii to discover how gay manga is shattering sexual and cultural archetypes.
Windy City Times: How are Massive and gay manga content similar to Tom of Finland?
Anne Ishii: Massive and gay manga are similar to the style of Tom of Finland's illustration work in that there are specific artists from Japan that delve into the hard-core macho gay look and BDSM culture. Certainly, the caliber of artwork is matched by the impact of the content, which is to say, the activities depictedlike being peed on by someone in a cop uniformmay be similar. Gay manga [specifically] refers to literally all gay comics from Japan, primarily intended for a gay male audience. Naturally, that encompasses other styles not limited to this style, so it's not really fair to compare an entire universe of artwork to one artist.
WCT: Can you summarize the general theme or concept behind Massive?
AI: Elicit and tacit romance is a resounding theme for the whole book.
WCT: Massive offers more iterations of diverse Asian archetypes of masculinity than we typically see in [U.S.] media and popular culture. Why is that important?
AI: I am only speaking on my own behalf but I believe that, at best, representations of Asian masculinity has been underwhelming in Western culture. At worst, Asian male sexuality has been grossly mis-caricatured as neutered or perverted. I think, therefore, literally any other iteration of positive Asian male representation in the West would be a boon.
More philosophicallyand specifically pertaining to Japanese gay mangathis may have to do with a size obsession in U.S. culture that doesn't translate into Japanese culture. That's not to say there isn't a size obsession in Japan but that it's not apples to apples. We hear a lot of well-intended questions about our artists' work along the lines of "…but Asians aren't big or hairy. Why do these artists depict them as such?" Well, for two reasonscomics are allowed to be fantasies, and who actually looks exactly like the media portrays us?
WCT: What was it like working with the highly-respected graphic designer and author Chip Kidd?
AI: Chip Kidd is a hero for book design and comics art and gay visibility. We started working together around 2003 at Vertical, Inc. where he was moonlighting as the art director and where I was the publicity and marketing director. We continued to work together after each of us left Vertical, and a few years later we discovered that Graham was interested in doing a survey/ introduction to gay manga.
Chip continues to be an inspiration to everyone not the least of whom is myself, as a designer with sharp-shooter ability to identify what makes a book work ( and conversely, what won't work ) on the visual level. He's also just a mountain of information and connected to so many champions of gay letters. And he has a really cute butt. We love him.
WCT: You and Graham traveled to Japan to conduct these interviews. After meeting these artists, what surprised you the most, Anne?
AI: I was really taken abackpleasantly soat how into adorableness they all are, you know, they enjoy looking at pictures of pets for example. Some of the comics are pretty brutal, but I realized that they all have this blunt, soft side.
WCT: Do you identify as a straight, lesbian, cis or transgender person, Anne?
AI: [Laughs] I am just bendyI don't have a sexual orientation.
WCT: How do you respond to people who may be uncomfortable with you, as a woman, co-editing a project like Massive that is so gay male-centric?
AI: I haven't actually received criticism for being a not-gay male in this context but, if cornered, I could make a pretty good case for Graham and me being one complete gay Japanese man. I'll do the talking, he'll do the bonking.
But I suppose what you're asking is about whether any significantly different culture oughtn't to be brokered by people or fellows in the same "category." It's a big top issue, for sure. I just don't know how to respond to that. I mean, I hesitate to get on any side because I think it all depends on context. It's hard to know the "correct" way to establish affinity with the world, but intentions are transparent, I think, and I'd like to say ours are all awesome.
Massive: Gay Erotic Manga And The Men Who Make It is currently in its second print run and is available http://www.amazon.com/Massive-Gay-Japanese-Manga-Make/dp/1606997858.
Fantagraphics, which publishes Massive, will be part of the CAKE ( Chicago Alternative Comics Expo ) at the Center on Halsted, June 6-7, featuring comics for sale, workshops, exhibitions and panel discussions.