East Lansing, MI- On Dec. 7, 2012, Michigan State University students in Comics and Visual Narrative proudly displayed their work in the specialty gaming and comic shop, 21st Century. For many, like Stephanie Zang, 20, this was their first time selling their own comics.
“It was such an adrenaline rush to greet people and talk to them about my art and my passion,” Zang said, describing the attentive and eager comic fans she met during the signing.
With the growing popularity of both American and Japanese comics in the US, in 2009 MSU introduced the STA 491: Comics and Visual Narrative course to their curriculum. Under the tutelage of comic artist and Assistant Professor Ryan Claytor, Zang explained, she got her first opportunity to explore her identity as a comic artist.
“[It] offered me an avenue to my art that I had considered before but not actively pursued: the art of making comics,” she said. “Our final was to sell the comics we had created in an in-store signing…and the experience was truly one-of-a-kind."
Zang, a Japanese major, described her style as having a large influence from Japanese manga and anime. Like so many other American children, Zang was exposed to anime such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! and was captivated by the style. Soon, she enthusiastically began sharing and developing her style with friends at school.
“It was a very creative time in my life! As my drawing as matured, I've developed my own style which is still influenced by the Japanese style of manga, but also borrows heavily from the more realistic American comics and the fluidity of Disney,” Zang said, pointing to the beautifully illustrated Rosie the Riveter-esque figure on her comic’s cover. “Without Manga, however, I would never have gotten to where I am today.”
Like so many college students, Zang’s passion must compete for time with a schedule filled with classes and work. However, she is determined to continue learning more about manga and is convinced the opportunities at MSU will help her.
“At MSU, the comics and manga community has a lot of support,” Zang explained. “The Anime Club (Animosity) is highly active and it's easy to find people who share your love of any aspect of manga: be it drawing, watching or reading. The Japanese program is full of people who love, not only manga, but Japan itself. The art program has so many talented artists in so many different fields, but all art is appreciated, so it is easy to find someone who shares your passion.”
Like the character in her comic, her growth as an artist has been largely influenced by her “I can do it” attitude and her openness to new opportunities.
“Art introduced me to anime and manga; manga introduced me to Japan; the Japanese language got me to MSU; and MSU has so many opportunities, I'd be a fool not to utilize them.” Zang said.
After graduation, she has big plans for her comics.
“It has always been a dream of mine to create a comic that people across the globe know and love and reference, and it is entirely possible,” she said.
With MSU providing coursework that encourages shining stars like Zang to follow their passion for comics, the Lansing manga community can expect an increase in talented artists from their own backyard.