The 304th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium will be held on Tuesday,  April 13, 2021 at 7pm ET. ONLINE PRESENTATION VIA ZOOM. Please email to register for this event. Free and open to the public.

Video of this event.

Manga 4.5: Building Comics with Mats and Stones – a talk by Ryan Holmberg

In the late 1950s, one Japanese cartoonist after another began sticking their protagonists in cramped rooms with cracked windows and tattered walls. There might be a heated table with a quilt or a kettle, a spread of seedy bedding, but little else. There were always tatami mats, usually four and one-half of them, arranged concentrically around the half, or stacked with the half in the corner, their geometry forming a variable grid upon which the characters live and act (or brood or snore) inside a medium likewise defined by a variable grid of panel frames. This talk by historian and translator Ryan Holmberg focuses on the intersection of comics, architecture, and tropes of bohemian poverty in Japan between the ‘50s and ‘80s. Spotlighting recently-translated stories by alt-manga legend Tsuge Yoshiharu published by New York Review Comics and Drawn & Quarterly, it also explores how this 4.5 tatami-sized world connects to ideals of rustication, impermanence, and asceticism within traditional Japanese aesthetics. This talk supports a mixed media installation and exhibition of the same name, created in collaboration with printmaker Bill Fick, to be held in Durham, NC, in the spring of 2021.

Ryan Holmberg is a freelance arts and comics historian and translator. He has taught at Duke University and the University of Tokyo, among other schools. As an editor and translator of manga, he has worked with Breakdown Press, Drawn & Quarterly, Retrofit Comics, New York Review Comics, and PictureBox on over two dozen different books. His edition of Tezuka Osamu’s The Mysterious Underground Men (PictureBox) won the 2014 Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material: Asia. A frequent contributor to The Comics Journal,he is also the author of The Translator Without Talent (Bubbles, 2020) and Garo Manga: The First Decade, 1964-1973 (Center for Book Arts, 2010).

Tsuge Yoshiharu, The Wake (1967)