“Imagine telling black people to create their own stories and characters and then being offended when they actually do,” one Twitter user wrote last week. The tweet was one of more than 100,000 reactions to Nigerian-born manga artist and author Whyt Manga’s announcement that “the first black protagonist of Shonen manga is here…”
From Whyt Manga’s single tweet, a conversation started that continued for days in a single thread. The prevailing sentiments in the responses fell into two categories: first, support and excitement to see a black female protagonist in the popular manga category, and second, blatant racism. Unfortunately, this is nothing new or surprising for black authors, artists and creatives.
“We’ve been getting comments like these for years,” says Frederick L. Jones, publisher of Saturday AM, “But while the negativity is disheartening, it’s important to remember that it’s just a minority of the otherwise largely ecstatic (and sometimes emotional) response from fans who have long been waiting to see a series like this.
Saturday AM is a digital publishing brand focused on manga and comics. Jones is not only the founder of the company, but also the author of Clock Striker, the heralded book whose black female protagonist started the storm of division on Twitter last week.
In the late 2000s, Jones noticed the emergence of global artists making manga-inspired comics, just as he himself had done as an African-American teenager some 20 years earlier. As a result, Saturday AM was created in 2013 with the goal of extending manga’s legacy by expanding inclusivity and diversity within the genre.
First starting with manga and digital comics, Saturday AM is now partnering with The Quarto Group to release their manga-inspired graphic novels in print. Featuring creators from Hungary to Senegal to New Zealand who regularly center BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters in their work, this new style of manga elevates voices that rarely appear in traditional Japanese manga narratives and worlds.
“Manga is a powerful medium that influences the world in animation, art styles, and culture. The graphic novels created by Saturday AM appeal to a contemporary and diverse audience,” says Quarto SVP and Editor Winnie Danenbarger. manga is becoming an international language, and its globalization will only continue to grow in the future as an infinitely adaptable art form around the world.”
This year, Saturday AM and Quarto are releasing ten titles from seven series, with additional titles to come in 2023 and 2024. The first four books released on July 19 with Saturday AM Presents How to Draw Diverse Manga, the first hands-on book with a vision inclusive of the folk art form. Clock Striker, the book that caused a stir on Twitter, will be released in February 2023.
Most Saturday AM shows are shonen manga, which means they’re action-adventure for ages 12 and up. The series all exist together in a multiverse, where the stories connect for an epic storytelling experience – one where people from all walks of life can see themselves in the stories.