COMICS: Buzz Dixon’s Goofy Gamble on Manga

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ere’s an intriguing self-portrait by one of the pioneers in this new realm of comics: Buzz Dixon, president Realbuzz Studios, the creators of Japanese-influenced, manga-format comic books for Christians with names like “Serenity,” “Goofyfoot Gurl” and “Couplers.”

Buzz describes his own journey this way (and, no, that’s not precisely the Rip Hunter issue he mentions in his story — but this cover gives you an idea of what he’s talking about) …

The first comic I remember buying with my own thin dime was DC’s Showcase No. 25 featuring “Rip Hunter … Time Master” on the cover, trapped between a triceratops and a sea monster.  My aunt and grandmother had always brought Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics for me when they came to visit, but given my own dime at age five and a half, my eye shot right past Carl Barks’ masterworks and glommed onto the dinosaurs.

I grew up in a fairly typical Boomer family; we attended church regularly and I was baptized around my 12th birthday.  But while I attended church and read my Bible regularly, I don’t think my real spiritual journey started until much later in life.  It took a few missteps and misdirections for me to realize I had strayed far off the path and needed to get back in line with what God wanted for me.

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Part of that growth was the realization that God had given me talent not merely for my benefit, but so that his Word would be glorified. Realbuzz Studios is the outgrowth of that. As the creators of the inspirational manga category we are in the lead when it comes to developing stories that reflect Christian, moral and spiritual truths to today’s young readers.

I’ve loved comics ever since I was a kid and enjoy working in the medium.  As Scott McCloud pointed out in his book, UNDERSTANDING COMICS, it’s not merely a blend of words and pictures but a wholly new art form, a combination of the two where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

While there’s a lot to be recommended in today’s market, particularly in original graphic novels and some of the new imported manga series, there’s a lot that bothers me as well.  There has always been crass commercialism in popular media, with material of dubious moral and ethical value being pitched to the lowest common denominators in the market, but in recent years it seems popular media has all but abandoned the values that make life worth living, choosing to concentrate on sensationalism and spectacle instead of substance.

We feel there’s a way to counter that, and that’s by doing stories that are technically and aesthetically the equal of what the secular market produces.  Check us out at www.RealbuzzStudios.com (and come back in a couple of weeks once we’ve got the re-vamped website up and running!).

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I’m the president and co-founder of Realbuzz and I’m proud that we are credited with creating the new category of “inspirational manga” among booksellers in both the Christian and secular markets.  Since our flagship series SERENITY was announced and launched in 2005, several publishers have started their own lines of inspirational manga, most notably Zondervan.  By our count, the inspirational manga category has grown from six titles when we launched SERENITY with our original publisher Barbour to over 64 announced and published titles today from at least a half a dozen publishers.

Our flagship series SERENITY will be releasing four new titles in January, bringing that series up to a total of 10 full color digest style graphic novels. SERENITY is a comedic teen soap opera about an unhappy girl who finds a happy ending; over 100,000 copies of SERENITY gns have been sold with our first volume hitting the CBA best seller list in January 2006.

Our second series, GOOFYFOOT GURL, is a lifestyle comedy set in the “endless summer” of the California surfing scene; we have four volumes in print and are currently working on two more for release in 2008.

Also in the works are COUPLERS, a star-spanning space opera that serves as a metaphor for courtship and marriage, and HITS & MISSES, a story about a girls’ fast-pitch softball team. COUPLERS is slated for a 2008 launch while HITS & MISSES is on deck for 2009.

All of our titles are inspirational and compatible with the traditional CBA market, although SERENITY is our only overtly Christian title (sharp eyed readers will note the heroines of GOOFYFOOT GURL and HITS & MISSES are Christian as well, though that is not the focal point of those series).  As we are fond of saying, our stories are values reinforcement tools, not overtly evangelical tools (though we have had a lot of feedback from readers thanking us for the strong expressions of faith in the SERENITY series).

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