the Little Red Reviewer

Comic, by Ha SiHyun

Posted on: November 10, 2010

 You know how I’m constantly railing about how much I hate cheesy romance stories, cover art featuring half naked people and angsty romance stories in general?

It was all a lie.

Well, mostly a lie. A lot of the American style urban fantasy romance paranormal whatever you want to call it doesn’t do a damn thing for me. The covers feature half naked people with unrealisticly perfect bodies who stare smolderingly. The story follows some flighty chick who has magical powers but has to make a choice between different men – the unatainable hottie who doesn’t notice her, the guy whose in her league but who doesn’t respect her, or a third as yet unmet gent. Yeah, doesn’t do a thing for me.

Ahh, but Ha SiHyun’s manhwa series Comic is just so adorable that I can’t put it down. The covers feature Alice, the main character, dressed cutely, or one of her many love interests in some state of undress sporting unrealistic bodies and staring smolderingly. She might not have any magical powers, but she is a talented yet flighty young artist trying to balance finishing high school and working as a mangwha artist. Not to mention her love interests, which include the unatainable older hottie who barely notices her, a guy whose in her league but doesn’t respect her, and third gent who shows up later. Yeah, I can’t get enough of this stuff.

Ha SiHyun? Manhwa? Japan isn’t the only place Manga is from. South Korea has a growing talent of comic book artists, both in webcomics and weekly or monthly publications. “Manwha” is just their word for manga and many American manga imprints have been picking up Korean titles and artists.

Alice is a typical high schooler at a typical all girls high school in South Korea. She loves comics and draws all the time. Her friends rave about the comic book she wrote about a student who falls for her handsome student teacher. Unbeknownst to Alice, her friends enter the comic book in a nationwide contest, and she places third place, getting to meet everyone at the publishing house and some of their manhwa artists. Little did anyone know, all Alice did was change the names. The story about the girl who feel for her student teacher, Mr Hwang? It’s true, and it’s autobiographical, and now Mr. Huang is an editor at that publishing house!!

Alice needs to hone her skills, and Mr Hwang has an artist who can’t meet a deadline and needs an assistant, so he dumps Alice at Saturn Kang’s apartment to help him meet the deadline. The manhwa artist known as Saturn is hot, young, and a pain in the ass, but Alice knows she better work hard if she wants to learn. 

Back at school, and her girlfriends are drooling over the boys at the all-boys school next door. Their main attraction? A young man named Patrick. Alice looks a little closer, and it’s Saturn!   He lied to her!  They are the same age!

Should she attempt to go after Mr. Hwang? After all, she’s a year older now, and he’s not her student teacher anymore. What about this Patrick fellow? He’s talented, popular, protected her from a gang of jealous girls, but he sure treats her like crap when they’re alone. And who knows what else is in her future?

The first volume of Comic is cute and funny, and while it clings to some romance cliches, it avoids the traditional Japanese high student mantra of being obsessed with cram school and entrance exams and being perfect. Alice has no interest in being perfect. She just doesn’t want anything about her life to be boring.

Now at 8 volumes, Ha SiHyun’s Comic is published through Yen Press, the graphic novel imprint of Hachette Book Group. Yen has picked up a handful of Korean and Japanese titles, and increasingly, American writers doing comics and graphic novels in the Eastern manga style.

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2 Responses to "Comic, by Ha SiHyun"

“American writers doing comics and graphic novels in the Eastern manga style.” I was surprised by this, I’ve long thought that Americans should be able to draw in the manga style and get published for it but I didn’t think anyone was actually publishing them.
I would recommend a Manhwa named Ugly Duckling To Swan. This also avoids the general style of doing things and hits some very serious issues that not even the older genre of J Manga has approached yet, but it’s not depressing about it as many manga (and books) tend to get when they hit serious issues.

WHat I’m seeing with a handful of publishing houses is it will be an American or British author writing the story, dialogue, character, etc, but a Korean or Japanese artist doing all the artwork and drawings. Have you heard of MegaTokyo? started out as a webcomic, and is now a graphic novel/manga. written by two American guys.

I’ve heard of Ugly Duckling, now to find a copy! And you’re right, a lot of the J stuff gets really serious and heavy really fast. Sometimes I just want something fun and escapism!

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