Rome and Juliet in modern-day Tokyo, where the warring Capulets and Montagues are represented as Yakuza clans. Hamlet in an Earth devastated by global climate change and where the cyberworld is in a state of war. A Second Dark Age caused by a global energy crisis as setting for ‘The Tempest’.
These are some of the titles from the ‘Manga Shakspeare’ collection by UK publishing house SelfMadeHero. The collection showcases Shakespeare’s classic tomes combined with the iconic Japanese comic book style. It has been flying off the shelf in the UK and Asia since it was released in 2007.
Seven works were released in 2007 as part of the “Manga Shakespeare” series — “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “The Tempest,” “Richard III,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Macbeth” and “Julius Caesar.” Adaptations of “Othello” and the comedy “As You Like It” are due out in autumn this year.
‘Manga’ is a Japanese word for comics and print cartoons, and when literally translated, means “whimsical pictures”. The dynamic, emotional and cinematic character of Manga complements perfectly the drama, intrigue and intensity of Shakespeare’s plays, magnifying the storytelling prowess of both. This unique approach has gained the interest of a broad audience: it has appealed to the younger audience, and also captured the interest of educators, who have included the series in the school curriculum.
The might of comics worldwide has been evident since its mass publication became more in demand in the early 1900s. Comic books or comic books style-based publications have not only served the call of entertainment, but have been widely-used tools for educational and political reasons.
A great example of educational comic books is The For Beginners® documentary comic book series, which has been passed on from one curious reader to another in many years. It has sold more than one million copies. Its titles range from philosophy to politics, art, and culture, and other concepts and discipline — all of which entertain and respect the intelligence and intellectual curiosity of its audience. ‘Chomsky for Beginners’, ‘Domestic Violence for Beginners’, ‘Erotica for Beginners’, ‘Che for Beginners’, ‘DNA for Beginners’, ‘Elvis for Beginners’, and the list goes on.
My own interest in history, mythology and writing can be traced directly to the comic books my father regularly bought for me and my brother. From the bunch of superheroes in Marvel and DC (which I would re-write so that someone’s bound to fall in love with another), to historic figures like the Native American Hiawatha and the Philippine’s Jose Rizal; from the gods and goddesses in Mount Olympus to the ‘diwata’ (fairy of the forest) Maria — protector of ‘Makiling’, the mountain of my childhood.
My years in college and the early period trudging through the ‘professional world’ were spent feeding my imagination with Gaiman’s Sandman comics on one hand, learning the real state of economy in the Philippines with IBON comic strips in another hand, while tucked in my backpack were the reader-friendly political comics I used in training sessions with farmers. And then there was the occasionally required Heavy Metal reading 😉
One thing though — I was never as smart as my brother who actually drew comic strip for his classmates and charged them for it. ;-p Anyway, see for yourself some of the Manga Shakespeare series artwork.