Comics vs. Manga: Differences & Similarities

On the surface, Western comic books and manga may look like they’re from two different worlds. From the art, to text orientation, themes, and characters, it’s easy to see why some prefer one over the other, but both are equally as compelling and definitely worth a read. But, in essence, both mediums tell amazing stories through the use of created images and words.

If you’ve been wondering what the difference between these two types of comic books are, then see for yourself, and check out my recommendations for both types at the end!

Differences

Format & Text Orientation

Perhaps the biggest–and most noticeable difference–between Western comics and manga is how it’s read. With English, we read from left to right, so that’s how our comic books are laid out. In the Japanese language, text is read from right to left, so that is how they format manga, even when they translate it to English.

Page from Batgirl of Burnside
Western comic reading left to right.

You’ll notice that most manga books have a reading guide if you were to open it up from the left-hand side, which is super handy for manga newbies and those who haven’t had the practice in a while (i.e. me).

Opened My Hero Academia book to reading guide.
Reading guide in manga

Color vs. Black & White

Another noticeable difference between Western Comics and manga is that comics are often colorized and manga is illustrated in black & white. However, there are exceptions to the rule, of course. Sometimes manga will feature full-color pages or inserts, or there are even all color manga books available, and there is a slew of great black & white Western comic books out on the market.

Art Style

When it comes to art styles, Western comics tend to have a bit more variety, especially with indie comics. Superhero comics, like DC and Marvel, tend to have similar styles, but there tends to be more flexibility. Styles can vary from traditional illustration, watercolor, pointillism, and more.

Manga, on the other hand, has somewhat of a specific style. Features like hair, eyes, and other facial details are delicate yet defined, and action shots are drawn in a more dynamic manner. Additionally, manga tends to incorporate many cultural influences into its artwork, making it unique from any other form of comic books.

Goku from Dragonball Z next to Superman.

Similarities

Themes, Characters, and Genres

While the presentation of characters and scenery look different between comics and manga, both have very similar genres, themes, and character tropes that they stick to in order to tell the story. Think about your favorite DC or Marvel superhero and then think about your favorite anime protagonist.

Let’s take a look at Spider-Man and Izuku Midoriya (from My Hero Academia): both come from humble beginnings, both are bestowed with amazing superpowers, and both have to learn how to control these newfound powers in a world that is becoming more and more tumultuous. Both of our protagonists befriend people who are a part of the hero world they work in, but also have someone in their personal life that keeps them grounded (Aunt May/Mary Jane for Spider-Man, Izuku’s mom). And, finally, they both experience personal growth and struggles as they try to navigate as newly-appointed heroes.

Sound familiar now?

Weekly/Monthly Installments That Are Compiled Into Volumed Anthologies

Most people who are familiar with comics know that comics are released by issue on a monthly basis, generally. But did you know that manga chapters are as well? The other nifty thing about both comics and manga is that once a major storyline has ended, those particular chapters are compiled into anthologies. For comics, they’re referred to usually as trades, and the manga volumes are their equivalent.

Batgirl of Burnside trade and My Hero Academia Volume 1 side-by-side.

My Comic and Manga Recommendations

Now that I’ve jabbered your ear off about the similarities and differences of manga and comics, here are my top five picks for each that I highly recommend you check out!

Western Comics

  • Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson
  • Batgirl of Burnside by Brendan Fletcher, Babs Tarr, and Cameron Stewart
  • Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  • Korgi by Christian Slater
  • Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat! by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams

Manga

  • D. Gray Man by Katsura Hoshino
  • Bleach by Tite Kubo
  • My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi
  • Imadoki! by Yuu Watase
  • Hellsing by Kouta Hirano

Do you prefer manga over comics, or vice versa? What’s your favorite series of each? Let me know in the comments below so we can nerd out!

Life was meant to be lived nerdily, so what are you waiting for?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nice summary! I’m definitely unfamiliar with Manga, but I read more comics. I have been trying to read more Manga though and I’m trying to watch more anime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mickey says:

      Manga/anime is lots of fun! It’s an easy transition to make from comics and vice versa.

      Liked by 1 person

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