Women’s Comics in Russia: Initiated by Manga
In the USSR, like in many other countries, comics were mostly seen as light reading material and published in children’s magazines. When a comics market formed in Russia during the 1990s, it consisted mainly of translated American and European children’s comics, but first comics-only magazines aimed at teenagers and adults also appeared at that time (KOM, Veles, Muha, etc.). These magazines presented works made by men and for men, usually containing sexualized images of women. There were no famous women among Russian comic artists during the 1990s, as female authors usually assisted their husbands or were known as part of comics artists duos. An example of the latter is Natalia Snegireva, who created “Keshka”, a children’s comics series about a cat, together with her husband Andrey. Another person is Svetlana Sorokina, who helped her husband Evgeny as a colorist and then designed book covers for the Russian edition of “ElfQuest” by Wendy and Richard Piny. The turning point for female comics artists in Russia came in the early 2000s with the growing popularity of Japanese manga and the spread of the Internet. Due to these factors, young women published comics in new magazines aimed at both children and teenagers (Klassnyi zhurnal, Yula, etc.) and at anime fans (Poppuri anime, Anime Guide, etc.). For example, Lina and Kotyonok (“The Kitten”) by Enji were a romance and fantasy comics series with a girl as protagonist; Rytsari radugi (“The Knights of the Rainbow”) from Yula magazine examined “girl power” through the friendship between girls and magic adventures of Russian middle school students. Female artists who adopted the style of Japanese manga were not the only ones to open the door for new themes in comics and imagine girls as heroines, but their work definitely encouraged young girls to draw comics by themselves and participate in Russian comics festivals. This article examines the role of manga, shōjo manga (comics for girls) in particular, for the birth of women’s comics in Russia and feminist themes. Its influence on the growth of women in comics both as readers and artists, the appearance of manga-inspired comics which address issues such as women’s body and trauma Kniga tela (“The Book of Body”) or Razdelenie (“Partition”) by Yuliya Nikitina; lesbian romance Klub by Anna Rud’; life of a young woman during the siege of Leningrad Survilo by Olga Lavrentieva. Besides representational contents, the birth of feminist fanzines such as those by Nika Vodvud and group “FemInfoteka” are also noteworthy.