There was a recent edit war on my wiki page about the use of the term “manga” to describe my work. The wikipedia entry for manga describes it as a Japanese specific term for comics made in Japan, by Japanese creators or publishers. As a Canadian, there was a debate over whether I could truly call my work manga and refer to myself as a mangaka. While it is true that manga is simply the Japanese word for comics, I hope to explain why I find it useful and more accurate to label my series as manga.
In North America, there are differences between comic book readers and manga readers, even though there can be some crossover in the market. Typically, when you talk of comics in North America, people tend to think of Marvel/DC type books. The majority of comic readers are adult males and the most common genres are super hero, sci-fi, fantasy, horror mixes. However, with manga sales in North America, the majority of readers are young women and girls, and includes drama and romance genre series. Take a look in a book store and you’ll likely find different sections for comics and manga, with different kinds of demographics.
As a type of comic, what manga readers are looking for can be on a spectrum, rather than cut-and-dry criteria. The spectrum of art styles that can be included in manga is only one difference—manga tends to rely more on symbolism than the more literal style of American comics, and relies more on emotion and imagery than dialogue or narration. The business models differ as well, with comic series more commonly being owned by the publisher, while manga series are typically owned by the creator (who licenses the publishing rights).
With these differences, if I want to reach the readership most likely to enjoy my work, the easiest way to do that is by calling it manga, and having it in the manga section. My nationality is irrelevant when going through the selling points of my work. “Manga” is quite practical as a marketing label in North America. Only referring to my work as comics simply because of my nationality or what country the work was created in does nothing to help sell it in North America where there are real difference between selling comic books and manga.
I feel like any other term—OEL (Original English Language) manga, Global manga, and the like—only serves as a warning against buying it (for a silly and pretty much prejudice reason), and why would any artist or publisher want that for their product?
I know that there can be books made in a manga-mimicry fashion just to “cash-in” on the popularity of manga, or plenty of fan-created works that are derivative and fueled by pure fandom, but I don’t think these are strong arguments against using “manga” to describe them. You can quickly fall into the No True Scotsman argument. Besides, Japan has plenty of crappy manga, it just doesn’t tend to get licensed here in North America.
The reality is, calling my work manga is the most likely way to get my books into the hands of readers who will like them, no matter what the purists have to say.
note: My series Secrets of Sorcerers was created reading left-to-right, like Western books, but I choose to create my latest series, Legend of the Ztarr, in Japanese right-to-left because it became industry standard and I wanted to avoid any technical problems that might arise (like having the books in print on shelves with other manga, conforming to manga reader apps, or including chapters in anthology style magazines that would run right-to-left).