News: Manga Updates

U.K. Anime and Manga Fanzines 1985-2000: Q&A with Helen McCarthy

Following her fascinating talk for our September Third Thursday Lecture, Helen McCarthy, independent scholar and author, answered some questions sent in by attendees.


Q: Did UK fan zines have any contact with fan zines in other countries, sharing their zines & maybe anime tapes?

A: That’s a great question. In fact, we had contacts not only with the USA, but with France and Belgium and a little later with the Netherlands and Germany. There were many fanzine and pro-zine publishers who got in touch with us through Anime UK Magazine and through that to other fanzines, and so there was a certain amount of tape trading, definitely with America, less so with Europe, because the different videotape formats were a barrier. Although, for example, France’s SECAM tape format would play on UK video cassette recorders in black and white, and that was quite off-putting when you could get a tape from America and play it on an American format recorder. So, yes, there was a lot of liaison and people began to see what could be done and share ideas and so on, but for tape trading, it stayed mainly with America.

Q: Are researchers in Japan interested in archiving/researching fanzines about anime and manga – from Japan and the UK – and Helen’s findings? Or are they unaware, or perhaps uninterested?

A: Well, that too is a good question. I don’t know how interested researchers in Japan are in archiving UK fanzines, because you must remember that they’re in pretty much the same position that we are with regard to all this ephemera, except that they have the wonderful Yonezawa Yoshihiro Memorial Library. Yonezawa was a fanzine fanatic who archived everything he could lay his hands on, and that library is there as a fantastic resource, so they are definitely interested in archiving Japanese fanzines. Whether they have the same level of interest in archiving another fandom, I honestly couldn’t say – that’s really a question for a Japanese fanzine researcher.

Q: British Comics fanzines were very professional by the later 70s. How much did this affect the Manga & Anime fandom?  It was Paul Gravett’s article in Marvel’s Daredevils about Manga in the early 80s that make me aware of Japanese comics. It was only the imports from the USA of Lone Wolf and Cub and Mai the Psychic Girl.

A; It’s an interesting question. There was, in fact, very little crossover between mainstream comics fandom and anime and manga fanzines. We shared the same interest in the American reprints of Japanese comics that were coming over in translation, obviously, and we also had a wonderful regular Comic Mart at Central Hall, Westminster, which is where I first met Paul Gravett way back in the 80s, but the level of crossover between the fanzine areas was, as far as I can tell, quite limited. An awful lot of fanzine editors were coming out of other areas of Britain [like] The North, [and] were coming out of working-class areas, some the first generation of their families to go to university. Their focus and their time tended to be more on anime than on anime and manga as a part of wider comics. We owe Paul Gravett a great debt for actually bringing anime and manga into the comics arena, but certainly it didn’t seem to me that there was an enormous amount of crossover between the two fandoms.

Q: Great talk. Which were the two U.K. news websites still running?


Q: What was the impact of the anime distributors on the fan output? If I remember I thought Manga had the Mangazine which had fan published materials and even regional fan co-ordinators.

A: Manga Entertainment, the distribution label, had a club, the Manga Club, which definitely set up regional fan co-ordinators. Their main purpose was to sell Manga products – that’s what commercial fan clubs do, but there was definitely an influence there in that people who might only have picked up a tape on sale and wonder what else is there, could go along to their regional area and go to an event or a meeting and meet other fans and so in that way come into the wider fandom. Generally speaking, Manga Entertainment didn’t have much interest in promoting fan material that was unrelated to its own product, and there’s no reason why they should have – that was what they were there to sell.

Q: I know you mentioned problematic fan behaviour in anime fandoms; what problematic behaviours were these, and how have they evolved over time?

A: It’s not going to be possible to describe any individual things here, but I think I would point you in the direction of the MeToo movement where a few women who had been speaking out for many years were finally joined by higher-profile women speaking out, and a particular developing pattern of behaviour was identified as undesirable.

Q: Thank you for such an interesting presentation! I owe my career to reading your Anime! A Beginners Guide To Japanese Animation when I was in high school in the early 2000s. I’m now the historian at the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment in Oakland, California…and we have near weekly discussions about how best to approach preservation of fanmade materials such as maps of game levels, fanart, and etc. Do you have any general hints/tips/guidelines for approaching this problem?

A: Well, that’s wonderful to hear, and thank you for saying that, and I am very glad to hear that your museum is approaching this with such seriousness. The two main enemies of the preservation of cheap, mass-produced paper are damp and light, as you know far better than I do as a museum conservator. The only thing I can suggest is get as much paper as you can and get it in temperature-controlled conditions and out of light, [and] digitise it. The British Library has been for about 25 years digitising all of its collections, including newspapers and broadsheets going back to the 1600s, to try and ensure that they can preserve the originals in temperature and light controlled conditions while making the digital versions fully available for reading and research. So what I would suggest is, if you can get the funding, start digitising as much as you can get and digitise things as early as possible and then put them away in a safe archive vault that has both temperature and light control. That’s the best way to preserve them, I think.

Q: Do you have any insight into how the “Satanic Panic” affected U.K. anime fandom in the 80s and 90s? Or was that more of an American thing?

The “Satanic Panic” is more of an American way of putting it, but we definitely had our own difficult political time. In fact, the best thing I can suggest that you do with this is look back at my second slide and have a look at Leah Holmes” other material that she has posted online. She has an excellent presentation that outlines that whole issue in our area and I really couldn’t better it. She’s done such meticulous research and got such good sources there that it’s going to be very helpful.

Q: Are the doujins also archived online? It’s an aspect of UK comics I’ve never come upon before

A: I don’t actually know of any Doujin archives. Individual artists have archived some of their own material and some of them make it available online, but as far as the British doujin archive goes, it’s a wonderful idea, but I don’t know of one.

Q: Fantastic presentation, Helen! Was the “push back” against emerging fandom in the UK, on the part of traditional SF fans, as rough as I understand it to have been in the US, or was it more accepting?

A: Having lived through it and having been active in SF fandom for about six or seven years before I found anime, it was probably as rough as in the US. I understand that anime and manga fans in Japan had very much the same reception from traditional science fiction fans in Japan, and talking to other women active in fandom, it seems that in Japan, in America and in Britain, we all had a fairly negative reception from certain elements of SF fandom – that seems to have unfortunately been a general trend. Perhaps it was different in France, I haven’t looked into it there, or in Belgium or in Germany, but certainly talking to other fans who went through that period in Britain, in America and in Japan, it seems that that was not the most welcoming of times for us.

Q: How do you think the impact of Super Play magazine influenced things? For a period, it was the number one selling UK video games magazine. Helen had input within it, bringing anime and manga to wider audience.

A: Super Play, I think, was very influential. Future Publishing, who published Super Play, not only recruited me to do a column and a number of our writers to do a column, but also had the great good sense to get Wil Overton, who is Anime UK Magazine’s first art director, to provide a string of absolutely astonishing covers. Wil went on to a career in gaming, which was one of his first loves, in gaming art. So I think Super Play was influential because it was a mass distribution magazine, and particularly when Anime UK folded, the fact that you could go into your local magazine store at W.H.Smith and get a copy of Super Play meant that anime stayed in the forefront of fans’ discussions and fans’ minds as part of the gaming discourse. Of course, that goes right back to Onn Lee’s gaming fanzines way back in ’89, so it’s been a constant thread. I miss Super Play – they did a kind of memorial issue a couple of years back and it was great fun to be part of that.


Q: I’ve seen a large uptick in folks uploading things to to help preserve things digitally. Is there any interest in archiving these zines here in an effort to keep them digitally online in case these websites shut down?

A: Most fans, especially newer fans, either aren’t aware, or have only just become aware, of the early fanzine era. There hasn’t been any organised effort in British anime and manga fandom at archiving fanzines. A few fan editors across various fandoms deposited their work with the Copyright Receipt Office, and that work eventually enters the copyright receipt libraries’ collections and shows up in the British Library Catalogue. Other fan editors have made their own material available online, which is the first step in spreading the works so they can be accessed more widely. It takes a lot of time and effort to scan in old fanzines and flyers, but once digitised they can be shared online and deposited in multiple places. is one, Fanlore is another, and I can’t see any reason why fanzines can’t be archived in AO3. If we want our own works are digitised and shared and archived, we have to do it; nobody else apart from a few historians and researchers has any reason to care whether or not they survive if we can’t be bothered ourselves.

Q: Are there any archives accepting good quality photos of original art for zines of this area?  (I still have a folder full of stuff from this era)

A: I just Googled “online fan archives” and got 339 million results in 44 seconds. Fanlore and AO3 headed the list. There’s some confusion because the Forum of National Archivists also calls itself FAN, which shows up in any ‘fan archives” search, but even allowing for such false positive results, I think you can find a few places. I always recommend depositing in at least three sites, one ideally a blog you create yourself and check from time to time, on a well-supported free system such as WordPress of Blogger..

Q: Do you have any personal piece of anime media (VHS, Figures, Manga or etc) that you still kept/hold with you right now?

A: My partner and I live in a tiny museum of our passions which also happens to include living space. I’m not a huge figure fan but he is, and we both collect candy toys and gachapon toys, especially on Lupin III and kaiju. Books have always been my main collecting passion, both Japan-related and others,  and now I’m getting older I’m trying to decide what happens to all my books after I’m gone. I suppose that’s a natural development of research into old materials!

Q: How much did the Japan Festival in 1992 give a boost to Anime? I remember seeing various films and my friends raving about Akira, which seems to have been a breakthrough film for the UK audience.

A: It was 1991, and it was amazing! Again, if you Google “Japan Festival 1991” you’ll get reviews and comments from all over the world. I enjoyed it immensely. I was involved in the “Manga, Comic Strip Books for Japan” exhibition that Adam Lowe mounted at the Pomeroy Purdey Gallery, made contact with the Barbican Cinema over their film season and visited their photo exhibition, saw the huge V&A exhibition and went to the huge Matsuri in Hyde Park with a number of other fans. It was indeed a major breakthrough in the perception of Japan across the UK. The Festival left a longstanding legacy; I was very proud to receive a Japan Festival Award for my work in promoting understanding of Japanese culture in Britain in 1997.

A little more information on the Japan Festival 1991:

There’s an entry in Hansard, the British Parliamentary record, in which the Minister for the Arts says which events he attended.

There’s a neat little one-page summary of the Japan Society’s history that features the Japan Festival 1991 prominently at

You can also ask to view a video record of some events held in the London Screen Archives.

A contemporary review by Dominic Wells for Time Out mentions manga briefly:

Manga, Comic Strip Books from Japan.

Q: Doesn’t John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera collect such fanzines?

A: I have no idea, but anyone interested in depositing their collection (after digitising it and placing it in fan archives, of course) can contact them on

+44 (0)1865 277047

Here’s how to access the collection online:

Please note that the Library places restrictions on photography, use or sharing of any item in the Collection. It is generally for research purposes only.