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Jason Thompson '87 | Navigating the World of Comics and Manga

Healdsburg High School '91
University of California, San Diego '95 - Bachelor of Arts, English, Minor in Visual Art
Freelance Illustrator, Writer, and Comic Book Artist Mock Man Press (mockman.com)

Jason Thompson credits his parents for introducing him to cartoons and instilling a love of reading, but even they could never have imagined how what they considered family fun would help launch their eldest son’s career as comic and graphic novel illustrator, author, and critic.

“I was turned on to reading through picture books and comics,” Jason remembers. “I enjoyed the drawings, my mom and I would act out Peanuts comic strips, and my dad collected old Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comic books. I was used to stories told through pictures and words and became a voracious reader of everything when I was older.”

However, he never lost his love for comics. “As a young child I read American comics,” he recalls, “In high school I was introduced to Japanese comics (manga) and animation (anime), which offered an element of science fiction and fantasy that I didn’t see in American comics. Manga was also super emotional and melodramatic, even heartfelt sometimes, which wasn’t typical of comics in the west.”
Manga, Japanese for "comics," originated in Japan but are hugely popular worldwide. "Manga was a small niche market in 1987 with just a few translations in the U.S., but by the time I got to college it was much more available," says Jason. American readers read translations, and Jason was drawn to the harrowing adventures, valiant heroes, and the stories on a wide variety of topics, from science fiction to martial arts to romance.

At UCSD, he found like-minded college friends and together they sought out comics, graphic novels, and fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and interactive, online games.  Unbeknownst to them, they were on the leading edge of what is now a huge “gamer“ market, and Jason was able to capitalize on his passion by getting a job in the field.

He moved to San Francisco to work as an editor for Viz Media, the largest U.S. distributor and publisher of manga and anime. He edited the translations of popular Japanese comic books such as Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Naruo for the U.S. market and developed a vast knowledge base about the medium. During his ten years with Viz, he also drew and printed his own comics, which he sold to comic book stores and conventions. The two interests came together in a most favorable way in 2006, when he left Viz to write Manga: The Complete Guide, in which he covers the 1,000-plus manga graphic novels he had read and reviewed up to that point.

The success of that guide, published by Random House, led to a contract for an additional two-book series: King of RPGs (drawn by his collaborator Victor Hao) a graphic novel series based on the adventures of college gamers on a campus very similar to UCSD. His next project was a comic adaptation of a public-domain novel, H.P. Lovecraft’s Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and Other Stories, which he illustrated and raised money to publish. He maintains a rich online presence as a reviewer and critic of manga and Japanese animation. A Seattle resident, Jason also works as a freelance illustrator.
Jason has maintained his SCDS connection as a contributor to the Day Light alumni updates and Facebook page. He feels he learned to appreciate the art of storytelling here and amassed a literary base of knowledge that informs his works.

“SCDS was a very creative and academic environment,” he says. “I graduated with a good background in a traditional liberal arts education that contributes to my content today. My comics rely on knowledge of the micro-level of sentence, structure, and composition as well as the macro level of story-telling skills and conveying information and emotion effectively. That foundation was formed at SCDS.”

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The premier, fully accredited, independent TK-8 college preparatory school in Sonoma County. Located in northern Santa Rosa and proud home of The Jackson Theater, SCDS offers a challenging academic program rich in fine and performing arts, music, world languages, and social and emotional learning. For more than thirty years SCDS has been the school that brings learning to life.