Frederick L. Jones, founder of the manga brand Saturday AM, considers himself a devout fan of the genre, having followed manga for decades. And while Jones lauds the inventiveness, dynamism, and character designs of manga, he has long sensed a missed opportunity for more diversity in the art form. For Jones, more inclusive manga is a natural evolution.
“I think of manga as an institution and visual language for people around the world,” Jones says. “Likewise, diversity is not an alien or quirky concept to them; rather, it’s a reality. Many modern artists see no distinction in their works being considered ‘manga,’ whether the main character is African, Latin American, Indian, and so on.”
This desire to celebrate and promote global manga led Jones to launch Saturday AM digital manga in 2013. Jones says it’s a “brand that operates in the spirit of the Japanese manga but with a focus on characters, creators, and settings that could hail from anywhere and feature anyone.”
And with its ongoing publishing partnership with The Quarto Group launched in 2022, Saturday AM is reaching even more readers through a series of manga titles now published in print format. Under its art and design imprint, Rockport Publishers, Quarto published 10 Saturday AM titles in 2022 across seven series—with an additional 10 to 12 titles coming every year. “There is a natural competitiveness to all the series,” Jones says.
The Rockport editions, which are slightly bigger than a traditional volume of Japanese manga, are mostly in black and white and will include select color pages. Clock Striker, Volume 1 by Jones along with Nigerien Issaka Galadima is a Saturday AM standout coming from Quarto this February. The book follows a Black female lead hero, Cast, in her quest to become a member of the SMITHS, the legendary warrior engineers.
From Nigerian author and artist Odunze Oguguo—aka YouTube’s Whyt Manga—the Apple Black series takes place in a fantasy world in which people gain magical abilities from a fruit called “Black.” Apple Black, Volume 3 will publish in May of this year. Oguguo too grew up reading manga and was particularly drawn to its cinematic storytelling style, but he wanted to see the art form broadened. “As a Nigerian, I wanted to bring many ideas to the manga category,” he says, “so I designed my series to support various cultures, mythologies, and types of magic.”
Also coming out this year are Saigami, Volume 2 by Hungarian artist Seny and Gunhild by Colombian artist Fred Tornager. Both feature fantastical settings with multilayered characters. More upcoming releases include Soul Beat, Volume 1 by Morganne Walker, Underground, Volume 1 by J. R. De Bard, and Henshin!, Volume 1 by Bon Idle, a kaiju-light story featuring a queer boy navigating his new role as a superhero.
Through its successful partnership with The Quarto Group, Saturday AM is representing a growing body of diverse artists. It’s all in line with Jones’s original vision of creating ever-expanding, truly global manga. “From our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters to those who are differently abled, have nonstandard body types, or have darker skin tones, everyone should be able to see themselves in manga,” he says. “It’s been rewarding to see that people of all backgrounds have embraced many of our characters and creators as well as our overall mission.”