Cyberpunk comics and manga

Sadly, it appears that the term “cyberpunk” in popular usage has come to mean something like “a cool retro-futurist aesthetic involving lots of neons and cables”. The ideological import of the original literary movement of the 1980s (in a nutshell, everything that the -punk suffix was meant to represent) is gradually fading. The superficial trappings of the genre are now frequently presented as objects of fascination and desire rather than symbols of an unjust and dehumanizing form of hypercapitalism enabled by new technologies. While the commercial appropriation of cyberpunk began already in the 1990s, it is difficult not to lament its commodification and the taming of its critical and subversive potential. This sense of loss is made all the more poignant given that the dystopian aspects of cyberpunk visions seem all too relevant today.

The representation of cyberpunk in the medium of comics (including manga and les BDs) reflects both tendencies: the critical and anti-authoritarian spirit is mixed there with clichés and tropes that serve primarily as stylistic devices. However, given the popular perception of comic books as a “lesser” form of art, it is worth noting that themes of social, economic, and technological critique can be found in the vast majority of titles included on the following list. Cyberpunk reduced to shallow entertainment is the exception rather than the rule.

From a historical perspective, the impact of comic books on the development of the cyberpunk genre as a whole remains underappreciated. The early science fiction stories published in such magazines as Métal hurlant, Heavy Metal, and 2000AD were cited as influences by the pioneers of literary cyberpunk; many later comics and manga played a crucial role in popularizing cyberpunk as a distinct phenomenon and helped establish its repertoire of distinguishing features in the visual sphere.

The list covers comic books and manga that are consistently described on the web as belonging to the cyberpunk genre. Because this approach doesn’t enforce adherence to any strict definitions but rather relies on popular intuitions, some of the titles included are closer to the ideal type of cyberpunk than others. The vast majority of the comics presented here depict settings recognizable as our near future, characterized by sprawling urban landscapes, social inequalities, and the political dominance of multinational corporations or corrupt authoritarian governments. Their protagonists can be disempowered and cynical, or they can rebel against the status quo. Crucially, their storylines revolve around the effects of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, computer networks, and cyborgs or robots. A few of the listed comics, however, downplay the cyber- element, and thus would be better described as “urban” or “technological dystopias”.

The list