Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, February 01, 2021

Recently, while noting the life, times and work of the late Will Eisner, I mentioned the perception problem the comic book/graphic novel format has in this country:

Unfortunately, the built-in societal preconceptions about the comic book format gives the impression that such work is nothing more than a dumbing-down effort of more complex subjects (or, as usual, a medium for children or those with lesser comprehension skills). That dismisses comics as a medium with its own merits, independent of comparisons with books, movies or any other media. As usual, a reminder is required about comics being a medium of expression, and not a genre.

A big reason for this genre/medium mischaracterization is because American comic books have been dominated, in fact, for decades by a single genre: Superheroes.

That’s been both a blessing and a curse, for both the genre and the medium. The blessing has been the development of a thriving intellectual property industry and pop cultural repository. The curse? A medium that’s largely restricted itself to a narrow audience: Males from adolescence to young adult, mostly fixated on superheroes and the related science fiction/fantasy fields.

This left few options for potential readers who are interested in other genres and story material. If you didn’t like the costumed characters, you pretty much had no reason to pick up a comic book.

Because the home-grown American publishers can’t deliver, Japanese manga has moved in, offering more variety to a wider readership that includes (gasp!) girls.

The appearance of this story coincides with a rare visit by me to a bookstore just a couple of days ago. I took a peek through the graphic novel aisle to reacquaint myself with what was current. I was surprised to see so much shelf space devoted to trade paperback manga! It easily dwarfed all the other offerings, including the straight superhero stuff.

That tipped me off to something. I took a look at the traditional comic book racks nearby, and cracked open a couple of issues (for the first time in years). I immediately saw the obvious manga-inspired artwork lines; and thinking more about it now, even the sequential pacing seemed remiscently Japanese.

So it seems that manga is having its impact on American comic books. I think it’s great, actually. It’s taken the influence from another comic book culture to spur a break from a formula that’s been in place for forty years. The first attempt at this — back in the ’70s, with a limited influx of European comics — didn’t have much staying power; this time around, it looks like the effect will be more permanent.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 02/01/2021 10:57:48 PM
Category: Publishing, Pop Culture | Permalink |

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