Wednesday, January 28, 2004

My Oh My

Man, sometimes conventional wisdom is sooo wrong and I know it shouldn't make me so gleefully happy, but I would have to guess I'm just an asshole in any event.

For generations of American comic book readers, Japan has been the Promised Land - where grown men openly read comics on the subway, as the stories repeatedly mention. Japan was held as the 'Gold Standard' in terms of social acceptance for funnybooks... but, as with many things in recent years, American CW has been proven at least partially wrong. (Link courtesy, as usual, of Dirk and Journalista! ... but you knew that, didn't you?)

Seems to me that the bottom line of this story is that while comics are accepted by a wider spectrum of the population in Japan, manga is still by no means accepted by society at large. In fact, I daresay that from a cultural standpoint, the traditionally rigid Japanese might tend to frown on manga even more fervently than the American bluenoses, for whom most comics are probably still blessedly below the radar screen. The 'Subway Men' make the problem more pronounced in Japan (and the tentacle sex probably doesn't help either).

Another thought that comes to mind - I can recall that as recently as ten and fifteen years ago, before Manga had any presence on American shelves, the average fanboy thought quite highly of Japan. Now that Manga is actually in America, and not just in America but trouncing American comics sales, the average fanboy is far less pleasantly disposed to the genre. Not only do the books sell well, but Japanese creators and manufacturers could care less for the genre stratifications that define American comics - which means nothing to you and I, but for your average fanboy its probably the equivilent of a deep existential crisis that the top selling comics in America aren't superheroes anymore. Are we going to see some nasty xenophobic reactions in the near future here, as the ingrained and continuing failure of the American mainstream to meet the Japanese challenge becomes an inarguable fact of life?

Another thought: just how well do American books sell in Japan? I don't just mean mainstream stuff, how well does stuff like Hellboy and Love & Rockets and Black Hole sell over there, if its sold at all? Its an interesting question.

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