Sunday, October 7, 2007

Us Comics vs Manga (wow, long)

So over @ scans daily there was some discussion of American Comics vs Manga and why people prefer one over the other. And of course, each side is ready to throw stones at the other. I stopped to think of what the major differences are and how it may motivate people to choose one over the other. (get comfortable, this is long. Go grab a snack, I'll wait...)

Let's go over the big obvious stuff first.
Printing size and color (how's that for a graphic design nerd start?)
US comics are generally all color, (4 color process I believe). Paper size is 6.9x10.5 and a regular comic book will be between 30-50 pages long and probably glossy. Nice paper and pretty colors drive the cost up quite a bit. To the point where the cost of a trade paperback would be somewhere between 15 to 25 dollars.

Manga, on the other hand, is almost always black and white, with the exception here and there of having the first few pages in color. Tankobon size is 5x7.5, no gloss. Smaller paper, little or no color and no gloss makes the price of these books cheaper even though they have many more pages than American comics (roughly a couple hundred pages) They range from 8.99 to 12.99 but most manga have leveled out at 9.99.

So, when your local geek has ten bucks to spend and every other penny is already invested in bills or sunk into your gas tank, manga volumes become more and more attractive.

Ok, say you're the Daddy Warbucks of geeks (clearly you don't play collectible card games. I respect that) and cost isn't an issue. Here is where it gets tricky. (and the bit where I plagarize myself, but I'm okay with that)

The giant scope of manga available is the key. If it exists, there is a manga about it. It's like Rule 34, but less terrifying. You want a manga about rollerblading and gang fights? Done! (Air Gear) something about good sorcerers hunting down the bad ones and whipping them into submission in a good way? Done! (Sorcerer Hunters) But what if you want a story about a local otaku club sitting around and interacting? Ah, you can have that too (Genshiken). Something with no story whatsoever that is somehow hysterical? Yes! (Azumanga Daioh, Strawberry Marshmallow, Lucky Star)

This is where the division begins in my mind.

The sheer existence of shoujo manga ("girl's manga") is important. The complete emphasis on slice of life/emotion/dialogue is something I didn't find in many American comics when I first got into manga about 15 years ago. The art style is even different. Many shoujo manga don't bother with backgrounds in their panels. Aside from the occasional establishing shot, it's mostly just character interaction and dialogue. Backgrounds are unnecessary. I'm likely to step on toes here, but many comic books were/are not marketed to an audience that wants less ass kicking and more shoe staring and long emotional diatribes. It's quite telling that they're labeled as girl's manga. It's painfully clear that most US comics are not marketed towards girls at all. (yes, this is a larger argument, but let's stay on topic here, ok?)

Now don't get your panties in a bunch over this label. It's not to say that only girls can read girls manga. That's ridiculous. That's akin to saying that girls can't read US comics. We do, lots of us and we're often cranky about it! I know plenty of guys that read non - shonen manga and/or shoujo manga. Let's not get paranoid about how reading manga may somehow magically alter our sexuality and/or preferences. That's obnoxious as well.

I am positive there are American exceptions, but upon visiting the local comics shop, it's all about the spandex and ass kicking. Don't get me wrong, I love my spandex and ass kicking. I adore it. I get vicarious thrills when I read about She Hulk tossing around cars and just punching the hell out of everything. However, there is also the "single female lawyer" side to She Hulk. There's sure to be an audience that wants to see her more as Jen Walters the lawyer and less as Shulkie. The option for a emotional/romantic comedy/ slice of life is an important thing.

As for me, I read everything. I don't discriminate. I love my X-Men, Birds of Prey, & She Hulk. However, I also love the fact that I have options like Mars, Tramps Like Us (great book unfortunate title translation) & Peach Girl.

As they say on the internet(s), Your Mileage May Vary- in other words, it's all about personal preference. You may think I am entirely full of crap and hey, you're entitled to that (although if you think that and read this blog then you confuse me mightily.)

So, the bottom line to all of this? To me, variety. Spice of life and all that.

Much love to: scans daily, Marvel, DC, Tokyopop, and Urban Dictionary.