Makeshift Musings and Comic Book Bliss by Jim Zubkavich

An Electric Manga Mirror

Scouring the Internet comic scene, it’s easy to see how prevalent manga imagery and ideals are. Thousands of fan sites are dedicated to Japanese anime, comics and characters. It’s a cultural tidal wave that can easily wash away the uninitiated with way too many facts and trivia about the multitude of worlds that have been created by eastern artists. Whether you’re a fan or not, you can’t deny its influence on popular entertainment.

Stepping back from the minutia, it’s important to see where the strength of the manga industry comes from. It’s not just cute character designs, cultural oddities, an artistic style or provocative images. It’s a simple formula that’s all but eluded the North American comic market until quite recently: variety.

Look at any selection of manga and you will see a ton of genres represented that get almost no exposure from the American industry: mystery, science fiction, humor, fantasy, history and romance. It can cater to any age group or demographic, and represents the sequential art form in a way that shows how limited the superhero genre has been for us on this side of the Pacific. It’s the reason why comics sell in the millions of copies in the East and only in the thousands over here.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not preaching a smothering love of all manga… trust me, the Japanese have their fair share of garbage comics too (with millions of readers, they have all sorts of room for sub-par work) I’ve seen the low-grade porno, the repetitive characters and one-trick-anime ponies. The key here is to see the strength that has arisen from the sheer variety that the manga market has shown. It’s a medium that can cater to a huge audience because there’s something for everyone.

That same strength is working wonders for webcomics.

How many superhero webcomics can you name? (I’m sure I’ll get a fistful of e-mails with links to some, but at this point they definitely aren’t very common…) Compare that with the amazing spread of other genres available from the webcomic universe. The freedom offered by the web has finally given a pervasive voice to these neglected print comic genres. Accessibility is as simple as a click of a button; age and geography are no longer a requirement.

Manga blazed the trail, and now we can travel through to the thousands of hidden roads that lay beyond. Tell the stories you want to tell, no matter how uncategorized they may seem. You have a greater ability to reach your readers than ever before. If Scott McCloud can make a compelling biography out of his obsession with chess, then it’s safe to assume that almost any type of quality storytelling can find enthusiastic readers.

Read and take in the swath of material at your fingertips – an inexhaustible world of storytellers who just want an audience to empathize with their work. Whether they’re drawn in a manga style or not, this array of web-work is an odd electric mirror of the Japanese print industry. It’s not a reflection of large eyed, big-breasted females or gravity-defying hairdos…

…it’s an assortment of genres that engage readers, young and old.

Jim Zubkavich is a contributing columnist for Comixpedia.

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  1. Or even unusual superheroes. For instance, I had an idea for a superheroine whose other identity would be mentally challenged. Seriously mentally challenged. FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON type challenged. I knew the chances were absolutely nil of getting a corporation to touch such controversial subject matter.
    But now I have one of the few “straight” superhero strips on the web, at MINDMISTRESS and am enjoying it hugely, and getting a reasonable readership. I’m glad most webcomics AREN’T superhero-oriented—I certainly don’t want webcomics to get as genre-narrow as Marvel or DC—but I like the whole superhero idea, and like the freedom to do it my way, at my pace, without editorial interference.

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