Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary















Home > Commentary and Features

Eight Stories for '05 #6 -- Catching Up to Manga
posted August 26, 2005
 

imageIt's Friday, so I feel safe confessing I still approach Asian comics as a reader, not an industry observer. A good thing about that is I don't have the kind of rooting interest that seems to color a lot of rhetoric surrounding these kinds of comics. For example, I assume there will be a market correction at some point, not because I want to see Superman fly over Penguin Village giving everyone the finger or because I hope to hedge against some razzing I'll get if one hits, but because most markets not in an Al Capp strip tend to go into slight down cycles every now and then. I'm not sure it has to be a big deal. It seems to me there is plenty to mitigate the horrific effects of any potentially slack period, everything from 1) smaller companies going out of business and discrediting excessive publishing strategies very early on to 2) moves by companies to reduce lines and space out the potential hits some to 3) increased institutional health, although there are rumors of fragility at certain companies. In general I assume, barring massive weirdness and rampant stupidity on a "mainstream superhero comics from 1994 to 1996" level, this expression of comics should enjoy its proper place for a while to come.

And that's the fact in which I'm interested, at least for now. There's this massive body of comics that's been thriving outside the carny-like grip of the fundamentally corrupt and frequently over-competitive and restrictive North American comics-as-instant-collectibles market. I hope that means more books from boutique publishers such as the sublime The Push Man from Drawn and Quarterly, the continued release of classics like the Phoenix and Buddha series, and even edifying oddities like FBI's Anywhere But Here volume. A range of upper level work becoming published may keep tastemakers from heaping praise on relentlessly middlebrow books and thus risk disappointing readers hoping for more. Don't get me wrong -- there's a range of fantasy and sports and humor books I enjoy, too -- it's more the fact that publishers are still able to find books they want to translate than the type of book, beyond their being good. I'm also interested to see if a used-book pricing structure for such books blossoms and becomes the norm. Such books could appeal to a reading public that doesn't have money to invest in the object as well as the story, and make it easier for the rest of us to find what we like even if we are a little late in sorting things out. The real competition between comics from North America and Asia may be which way of interacting with comics captures the most people's imagination.