I know I still get hammered via e-mail when I suggest something like, say, that there aren’t any superhero comics in any one of my year’s top ten, with a line of thinking that things should somehow be balanced between that particular form of expression and others. I kind of thought most fans were past this …
It wasn’t too many years ago that this definitely was an issue, at least for me. I thought of the stages in my comics life in terms of how much each involved superheroes. My childhood years were all about Harvey, Walt Disney and Looney Tunes until I discovered Marvel and DC and put away “childish things.” That lasted well into my 20s, until companies like Dark Horse and Vertigo opened the gate to other genres.
In mainstream fiction [...] we cannot succumb to the whim of the story. We can’t decide that the reason the barista won’t date the main character ISN’T because she’s had a horrible breakup and is slowly learning to trust again (leading to series of bad lovers because she feels more comfortable when she KNOWS she can’t trust) but rather because there is a dragon’s ghost within her, and love and lust can only be fulfilled if that dragon is defeated by creating a mythical cup of cappuccino that transports the main character to a fantasy world, and also goes quite well with bagels or croissants.
–Paul Tobin explains why he enjoys writing genre stories better than slice-of-life stories. As you can see from the quote, it has to do with the joy of creative freedom, but he also balances that in the article with the need for rules, even in a fantastical setting.
It’s a mix that’s tough to get right, but as a reader it’s the best thing in the world when a story can not only connect me to other people through its characters and our shared humanity, but can also throw in some vampires, pirates, and creatures from space just to keep it interesting.
“In my opinion the biggest way the landscape has changed is just in its willingness to kind of go anywhere. The glory of comics has always been that comics is a medium that gets mistaken for a genre. People look at comics and go, ‘Well, comics is a genre’ and that actually allows you to do anything, any kind of genre, any story that you can tell using words and pictures can be told in comics. And sometimes anything that can be told using only pictures can be told in comics.
“And for me, really, the biggest change has been watching the embracing of that becoming more and more mainstream. Again, just the idea that we live in a world where the bestselling comic of the year was Robert Crumb retelling—completely literally—the Book of Genesis. There are weird things that does to my head…”
–Neil Gaiman, comics writer, novelist and editor of this year’s Best American Comics 2010 in response to a question on how the landscape of American comics has changed over the last few years
There’s a big’ discussion going on right now in the manga half of the comics blogosphere about shoujo manga not getting any respect. One of the triggers was Melinda Beasi’s piece on Twilight and the Plight of the Female Fan at The Hooded Utilitarian and the other was Christopher Mautner’s review of Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories right here at Robot 6. Melinda’s thesis is that shoujo manga gets no respect, even from women, because we’re embarrassed about reading something so overtly gendered, and that if we want to be taken seriously, we need to take some pride in our comics. In a column at The Manga Curmudgeon, David Welsh singles out Chris’s review as an example of someone basically saying “this book is good despite the fact that it is shoujo manga”:
“Dream, on the other hand, has both feet firmly planted in the world of shojo manga. The ten tales that make up this book all consist of overly sincere, heart-on-the-sleeve-style work. There’s very little ironic distancing and self-effacing humor here, although it does peep its head out occasionally. Mostly though, that’s been ignored in favor of heightened melodrama and earnest heart-tugging. While it avoids the sort of contrived, romantic, situation-comedy type plots that mark a lot of the shojo manga that has been translated into English over the past decade, there can be little doubt that Dream has more in common with Fruits Basket and Boys Over Flowers than Red Colored Elegy or Abandon the Old in Tokyo.”
And then Melinda chimes back in at her blog, pointing out that people who drop Fruits Basket and Boys Over Flowers in the same bucket are ignoring the fact that they are totally different books.
Except… they aren’t, and that gets to the heart of the matter. Continue Reading »