Or, “why manga is eating comic book’s lunch.”
Last Monday, I made three big mistakes.
Mistake number one-going to Barnes&Noble. No new books that I wanted to read, period. Oh, they had plenty of new books, even plenty of new books in science fiction and fantasy…but, reading the cover blurbs and a quick glance at the inside of the books made me “nope” away from them with incredible speed. When you can tell how badly they’ve ripped-off plots novels from ten, fifteen years ago (let alone the classics), no. And, not even competent theft, and they were not so much pushing An Agenda as trying to give you An Agenda suppository.
Mistake number two-counting the shelf space for comic books (four shelves, three rows) vs. manga (six shelves, six rows) and YA (five shelves, eight rows). And, looking at what was on the shelves for comic books? If I didn’t already have it, there was nothing there. Any story after about 2017 or so was full of the sort of people that I have made it policy to avoid when I can. They were full of people that seemed to whine about how (insert group here) was keeping them down and you can tell that quite a few of their problems are self-made.
I can’t tell where most of the Marvel or DC trade paperbacks are in terms of continuity. I can’t tell what stories are where, and if I wanted to get an idea, I’d have to look online. In short, for me to figure out what I wanted, I was going to have to put in a great deal of work.
And, the few people I’ve been waiting for with baited breath to see new stuff from? Un-personed due to the #MeToo movement and/or some other reasons. (I miss Warren Ellis and everything I’ve seen suggests that he’s more Clueless Male Nerd Made Good than the actual abusive crap that Joss Whedon did.)
Third mistake? Looking at the stuff on the YA shelves. Out of idle curiosity, I pulled what looked like a half dozen books that were tempting from the spine and color choices (i.e. weren’t pretty princess pink or had titles that instantly turned me off).
And, if you want to know why heterosexual boys don’t read books, I was six for six. I read the first one and glanced at the rest and found a few common traits. Any males in the book that wasn’t gay or weird (not Weird, just weird) was a horrible human being. If they were white, this DOUBLED their sin points. Nominally good male desire, even if expressed poorly and by teenagers that are clueless by default? At best it was sexual harassment, at worse a secret rapist. If you engaged in violence, even in self-defense, you were a terrible person.
From sheer bile fascination, I glanced at a few of the girl YA books. The only one I can remember (I worked backwards to see which boy won), the boy was an Ideal Feminist Male. Sensitive, kind, non-violent, “built women up,” slightly effeminate, had good assets, all of that sort of thing. Only thing he was missing was the integrated chastity cage that he gave his One True Love the key to. And, clearly, he’ll give her his balls when they get married.
I’m not kidding. That subtext was there.
This is disappointing. And, disturbing, in a whole “reading the early diaries of a serial killer” sort of way.
If you wanted to know why Demon Slayer, a fairly middle-of-the-road shōnen manga series, has outsold the entire US comic book industry…now you know. If you want to know why manga publishers are eating the lunch of DC and Marvel, now you know. There is this massive, untapped market out there full of boys that want good stories. Manga publishers are selling to that audience because they aren’t going to get lectured about how horrible they are. They’re going to be given heroes that might have feet of clay, but stand up regardless.
It’s why girls buy manga as well-no lectures, no “grrl power” entitlement, good stories with what they want to see and read.
(And, a very uncomfortable enjoyment of borderline-abusive to actually abusive relationships, but I’m not sure if it’s what the fandom wants or what they’re being sold and it’s “buy or have nothing to read”…)
Somebody has to be seeing this, other than me. Somebody in the publishing industry, the comic book industry…they have to be seeing this, don’t they?
Why aren’t they doing something about it? There’s a market here, desperate for things to read. Why aren’t they selling to it?
I want to know. No recriminations, no pack drill. I just want to know why.