Representing the unheard of

I still think there are things worth giving a try, especially in fiction when it comes to creating characters. To the point where representation does matter in the sense of wanting (more of) an interesting, novel or rare concept, theme, story or character type. It’s like if you want more African comic strips but many of them are hard to time, let alone dedicate the time for it, then it does matter to have more of those.

Things like those as well as any other topic not commonly represented in comics do matter as a form of representation. It’s like if you’re an athlete who gets bullied, you might at some point want somebody to relate to but the media you consume don’t give you that. Or if you want to see more hairy girls (as people to identify with), that’s also going to come up short.

Same with wanting stories full of relatively self-sufficient albinos, women who hunt (in the proper sense of the word) and the like. Representation does matter when it comes to finding things people like but don’t come easily.

Ignorance is arrogance

I sometimes think a good number of superhero comics fans (even I myself at some point) have a tendency to ignore comics more popular with most people. Or at the very least, anything outside of the Direct Market (comics specialty shops) that isn’t Japanese. Something like how and why more people read Doonesbury than they do with Justice League.

Even if the Justice League’s well-known in telly and cinema, ironically not too many people buy comics perhaps worsened by the fact that these aren’t just expensive but also hard to come by. A kind of Darwinian economy where it favours comics that are easy to come by. Especially in bookstores like comic strip collections.

Though not all superhero readers ignore comic strips, there’s a tendency to gloss over what’s perhaps significantly more popular with the masses. It’s as if people tended to obsess over bands that never sold more than 100,000 copies whilst simultaneously ignoring the more popular ones.

That’s the thing with superhero fandom and perhaps comics fandom as a whole or even manga fandom in some regards. Especially when it comes to comic strips being almost ignored that it feels like rewriting history where KC and the Sunshine Band’s practically unheard of. (That’s a good analogy as KCSB’s more popular than punk bands at the time.)

Replace KCSB with let’s say Doonesbury. Doonesbury’s not entirely ignored but almost overlooked in favour of Teen Titans. A kind of comics rockism but one that favours superheroes to whatever most kids actually read. Not just comic strips but also middle grade books like Big Nate.

Or webcomics (let’s not also forget that We Bare Bears started out as a webcomic and became a well-known programme).

Sadly and perhaps depressingly, superhero fans might be very spoilt in this regard and now are burdened with having to appeal to a larger audience. Not that comic strips are any better but they’re objectively more mainstream without even trying. Which’s the most ironic and saddest part.

Money for nothing, comics for free (I want my MDC)

Comics being IP farms for films isn’t anything new, given the history of adapting those for productions. Whilst some are proper adaptations of the source material (whatever that means), there are also film companies out to buy comics franchises and studios outright. The earliest one’s between DC and Warner.

Initially entirely separate, Warner eventually bought Mad and DC. Hence why these became closely entwined in later ones. Funny enough Nickelodeon used to be owned by Warner until it got bought by Viacom. Eventually Viacom will buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Paws Inc (Garfield).

Marvel’s no stranger to adaptations, however once the publishing house got bankrupted some had to adapt characters by selling rights to make money. So for a long time, Marvel films were done by different studios though crossovers exist in cartoons. Then Disney bought Marvel and eventually Fox.

(Some of the rights to Spider-Man are still at Sony.)

This might not be unique to those three. The alarming problem’s that this is the end point to using comics as IP. Adapting comics for television and film’s not new. Peanuts, Garfield and Archie have been through it themselves. But that some comics are being used as research and development.

It would take a radical event to undo or minimise this. But I still think the logical endpoint of comics being adapted for film’s to not only buy the IP but also use it as an endless research and development firm for ideas. Which’s what Warner, Disney and to some extent Viacom have been doing.

More accessible than capes

I still think out of all the comic book genres, it’s the newspaper cartoon that’s often ignored by many comics readers. Maybe not entirely ignored but almost always an afterthought compared to Japanese comics. Not that I have anything against manga but I still think non-Japanese newspaper cartoons seem nearly ignored in the discussion about making comics accessible.

A lot of newspaper cartoons are accessible without trying. Not always so especially online but because they’re easily found by chance should anybody buy newspapers. Not to mention comic strip collections are readily found in bookstores and are also cheaper too. That also matters, especially from personal experience.

Somebody also said similar things about Archie Comics Digests. There aren’t that many comics with truly casual readers, that is other than Archie, newspaper cartoons, children’s comics, some webcomics and the occasional graphic novel. That’s saying. Especially in terms of accessible affordability.

I suppose the average DC and Marvel graphic novel costs more than a hundred and that would be too much for some readers. Especially when on a budget that they lose out to cheaper comics and cheaper books in general. (Hence why I think DC and Marvel are almost always in a lose-lose situation.)

Let’s not forget that newspaper cartoons are also some people’s first introduction to comics that they should deserve more mention when it comes to making comics more accessible. In the case with newspaper cartoons, it’s a case of circumstances by the virtue of being published in more accessible media.

Separate markets

I remember a thread on Anime News Network that compared US newspaper strips to most Japanese manga/comics. Logically I even think perhaps barring Mad Magazine and Archie, most comics magazines might the equivalents to late night anime and OVA. Maybe not always the case, especially given how visible DC and Marvel characters are.

But it does make sense in terms of distribution. It’s not that late night anime’s any less accessible and it’s possible to stumble upon it by chance. But economically speaking, comic strip collections are more cost-effective and cheaper. Two birds with one stone as you needn’t to buy a lot of DC/Marvel comics.

(That’s speaking from experience.)

It’s rather oddly appropriate to compare most comics magazines to late night anime with DC and Marvel being comparable to Gundam and Pokemon (long-running and accompanied by multiple continuities and merchandising). The latter two are relatively accessible, as I know from experience I did collect those comics before from bookstores.

Much like Gundam and Pokemon in a sense (I did witness Pokemon merchandise in stories before). Most comics magazines are practically like most late night anime. Not entirely unheard of but not so accessible to the public as to be ignored by many. Again not always the case.

But it does make sense in terms of accessibility and marketing.

Ignoring the funnies

When it comes to discussing comic books selling well, though comic strips aren’t entirely ignored I often feel it does. In the sense that some manga readers seem to ignore American comic strips or even underground comics. Ironically comic strips might practically constitute the most mainstream form of comics.

In the sense they’re commonly found in newspapers and perhaps to some extent, the Internet where people stumble upon them by chance. Let’s not also forget that comic strips are still eventually collected in book form, however with comic books being oddly enough the original trade paperback in this case.

Even if not all newspaper cartoons necessarily always sell well, they’re still generally more accessible than most comics magazines are. However the former by chance.

Something for the family, after anime

I suspect if anime were to come to an end, if confirmed by a mangaka, I have a feeling anime and manga’s own demise might be a blessing in disguise. However for non-Japanese Asian countries and even African countries who all have their very own comics industries (comics do get published in Africa and I’ve seen some of them), they could all flourish in anime’s absence. As in more space to replace what’s left.

That’s not to say there aren’t any adult comics of these. But I suspect given government restrictions in some countries that they might constitute the majority of child and family friendly media. Actually it’s already happening to some extent today. If you look hard enough, Uganda’s even got the Katoto cartoons and even has a comic featuring a character resembling Samurai X’s Sanosuke Shigara.

Likewise Cote d’Ivoire’s got Aya de Yopougon which even got adapted for animation. (Same with South Africa’s Supa Strikas.) Kenya’s got Tinga Tinga Tales. Then you’ve got India which claims the likes of Motu Patlu (also adapted from comics) and this other production on Ganesha. Most of these are fairly clean family-oriented productions.

To stick to Asia-Pacific, the Philippines does have several comic strips going for it like Pugad Baboy, Kikomachine and Love Nuts. There’s also Trese and Darna, which the latter got several live action adaptations. There’s also Malayasia’s Upin and Ipin, which I’ve seen some on telly. Though not all of them are child friendly, they’re mostly notable enough to warrant mention.

Who knows as I think Africa and most of Asia are catching up real quickly. Though anime’s demise might actually be a good thing as it allows other countries in fill in a big gap.