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A Manga Fan’s View of American Comics

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On a whim, I read through 100+ issues of Marvel comics, over 3 days. These were all from the Civil War series, which some of my Marvel-philic friends have been raving about and strongly advised me to read. I must say, they are really misguided if they think these are any good.

Now, as an avid reader of both comics , I have garnered quite a lot of experience with regard to this media form. For the purpose of this post, we shall ignore the likes of webcomics, cartoons and other more esoteric comics, and just compare American mainstream comics with Japanese mainstream ones.

Despite my weeaboo tendencies, my earliest experiences came in the form of American comics, namely the Ninja Turtles, Transformers and others like Archie and ugh Richie Rich. However, over the years, I have read far, far more manga and lost touch with American comics for a long time. It was not until my discovery of more serious graphic novels, such as the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Watchmen, The Authority (ok not that serious after all) that brought me back to this world. So having read Civil War, the pros and cons of American comics, especially Marvel ones, became very obvious, and I shall briefly list them below.

The colours are nice. Unlike manga, which is generally black and white, the wide range of colours, not to mention modern colouring techniques, allow for the creation of high quality cinematic-styled images that make manga art look like the doodles of a yellow monkey.

One issue is quite cheap. But thin and slow to release.  Not to mention brutal cancelations.

The biggest problem with American comics is the system of staffing. I bet people who have grown up on this style would probably not mind, but I am angry when characters look too different to recognise thanks to different artists working on them. Look at the millions of ways Peter Parker has been drawn! This staff rotation leads to stupid ideas and explanations for events, which are sometimes retconned. Some of you guys probably do not know the concept of retcon, because it is rarely done in manga. Basically, it involves saying "Oh shit we made a mistake, readers, please forget we ever published this". For example, if issue 24 of Wolverine shows him growing wings and becoming imba, then some new writers may realise the imbaness and then cancel the story and state that the wings were not in the real story.

Another problem is the resultant lack of continuity. The Civil War thing sucked because they spread the story out over many issues of different comic series, all done by different writers. There were tonnes of places which didn’t match up, and scenes which were drawn differently and written differently despite supposedly being the same! It’s also very messy to read and a stupid ploy by Marvel to sell more comics.

The same old characters! It’s just stupid to have the same old characters over and over again, not to mention the same universe for all of them! It’s like some kiddy daydream. The likes of Wolverine, Cyclops, Spiderman, Captain America etc have been appearing over and over again and they dont seem to age, always due to some lame explanation regarding mutations or super serums. Add to that a huge number of heroes and villains introduced over the years, you have a super bloated cast which sticks around as Marvel does not change the universe! To understand how absurd this is, we have this analogy:

Son Goku is very popular with the readers. Shounen Jump decides to keep him in all the manga series released, and add the subsequent popular protagonists to every single new series. So we have Son Goku fighting to save the world, the same world ravaged by Ninja wars of Naruto, and there’s the Soul Society which watches over them, while pirates rule the waters and Sakuragi goes for the Interhigh but loses as he does not have enough Chakra!!!! Can you imagine a world where Naruto, Ichigo and Luffy do not age and join forces to defeat their enemies?? And to follow their adventures, you have to buy all of the above series’ volumes, as the action jumps from book to book with randomness.

It is no coincidence that the most interesting characters are ALWAYS the newer ones, where the writer has freedom to write and characterise. In the whole Civil War saga, the only interesting character is Speedball aka Penance, who is made the scapegoat of the Superhuman Registration Act as he indirectly causes the death of 614 people via his recklessness. Another good character is Deadpool, who is relatively new as well compared to the ancient Ironman and Cap. Deadpool is probably the only character who has dialogue that is actually funny, and I can understand why Ryan Reynolds was/is so desparate to make a movie about him.

There’s just not enough violence and death. It’s obvious they want to appease the fanbase but the heroes don’t even get hurt! It’s either instant-regen or a little blood from the mouth. I lost count of the number of characters with healing factors, not to mention even normal guys like the Punisher heal bone fractures in days! Speaking of Punisher, he’s one of my favourite oldie characters. I actually even liked the Punisher Warzone movie. Violence is awesome. A side effect of nobody dying except the lousy token side characters is that casts become bloated, there are a zillion "super teams" around and no one gives a shit.

The stupid plot devices and deus ex machina seroiusly piss me off. Everytime there’s trouble, new technology is instantly developed to save the day, or some friendly heros show up. The bigging up of each other is also terrible, like how Tony Stark is always praised as super prodigy by super genius Reed Richards, who is also respected by super genius Hank Pym, who is also respected by super genius Bruce Banner, who is also respected by super genius Charles Xavier, who is also respected by super genius Dr Strange etc etc. ALL ARE GENIUS. WTF.

The never-ending urge to reference past events to sell more comic books is also a huge pain and makes for bad dialogue. I know Marvel seeks to always expand its fanbase, but the blatant promoting of past issues is annoying. I already mentioned the needlessly numerous crossovers. How many times do people need to bring up Goliath’s death in Civil War??? A trillion? Because that’s what it felt like.

I know Marvel comics are considered rubbish by most high-brow American comics readers, but seriously, the majority of Marvel is so bad even the likes of Bleach and Naruto are better by a mile. That’s a shame, because there are plenty of great Western comics out there, some even feature real super heroes who are not retarded. I remember reading the Authority a few years back and the Warren Ellis run was amazing. It went to shit near the end due to writer changes, which further proves my point above.

So in conclusion, I can only say that the X-men are actually Naruto’s retarded brothers in disguise.

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23 Responses to “A Manga Fan’s View of American Comics”  

  1. 1 Owen S 144 comments

    The American comic industry is ignorant of how a cash cow is not the same as a worthwhile story waiting to be told. Retelling the same old shit a thousand times doesn’t mean that it’s something new, it’s just retold shit.

    That being said, the only worthwhile comics are those with limited runs–the same rule applies to Naruto/Bleach/One Piece here, amusingly enough. Look at manga with a set number of volumes and not the ongoing-since-like-forever shounen stuff. In the same vein, Watchmen and Sandman were both limited in their runs, and were of exceedingly high quality as a result.

  2. 2 schneider 17 comments

    Compared to Amazons Attack (BEES OH MY GOD), Civil War is not so cringe-inducing.

    I thought DC’s 52 was an awesome work myself.

  3. 3 Anonymous 6 comments

    Marvel and DC are pretty shit, and it’s really unfair to judge all of American comics just by them.

  4. 4 tragic comedy 46 comments

    the thing that annoys me to no end is that fact that the characters never die, in a cliche ‘oh im back’ fashion for literally dozens of times already. it really kills the emotional part of the story as you can already know that the deaths are not permanent. that aside at least the writing by warren ellis still keeps me reading western comics.

  5. 5 SnooSnoo 172 comments

    100 issues over three days? How thick is each issue? America’s comics are SRSBSNS.

  6. 6 MrMayat 50 comments

    3 days? I think I read the arc in 3hrs.

    American superhero series suffer the same fate as American TV series. They just don’t know when to stop churning out crap as long as consumers are sucking the proverbial cash cow teat. And we all know the end result.

    Graphic novels anyone?

  7. 7 lametastic 3 comments

    Civil War was bullshit. Just as every book written by Millar, Bendis or JMS. While you can argue that nowadays most comicbooks are as awful as CW (or Secret Invasion), there’s a lot of other good mainstream books, even form Marvel: almost (I remark the almost) everything done by Brubaker, Parker, Van Lente or Slott is really good material. DC has been pretty awful recently, but everything done by Grant Morrison is awesome, absolutely original and groundbreaking stuff, specially All Star Superman and Seaguy, but you mileage may vary.

  8. 8 tj_han 1439 comments

    I’m glad you guys agree. Btw I read the downloaded package so it had about 106 issues of misc series. Mr Mayat, did you only read the Civil War series or something? Cos 3 hours isn’t enough to read all the cross overs which were part of the event. Not that I wanted to, but I felt I had to finish it. They really should just send the Punisher after all these staffers.

    Tragic: Yeah, is Captain America back alive already? At least Naruto has tonnes of people die.

    Anon: Let’s get some recommendations here.

  9. 9 Jo 1 comment

    You should read The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. Its one of the best american comics out there right now.

  10. 10 Crest 49 comments

    One significant difference that American comics possesses compared to Japanese manga is that the characters are not.. “copyrighted” by a specific artist/writer which leads to what tjhan said on his point of system of staffing. Granted, it leads to what was said on the issue of what being canonical and what being not, but it also leads to different interpretation and possible creative expression. The other side of the coin being, a lot of the comics are always on the same stable of characters.

    I personally like the system of an artist/writer pairings for American comic industry which is not that common in Japan where the artist is probably the inkler/colourist/writer and all the other loose ends. It allows vibrancy, but one’s mileage may vary.

  11. 11 tj_han 1439 comments

    It takes a multi-talented person to be a mangaka, since he basically does everything. On the other hand, this may mean that there’s a writing talent wastage, since would-be decent writers would not be allowed to turn their stories into manga, but that’s where light novels come in. We’re starting to see a shift in paradigm though, like Haruhi, Shana and others.

  12. 12 tragic comedy 46 comments

    TJ: Im not sure about capt cos i was too bored to continue reading after the yet another indecisive ‘ending’.

    Nowadays i prefer short graphic novels or one-offs done by a single artist as the story and art is much stronger and much more conclusive. I recommend Bone, preacher, 30 days of night, johnny the homicidal maniac and global frequency for starters. shooting war is also a very interesting, if disorientating comic.

  13. 13 primeparadigm 19 comments

    American comics , especially superhero comics, get more flak than they deserve. True, comics megaevents like Civil War or Final Crisis rarely hit the mark. Marvel often falls flat on their face by trying to make them “topical” or “relevant” but often feels rather superficial at the end.On the other hand DC megaevents are chock full of references to their collected history of works that makes them near inaccessible to new readers. But setting aside these fanwank fests there are still lots of good superhero titles to be had.

    As a predominantly DC reader, I can’t say much about the Marvel side, though I am fond of Nextwave and Mary Jane loves Spiderman is a guilty pleasure. DC has been also been pretty good lately at revitalising some of their existing cast like Green Lantern and the JSA. Superman has had quite alot of good books lately like Geoff Johns run on Action comics and Morrison’s All Star Superman.

    Looking beyond the Big two, If you’ve read the Authority, then I reccomend Ellis’s Planetary set in the same universe. Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is always a heart warming delight. Invincible is somethetimes light hearted and witty, sometimes grim and serious but all together compelling read. Ex Machina is a psuedo superhero comic that is “topical” done right.

    Outside of capes comics, I’d reccomend Fables, Bone, Usagi Yojimbo and Queen and Country.

  14. 14 Tremere 28 comments

    I recommend Fables, Hellblazer, Lucifer, Sandman, Preacher.

    Incidentally they are all Vertigo graphic novels.

    The rest? Meh.

  15. 15 MrMayat 50 comments

    >> Btw I read the downloaded package so it had about 106 issues of misc series. Mr Mayat, did you only read the Civil War series or something? Cos 3 hours isn’t enough to read all the cross overs which were part of the event.

    Only the Civil War arc I guess. Just a little something I picked up at the library to pass the time. Could have finished it sooner had I not dozed off while reading it…

    Currently following The Walking Dead. A zombie series done right, unlike High School of the Dead. Those mammaries are a “big” turn-off. Then again they both cater to different target audiences.

  16. 16 Silencers 60 comments

    Spider-man reveals his identity only to turn back time and fix the problem. Wtf is that shit?

  17. 17 0ne 135 comments

    Read 龍虎門 . Its much better than X-men

  18. 18 schneider 17 comments

    There’s also Helen Killer (not a typo), which is incredibly short and batshit insane.

  19. 19 Civil War Fan 1 comment

    On a whim, you read through 100 issues of Marvel comics, over 3 days, obviously devoting a alot of time to trying to understand the stories or immerse yourself in the Universe. These were all from the Civil War series, which some of your INTELLECTUAL Marvel-philic friends had been raving about and strongly advised you to read under hopes they could cure you of your weeaboo-ity. And it must be said, they were really misguided if they thought you were DEEP enough.

    What if someone you knew told you he watched all the episodes of Haruhi in 2 days, and he thought you were misguided if you thought it was any good? You would probably just dismiss him as someone who didn’t even take the time to try and understand the show, or appreciate the characters. Or maybe not, because the characters in Haruhi have no depth anyway.

    >>One issue is quite cheap. But thin and slow to release. Not to mention brutal cancelations.
    Not cheap by local standards, same price for one issue as one volume of Chuang Yi Manga. But you wouldn’t know that, you downloaded it all LAWL

    Basically, you speed read through some great material with a closed minded view on it, and then came to your crappy blog to type out over a thousand words of ignorance. Ironic, seeing as how your blog is apparently a “Research Institute for Unicultural Visual Arts”.

  20. 20 Helix 71 comments

    “It takes a multi-talented person to be a mangaka, since he basically does everything. On the other hand, this may mean that there’s a writing talent wastage, since would-be decent writers would not be allowed to turn their stories into manga, but that’s where light novels come in.”

    How often is manga a one-man job? I think the story and art for some popular manga series are handled by seperate people.

  21. 21 dKiWi 73 comments

    Haha this is less controversial than usual and definitely quite informative. It is no wonder than manga has invaded America eh? ^^

  22. 22 dKiWi 73 comments

    @Civil War Fan:

    Instead of attacking a Japanese series, perhaps it would be better to refute tj_han’s arguments about the Civil War series being shallow instead, because he definitely has some evidence to substantiate his statements. As for Haruhi, most of the visitors of this site probably know a lot better than you, so it isn’t a good start to refute tj_han’s arguments i.e. you should try to bring up stuff about the Civil War series rather than Suzumiya Haruhi.

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