Did you read manga or comic books growing up? Even if you’re not an avid reader chances are you’ve read and enjoyed them at some point of your life, whether it is manga style Japanese comic book, bande dessinée, American superhero comic, newspaper comic strip or any other form. Lately there are many labels created for people, especially older people who read and enjoy comic books such as geek, nerd, weeabo, otaku and so on. These are not the most flattering terms, and before you start defending the title as badge of honor, let’s see why these labels are created in the first place.
When I was growing up (I was born in the late 70’s) there was no such labels, kids would read comic book and it is a normal thing. There are a few adults who read them, many more in Japan, but it never crossed my mind that these people are weird or different than any other adult. In fact, I thought they are cool because they seem to be young at heart and is enjoying the good things in life. But can you imagine now in this day, to have an adult person in impeccable business suit sitting in an office lounge (not an entertainment media company!) reading comic book instead of a copy of the economist? I can, in fact I expect that to be the norm, because why shouldn’t it?
Grown men are often seen lining up at the manga section of convenience stores in Japan reading manga magazines off the rack for free. Shops used to chase away these people but they soon discover that this behavior drives them to spend more money at the shop so now it is largely tolerated.
The problem with comic books these days is the lack of diversity. Take a look at the history of American comic books. The golden era, from late 1930s to early 1950s was triggered by the release of Superman comics. However the glory did not last and soon publishers are forced to diversify genres to keep public interest going. In Japan, the manga industry was started with the rise in popularity of author Osamu Tezuka post World War II who experimented with genres never before touched in comics. Soon the other creators follow suit and various genre of comics are created. Though there is such diversity in the past, the trend we see these days is that major publishers are narrowing down the genre of comic books released in fear of taking a risk. The obsession in pleasing the loyal customers in the niche market (I hate to use the term, but I mean geeks, nerds, otaku, weeabo, and so on) had caused a vicious cycle in which the more geek-pleasing the comics are released. These are the less relatable and intimidating works to newbie comic book readers.
Wouldn’t it be great if creators can take matters into their own hands and start thinking about the regular people, the majority of people who never picked up a comic book before to start enjoying comic books?
After all, wouldn’t it be better to have 100 times more readers than pleasing only a few who can understand the cryptic language of the otaku?
I wouldn’t go as far as saying kill all the subculture comics or works that focuses on geek issues, but the comic industry can make use of more stories that can resonate with average people.
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