Setting the Record Straight

Oh dear, I seem to have opened up a can of worms with this whole manga thing. So let me set the record straight about a few things.

First is the matter of comments on my weblog. Many blogs out there have comments features, where people can post their reactions to entries. Mine does not. This isn’t because I have this feature turned off; the software I use, Personal Weblog doesn’t have such a feature. When I was first looking for blogging software, this is what Kurt found for me, and it has performed admirably. As my blog is simply a vanity page where I can post whatever ideas come into my fool head, I saw no need for anything more, and still don’t.

I’m always pleased when I see someone linking my blog, but the truth of the matter is, I’m not looking to be a pundit or enter into a community. I see this as something of a journal where I can unload thoughts, news, ideas, and so forth. I never imagined that anyone outside of a select few people would be interested, and I’m still not completely convinced that’s the case. At any rate, my email address has always been found on the front page, and unless I’m extremely busy, I usually answer emails.

Now, to the manga thing. Before I say anything else, an apology is in order. I fell into the same trap as others regarding the photograph of the Giant Manga Stack of Intimidation. The photo’s creator purely intended the photo as an economic argument: that is, if this company can release a big whopping comic book for an inexpensive price, how come our industry leaders can’t seem to do it? That’s a legitimate question, one that I agree with. Of late I have really enjoyed anthology comics and would love to see a monthly giant book of strips in a variety of genres at a reasonable cost. So I apologize for taking the photo out of context.

As for the whole ongoing manga vs. American quality argument, I had a whole entry thought up, but I’m giving it a pass. Here’s the thing: I’m not an industry insider, and have no desire to be one. I don’t know why the big comics companies behave the way they do. I’m not qualified to enter into the economic situations of being a comics publisher in this country, and I’m certainly not about to take the time to become qualified. I don’t give much of a damn about the company I actually work for, and I’m not going to give a damn about one I don’t. The last thing the internet needs is yet another armchair economist, sitting there discussing print runs, vice-presidents, and licensing issues. I hate it when I see people doing it about movies and I’m not going to contribute myself. If others wish to pursue that line, so be it. I don’t read most comics websites because, when it comes down to it, I don’t give even a centidamn about the comics industry. I just like reading me some comic books. In the same way, when it comes to movies, I don’t want to know about box office gross, per-screen averages, and so forth. My question is: is the movie good? I don’t know at what point everyone on the internet became such an industry expert, but I apparently missed the meeting.

I’m only qualified to talk about what I like, what appeals to me. And in that arena I can tell you that on the whole, I have liked American comics better. I have been lately checking out some manga, based on recommendations from friends. But when I say manga looks like mostly robots and panties to me, I’m sorry, but that’s my opinion. I spent a half hour at my local shop sifting through the manga section looking for something similar to the types of American comics I read, and although I found a few promising titles, the majority of stuff I saw was exactly the sort of big eye, small mouth stuff that manga fans are tired of the genre being stereotyped as. Could I sit on the internet, wading through a ton of manga fan sites to eventually try and get to the quality stuff that’s similar to the American books I already like? Sure, I suppose. Alternatively, I could just read the stuff I already like.

Some folks will probably say that’s lazy and that attitude forfeits my right to generalize about manga. My response is, honestly, tough. If you’re a store trying to sell me manga or a fan trying to interest me in manga, I don’t see it as my job to wade through the oysters looking for the pearls. Instead, you need to do some work and say, “Okay, if you enjoy comics X, Y, and Z, these are some titles you should look into.” That’s how I usually find new American titles, and it’s how I’d pick up manga as well.

That’s pretty much all I’m going to say on the subject. I will apologize for misrepresenting John Jakala’s intentions. But I’m not going to apologize for my opinions, including the one that other people who are arguing that bigger=better when it comes to comics are idiots. It’s a stupid argument, and I don’t feel ashamed of calling it stupid. You can’t discount the quality issue in favor of a straight up numbers argument because nobody buys comics for the sheer numbers, they do it for the quality. To do so is to say that you will happily exchange your dimes for nickels, one-for-one, because nickels are bigger. It’s a dumb argument, and you’re not going to convince me otherwise. That’s not, however, the argument that Jakala was trying to make, though his photo has been used by others to make that argument.

So I’m stepping down, letting the pundits punditize and the industry experts show their expertise. Alls I know is that this weekend I finished Planetes and the second Queen and Country TPB, and I liked both of them. I also put in my November order, which included a lot of TPBs. I’m starting to realize how much more I prefer the trade paperback format. I like comics because I like comics. I like the medium. Words and pictures. It doesn’t matter to me how they’re packaged. If I can get them in a big chunk that tells the whole story and looks nice and isn’t interrupted every three panels by ads for videogames and bad movies, all the better. That’s my opinion, and you can email me if you have something to say about it.

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