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The Wingspan

The official student news site of Norristown Area High School

The Wingspan

The official student news site of Norristown Area High School

The Wingspan

Manga vs Comics: How the Japanese Artform has Drawn Ahead of American Comics

Maci Jordan

Since the 1930s, Japanese manga and American comics have been a major inspiration to the titans of the entertainment industry. Despite the million-dollar shows and movies both mediums produce, Japanese manga has outsold American comics time and time again.

According to NPD (National Purchase Diary) bookstore, a website that tracks sales of graphic novels throughout the entirety of the United States, the only American comic that has consistently stayed in the top 20 of graphic novel sales has been “TMNT: The Last Ronin.” The top manga are the usuals of “One Piece,” “Jujutsu Kaisen,” and “Chainsaw Man.”

One of the main reasons behind this transition to manga has been the rise of anime among teenagers. The Marvel movies’ recent blandness has been pushing fans to other forms of hero media, allowing anime to take its spot. Anime is almost always a one-to-one adaptation of the books, so fans can read the manga before the anime comes out and then watch the show to see the animation. 

Sophomore Zoe Alvarado is a fan of this one-to-one adaptation from manga to anime. She had noticed that a lot of people got into manga because of the popularity of anime, so they transitioned to manga because they could prepare for the next upcoming season of their favorite anime. Whereas those who watch media inspired by comics typically don’t indulge in the source media. 

“It’s good [for the anime] to not get spoiled and read it yourself, and then you’ll know what happens before someone just tells you, like your favorite character is going to die,” said Alvarado.

Alvarado also saw that American comics take from several different universes, so you won’t get an easy-to-follow comic series to keep up-to-date with the adaptation of the Marvel movies. Thus, fans can’t find a single starting point to read. 

Another failure of the Marvel movies was the quick change of the characters in the movies to the comics. Steven Speevack, an employee at the Uncanny! Comic book shop in the King of Prussia mall had some comment on this.

Speevack said that many unknown characters such as Blue Beetle or Shazam often take many elements from the movies to make the characters more accessible and feel familiar to fans of the movies because the editorial often wants to fit these characters into a broader narrative scope and that characters who show up in a comic are often advertised as similar to their movie counterparts.

“Sometimes you will see story elements or writers kinda get pigeon-holed into writing a character in a particular way because editorial wants it to fit that narrative on a broad scope with what’s going on with films,” said Speevack

Every month, hundreds of comics come out from both major and indie companies, but they lack an actual starting point in the books which is crucial in many of these new releases, so people just spend all their time trying to find the perfect jumping-on point. While in the manga, you can find the jumping on point by reading volume one.

“None of them are consistent in their storylines, they’re always branching like multiverses and universes, it all gets too confusing at some point, to the point where I don’t know where to start and where to end,” said Josh Gordon, a senior at NAHS.

There are many different types of comics everywhere, so people just choose to read the most popular books and never go deeper into the genre. People don’t want to read the newer comics because of their lack of reliability in terms of quality. Still, these earlier comics are the main sellers because of how much this content paved the way for newer generations of comics.

“The stories you know are classics like ‘Watchmen,’ ‘Dark Knight Returns’, ‘Infinity Gauntlet.’ Things like that, they’re going to sell basically, I would say until the end of time, just because those are foundational and generational stories,” said Speevack.

American comics just keep getting more and more expensive day-to-day. The average comic reader must pay three to four dollars for a twenty-four-page single-issue comic, while a manga reader could get three times the content for ten dollars. The fact that one can only get these single-issue and specialty comics in specific comic shops, while for Manga, a person can go to Barnes and Noble to see the walls upon walls filled with Manga, while comics only have a little half-shelf filled with books that are up to 3 years old and are not innovative enough to attract new fans or keep the interest of long-time readers. 

“[Barnes and Noble’s] manga selection is insane and it almost seems like it’s never-ending, like the popular volumes go out of stock, but I feel like I can walk into any Barnes and Noble and find any manga that I’m looking for, from the most mainstream to the most obscure,” said Speevack.

The advent of trends on the internet has made a lot of older mediums thrive and dive into exclusivity. American comics just happened to be one of those things that have fallen out of the public’s eyes because of the internet.

“I don’t think there’s been anything that traditional American comics to sway people to manga. I just think it’s a natural, organic thing,” said Speevack.

Speevack says that the world of manga is breathing with creativity on almost every page. Older and newer generations are reading manga because of its fresh ideas, no status quo, and large variation from book to book. The action, the easier-to-digest formats, and the lack of politics in Manga make everyone want to read manga, while American comics lack all of these things currently.

“You also have a situation, where most manga is written and drawn by the same individual and there’s no real intervention from editorial, but there’s also no real need for intervention because, for the most part, they’re not needing to fit a narrative for anything other than that story,” said Speevack.

Mangaka (Manga artists) typically work by themselves with occasional help from a few assistants, and with this freedom, Mangaka can do so much more with their worlds and their characters. Science teacher Kate Demedio said that her favorite manga “One Piece” by Echiro Oda takes advantage of this freedom.

“Oda builds that world, it’s kind of like the Hobbit. I feel like that’s the kind of storytelling it is because there is a whole world there and he develops the whole world, and he teaches you all the rules of the world,” said Demedio.

While American comics can still thrive today. The genre stays limited and confined due to its lack of creativity and unwillingness to change even its worst attributes, while manga will always be changing and coming out to new and different audiences due to its more entertaining accessibility than American comics. In the end, it does not matter whether you read one or the other, it just matters that you are supporting successful artists and writers on large projects.

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