Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How Manga Found Me - And Other Things

I got Runaways for Christmas. I haven't read it yet.

I fell in love with Runaways in 2006 and was so damn pissed that no one had told me Marvel was doing something good. All I'd gotten was incoherent squee from a few of the comic centric people I knew. A lot of 'And then... and then... and omg! ' with maybe some 'Josslike!' thrown in from fans of Buffy. But considering the things that we didn't have in common, I wasn't sure I could trust them to be selling me something I'd like.

I recently watched "Sky High". The ending has a lovely art bit that made me think very much of Runaways and helped me understand why I felt so bored and irritated while watching the movie. I really wanted to like the film but in the end I put it back in the netflix sleeve without even looking at the extras.

I'd waited a good while to see it and then I had it in my hot little hands on DVD and it didn't ping for me. I figured out the villian, I figured out the tropes, I figured everything out. I was bored. So bored. Teenager squabbles, mistakes made for lessons learned. The best friend. The misunderstood one. Blah blah blah.

Part of it was probably having role played certain super hero powers. After you've done the duplicating rock-star mutant, the cheerleading squad that's really all one person doesn't seem quite so innovative anymore. Uhmm at which point I guess I now say 'Sorry. Spoilers may be ahead'. Except that's all I'm going to mention about it.

Runaways doesn't bore me. Or rather it didn't. I'm fairly certain it won't again. And yet I haven't picked it up because I got knocked over in the last days of 2006 by BLEACH (anime series) and have been playing catch up using my local library system for BLEACH (manga).

And now that I've finished all the books my library owns I'm looking for more that interests me. Manga brought this happy surprise to realize that it actually is more than just a good story with good characters. Sometimes I forget that I like reading comics for the art too. And then I pick up something in Barnes & Noble or some other bookstore that has a couple issues and I'm hit face to face with Marvel and I want to fling the book across the store.

I feel so damn betrayed. Like some highschool girl who's being brave but holding in all this bitterness and anger and seriously Marvel's car is going to be keyed and the air in the tires let out. And DC's locker is going to be filled with tampons or something equally ridiculous. Hmm, maybe condoms and anti-bacterial creams and pamphlets about STDs.

I don't know if I understand the Manga squee. But I do know I'm enjoying feeling safe in the knowledge that the art won't suddenly change on something I'm enjoying and that the artist isn't getting by due to the skills of the colorist (Greg Land I'm looking at you). I'm enjoying knowing that the story has a beginning, middle and end. I'm enjoying, oddly enough, using the pictures and the words together, because I'm well aware the translation won't catch a whole host of subtle nuances and I want as much of the experience as I can get.

I think that's it. Lately American comics, specifically the big two, don't make me feel like I'm supposed to use my brain. There's all this talk about 'Trix are for kids'. And I want to know since when. The strips in the newspapers certainly aren't there for the kids. Doonsbury isn't there for the kids. Boondocks isn't all that much for the kids. Blondie and Dagwood are probably still gong strong, but I'd hope by now it wasn't still reiterations of 'Stay at home little woman and make my sandwhiches'. Dick Tracy, Blaze, the various comic soaps; none of those have exactly kid friendly material, what with wife-beaters and prostitutes and pimps and the mob, adultery and unexpected pregnancies. So where the hell did this urge come from that comics aren't supposed to make you think? Archie, Veronica and Betty's never ending quest to refuse the (in their case) practical clauses for polyamory?

I discovered in this month that my baby sister is interested in comics and getting her fix from the daily newspapers. She was thrilled that I'd gotten her 'The BabySitter's Club' - Book 1; the graphic novel. And I stood there trying to think of other comics I could get her and I couldn't think of squat. Because everything I wanted to share storywise, I didn't want to share art wise. And everything I wanted to share artwise I couldn't share storywise. I actually pimped Manga instead. Me, Batman's girl!

But Angelic Layer doesn't have anything objectionable to me and the young girl in it is all about being strong despite seeming physically weak or little. I'd rather show my sister that than give her Supergirl. Because my sister would call her a hootchie momma. And if I'd rather work on getting my sister to read a book backwards that has to say something about what I think my choices are.

I think I've been postponing reading Runaways because of the freedom in Manga; in being able to find precisely what I want and what interests me at the levels I want. Whereas lately I look at the big picks and I wonder who those people in the colored custumes are and I wonder why someone else has to take over writing for a character I love. Or why I have to read someone else's take on a character that some other writer made me love. Kurt Busiek made me like Superman, but I have no assurances the next time I pick up a Superman issue or graphic novel I won't know who the hell I'm looking at. And not just because comic canon is so large to be picked from, from a writer's point of view. But because some a-hole somewhere may decicde that Superman needs to be 'edgy and hip' and 'not SUPERMAN' for some sales reason and my fragile liking will break and crumble.

Still. I've only read Runaways Vol. 1. There's a ways to go before I reach the parts that Joss Wheadon will have taken over. Until then I can enjoy four color teenagers being real and grumpy and crabby and concerned in a way that speaks to me. And I guess until Invincible's story runs out, I won't have to get all I'm looking for from Manga for a little while yet.

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