Graphic novels, or book-
length comics, are big business in America. In February 2004,
Time magazine reported that the 2003 sales of Manga, graphic
novels drawn in Japan, alone, topped $100 million, almost double
American- and British- made graphic novels are also doing well.
An example is the critically acclaimed Sandman series, whose
fan base includes Pulitzer-prize-winning author Norman Mailer.
Sandman was written by Neil Gaiman, who finished the 10-book
series almost a decade ago. In 2003 he released an 11th book,
Sandman, Endless Nights. It reached No.20 on the New York Times
bestseller list that year.
The concept of graphic novels crystallized 25 years ago with
the release of Will Eisner’s book-length comic Contract
with God. The graphic novel quickly gained popularity in a comic-book
underground culture, but it wasn’t until recently that
graphic novels have caught the mainstream’s attention.
Today they are being acknowledged and appreciated by a broader
audience every day.
The growing popularity of graphic novels is partly because better
writers want to express their ideas in this medium, and partly
because of the heavy marketing of Manga.
In Japan, Manga has been mainstream for decades. As one of
very few areas not affected by government censorship, Manga
and became a highly appreciated art. A popular series can sell
more than 100 million copies. The popular Ranma 1\2 series reached
this number with the release of book No. 34, and it’s publishers
celebrated with a huge party that included Sumo exhibitions and
all-female mud wrestling.
The Manga graphic novels do not restrict content. Hardcore
porn, violence, romance, action, humor: it’s all out there, and
it’s for everyone. According to Verdens Gang, Norway’s
largest newspaper, in Japan one can see businessmen reading telephone
book-sized Manga comics on the subway on their way to work, and
teenage girls on their way to school giggling over the latest
Manga romance novel. (V.G. 3-23-04.)
Hollywood and other U.S money makers have been increasingly
more interested in Asia and Asian culture in recent years.
almost without comparison has caught on in wealthy Asian countries,
such as Japan, and this got corporate America excited. People
were spending huge sums on Manga in Japan, and corporate America
wanted in. In Japan, the Manga business was equally excited about
the prospect of entering the world’s biggest market. (VG.
Great graphic novels with the more traditional Superman-like
illustrations include the Lucifer series. It’s the tale
of what the fallen angel, Samael, known to most people as Satan,
does after he quits his job as theLord of Hell. God’s firstborn
has plans, and they include getting out of God’s creation;
but is there ever a limit to God’s predestining? Will Samael,
the proud, ever be truly free?
Another great series is Fables. It’s about the characters
in old fables now living in Fabeltown, N.Y. Here the divorced
Snow White works for the mayor; the Big Bad Wolf is sheriff,
and Goldilocks is a deadly criminal.
If one is in the mood for something lighter, maybe with less
text, Manga is perfect. The two action comedy series Ranma 1\2
and Dragonball are fun for any age or gender. The action-romance
InuYasha and the horror series Mermaid Saga are more for girls,
as are the Manga romances Maisson Ikkoku and Alice 19th.
A lot has changed since Superman and Mickey Mouse. Nowadays
find a Manga and graphic novels section at every Borders bookstore.
The best store in Honolulu is Last, on Kapiolani Boulevard, just
behind the Ala Moana Shopping Center. It’s a whole store
that specializes in graphic novels and games. The sales representatives
are polite, helpful, and more than capable at introducing newcomers
into their world.