Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Comics in South America Part I: Japan on the River Plate

I went to a comics convention in Montevideo in October. Buenos Aires publisher, artist and writer Cristian Mallea invited me to the event after I met him at a book fair in Mendoza. I spent the weekend hanging out with his friends, most of whom are also independent local creators. I’ll write a post on them later.

At first glance, the most striking aspect of the convention was the presence of teenage boys and girls dressed up as characters from Japanese comics, or manga. Another blogger who I met, who does statistical work for a local newspaper, explained that manga enjoys a growing 60% of the local market, with American super-hero comics dominating the next most significant share and South American comics thriving in more specialized underground markets. It was clear that Japan has successfully exported one of the most impressive aspects of its comics culture: a broad appeal to both genders. If Japan could only export its diversity of genres and appeal to all ages, that would be another step in the right direction.

The attitudes of the local creators towards manga ranged from amusement to bitter resentment. Cristian questions whether the preoccupation with costumes serves any broader purpose. The kids, he says, just buy what they see on TV, consume it uncritically and close themselves to other comics. Furthermore, most kids don’t even read the best stuff produced in Japan.

At one of the convention’s organized chats, another local creator said that all manga is the same. One costumed kid got really flustered and asked the creator if he had ever read manga. He admitted that he hadn’t.

Over dinner, I suggested that perhaps folks who want to push the art form forward need to build bridges to move the kids to a higher level instead of fighting to change what kids like. Cristian said that it took me five minutes to figure out what it them years to figure out. Cristian and his colleagues struggle with this goal in the workshops that they teach to local students. I’ll save that topic for another post as well.


Kelvin said...

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Click on my name if you want to have a look at my blog.

matt said...

Hey Ari Pliskin,
this is MCBURTON (from wesu). Abe is sitting next to me eating a burrito and we are talking about comic books and he says you are trying to start a revolution in visual language and I am also starting a revolution in visual language and I think that is cool. I also think run-on sentences are cool. I think comics are cool. I just saw Scott McCloud talk at MIT and it was cool. Long live the invisible college.