Grotesque Anatomy
Thursday, November 20, 2003
  "If It's Not Japanese, It's Crap!!"
Dave Intermittent poses an interesting question:  Does crap manga get a free pass because (1) it's manga and (2) kids are reading it?  I know Dave wasn't directing the question at me (he was reacting to an off-hand comment Dirk Deppy made in response to Johnny Bacardi), but I'd like to jump in anyway (again).

Personally, I believe crap is crap, regardless of whether it's "exotic" or beloved by small children.  I know 'crap' is a term tossed around pretty lightly (especially online) but I generally try to reserve it for work that's so abysmally bad that it doesn't have even the smallest shred of entertainment value.  Going by that strict definition, I don't know if I've read anything recently that I would dismiss as crap.  Terra Obscura probably comes closest off the top of my head.  Using the term more loosely, there might be other stuff I'd place underneath that umbrella, but let's ignore that for now.

Moving on to Dirk's remarks, he can probably better explain what he meant by them, but I didn't read them as saying that "transformer-style robots, samurai warriors, teenage soap operas and big hyperexaggerated gladiatorial arena-fight style sagas (sometimes all at once)" are crap; I took him as saying, essentially, your mileage may vary, but it'd be a big help if you were 12 years old again.  I don't think that's necessarily denigrating such comics.  It's just recognizing the audience the stories are aimed at and admitting older readers may not get the same thrill out of them.  (Personally, I think the stories in Shonen Jump are well-crafted and fun.  True, I grew tired of the repetitious nature of the series after a couple chapters, but they're still well done.  For one thing, the serials in Shonen Jump are actually structured as satisfying episodes.)

I think the same standard should apply to superhero comics.  A comic doesn't have to be mature or sophisticated to be good.  It can be simple and entertaining and aimed at kids.  I think superhero comics get such grief because they fail to meet either of these goals.  Face it, most superhero comics aren't for children anymore.  Even when you give kids unqualified access to superhero comics, kids aren't interested in them.  Perhaps this is further evidence of just how bad most superhero comics are.  Or that they're all geared toward an older audience.  I don't think it's a bad thing that there are superhero comics targeted at adults, or that adults read them.  I just think it's depressing that there aren't more mainstream American comics that appeal to young kids.
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