Manga beating out Marvel(tm)


Fang-Face writes "There is an interesting article entitled
U.S. Teenage Girls Prefer Japanese Heroes, by Grady Hendrix, Women's eNews, reposted to's Wiretap. In it, Hendrix describes how "Shojo", manga for girls, is filling a void in the American comic book industry, which is still not developing the comic book market for girls. Hendrix focuses on the recent launch of Shojo Beat, writing that it is the manga equivalent of Harry Potter."


Did this news come as any surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with American and Japanese comics? After all, American comics are all about men, and girls. I mean think of DC and their heroes: SuperMAN, BatMAN, AquaMAN, HawkMAN. Compare that to most of their female counterparts: SuperGIRL, BatGIRL, HawkGIRL. Most all of us associate the word "man" with a full grown, mature male while we likewise associate the word "girl" with an underaged female.

There's hardly a woman among them. Of course, the notable exception is Wonder Woman, but if you knew anything about the guy who created her, well, let's just say that particular man had a thing for women and ropes. Now granted, there are other exceptions as some heroes have a sort of "linneage". There's been multiple Flashes and there are female speedsters called The Flash. The Green Lantern is mostly a title held by the one who wears the power-ring. There have been female Green Lanterns.

Marvel comics is slightly better in that most of their superheroes have more non gender specific names like Cyclops, Storm, Human Torch, and Hulk. But they're just as guilty on some fronts with Spider-MAN and PowerMAN. However, while they do have a Spider-girl, there's also a (newly returned) Spiderwoman. Though keep in mind that a popular group of mutants, male and female, are called X-MEN. Marvel is also the only comics publisher I know of to use a pronoun for a charcter, She-Hulk. And I guess they have a slight bow to feminism with Ms. Marvel.

So why shouldn't girls feel left out? Sure, some girls do turn on to the superhero comics, but they're more the exception. Meanwhile, over in Japan the manga publishers realized that there was this huge, and fairly untapped, market in women. So if women like romance novels, why not romance manga? Not only that, but the Japanese target multiple groups of females. There's manga for little girls, tweens, teens, young adults, adult women, and mature women. When that makes its way here, and it turns out that many themes in Japanese shoujo manga appeal to American females, that creates powerful competition for a comic publisher not even bothering to look at the female population.

I also believe its the style of the comics, art and storywise... not just whether or not the story is shoujo or shonen. I mean that helps, too, but much of the stories of traditional superheros were quite... lame... and muscles waaay overdrawn. ;)

I've been living with a shojo addict since around 1998. She (still teen-aged, but just barely) was pretty unimpressed when I brought Shojo Beat home from ALA. I think she flipped through it for all of 2 minutes. But the Viz catalog--that got a full Live Journal entry and at least an hour-long rant about English-language manga. We'll see if the Harlequin titles make it with mademoiselle, who looks down her nose quite pointedly when I read romance!

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