Friday, October 19, 2007

Longer is not better

Apparently one of the reasons "manga is better" than American comics is because it is longer. How so? Almost all of the manga that makes it to this country is serialized in weekly or monthly anthology magazines. There's only 16-18 pages of story in a weekly magazine and usually less than twice that for a monthly. Then 10 weekly or 5-6 monthly chapters get collected into a book that is usually a little under 200 pages, the form we see it. If people only ever picked up the collections of American comics, they would get a nice long story too. Usually one that is a complete arc, too, rather than an arbitrary collection.

I especially love when someone claiming manga is "longer" goes on to extol the virtues of some weekly Jump title that is selling like hotcakes. For me, these embody why longer is not always better. Quite a lot of these start off with some overall plot to frame the story in, but this quickly becomes merely a frame for a repetitive story by some author who has found it very nice to have a consistent paycheck and will milk it for as many years as possible.

You can get the same thin frame with an American comic. You don't even have to look past the superheros to find it. Is "This is the life of Super-X, to whom life has thrown a curve ball and now s/he wants to do good for the world!" any less substantial than "This is the life of a rubbery boy who, inspired by his pirate hero, is trying to be the pirate king!"? Well, I suppose the second one has a goal and thus an ending is promised. Judging by the talk, that end is even in sight. (But how many times has it been in sight before?) I don't actually know because I never got past the first volume.

And, for the record, manga is full of superheros.

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