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Comics 101 – What is the postmodern era of comics?

Most historians and comic book fans consider the era we find ourselves in today to be modern. But there is no doubt that something in the comics industry has created a fundamental shift in the foundation of the commercial and entertainment aspects of the medium sometime in the early part of the new millennium. Soon, I think the pundits will announce that comic book publishing has entered a new era, and the old one, which is now known as the “Modern Age”, will be reclassified as something else (the most likely candidates are likely to be Platinum or Age del Hierro). However, since that era has not been labeled, the only thing we can accurately call the current era of comic book publishing is the “postmodern” era.

In the Golden Age of comics, any adventure in one issue would last more than 8 pages or so, and most titles were anthologies with multiple characters on short adventures. In the Silver Age, many titles had a 12-16 page advance and a 6-8 page backup. In the Bronze Age, most comics featured just one character or concept, often in short stories of two or three parts, with subplots that could last a year or more.

Nowadays it is the norm in most superhero comics to write in “story arcs”, a story of four to eight parts, and each issue serves as a “chapter” of that story, which can be crossed with the family. broader book title, or other titles altogether.

The technical storytelling in these comics is called “unzipped” because the scenes are “allowed to breathe.” Rather than rushing from scene to scene at a breakneck pace, the writer can pause at a scene or even a specific moment to allow it to develop more fully.

The style can be typified (or even stereotyped) by a sequence of images that do not change and do not have text, to indicate that a character is thinking, or the writer wants to indicate an embarrassing and uncomfortable pause in the dialogue. It can also be used in a series of images without text to increase awareness of something in those images.

Two of the first American comics to use this style were by Warren Ellis. The authority and Brian Michael Bendis The last Spiderman. On The authority, it was generally referred to as “movie style” or “widescreen style”, because Ellis used to use the device to “slow down time”, as popularized in movies like Matrix. On The last Spiderman, decompression was most often used in dialogue, where two characters talked to each other for pages.

Both titles were huge hits, and many other writers tried to emulate the styles of Ellis and Bendis, with varying degrees of success.

Even when done correctly, uncompressed storytelling has costs and benefits. On the one hand, it gives the writer the opportunity to really develop his thoughts (characters, action sequences, etc.) more completely and to really focus them on the reader. On the other hand, with less text to read, you can shorten the reading time of a number, which creates dissatisfaction for the reader.

A common complaint among readers is that decompression is “stuffing” the book, expanding a story to sell more copies of each issue, or to complete a contract on a series paperback collection, which generally sells better. when collecting 5-8 numbers of a title. This is called “writing for the trade,” although both DC Comics and Marvel Comics are publishing more of their newer collections first in hardcover format.

Sleeve is such a broad term and experience that it would be impossible to examine the history and cultural impact of manga and anime within the context of this article. For the purposes of our discussion here, we will focus primarily on the impact manga has had on the US comic book market.

“Manga”, at its most fundamental level, is just another term for a comic created in one of the Southeast Asian countries, or one influenced by work coming out of those countries.

Manga has had an influence on Western culture for decades, from Speed ​​runner Y Battle of the Planets / G-Force, through live action Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and its sequels in the 80s and 90s, for Pokemon Y Dragon Ball Z today.

However, it was primarily an underground hobby in the United States, one for high school and college students. What ultimately brought the manga’s popularity to the top may have been the debut of Shonen Jump Magazine.

Shonen jump, a monthly English edition of the Japanese publication Shonen Weekly Jump, debuted at the end of 2002. Among the seven serialized stories in the first issues were Naruto, One piece, Dragon Ball Z Y Yu Gi Oh! They have all become big multiplatform hits. Shonen jump It tapped into a huge underserved market for younger kids who wanted action-packed comics.

Viz, Tokyopop, and other publishers capitalized on the manga explosion by making deals with Asian manga publishers to translate their original titles for an American audience and sell them in abstract-sized collections. If you visit the “Graphic Novel” section of your local bookstore, the shelf space for manga is likely 4-5 times that of American-style comics.

It’s unclear what the ultimate impact will be on Western-style comic sales, but they are grappling with resistance within the American comic book community. Some fans and retailers have rebelled against the idea of ​​wearing manga in comic book stores in the US It is unclear what the reasoning behind these sentiments is.

Identity crisis was a miniseries written by bestselling author Brad Metlzer and illustrated by Rags Morales, published by DC Comics in 2004. The seeds first planted by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in The watchers in 1986 they finally reach their full realization here.

Identity crisis It deals with topics such as rape, murder, human rights violations, insanity, corruption and deception in a very frank adult way. The watchers they also dealt with all those issues, but Identity crisis it was the first time they were the focus of a firmly established title in the DC Universe. These weren’t some characters that were created for the sake of history, they were DC Comics Silver Age icons, they were the Justice League of America.

If you thought Identity crisis was a good miniseries or not (and it was a very polarizing story), it must be recognized that he is at least an intellectual descendant of The watchers. The morally ambiguous quality of the story has set the general tone in the DC Universe. Since Identity crisis, We have seen:

  • A Justice League administrator shoots Blue Beetle in the head, instantly killing him
  • Wonder Woman breaks a man’s neck on live TV around the world
  • Batman uses (and loses control of) a computer satellite in an attempt to spy on literally everyone in the world
  • Even DC’s current crossover event, “Blackest Night,” has at its core the mistakes heroes made in their past, literally coming back to haunt them.

(A personal note: I am not going to pass judgment on Identity crisis or what has happened since then. But it’s impossible to argue that the DC Universe isn’t a much darker place than it was even 10 years ago.)

Admittedly, it may seem like superhero comics are entering their twilight zone, as sales continue to decline every year. But on the other hand, we may be just around the corner from another Golden Age. It is obvious that superhero stories on the big screen have been embraced by the masses. Perhaps, with new distribution models such as the iPhone or Longbox platforms, superhero comics will regain their prominence in the national consciousness.

So whether we are in the modern era or the postmodern era, it is quite possible that we have simply turned the corner into another era of comic book publishing.

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