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Naruto: bigger than Spider-Man?

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Brigid points us to The Halifax Slasher, a blog by someone who works in a comics shop, and he or she has an insightful analysis of why manga is winning:

The other day a customer asked me what the best-selling comic right in America right now, and I told him it was probably either Fruits Basket or Naruto. “Right, right,” he said, “those probably sell well for manga, but what actually sells the best?” Either Fruits Basket or Naruto, I said. “Manga’s got a pretty limited audience,” he said, “so it’s impressive when one starts to sell. But what I really want to know is what sells the best.”

Well, he didn’t get it, and a lot of comic-shop regulars don’t get it, but the truth is that American comic books haven’t been the most popular comics in America in many years (newspaper comics long have been), and now they’re not even number two.

People know how to say “manga” now; some use the nasal “American” a and some use the broad “Japanese” a, but they rarely say “magna” the way they pretty much all used to, and I haven’t heard a rhymes-with-lasagna pronunciation in months. That’s a pretty sure sign of mainstream acceptance, that and the fact that they sell like hotcakes.

Of course, the Slasher really won our hearts by quoting our “Satisfying Chunk Theory” accurately. Can it be that we actually created a theory?

Manga offers what Heidi McDonald call a “satisfying chunk” of story. American comics sure used to, and now they don’t, which means that customers are always complaining, after reading an issue, that nothing happened. The reasons for this change are due for their own essay (tentatively titled “What Went Wrong”), but for now let us note that while there was a time when a single issue of a comic would have Spider-man meet a foe, get defeated by the foe, mope around, become inspired, track down the foe, fight him again, defeat him, and then wrap up a subplot involving Aunt May–in other words, when an issue would contain a complete dramatic arc–nowadays Frank Miller can write entire issues in which Batman never leaves the car. We have grown accustomed to paying $2.99 for what is equivalent to three minutes of a movie.


Preach it, Slasher. The whole post is a must read.

  1. I wonder if the same retailers and buyers who bitch about manga’s “intrusion” on their “regularly scheduled programming” are descendants of those who might have bitched about “them new damn superhero books from Marvel” in the early 1960s?

    I only precisely one book of manga, but I’m not stomping my feet up and down because someone’s giving readers’ better value for their money. Same reason I don’t “buy American.” The competition from Manga is what should drive American comics to improve their lot or get left behind (I wonder if they’re descendants from those pulp folks back in the 1930s who complained about the intrusion of comic books?).

  2. I think what American fans find frustrating about Manga is that they’re words have no impact on them, while in the American mainstream comic world, thier words more or less control the tide of entire character franchises. The shock from kinda mattering to not mattering at all must be shocking…

    Or any comic which has characters actually enjoying being powerful instead of all angsty… and honestly compared to most [definetly not all, but most] mainstream comics they have personality. Whatever Spider-Man does in Civil War, in the end it doesn’t really matter. There is little human connection.

  3. Heidi, you show brand that “Satisfying Chunk” as a logo so it’s as recognizable as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Then apply it to books that give you your money’s worth.

    Just a quick OT: I betcha that “Teen Titans GO!” outsells DC’s regular “Teen Titans” book.

  4. As far as the satisfying chunk theory goes, I’d say that applies to a good spectrum of what I’ve seen in the manga I’ve read. Still, the funny thing is: Naruto defies that like crazy.

    The latest storyline in the American release chronicles a single exam (broken into three parts) and has played it out over the last eight volumes of the series and will probably need at least one or two more to finish it off. That’s about 2000 pages devoted to a single story arch. Masashi Kishimoto scoffs at Bendid and his six-issue archs. (At least Naruto‘s chapters are released weekly.)

    The popularity of Naruto seems to be simply because its just a fun book. In fact, it’s hard for me to think of another book that takes as much sheer enjoyment in adventuring. Spider-Man hasn’t in along time. Let me put it into a ratio: Naruto:Fun::Korgi:Cute.

  5. I read plenty of comics, but the main lines of DC and Marvel completely baffle me and I avoid the confusing nightmares of Civil War and 52 like the plague. On the other hand, I find the single-story, all-ages comics Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans Go! and Marvel Adventures amusing and satisfying. And my kids love them.

  6. Very sad that I’ve never heard of either book (although the name Naruto sounds vaguely familiar).

    They’re totally right about American comics not having much going on in them. I would much, much rather pay for a b&w trade on crappy paper with a lot of story than continue shelling out for individual comics that are read in ten minutes. I recently read the first fight between Hulk and the Thing in an early Lee/Kirby FF book, and thinking that if someone had done that same comic today, it’d have taken up 6 issues at least.

    Then again, most of the decompression in comics comes from the manga influence. Agree? I think decompression hit big in America when Ellis and Hitch made The Authority, but manga had been doing that for years.

  7. I love naruto he is so weard/cool. hecan kill spiterman with his shadow dobbelganger / sexynohaream put to gether

    INU-Chan
    CHA!!!

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  9. naruto is the best manga i mean all the people on youtube say one oiece is the best seller and naruto is the 5th yeah right naruto owns

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