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.