America has always found ways to cope and escape through different kinds of media. In the 1890’s the initial euphoria of film had people entertained and then in the 1920’s-1930’s film became a means of escaping the crippling economy and depression that loomed all around. To watch a movie during this time was to know that despite all the ups and down on the big screen that no matter what, the film would end with a happy ending. Comics also became a means of escape. During times of war when America was desperate for peace, comic’s allowed for a hero to be born. Ordinary men fought for the good of mankind. They were strong and invincible. They set up a stature that no real mortal man could achieve.
Fast forward and a new medium takes the stage, manga has recently become a very popular medium in America and rather than becoming a means of escape, perhaps instead it’s filling a void of American’s wanting to be understood. ICv2 Guide to Manga (2007) estimates that the North American manga market for 2002 was $60 million, and that by 2006 it had grown to an estimated $190–205 million, with over 5,000 paperbacks in print. I think the growth in popularity is because this medium appeals to girls and boys alike. The comic industry in the U.S. primarily appealed only to boys. The idea of an ordinary man becoming a hero and fighting crime is a very testosterone filled dream and could be seen as hard to relate to as a young girl. The female role was usually needing to be rescued ensuing that the male had to be the hero and wasn’t allowed to be weak. Comics sometimes failed to recognize that women could be strong and men were allowed to show weakness.
In Trina Robbins, From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Women’s Comics from Teens to Zines it states that from the early 1940s to the late 1950s, more girls read comics than boys. The comic that was consuming the female heart was not that of superpowers but of a group of all-American teens, the Archie Comics. The Archie Comics still technically surrounded a main male character, Archie. However, it did introduce two females with diverse personalities to relate to the female audience. I even enjoyed reading these comics as a kid, reading fast through the pages filled with Archie and reading slow when the pages were filled with one of the two heroines, Betty and Veronica. While I respected the comics a lot as a kid, in 2014 the Archie series ended (at least one ended, for Archie Andrews lives in a multiple of universes in the series) with Archie dying as a hero. Again the comic troupe was filled with the man being the hero and leaving the two girls to depressingly deal with his loss.
In Gilles Poitras, What is Manga? he says, “The U.S. comic industry has focused on boys as well as young men and women, ignoring [the romance genre for girls]. U.S. publishers have also ignored another interesting genre: romance stories for boys. These are coming of age tales centering on boy–girl relationships and often dealing with issues of mutual responsibility and the risks of young adulthood.” This point is one of the leading reasons in the rise in the manga market. Not only are U.S comic industries missing out on key themes and demographic elements but manga is making up for what comics lack. In manga girls can be strong and men can can show emotion freely.
Almost all manga also holds a single tale told over a series of volumes and told through a numerous amount of events. American comics are usually thin pamphlets with a single story per issue. At times the story will end on a cliffhanger and continue into the next issue but even then the stories tend to end that following issue. This is perhaps another reason for the growing manga craze, the new medium requires a certain dedication, to finish the story you have to read through all the volumes while in comics certain issues can be seen as ending even if multiple issues are to follow. While there was a time when comics allowed for people to escape into a world where they needed a hero, manga allowed for people to be understood and accepted. In the manga world, it’s okay for a male to cry, to have emotion, and to need saving. It’s okay for a female to be brave, strong, and be okay with being alone.