Looking Across The Planet

By | Friday, March 16, 2012 Leave a Comment
The book cover I'm showing here is from what, I believe, is generally considered the premier history of Australian comics. It's been out of print for a several years, so it wouldn't be surprising if you haven't seen it. Also, it's about Australian comics, so you probably wouldn't have heard about it at all if you live in the United States. (For the record, author John Ryan is a different John Ryan than the British cartoonist that created Captain Pugwash.)

It strikes me as a bit curious that here in the 21st century, where we have the internet at our fingertips and nearly instantaneous worldwide communications, we still collectively focus on where we were born. I think comic folks generally recognize that comics are being made around the world, but I daresay that even most comic fans would be hard pressed to name any outside a select list. Manga has certainly gained some traction in the past couple of decades, but there's scarcely even acknowledgement of any work coming out of anywhere else. How many of the tributes to Mobius in the past week focused on the work he did for American companies? I actually made a point of not talking about him precisely because I'm really only familiar with his Marvel work, which I understand is decidedly NOT what he should be remembered for. (And that's a total fail on my part. I really should track down Blueberry or Airtight Garage or something at least.)

Now, to be fair, there are difficulties in getting foreign comics into the U.S. (or getting U.S. comics into other countries). In some cases, there's a translation issue that needs to be addressed. An Italian-language comic wouldn't sell very well here simply because there's not a large enough Italian-speaking customer base here. The technology isn't quite to the point where you could run an entire comic through some computerized translation program and get a readable comic, so you do need to hire people to individually translate and then re-letter books. There's also intellectual property rights issues that need to be addressed. One of the most well-known in the U.S. is the whole Marvelman/Miracleman thing that's effectively prevented any good reprint programs.

But it's not impossible, by any means. Much of the material in the original Heavy Metal was European, and NBM has been one of the primary (if not quite sole) sources of Euro-comics in the U.S. That manga (and, to a lesser extent, manhwa) is a widely dispersed here as it is shows that it's certainly possible, as long as a publisher wants to put some resources behind it.

Info on Euro-comics, though? What do we have here? Pretty much just Tom Spurgeon, I think. Comic Book Bin has done a series on comics from Thailand, which is most welcome, but I gather that it's largely based on a recent trip Hervé St-Louis took there, suggesting it won't be an ongoing feature. I've come across enough articles in Indian newspapers to understand there's a good-sized comic scene going on over there, but what do you hear about it in American-based outlets? What about Australian comics? They're in English and you don't even hear anything about them here in the States? The most we tend to hear about any foreign comics info is when it's someone like Alan Moore, who's fighting with American comics publishers.

I do what I can from my small seat in this cultural insular corner of Ohio. I try to use my Wednesday links posts to throw at least one international piece out there regularly (admittedly, I'm frequently unsuccessful on that front); I designed my upcoming column in Drawn Word (the first issue should be on sale next week!) to focus on European creators; I try to talk about cool international comics info when I find it. But that's certainly not much, and it's largely limited to what I can find in English.

There's absolutely some fantastic comics created here in the U.S. but we by no means have a monopoly on fantastic comics. Keep your eyes and ears open, and you might find some work you really enjoy that's really outside your normal circles.
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