October 14th, 2004

Fishy Circumstances

Global comics

I grew up reading the comics page in the newspaper. No one newspaper carries all the major U.S. syndicated comics, but I read newspapers at my grandparents' houses, and felt I had a fair grasp of the variety of comics out there, although even today my experience with the wide, wide world of comic books at large is very limited. With the internet and easy online self-publishing, the one-page and four-panel-strip proliferated, as did a creative variety of other comic forms. I read PhD and Sluggy and discovered Dragon Mango through their merchandising.

Recently, I was at the main research library on campus, walking down an aisle of shelving, when a comic book caught my eye, there in the middle of Robarts. "South Africa's premier comic!" it advertised itself at me, with Madam and Eve emblazoned on the cover. I browsed through it, reading a few plot arcs with amusement and intrigue before pulling myself back to work.

Reading it, I realized that I almost only knew U.S. and Canadian comics. I've read a few international comic books, Tintin, Asterix (French), Diabolik (Italian), and a small assortment of translated manga. But that's it.

Comics are marketed towards particular cultures and knowledge bases. I don't know much about living in South Africa except what an arbitrary handful of newspaper articles have taught me. Madam and Eve tells me even more.

So what other major comics have I missed out, comics central to cultures I'm not so close to? Do New Zealand and Australia have thriving comic scenes? What are the major examples of comics in Austria or Norway? I know about manga in Japan, but is there a tradition of syndicated four-panel strips there too? Do Brazilians open up their morning papers to the comics section over a coffee?