The History of how Comics and Manga/Anime Evolved and Came to be

By Avi Green

The Stone Age: prehistoric era B.C-1937

Comics, whether the pamphlets we’ve come to know ever since 1934, or even newspaper strips, which had been around since the Yellow Kid in 1896, which started the trend for daily and weekly strips like Gasoline Alley and Garfield, among others, have many forebearers to the art, in paintings in caves by the ancient human race, hieroglyphics, or even political satire cartoons, something that France was particularly famous for during the 19th century. Speaking of which, the earliest comic strip starring a woman was Becassine, first published in France in 1905. But when comics first really came to light in contemporary form was probably in 1929, in a publication called The Funnies, put out by Eastman Color Printing Co. in New York. While it was a rather mediocre product that few seemed to appreciate, and got cancelled after just 13 issues, it did nevertheless signal the start of the modern age comic book.

It was by the early 1930’s that publishers really began to experiment with the ideal format for comic books, and in 1933, while it was just a reprint series for comic strips, there came along Funnies on Parade, which could be purchased with coupons out of Proctor and Gamble products.

Then, in 1934, Eastman tried again, and came up with Famous Funnies, which is widely recognized as the first authentic “comic book” and was distributed like a magazine. It sold millions in its time, and publishers everywhere got into action to duplicate Eastman’s success. And it wasn’t just “funny books” that were what others were trying out; even books and stories with more serious angles were being experimented with, to varying degrees of success. And soon, the business was booming, and new companies and templates for ones to come were sprouting up.

Over in Europe, certainly in France, there were some comic strips turning up as well, and in Japan, some of the earliest precursors for manga, which is basically the Japanese word for comic, may have also begun to make their debut. Japanese illustrations, for all we know, began long, long ago too, as early as the 10th century or so, and over the centuries culminated in some very good potential that was developed into newspaper serial strips in their own country that would be their own precursor to the manga that would become more common since the 1950s. (Not only that, the template for the doe-eyed look common in manga and anime today may have come from a manga by the name of The Charm of Nishiki-E, published around the 1930s.)

The Golden Age: 1938-1949

In 1935, National Periodical Publications, had first launched Detective Comics as its flagship title, and a couple years later would come to be known as DC Comics in honor of its first book. As a business, they got off to a rather rocky start, but when pulp magazine publisher Harry Donenfield bought them out in 1937, that’s when they started to rocket to success. Especially when two 18-year-olds from Cleveland, Ohio, Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster (the latter's family may have originally been from Canada), would come along in 1938 and present them with what would become the world’s most famous superhero, Superman, debuting in Action Comics #1 in June 1938. Donenfield bought it for $130 (which yes, was considered a fairly high amount at the time), and soon, Superman was riding to great success, creating the “superhero” sensation for starters, and others would soon follow, most notably Batman the following year, brought around by the 18-year-old Bob Kane and artist Bill Finger in Detective Comics #27. Siegel and Shuster would also go on to create the Spectre and the Star-Spangled Kid, which they each came up with seperately.

In fact, Action Comics #1 is also noteworthy for a short story introducing Zatara, a magician who would later lead to the introduction in the Silver Age of Zatanna, his gorgeous daughter who'd be known at times as the Magic Maid. Some Golden Age classics really did help to lead to more famous ideas during the Silver Age as well.

Then, in the beginning of 1940, Gardner Fox would bring about some of comicdom’s most famous characters as well: Flash and Hawkman, in Flash Comics #1. There would be many famous characters, both big and small, who’d make appearances in various features in this series, but Flash and Hawkman would be the only two who’d last throughout the Golden Age in that book, including Hawkgirl, probably the very first female take on a role that began with a male character. Speaking of which, on a special note, even earlier, when it was just beginning, Detective Comics featured Speed Saunders, an adventurer who would later be written as being the grand uncle of Kendra Saunders, the Hawkgirl of the 21st century!

Soon afterwards, Green Lantern would come along later in 1940, followed by Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, and even Green Arrow in 1941. Plus, over at Timely Publications, now known today as Marvel Comics, there would come the Sub-Mariner, who made his debut in Marvel Comics in 1939, becoming the first official superhero style protagonist in their history, and soon afterwards, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon would create one of the most popular freedom fighters in all Marvel history, Captain America! Kirby and Simon would also create the original Sandman for DC shortly afterwards.

And, just as important, the 1940’s would also see the publication of history’s very first successful team title, All-Star Comics, featuring the Justice Society of America. It would enjoy a memorable run for 11 years.

European comics began to develop post-WW2 as well. One of the most notable in the late 1940s was Alix the Intrepid, set during the Roman period and its conquest of Gaul (France). There was also Lucky Luke, a parody of the western genre. Not all of what was produced at the time had an easy, however - censorship laws came up around 1949 that prevented Alix from having girlfriends because this was supposedly bad for children's media (yes, they actually categorized it that way then). Fortunately, the following decade, these laws were eased up, making it easier to work on that part, and made it easier to develop more comic strips that grownups could enjoy better.

Over in Japan, there too, in the post-WW2 era, manga was starting to gain a following, and it may have been courtesy of how some artists and writers at the time were inspired by American comic books, some of which had been provided by US soldiers stationed in Japan in the post-war years.

The Atomic Age: 1950-1955

After WW2 ended, superhero comics began to fade in popularity for a time. In 1949, Flash Comics was canceled and Captain America was reduced to something like a TV show host in his own book (Weird Tales), and then shoved out altogether. The time when the Golden Age really came to a close though, was when All-Star Comics was replaced at issue #58 in 1951 with All-Star Western. With that, publishers began to try out difference genres for a time, including westerns, romance, teen humor, and even horror comics along the lines of what Bill Gaines, EIC of the soon-to-come MAD magazine would do with its predecessor, Entertaining Comics (Tales from the Crypt was one example), originally titled Educational Comics by his father. Frankly, they were considered too violent and grisly for the times (actually, I'm not sure they would work at any time; they really were quite disgusting), and after a senate hearing that came following the publication of Dr. Frederick Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent, which such companies as DC, Marvel, and even Archie took advantage of in order to get some, if not all competition out of their way, leading to the Comics Code Authority, leading to the demise of Gaines’ EC publishing, and the only survivor of that closure is MAD, which was changed to a special magazine format in order to avoid the code, but which has kept it able to enjoy the luxury of the bookstore sales all these years. Make no mistake, I don't condone censorship, and it's regrettable the CCA had to come about, but at the same time, I do think some publishers at the time screwed up in terms of taste.

Other than that, EC and its clones were put out of business by all that, and it remained to be seen what the future of comics would hold in store for the next decade. There would be some interesting developments within that time though, such as the debut of the Martian Manhunter in Detective Comics towards the end of this specific era, in 1955.

And, I think it could be said that it was characters like that who helped pave the way very soon to what was to be in the era to come.

Also at that time, manga was just starting to get underway in Japan, with various artists beginning their talents at the time, and in Europe, there too, comics were slowly beginning to take off. Special magazines like Spirou and Pilote were published in which to syndicate some of these bande desinee, and for reprints, there was the "album" format books.

The Silver Age: 1956-1969

When this famous era began, what kicked it off with a bang was the very adept talents of DC’s late famous EIC, Julius Schwartz, who made his surprise debut in the world of comics during the mid-1940’s, and while until then, he hadn’t any official experience with superhero comics, he proved that he understood a lot about what could make them work. He was quite a sci-fi expert, having worked with sci-fi writing for starters, and also helped to establish the first official sci-fi convention in New York City during that time, which could also be seen as a precursor to the comics conventions that would come to be during the late-60s, early 70s.

Schwartz was given the task for starters of revamping the Flash, which he did with Robert Kanigher, John Broome and Carmine Infantino in Showcase #4 in 1956, with instant, fantastic success. It began as a simple anthology series, and very quickly became a starting ground for many other popular characters, with Green Lantern, Hawkman and the Atom coming soon afterwards. Plus, even underrated characters like Adam Strange would get their starting chances in Showcase, and go on to make appearances in titles like Mystery in Space. And when it came to teaming up, the Justice League of America would make its fantastic debut in the Brave and the Bold in 1960, another anthology title that would later go on to become mainly a team-up title for Batman, and would feature some really entertaining moments there too (it became an ideal title for Batman to team up with heroes whose own adventures were more sci-fi oriented than his own books actually were). Put another way, Schwartz reinvented the Golden Age with brand new characters in the roles of their previous counterparts. And, simply put, sales were booming once again for comics – and superheroes.

Then, in 1961, comics went another step in advancing, when the great Stan Lee, together with Jack Kirby, would launch the Fantastic Four over at the former Timely Publications, which has since taken on the name of Marvel Comics. As they said at the time, it would be like no other superhero team before. In this case, what they meant was the fact that these particular ones would have an emphasis on personal problems and personalities being featured. Like the Flash, this too was an instant success, and soon, Stan Lee would be launching such other famous characters as the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Daredevil and Iron Man, with Kirby also contributing on those, and then Spider-Man, with Steve Ditko as the artist.

As of today, Spider-Man has since become Marvel’s leading flagship title, and paved the way for various other teenaged superheroes, such as the X-Men, which began the following year. Following that, Lee would also give birth to Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandos, the very first place where Nick Fury, later to become the lead of Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D as well, would make his debut. Plus, there was Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and the Silver Surfer, who made his debut in a cameo role in Fantastic Four, would soon go on to get his own starring role as well. And there also came along Marvel’s very own major team title, the Avengers, which would feature several already established superheroes from earlier books - along with a few new ones - now joining forces to battle the super-foes no single superhero could withstand.

Thus, DC and Marvel together rebuilt the fad for superheroes during the Silver Age. One downside though, is that during this time, a lot of other genres like romance and westerns were all but phased out as the superhero genre took over, and it took years until they ever came back, if at all.

During this same era, Steve Ditko helped develop the Question and the Blue Beetle for Charlton Comics, 2 characters, if any, who'd later become part of the DC universe in the 1980s.

In Europe, comics were also gaining ground in places like France, Italy, Britain and Belgium, and while the comics of those times may have first appeared in newspaper strip format, they did eventually start to appear in book format too, in what they often refer to as the "album" format. Asterix is one of the most famous of the comics coming from Europe, debuting in 1959 by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, and there's plenty of others too. In 1962, the space adventure Barbarella by Jean-Claude Forest debuted, to much controversy at the time, as a comic strip for adults that also championed women's freedom. There was even a humor strip debuting around 1957 called Gaston LaGaffe, about the misadventures of an office drone. And in 1967, there came a notable sci-fi adventure by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières called Valerian and Laureline, teaming a guy from the 28th century who was in charge of dealing with space-time conundrums with a brave girl from the 11th century who readjusted to his era as partners together. This strip is particularly famous for inspiring set designs used on Star Wars over a decade later, and at least 21 stories were written up to 2010 before the cartoonists decided it was best to write a conclusion.

Over in Japan, there too, the manga industry was continuing to grow, and some artists even graduated to cartoon productions, usually called anime. Tatsuo Yoshida, for example, was one notable manga artist and writer who graduated to working in animation, and after working for a while at Toei, one of Japan's oldest and most famous cartoon companies, went on with his two brothers to form Tatsunoko in 1963, another famous company that produced anime mainly for television (and in the mid-80s, they'd also begin working on what are now known as Original Video Anime, OVA for short, special anime productions made for video viewing on home systems). And their third production, the legendary Speed Racer (titled Mach Go Go Go in the original Japanese), was based upon a manga book Yoshida first published in 1962. Even today, there are plenty of manga books that made their way from paper to screen as the popularity of both genres has increased and even gone together.

The Bronze Age: 1970-1985

As the 1960s came to a close, and the 1970s began, comics began to slowly grow up. What does that mean? Well, while the Golden Age’s featuring WW2 was something to that effect, with the Bronze Age now beginning, they began to add more of the sort, by featuring “human interest stories,” which could be focusing on problems with racial discrimination, the drug problems that were cropping up with teens, unfair trials in the ways of McCarthyism, and even the problems caused by the Nixon Administration. Stan Lee broke the mold – and the Comics Code – by doing a story in Amazing Spider-Man on drugs, which led the CCA to reevaluate its standards, so that then, when Denny O’Neil, who was working wonders with bringing Batman back to his more serious mode at the time, wrote a similar story in Green Lantern/Green Arrow, it was already possible to work on it without having to worry about the Code’s restrictions.

Other great stuff within that time saw the Kree-Skrull War in the Avengers come to be, the Celestial Madonna storyline a few years later in same book, and even the introduction of Black Lightning, the first black superhero to headline his own solo book. Plus, there were also team-up anthology books, such as The Brave and the Bold, which became a largely Batman co-starring fill-in-the-blank title since 1967, DC Comics Presents, the Superman team-up title produced to match BATB, which began in 1978 and ran for about 9 years, Marvel Team-Up, which headlined Spider-Man co-starring alongside various other notable characters in the MCU, and even Marvel Two-In-One, which headlined the Thing of the Fantastic Four in similar co-starring adventures. Plus, there was George Perez, making his fantastic debut in penciling on Fantastic Four in the mid-70s, from where he would go on to work wonders with the Avengers and even the lovely Scarlet Witch in the latter title.

Comics based on toy products were also beginning to show up at around this time. Micronauts was one of the first, debuting in 1979 from Marvel, and was soon followed by G.I. Joe and Transformers, among others.

One of the biggest achievements during the Bronze Age though, was the revival of the X-Men, whose title had been cancelled in 1970 and had been mostly filled in for with reprints until 1975, when Len Wein and Dave Cockrum revitalized the series for starters with Giant-Size X-Men #1 (Marvel had produced quite a bundle of those giant-sized issues at the time), starring the All-New, All-Different X-Men, such as Storm, Collosus, Banshee and Nightcrawler. The series would continue with Chris Claremont and John Byrne in 1977, and Claremont himself introduced one of the best ladies of our times, that being the adorable Kitty Pryde, who first took on the name of Sprite, but soon changed it to Shadowcat. Then, in 1980, DC would follow through on the success of that series from Marvel with their very own relaunching of the Teen Titans with Marv Wolfman and George Perez at the helm, in The New Teen Titans, which introduced three new starring characters, those being Starfire, the sexy alien princess who was an exile from the worn-torn planet of Tamaran, Cyborg, the black teen superhero whose life had been hit by tragedy when he was badly mauled by a strange alien creature that entered his scientist father’s laboratory, and had to be refitted with cybernetic equipment to save his life, and Raven, a mysterious girl described as an empath, who was born out of Rosemary’s Baby-type circumstances, the demon Trigon being her father, and a woman named Arella, whose background was also shrouded in secrecy, being her mother. It would continue for at least 16 years with Wolfman at the helm, and with many other memorable artists contributing their talents to it as well. In fact, during that time, the Legion of Super-Heroes would also find their time in the spotlight, as Superboy was given his own relaunched title and the Legion took over in the title he’d had until 1980, which was changed to the Legion’s own name at around that time.

The latter part of the Bronze Age would also see Roy Thomas write a special revival of the Justice Society, that being the All-Star Squadron, which would later be changed to Young All-Stars in 1987. And, in 1984, there came along a special spinoff for the then Earth-2 superheroes, Infinity Inc, starring the sons, daughters and other proteges of the famous folks of the Golden Age, first introduced in late 1983, in their very own adventures. And in 1983, after Marvel Two-In-One and The Brave and the Bold ended, a special solo book for the Thing and Batman's forming of the Outsiders would take their places.

Not only that, the Bronze Age also saw the introduction of the miniseries, limited series that ran from somewhere around 3 to 8 issues in total, with World of Krypton in 1979. This led to a floodgate of other miniseries as well, such as Marvel’s own Secret Wars in 1984, DC’s Sword of the Atom, Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld and Camelot 3000 during the same time, and most notable of all then was Crisis on Infinite Earths, which DC produced for the purpose of resetting their universe in order to try and make their superheroes more on the same level as those at Marvel, with personality more in focus. It ran 12 issues, culminating within a year, and next to Camelot 3000 and Secret Wars was one of the first maxi-series, as was described at the time.

Even smaller publishers like Charlton had some interesting products to offer at the time, like E-Man, co-created by Nicola Cuti and Joe Staton in 1973, about a lifeform that was born in space and took up humanoid form to become a superhero and paired up with an exotic dancer named Katrinka Colchnzski (who went by the stage name of Nova Kane). It was mostly inspired by Plastic Man. Though it initially only ran two years, it gained some cult status pretty fast, and the following decade was revived for at least two more years.

In Europe of the 1970s, there came bande dessinee creations like Natacha by cartoonist Francois Walthery and another guy named Gos (it's a pseudonym, and so far, I don't know what the latter's real name is), which chronicled the adventures of a sexy young airline stewardess and her occasional boyfriend Walter. It was notable for having some of the sexiest artwork you could find at the time, and later stories could occasionally be more adult.

There was also Yoko Tsuno by Roger Leloup, which was groundbreaking at the time for introducing a star of Asian/Japanese descent. The first few tales were drawn more cartoonishly, and later the illustrations became bit more serious in their own way, yet usually kept a sense of humor available. Yoko's adventures were usually science-fiction oriented and featured a big emphasis on technology to boot, making for one of the most impressive stories introduced at the time the early templates for the internet were just barely getting started. Leloup even later wrote up a novel in 1991 to expand on his heroine's background.

The 1980s saw the revival of the human interest storytelling concept, which had all but drifted away in the latter part of the 1970s, and during this time, that's when many comics were at their peak. And manga/anime started making a lot of inroads to western countries during this time as well. Gatchaman and Neo-Human Casshern were two notable anime series, the former that helped make the real inroads to US television during the late 1970s, with the Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Space Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada coming some time afterwards as Robotech. These have since become cult favorites and have been followed by plenty more.

The Iron Age: 1986-1991

With this era upon us, we saw the relaunching of Superman in the Man of Steel miniseries by John Byrne and Dick Giordano (Byrne would also write a special post-Crisis version of World of Krypton to accompany it, and MOS would become the subtitle of another ongoing series a few years later), more good stuff to be seen in the Avengers, Captain America, and in Spider-Man, there were clashes with gangs such as the Kingpin's, and there was a memorable story in which Robbie Robertson, the editor of the Daily Bugle (J. Jonah Jameson was mainly the publisher), facing off against an old adversary from his days in high school named Tombstone, who had now become an enforcer for the Kingpin’s mob. Wally West underwent a change in personality in the Flash, where he'd taken over for Barry Allen, but it was initially considered so middling under the pen of Mike Baron, that another writer, William Messner-Loebs was brought in to make repairs and improvements in what was done. It began to do better then. And another famous book from that particular era, was Alan Moore's Watchmen miniseries, which reworked the Charlton characters, since acquired by DC, into a story of superheroes who lived in a world in which the public distrusted them, and were portrayed in a rather negative manner from a left-wing viewpoint.

One of the most memorable team-based ideas being launched at around that time however, was the relaunch of the Justice League by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatties in 1987. It brought Guy Gardner, earth’s other Green Lantern, more into focus as his own hero, and even made way for the reintroduction of Captain Marvel/Billy Batson, featuring him too in more team-based adventures in the DCU proper. Plus, we had Denny O’Neil’s notable run on the revamping of the Charlton crimefighter series, The Question, during the time when some direct-sales titles were using Baxter paper, sorely missed today (it was largely abandoned by 1995), and also special relaunches of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the cult favorite first seen in Superboy’s adventures in the Silver Age, who later spun off into their very own starring adventures and titles in 1979, and subsequently a Baxter series in 1985, and then another series launched in late 1989. With the years progressing the Legion’s own adventures became more and more intelligent in its perspective, and the version launched in 1989 would continue for almost 12 years.

There were also more independent publishers surfacing, such as Capitol Comics and then First Comics, which published notable creations like Nexus, Mike Baron's anti-communist metaphor about a superhero living on a planet that became a sanctuary for dissidents from commie-style regimes in outer space. Other companies include Dark Horse, and even the now defunct Kitchen Sink Press, which helped Mark Schultz to launch the memorable Xenozoic Tales, first seen as a short story in an anthology series called Death Rattle. At least 14 books of this would be published over the years. DH's first series publication, interestingly enough, was called Dark Horse Presents and was pretty much another anthology, and did do a pretty good job of publishing independently owned stories.

Still more advances were made in manga, with Riding Bean and Gunsmith Cats, to name but some examples, and even a notable anime movie called Akira in 1988.

The Middling Age: 1992-1999

As the 90s came into the chronal picture, the output became increasingly hit-or-miss. Independent publishers were becoming more and more numerous by now, with Image, Dark Horse, and various others now appearing on the horizon. But while there most certainly were some good things to be found during this era though, there were also some bad things, such as the reappearance of the Spider-Clone first seen in 1975, in Spectacular Spider-Man, and even the Zero Hour crossover from 1994 didn’t cut it. Biggest mistake there, of course, was in killing off Hal Jordan and a couple of the original members of the Justice Society, who got their very own short-lived revival in 1992-93. And the trend for "grim and gritty" was taking its toll in some areas around the comics industry. But there were some good things at the time, such as Peter David’s run on the Incredible Hulk, and certainly Mark Waid’s run on the Flash, which saw the introduction of the new teen speedster for contemporary times, Bart Allen, grandson of the legendary Barry, who first took on the name Impulse and now, out of nostalgic motivations, takes on the name his cousin Wally originally had, Kid Flash.

Most interestingly however, was that in this particular time, nostalgia was becoming a popular trend very fast in some cases. People took a liking to Silver Age-like storytelling and were quite pleased with it whenever it was used. And Chuck Dixon helped to work Nightwing and the third Robin, Timothy Drake, into their own solo books, and towards the end of this era, gave us the Birds of Prey, starring Black Canary and the former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, who now goes by the name Oracle and works as the Bat-world's infolinker with her great talent in computer knowledge.

Trouble is, as I said, there were plenty of mistakes made, like the production of variant covers, beginning as early as 1991 with the sans-adjective Spider-Man series drawn first by Todd McFarlane, and also sans-adjective X-Men, which was the beginning of too many X-titles. And did I mention combined poster-style covers, where you put 3-4 together to form one big picture? This was something that turned up as early as 1985, but went completely out of control years later. It led to a situation where people were keeping these otherwise mediocre stories bagged and boarded without even reading them, let alone buying them for that purpose, and this led to the market's collapse pretty quickly.

Japanese manga fared considerably better during this time. There was Sailor Moon, for example, which got an anime adaptation pretty quickly that ran about the same amount of time as the manga did (while there is serial fiction-based manga/anime, most series are usually planned with an ending of some sort). Of course, during this time, artists and writers were trying out more than just mecha (Japanese for giant robots), and doing more magic-based items as well (magical girl fantasies were just one of those sort of things, and became quite common since 1967's Sally the Witch).

The Bleak Age: 2000-?

As the turn of the century came around, it's sad to tell, but things slowly took a turn for the worse. Marvel's chief editor office was taken over by Joe Quesada, who began the deterioration of continuity in the Marvel Universe, and even shunted aside "homegrown" talent for the sake of Hollywood screenwriters, and even left-wing British writers like Mark Millar, whose respect for America, conservatism and patriotic values was iffy or none. And Dan DiDio, who took over DC's chief editor office, subsequently brought down the DC Universe in similar ways, worst of all by publishing a miniseries called Identity Crisis that was slammed for its misogynistic storytelling approach, disrespect for past characterization/continuity, to say nothing of sensible fans. Not only that, it contained subtle leftist propaganda and blame-the-victim messages. There was also the outrage Quesada caused when, in 2004, he mandated the notorious Sins Past storyline in Amazing Spider-Man, which saw the tarnishing of the late Gwen Stacy, and in 2007, he forcibly retconned away the marriage of Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson-Parker. Even prior to that, there was the terrible death of Steve Rogers, Captain America, in a story penned by Ed Brubaker.

There was also the launching of Marvel's "Ultimate" line, which featured new takes on Spider-Man, X-Men, the Avengers (now called the Ultimates), and Fantastic Four, among a few others. Unfortunately, this line, claimed at first to be something younger readers could try out, turned out to be nothing of the sort - it was riddled with jarring violence and morally questionable actions, certainly the Ultimate X-Men and the Ultimates. As for Cross-Generation Comics, a most excellent independent company that didn’t get the attention it deserved, they went under (their initial owner was surprisingly incompetant), and there's no telling if even now, with new owners, that they'll ever continue what they started. Geoff Johns, a writer who first worked as an assistant to Richard Donner in Hollywood, started out well enough on some of the books he wrote for DC, such as the Flash and JSA, and Hawkman was probably the best thing he did, but he too soon began to falter, and when Identity Crisis came around, I guess that's when it became apparent that he was no better than countless other writers with an overrated reputation. His new version of Teen Titans went downhill just several issues after it started. Gail Simone's run on Birds of Prey, following Chuck Dixon's departure, has proven to be a surprise sleeper success, but that too eventually keeled over.

Another problem is that pandering to minorities at the expense of good writing started surfacing too, certainly at DC, whereas at Marvel, they destroyed the Avengers when their awful Disassembled storyline took place. But worst of all, as the audience for comics stagnates, this has apparently led both of them to resort to short-term strategies like "events" and also crossovers.

It's a shame this had to happen, that the "big two" ended up becoming a plethora of mindlessness and even moonbattery, but that's apparently what happens when one lets down their guard - the inmates take over the asylum.

As a result, there's no telling what the future of American comics will be like, certainly not that of the big two, which is uncertain.

On the other hand, manga and anime IMO look to have a longer life, and there were certainly quite a few gems even in this particular era, including Full Metal Panic, which began as a light novel, as they call them in Japan, and got an anime series too in 2003 that ran 24 episodes and 2 sequels. Of course, even there too, they may be running short of ideas if they're going to remake past classics like Gatchaman, and even Neo-Human Casshan. But here's where I'd like to make a point that, if you look in some US bookstores, you may find that manga is much more dominant than even US comics are.

When the quality of local comics goes down, is it any wonder that a foreign market can take over? Yes, that's right. American comics, and possibly even European comics, are being clobbered in sales by Japanese manga, because they're delivering the goods that most US comics aren't willing to offer. If a local market isn't willing to satisfy its audience, how can they expect to get back on top?

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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