Reflections from comic books

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday August 08th, 2012

HOW do comics reflect the countries they were created in?
As a series featuring collaborating artists from around the world concludes, a global look at comic styles offers a glimpse into national cultures.
The cult of comic has many followers. Some love the characters, some are in awe of the artwork.
For many, is it the simple skill of telling a story through pictures?
While the simplicity and soul of the comic is universal, the pages can vary according to the countries they were created in.
“There are different styles and themes,” Tim Pilcher, author of The Essential Guide to World Comics and the chairman of the Comic Book Alliance, says.
“These approaches can make the comics very different.”
While the comic industries in Japan, Europe and the United States are well established, in the Middle East it took more time.
The first comic book superheroes were created in 2005.
Aya, Zein, Jalila and Rakan from Middle Eastern Heroes have dark pasts that have transformed them into superheroes.
Landmarks such as the Sphinx appear in the background, reinforcing the setting and the relevance to its readers.
India’s comic book history goes back much further.
Amar Chitra Katha is a comic book based on stories from Indian classics. Sprawling epics are condensed into comic strip form.
Cartoonist Pran Kumar’s Chacha Chaudhary, is another Indian favourite.
Chacha, the wise old man, uses his intelligence to outwit his enemies and story lines include cricket matches and chapatti eating.
“I wanted to created something that is Indian, that covers themes that are important and relevant to India,” Kumar says.
“I started making comics in the 1960s but everyone was reading Western ones, I thought why not create an indigenous comic, based on local themes.”
In Japan, comics, or Manga, are read by children and adults alike. Subject matter varies wildly, from adventure stories to romance and the X-rated.
The industry is fast and disposable. Artists can turn out 20 to 30 pages a week resulting in phonebook size booklets, devoured and then discarded.
“Because they are so long, you can get things like a bead of sweat on someone’s forehead moving downwards over three pages,” Pilcher says.
“There is a character called Gon, who is a tiny dinosaur, it has these amazingly detailed and beautiful landscapes. People love it.”
Here is a brief rundown of seven countries and their comics.
United Kingdom – The Beano is loved for its silly humour and fart jokes. It is about mischief and naughtiness, and it is clearly aimed at children.
United States – home to the superheroes Batman, Superman, Captain America and Spiderman. They set out to save the world, thanks to their super strength.
Japan – Manga comics, popular with both adults and children in Japan, deal with themes like school romance and literary classics, innocent stories and even pornography. The artists are prolific, and the comics long – often with as many pages as a phone book. – BBC