Oriental Heroes #9, April 1989, Jademan Comics
Do you know what they call Oriental Heroes in the Orient? Heroes.
I do not know if this issue is “manga” or not. The contemporary definition of manga usually infers an inexpensive, digest-sized comic, read right to left, and fairly dense. Oriental Heroes #9 is a standard sized issue, read left to right, and despite its fifty-nine pages of story, took mere minutes to read. I use that word “story” loosely; as you can imagine, much of the book depicted fast-paced martial arts combat, from the Raving Dragon In Dance kick to the Crackling Zen Bolt. You know, the usual stuff. Still, the art style looked like typical manga, with the exaggerated facial expressions, the suspended use of the human body’s capacity for pain and endurance, and the melodramatic circumstances surrounding the conflicts in the first place. To be honest, I have no idea why these characters were fighting, nor did this issue offer any window into their personalities that would have elicited sympathy from me. Hey, I’m just the reader. I guess the heroes do enough caring for both of us.
Kids are loving manga right now. In Southern California, I know of as many manga bookstores as I do regular comic book stores. The genre has become a market in and of itself, and I suspect that it always has been, just now with more exposure than ever before. Thanks, Cartoon Network. The network’s spotlight on anime has definitely opened the floodgates for manga in our typically close-minded western world. As I’ve read Warren Ellis comment, kids dig manga because it seems more relevant; its size implies that you can, and should, stick it in your pocket and go mobile with your reading. It’s that important. Plus, I can’t think of many media that actually fosters cultural awareness in youth. No, the occasional Spanish segment on Sesame Street doesn’t count. Kids seek out manga; it isn’t shoved down their throats. If kids didn’t want to watch Full Metal Alchemist, they could flip to Toon Disney or Boomerang. But they don’t. For that matter, kids could go to any bookstore and pick up a Superman or Spider-man book for fulfill their comic lust. But they don’t. They’re picking up Naruto. Trust me, I know.
Oriental Heroes set the stage for this pop-cultural shift. I’ll confess, it’s not for me. Maybe with so much manga around, I can find some that I like. I need an oriental hero. Until then, I’ll just try to keep the rest of the industry in business.