Attracting Mature Readers
By Peter W. Y. Lee
Among the 1954 Comics Magazine Association of America’s Comic Code’s many regulations was a directive to company admen: “Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable” (Nyberg 168). The ubiquity of alcohol in mainstream media certainly concerned social guardians in post-war America (Rotskoff). However, liquor manufacturers did not solicit to minors in the comics, but another demographic group: their parents.
The first part of my article looked at how Lev Gleason Publications responded to the public alarm over comic books. Gleason and his chief editor, Charles Biro, pushed comics as a progressive medium with educational and artistic merit. This second part explores their second strategy: courting adults. Gleason hoped that an expanded readership would bolster support and offset rising production costs. However, critics rejected comic books’ potential beyond that of disposable children’s entertainment. The Comics Code sanitised comic books and stigmatised readers beyond middle-school age.
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Tags: Abraham Lincoln, adult readership, Alan Valentine, Amazing Adult Fantasy, anticrime comic magazines, Association of Comic Magazine Publishers, Atlas, Boy Comics, Charles Biro, comics code, comics industry, crime comic books, Crime Does Not Pay, Dell Comics, economics, education, educational comics, Frederic Wertham, Fredric Wertham, Great Depression, Henry E. Schultz, History, juvenile delinquency, Lev Gleason, Lev Gleason Publications, mature readers, Mortimer Smith, pre-code, sexual imagery, social progressivism, St. John Publishing, superheroes, USA, violence, WWII
I. Who is Ishiko Junzō?
Arguably, one of the first Japanese critics to discuss graphic narratives (story manga) for mature audiences is Ishiko Junzō (1928 – 1977). Initially active as an art critic who explored a wide range of contemporaneous artistic and popular movements, he began to publish writings more specifically on manga between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. To many English-language readers his name might be obscure, perhaps even more so than his contemporary, philosopher and cultural critic Tsurumi Shunsuke, whose book Sengo Nihon no taishū bunkashi (A Cultural History of Postwar Japan 1945-1980)—a chapter of which is devoted to postwar manga—is available in English. Yet, in present-day Japanese-language manga research, Ishiko is repeatedly referenced, especially in relation to his media-specific discussion of manga. This article shall introduce art critic Ishiko Junzō and his scholarship, concentrating on his contribution to Japanese comics criticism and manga studies.
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Tags: adult readership, aesthetics, alternative comics, alternative manga, art, Artists, “anti-art” movements, censorship, Charles Hatfield, children readers, comics industry, Dick Higgins, digital media, Doryun Chong, dōjinshi, education, fandom, film, formalism, Garo, gekiga, Gondō Suzumu, graphic narratives, historiography, hyōgen-ron, intermediality, Ishiko Junzō, Japan, Japanese manga, jaqueline berndt, Kajii Jun, Kajiya Kenji, kashihon-ya, Kikuchi Asajirō, Magnificent 49ers, manga, manga criticism, Manga geijutsu-ron, manga studies, Manga to eiga, Mangashugi, mature readers, Miryam Sas, Miwa Kentarō, Mizuki Shigeru, MOMA, Negative Perceptions of Comics, Osamu Tezuka, psychology, Scott McCloud, seinen, Shirato Sanpei, shōjo, social class, structuralism, taishū bunka, Takano Shinzō, Tatsumi Yoshihiro, Tezuka, Tezuka Osamu, Tsuge Yoshiharu, Tsurumi Shunsuke, Uryū Yoshimitsu, USA, Walter Benjamin, Weekly Shōnen Magazine, Yamane Sadao
As with the larger field of manga studies, the earliest attempts at theorizing what we now call Boys’ Love (hereafter BL) manga were made by Japanese critics and authors in the 1980s when the genre itself surfaced. Academic BL studies, however, had to wait until the 2000s, with some key works published after 2005, and these are the main focus of this article.
The first analyses of the roots of BL manga were written by Nakajima Azusa. She traced the genre back to shōnen’ai manga (boy love), stories about romantic and sexual love between boys that were serialized in shōjo [girls] manga magazines. While shōnen’ai has become a popular loanword within non-Japanese manga fandom, in Japan, the most widespread term — not just for graphic narratives, but also novels, audio-dramas, and games — is BL, which overwhelmingly tends to signify the commercially published variant of this cross-media genre as distinct from the fandom-based, and often more sexually explicit yaoi variant. The shōnen’ai stories of the 1970s were revolutionary as they replaced the conventional girl protagonists of shōjo manga with boys, and they appealed to female fans in a way which went beyond the act of reading. In her early essays, Nakajima dissected not only BL narratives as such but also fans’ motivations for consuming and creating them. However, her psychoanalytical focus was often interpreted as fans of the genre being unable to cope with societal gender roles, to the extent of being, at best, escapist, and at worst, pathological. Nakajima herself was an author and editor of BL literature (which is often accompanied by single-image manga-style illustrations), and she played a seminal role in June (1978–2012), the first magazine dedicated to BL manga and fiction. It goes without saying that her creative involvement in the formation of the genre shaped also her stance as a critic.
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Tags: adult readership, AIDS, Boys’ Love, cross-media, cultural studies, dōjinshi, Eureka, fandom, film, fujoshi, Gender, gender roles, Hagio Moto, Hana to Yume, Hata Mikako, hentai, Hermann Hesse, HIV, homosexuality, Hori Akiko, Ishida Minori, Japan, Japanese manga, June, Magnificent 49ers, manga, manga criticism, manga studies, mature readers, Mishima Yukio, Mori Mari, Mori Naoko, Nakajima Azusa, post-war period, psychoanalysis, Race/ethnicity, Ragawa Marimo, sex, sexual imagery, Sexual Violence, sexuality, shōjo, shōnen’ai, sociology, Takemiya Keiko, yaoi