Sunday, May 28, 2006

Comic Books - Japanese Manga vs American Comics

What are the primary differences between Japanese Manga (Comics) and American Comics?

There is a big difference in art styles between Manga, which is more stylized (exaggerated) and American comics, which tend to be more "realistic". There are also quite a few serious differences between the two types of comics. Some of the differences, just to mention a few of them are the cost, creation, diverse audience and genres, presentation and even size.

The creation of Manga as well as its presentation is quite different than American Comics. Manga is printed in black-and-white format while American comics are the majority of the time in full color. Also, when you look at a graphic novel or Manga you will notice a difference in the size. Manga is frequently smaller than traditional American comic books, usually digest-size and roughly half to one-third the size of American comics. But where the American comics are generally thin like a small magazine, running about 32 pages, Manga comic books are thick and can be hundreds of pages in length!

In page count, Manga is quite similar to graphic novels, which are often just collections of the ongoing American comics. But unlike American graphic novels, which are usually just a collection of monthly comics in a single unified story or story arc, Manga books are often apart of an even bigger story and a complete Manga storyline can run thousands of pages.

Another difference between traditional American comics is that mainstream American comics are often created in a sort of assembly-line fashion. They have a writer (story), a penciler (initial sketch), inker (uses a pen to ink over the sketch), letterer (adds dialog) and a colorist (colors the inked sketch). Most Manga books are done by a single creator, who combines all those chores (except coloring).

Also Manga story lines usually move at a much quicker pace. Due to the high page count, one reads a Manga book at an accelerated pace. Manga books almost always have fewer panels and less dialogue (rambling) per page than American comic books. The price for Manga is also more than the average comic book and a bit more than a standard paperback novel, the small size of Manga and black-and-white printing rather than full color keeps the cost down. The lack color is made up when you consider the story development that it'll have with the amount of pages it has.

In Japan, Manga is not viewed as just for kids unlike the American stereotype. There pretty much is a Manga for everyone. With that being stated there are three main genres in Japanese Manga: Shonen Manga (boy's comics), Shojo Manga (girl's comics) and Hentai (adult comics).

Shonen Manga is pretty much comics that are primarily action and/or adventure geared. If you'd like to view some examples of that genre, I'd recommend "Bleach" and/or "Full Metal Alchemist". Shojo Manga is for the opposite sex; they are often about relationships and/or love interests. Please note that even though a particular genre is geared towards a certain audience it's not limited to just that audience (unless otherwise stated). Finally Hentai Manga, I won't delve much into this since it is primarily for adults and NOT suitable for children (just to be safe in case a child is reading this). Anyways, Hentai Manga is sometimes sexually explicit and/or adult-themed. In other words, do not purchase this for your child.

Next time someone asks you what the difference is between Manga and [American] comics, you can surprise them with your knowledge.

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Comic Books

Friday, May 19, 2006

Collecting and Caring for Comics

Comic books are a big part of popular culture as it combines art and writing. A comic book, also known as a comic strip or comic, is defined as a booklet of words and pictures that are integrated into a printed format. It is both a unique art form and a literary standard that originated in the United States in the late 1800s. The most basic definition is that a comic is a series of words and pictures presented in a sequence and forms a narrative. In comic books, the author uses everyday language placed in dialogue boxes and with a series of pictures portrays a thought quickly and directly. Unlike novels or short stories, the comic books' pictures control the reader's interpretation of the words and they are forced to see the writer's point of view. Comic books allow the reader to examine the minds of the characters through dialogue balloons thus inviting the reader into the make believe world of the writer. These visual sequences of art are mass-produced inexpensively.

Being an immensely influential part of popular culture, comic books are very good collectible items. Collecting comic books is a fun hobby and, if done right, can be very lucrative. The majority of comic book titles center on superhero characters but there are also comic books on comedy, drama, horror, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, for adults, for children, in foreign languages and adaptations. So as you can see, there is a wide variety to choose from, which can result in a huge comic book collection. All well kept comic books will either maintain or grow in value over time. The trick is to choose titles with the highest growth potential.

The very first step in collecting comic books is to buy them. The first step in purchasing a good comic book is to choose a good local comic or specialty store. Most stores have a saver programs or subscriptions that allow you to have the comics of your preferred title set aside for you. Most of the titles are either under Marvel Comics, DC Comics or Image Comics. The minority are under independent titles. Browse the store of choice and look for comic books with solid story lines and excellent illustrations. It will be to your advantage if you can get the earliest release of the issue. Also, because this is primarily a hobby, buy those that interest you and maybe these will increase in value.

For a collector's item to increase in value over the years, it should be in crisp condition. This is true of all collections, but comics call for special treatment. To keep them in mint condition, they must be carefully flipped through while reading. Please refrain from dog-earing and folding the pages. Afterwards place in a Mylar Sleeve. This is like a clear envelope with a pressed-board backing. This sleeve prevents moisture from damping the comic and the board ensures that the comic isn't folded or crumpled. Slide the comic into the sleeve against the treated side (the white side) and the comic cover facing front. If you plan on storing the comic books for more than five years, make sure to use premium quality acid-free backing board and paper. After this, the comics should be stored in a long or short comic box with the comics standing up. Make sure the box has the right fit and it is always helpful to include a list of the comic books stored inside the box in an organized manner according to title, date of release and issue number, to avoid unnecessary skimming and flipping through the comics. These supplies are common in specialty shops because they are really a necessity in comic storage.

Michael Russell

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Choosing and Collecting Comics with Potential

There are thousands of comic book titles. They may be from the big dogs of the comic industry or from the small-time independent labels. Either way, all comic book collectors are biased when it comes to the title they accumulate. As a collector, you may be gathering issues of a specific title for your own personal pleasure or because it could be profitable someday. It is one thing to find the titles you like, but it is another to find titles that have good potential. With a lot of luck, you can kill two birds with one stone.

To complete your collection, there are a few steps to follow. For the first and most important, you must be updated and well informed. Read up on the subject from titles like the "Overstreet Price Guide" or the "Wizard Magazine". By doing this, you will be informed of the release dates of the issues to help you get the early releases and will also inform you of the cost and maybe even future values. When you find the title that you are interested in, do a rough estimate of the cost then go out and buy from a specialty shop, a catalog, online, or at a comic book convention. One can also buy from another collector. Good collectors prefer to sell their comics to another individual rather than to a comic shop because they get a better price. Before closing the deal, examine the comic and check its condition because in retailing, mistakes are inevitable. After carefully reading it, store properly in a safe place.

Back Issues are comics that are not presently sold on the racks and are sold separately in conditions ranging from "new/mint" to "very poor". The price is determined by the condition the comic is in. Also, it is good to shop around. You will see that shops compete and will undercut each other. You can often purchase overstocks of regular issues for half the cover price or more.

If the goal of your collection is to profit from it after a few years, you should fill it with titles that will grow in value over time. To achieve this, there are a few tricks to master. Once again, the key is to be informed. For example, Wizard Magazine enlists the top 100 selling comic books every month. The books on this list are the top sellers which mean that their characters are popular in that particular time. These books may have big potential in the future. Also, it is always good if you are able to buy first releases of the issues. Sometimes, the book publishers print the issues in different covers to promote sales. It is good to buy issues in their different covers too. One excellent tip is to know the creative teams of the comic because sometimes it is not the title that matters. A valuable issue may be due to the writer or the illustrator. Having an eye out for new and interesting material is useful because although most non-superhero books don't sell well, the interesting ones may gain in value. Getting to know your retailer can work to your advantage because their predictions of the next big thing will help you.

Remember that the comic's value is connected to its popularity. So sell with the tide. Sale does not depend on the titles you sell but on the timing as well. If for example a Spiderman movie is out, the sales of the comic books skyrocket.

Rare books also sell well. This is because the new comics are too mass-produced and anyone can get them. This results in the decrease of their value. It is advisable to buy comics with a very good storyline and exceptional illustrations. Buy books that you like because of their story and the art. Buy old books that fascinate you and try to get to know if the prices of these have already increased slightly. Be ready to pay for the best quality/grade of each issue. In choosing titles, take your time and shop hard. Remember that mainstream superhero titles are always going to be popular and buy the best of the issue. Don't listen to comic book dealers because they are often dishonest people trying to make money from children. Also try subscribing to a Comics buyer guide to learn all about the past and present issues. Lastly, learn to store your comic books properly to enjoy them for longer.

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Comic Books.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Comic Books - The Hulk Comics

The Hulk is a strong super hero. He is big and he is green, but he is not always The Hulk, he is Bruce Banner. Bruce is a scientist who works for the military. He is working on a machine dealing with gamma rays on a desert testing site when, one day, someone runs out onto the testing ground. Bruce notices the person running out there and he tries to stop the machine from powering up and firing a gamma shot out onto the testing ground. He can't stop the machine, so he throws his body onto the machine and absorbs all the gamma energy himself.

When Bruce wakes up he feels ok and thinks that nothing has happened to him due to jumping on the machine. He then discovers that whenever someone makes him angry, he turns into The Hulk. When he's angry, Bruce starts shaking, and then he starts growing in size and mass. This causes his shirt to rip off and he turns green. He always seems to keep his pants though, due to them tearing slightly, but not enough to tear them all the way.

The Hulk is a giant, about the size of a small house. It also is worth noting that The Hulk and Bruce Banner are not the same person. The Hulk thinks on his own and Bruce cannot control The Hulk once he becomes The Hulk. He is a powerful, strong, and dangerous hero due to his rage. The military knows this and they try to stop him with everything that they have. You will see tanks fired at The Hulk in the comic, but he smashes them with his super strength. They use helicopters, but The Hulk just takes a tank, grabs it by the gun, spins it around and throws it at the helicopter knocking it out the air.

The Hulk gets stronger based on how angry he becomes, so the more tanks, planes, or whatever else the Military aim at him, the more you can expect to see him tear through everything, which makes for a great comic.

The comic has super villains which The Hulk fights too, most of which have the same super strength he has, and this makes for some more high impact, action fighting with lots of objects being thrown around the environment.

The Hulk will turn back into Bruce when his anger calms down. This comic is not like Spiderman, a hero that can turn into a super hero whenever there is danger around. The Hulk is different because when he is around, he destroys things, and not many people can talk to him and tell him what he must do. He has limited vocabulary and says phrases like "Hulk Smash".

If you are a super hero fan or like action comics with lots of stuff smashed and thrown, then this one is a great one for you to check out. The Hulk is all about action adventure.

Michael Russell

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Batman Comics

The Batman comics are about action.

Bruce Wayne is a millionaire and has butler named Alfred. Bruce spends most of his day dealing with his companies. When he is finished with his day of work, he fights crime in the streets of the city during the night.

This superhero is different from others, due to the fact that he has no superpowers. He relies on his gadgets and bat suit to fight crime. The bat suit looks a bat, and it is bullet proof. It also has a cape that turns into a glider whenever he freefalls from multi-story buildings. This helps him land safely and makes him seem as though he is flying like a bat. This suit also has a belt but it is not a normal belt, it's a utility belt, and it carries all Batman's gadgets used for crime fighting.

One of the most used gadgets is called the grapping hook. This gadget is like a gun, but has a hook loaded in it that is attached to a rope. Batman uses the grappling hook when he needs to reach the top of a high building from the ground. He points the grappling hook at the building and pulls the trigger. The hook fires into the air and clamps onto the edge of the building. He then presses the trigger again and the rope launches him to the top of the building. This gadget also is use for swinging through the city.

Batman faces lots of criminals who have guns, and he has a gadget called a batarangs which takes care of them. He just throws the batarangs at the criminal and knocks the gun out of their hand. When he criminals are trying to run from him, he uses a similar gadget which incorporates a rope which emerges when thrown and ties up the criminal.

Batman also has gas capsules which he uses to escape. He just throws the capsule down on the ground and it creates a gas that fills the room and he disappears.

Batman's car, the Batmobile, is equipped with a high tech computer which can scan the area for crime. It also has a built in gun and smoke screens. This is a high powered car that has fire in the tail pipes. When the car is going at top speed and needs to make a narrow turn, Batman just uses the grappling hook that's built in to the Batmobile. The hook comes out of the door, connects to a lamp post and allows him to make the narrow turn.

The Batman comics are not all about the gadgets. Batman is a great detective and solves criminal cases. Using his detecting and crime fighting skills, he keeps the city free of crime.

This comic is not like other comics that have super heroes because this hero mostly fights during the night time and uses only his gadget and kung fu skills.

Michael Russell

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Superman Comics

Superman is a super hero from the planet Krypton. His parents found that their planet was going to be destroyed. Superman or Kel-el, as he is also known, was only a baby and did not know what was going on. Jor-el, Superman's father decided that it would be best for them to put their child on a spaceship, and get him off the planet. They chose to send him to the planet Earth, because the atmosphere there would give him super powers. They also loaded on the ship a crystal that would show who he is, where he is from, and other useful information about him.

Superman travels through space and lands on Earth, on a farm in Smallville owned by Johnathon and Martha Kent. They see the space ship crash and they go to find out what it is. They raise the spaceship door and find a baby. They decide to keep the child and name him Clark Kent.

While growing up, Clark discover that he has strange powers and abilities, but his parents decide that he shouldn't tell anyone. Clark finishes school and then finds the crystal that was stored in his spaceship and discovers who he is, how his powers work, his real name and more. He then realizes that his powers can be used to help people.

Clark moves to the city and gets a new look to hide his identity, including wearing glasses. He gets a job at the Daily Planet where he makes some friends. One of these is Lois Lane, a reporter, whom he often saves from danger, and the other is Jimmy Olson, the paper's photographer.

Clark spends most his day working, but when there is danger around, he finds a nearby phone booth, and turns into Superman. When he is Superman he flies high above the city in a red and blue outfit with a cape. He has steel-like bones and if someone tries to punch him or hit him with an object, it doesn't have any effect.

Superman's heat vision, makes a red beam of heat come from his eyes which can melt certain objects. He also has X-ray vision which allows him to see through all objects except lead.

Superman has Super Strength which lets him easily pick up objects which weigh tons. Super Speed allows him to move from one place to another lighting fast when he is on ground.

Despite all these super powers, Superman does have a weakness. When he goes near kryptonite it makes him weak so that the villains can easily punch him and knock him out. His only defence against kryptonite is a lead spacesuit.

Superman is a great comic to start reading if you're looking for a hero comic. Each comic has action and adventure.

Michael Russell

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