I grew up with the belgian school of comics. My parents religiously bought every album of Tintin, Asterix, Spirou and Fantasio, Benoît Brisefer, and Johan and Peewit. Their bedroom had one wall covered with shelves, and one unit spanned the head of their bed. That’s where all the albums were stored, and I can still see for my inner eye how the solid wood shelf sagged dangerously under the weight. So many days of my childhood were spent on my parent’s bed reading and rereading the adventures.
When I grew old enough to have money I started to buy albums of my own. I still keep all the albums of Yoko Tsuno ever released in swedish, and I delved in the adventures of Franka and Isabelle. Like the books I read they were a method to find positive female rolemodels, and I discovered when I grew up that several of my friends had done the same.
I have no statistics but it feels like it’s much more easy to find diverse positive role models in comics than in books or movies. Want a superhero of colour? Read about Black Panther or Storm – or about the new, black captain America, or ms Marvel, Kamala Khan or Yoko Tsuno (I know it’s a stretch since she’s a ‘normal’ human being, but she is also a japanese martial arts practising electroengineer who blows up taiphoons with nuclear warheads). Want a female hero of colour in a historic setting? Read Nofret by Sussi Bech (link in danish – you can see the album covers if you scroll down a bit), a comic remarkably void of the sameface syndrome and its relatives- it was the first comic I read were the young females have pointedly different bodytypes. Unfortunately you need to know french, dutch, swedish, indonesian or danish for the last one, not all great comics are released in english.
As for manga my knowledge takes a detour. I was twenty when the boom started, and never got into the style or the habit of publish the translated versions ”backwards”. Looking at the large crowds reading and loving manga I can only assume they give others the same great experience with comics as I had with the belgian school comics. Manga readers may not learn latin phrases like I did, but they certainly learn japanese, and not only phrases but the entire language. (Comics are great for learning languages, so don’t give up on Nofret or your french lessons just yet.)
I haven’t brought up representation of mogii characters. It’s a trending topic, not because it’s fashion, but because we’ve reached a state were we can talk about it. I won’t say much about Marvel’s take – my knowledge about Marvel and DC consists almost solely of things I read on tumblr – instead I’d dwell on the fact that most comics I read online have reached a state were mogii characters are a normal part of the depicted reality. Depending on the setting the characters may encounter modern day prejudice and problems (happens sometimes in Girls With Slingshots, and EGS Comic are famous for dealing with almost everything mogii) or live in a world where their personality and love are normal (Dicebox hints at this, though I haven’t read the last year’s updates).
The most fun thing is those comics showing us an alternate reality, or perhaps protests against the state of things. Rat Queens and the reboot of Red Sonja gives us women allowed to adventure, smell bad and have foul mouths. Princeless gives us hero girls of colour in real armour. Whereas Rat Queens and Red Sonja have their forerunner in Xena, Princeless is a protest against the pink, frilly and white princesses girls have been drenched in the last twenty years. Perhaps not the only one, but a very well needed one.
Comics are an extremely cheap way of creating worlds and publish to others. Almost anyone can do it. The basic tools are a pencil, an erasure and paper. If needed you can draw it on used envelopes, find a kind person with a camera mobile (not all own one) to photgraph it, and put it up on tumblr for free. With these crude tools you can still create stunning art. Unlike the movies you can show what the characters think, and unlike the books you add visuals that underscores the story. You can show your reality, how the world will end up if we don’t start to work on things (insert optional problem), you can show a general dystopia, utopia or just a silly doodle for laugh.
And sometimes the world goes full circle. The first episode of Snortblat will go up this weekend, and when I look at the test pic I drew the style is somewhat familiar. That’s Hergé‘s famous ”clean line” all over again.