The revision work is slow but steady. But every once in a while I need a break and that means playing around, usually on the computer. Playing around usually means unfocused wandering, clicking through from one site to another, opening new tabs and travelings down new electronic avenues that lead to new alleys, until thoroughly lost my trail home is all but lost.
Among my recent wanderings comes this, an article on how Japanese manga has become a global cultural phenomenon. For me, what’s great about this it is from a French perspective, originally published in the magazine Esprit. There’s a bit of a two-for-one as reporter Jean-Marie Boussou not only examines manga’s cultural rise in Japan, but firmly places it within the context of the post-war French cultural shift that took place in the 60’s and 70s, and why it has grown in popularity among 30-somethings in France.
Absolutely fascinating, and once again the internet lets me know how much we don’t really know in this country about anything non-American. There are French cartoonists mentioned right and left that I feel I should probably know — that I’m sure every French man and women knows in passing if not from first-hand experience — that leaves me feeling ignorant.
In France, as my generation came of age, we had to make do with comics aimed solely at a particular subculture: elitist, male, at once intellectual, schoolboyish, and more or less rebellious. They were built on the zany absurdity of Concombre masqué, the frenzied wordplay of Achille Talon and the icy eroticism of Jodelle and Pravda – and were far too sophisticated for the mass market. Charlie Mensuel livened up this highbrow cocktail with a dash of Peanuts, Krazy Kat, and Andy Capp, and the work of Italian cartoonists like Buzzelli and Crepax. But if the French censors tolerated Charlie Mensuel with his cerebral, sophisticated eroticism for the offspring of the intellegentsia, they were merciless in their attacks on the popular fumetti of Elvipress, filled as they were with sultry creations that would have set a mass readership dreaming. Jungla, Jacula, Isabella, Jolanda de Almaviva, and their scantily-clad adventurer sisters were barred from display and condemned to under-the-counter obscurity.
Whew! I’m scrambling for Google to help fill in the gaps in my sorry comic and graphic novel education. Who’s writing like this about American comics and world comic culture these days? What are all these French comics, and are they available in translation here?
I grant you, I should be doing revisions on my essay — which, compared to all this, feels puny and insignificant and not at all as interesting. But isn’t that the point of the internet, to have all this diversion at the ready for when you need to get pulled away from things you ought to be doing?