Comics: American liberty or suppression? - Sample Essay

 

 

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Another seemingly hystorical comic is the Bayeux Tapestry, an infamous seventy meters long tapestry that tells the story of the battle of Hastings. “Narrative strips, usually in the form of woodcuts, became a popular medium for the expression of religious and political ideas during the Reformation” (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2003). The invention of the printing press contributed major to the world of reading, so too for comic books although only in a later stage. Another cause might be the huge metamorphosis comics went through during the inter bellum and especially after the second world war.

At first comics were no longer accepted and even banned. However later on got their gratitude back and made the comic industry flourish as comics were very popular, again. The Golden Age of comic books, from 1930 until 1951, was named this way as the comic book was incredibly popular item during this era. The reason for this occurence could be the cheap price of the product during World War II, probably due to unequal quality of stories, art and print quality. The demand for comics provided many unemployed with an occupation as well, although often at low wages and in sweatshop working conditions.

Nevertheless, since comic books were primarily aimed at children, many adults still remember it now with warm feelings, as the hallmark of their youth. In the late 1940s and early 1950s most politicians and moral crusaders blamed comic books as a cause of crime, especially youth crime, moral deterioration, increased use of drug, and bad results at school. As a consequence of these concerns, schools and parent groups held public comic book combustion, and some cities even decided to ban comics. The industry of comic books decreased sharply as a result of the believe that comics had a bad influence.

Following World War II, Japan had created a special comic book industry, called manga. “Although science fiction themes were in evidence, manga has traditionally presented a much wider range of subject matter than have American comics, and manga are more widely accepted in Japan than are comic books in America” (wikipedia. org, 2004). A common example is pokemon, which is a craze all over the world as the impact on the youth was incredible. Every child wanted to compete with his or her friend playing this cardgame that was linked to the comic pokemon.

Together this made a very strong combination that created its own type of culture all over the world, however, its origin is in the Japanese manga. In Europe, another branch of comic books emerged whose stories evolved around the 1950s. Most of these comics are based on native comic figures that experienced many adventures all over the world. Famous examples of this strand are Tintin and Asterix the Gaul. Most comic books use stereotypes of the countries visitted, while some even contain the political opinion of the artist, though intrinsically. Nevertheless, often norms and values are indirectly found in the cartoons as well.

“During the late 1960s and early 1970s, a surge of underground comics occurred. These comics were published independently of the established comic book publishers and most reflected the youth counterculture and drug culture of the time. Many were notable for their uninhibited, irreverent style, which hadn’t been seen in comics before” (wikipedia. org, 2004). This idea was formed by the youth to show themselves and the outside world what their view on society was. In this case the comic book was clearly used to exchange different types of cultures, youth culture for instance, to communicate and find sympathy for comics again.

Briskly summarized one could say that “in the early 20th century, comics were accused of glorifying unsavory characters and thus encouraging children to misbehave. They were also condemned as being a waste of time”(Encarta. com). For a couple of decades this negative view at comics stayed the same, but in the 1960s people began to reevaluate comics and appreciate their artistic qualities. “Comics are now regarded as one of the most significant forms of 20th-century culture” (Encarta. com, 2004). As comics were seen as a typical sign of youth culture, this was, not surprisingly, also their main audience.

Nevertheless, comics contributed in a significant way to contemporary culture, not the least because of the message contained within the comics. Primarily important was namely the fun for the readers. Norms and values were introduced in the cultural genre of comics the comics, so that it would be educative for the, mostly young, readers as well. On the other hand comics can give other messages as well like a political message or a sexist message when it is denigrating towards women for instance. To Conclude…

Comic books has strongly stabilized its position as an artifact of nowadays culture; it can even be considered a mass media communication asset. Although comics are mainly intended as leisure, very often they contain a message for the reader. Comic books are very popular by the youth, who see them as an ideal object for hours of fun. Typical fact is that, nowadays, more and more grown-ups like to read a comic strip as well. This has been quite different during history, as comics were seen as a bad influence that America brought along with the MacDonaldization of the world.

Where the youth loved comics, the parents and politicians opposed to it, which made it even more interesting for the youth to keep reading them. An own subculture of comic books was created by the youth, the underground comics. The view of the parents and politicians on American mass culture improved over time as they learned to accept the culture. Also, it became obvious that America was by far the only producer of comic books, and therefore could no longer be associated with American culture as such. Comics today are created all over the world and for this reason are not part of the MacDonaldization.

The production of comic books in the Westernized world (Asia, Europe and America) can be seen as a joint venture of the coherent cultures. European comics are obviously not dominated by the Americans, but have an own identity and role in the world of comics. Nowadays comic books are accepted in our cultural society and have even become the subject of academic empirical research.

Bibliography Anon. (2004) Comic Book: History. Wikipedia. Retrieved May 4th, 2004, from the World Wide Web: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Comic_book Anon. (2004) Comics: Multimedia.

Encarta. Retrieved May 4th, 2004, from the World Wide Web: http://encarta. msn. com/encyclopedia_761570388/Comics. html Anon. (2003) Comic Strip The Columbia Encyclopedia (6ed). Retrieved May 4th, 2004, from the World Wide Web: http://www. bartleby. com/65/co/comicstr. html Columbia University Press Kroes, R. (1996). If You’ve Seen one, You’ve Seen the Mall: Europeans and American Mass Culture. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press Magnussen, A. & Christiansen, H-C (eds). (2000). Comics & Culture: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Comics.

Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen. McCloud, S. & Martin, M. (1994). Understanding Comics. New York: Harper Perennial. Palmer, R. R. & Rosow, S. J. (2002). A History of the Modern World. New York, McGraw-Hill Pells, R. (2002, April). “American Culture Goes Global, or does it? ” The Chronical Review Ritzer, G. (1993). The McDonaldization of Society. London: Thousand Oaks Ritzer, G. (1998). The McDonaldization Thesis: Explorations and Extensions. London: Thousand Oaks Sabin, R. (2001). Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels. London: Phaidon.

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