In other news, I read a book titled The Ten-Cent Plague. It's essentially about the rise of the American comic medium (starting with newspaper comics, naturally) and ends with the great purge in the fifties. That's right, the purge. It's one of the most depressing works of non-fiction I've read, and I read a lot of those. It may be particularly soul-crushing because the artists, industry, and what it could have developed into is close to me, my interest and my heart.
American comics had several genres before It happened. There was the crime stories, which to my understanding, sounded a lot like a more graphic Law And Order without the court scenes and a little shallower. There was the superheroes, yeah, but they weren't really that popular. There was the horror/suspense genre, which was basically the crime stories with occasional supernatural stuff. Surprisingly, romance was another big seller. As each year went by, another genre developed, right up until the city, state, and congressional laws buried any sort of freedom in the medium. It was a battle in the culture war that the good guys lost, and our culture suffered for it.
If the comics medium remained unmolested, it would be a different America, and I think a different world. Every kid read these things, the numbers that Hajdu (the author) provides are shocking. The audience for every single title produced -- and there was a lot of those, too! -- was measurable in the millions, plus all the passing-around each book got, just like modern trade paperback graphic novels. (I think my stack of The Invisibles was read by, like, eight people.) As that audience aged, they would keep reading, and join the industry, which was already a noticed phenomenon in the fifties: they read comics when they were young in the forties or late thirties. It was growing. More genres, more complexity, more variety, and different tastes.
What would have happened is that America would have her own manga, that looks a lot like what the Japanese developed, and everyone would read it. It wouldn't be for kids, because it grew with them, and the battery of laws and censorship would stop it from being locked in this weird fifties oppressive morality and codes and... you see the problem, right?
We would be living the world that Scott McCloud and friends dream of, what people like me fight for.
God damn it.