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Comics – Trash or Treasure?

In Japan, they call them manga; in Latin America, historietas; in ItakJitmefti; in Brazil, historia em quadrinhos; and in the U.S., comics. But no matter what you call them, comics are a favorite source of reading pleasure in many parts of the world.

In case you’re wondering how popular comics are, the best-selling comic title in the U.S. sells about 4.5 million copies a year. All of Mexico’s comic titles together sell over 7 million copies a week. But Japan is by far the leading publisher of comics in the world. Manga account for nearly forty percent of all the books and magazines published in Japan each year. And few magazines of any kind in the world can match this number: Shonen Jump, the leading comic title, has a circulation of 6.5 million copies per week!

Ever since comics first appeared, there have been people who have criticized them. In the 1940s and 50s, many people believed that comics were immoral and that they caused bad behavior among young people. Even today, many question whether young people should read them at all. They argue that reading comics encourages bad reading habits.

But some educators see comics as a way to get teenagers to choose reading instead of television and video games. And because of the art, a number of educators have argued that comics are a great way to get children to think creatively. More recent research has suggested that the combination of visuals and text in comics may be one reason young people handle computers and related software so easily.

In Japan, the Education Ministry calls comics ‘a part of Japan’s national culture, recognized and highly regarded abroad.’ Comics are increasingly being used for educational purposes, and many publishers there see them as a useful way of teaching history and other subjects.

No matter how you view them, comics remain a guilty pleasure for millions worldwide.


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Can Violent Movies Be Dangerous?

Before the 1960s, most movies did not show much graphic violence. When fighting or shooting occurred on the screen, it was clean: Bang! You’re dead! The victim fell to the ground and died, perhaps after speaking a few final words. The viewer never saw blood or suffering. But in the late ’60s, filmmakers Arthur Penn and Sam Peckinpah began making movies with more graphic violence, such as Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch. They believed that if audiences could see how truly horrible real violence was, people would be less violent in their own lives.

Today, special effects technology has made it possible to create very realistic images of bloodshed and violence. Steven Prince, author of Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies, describes the difference between early movies and the movies of today “I… filmmakers can create any image that they can dream up.’ So, Prince believes, because of the technology, movies today have become more and more violent and bloody.

Some people are worried that viewing a lot of violence in movies and video games can be dangerous. They feel that it can make violence seem normal and can cause people to imitate the violent behavior, to do the same thing themselves. Other people disagree. They believe that showing violence is honest and can even be helpful.
One popular filmmaker asks why violent images on the screen are a problem since we live in such a violent world. ‘Just open any newspaper,’ he says. ‘Any newspaper is much more violent. And those are true stories about what happens in real life.’

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