C. G. McGinn


Ramblings about Books and Writing

Kids these days have it easy

If you're 30+ you'll know what I'm talking about. Anyone 20 and under will probably start scratching their heads in confusion while wandering into their local bookstore's anime/manga section to peruse the mountains upon mountains of available titles from the cute, to the demonic to the disturbing, and everything else in between. Kids today do not realize how easy they have it. They can trip over manga. It's completely embedded into our culture.

It wasn't so easy for the 30+ anime/manga fan when we were kids. For anime, you had to know a guy. Some would put this person on the same level as drug dealer as far as the logistics for acquiring said titles. This guy for me was an unusually tall mix between heavy-metal rocker and alternative music junkie who always wore black combat boots and a matching black trench coat. And he had everything! And it was all on VHS! This was a time that predates CD burners being the standard in all new computers. This guy had an entire dresser filled with VHS copies of titles he had received from his overseas supplier in Japan. (At least that was what I was told between playing a Japan-only version of Tekken on his modded Playstation). And he had the titles we all knew and had probably seen though they were interrupted by commercials, censored, and poorly dubbed because we first watched them on the Sci-Fi Channel's "Saturday Anime": For the longest time I didn't realize Ninja Scroll had an implied rape scene, and Vampire Hunter D had brief full-frontal.

But it was the manga that was not only impossible to find, but if you didn't know Japanese you were pretty much shit-out-of-luck on understanding the plot. The manga section at your local B&N did not exist back-in-the-day. Many may wonder what they did with all that empty space. I suspect that the space was used for CDs, which at the time were packaged in large rectangular plastic or cardboard security cases in order to discourage would-be thieves from pocketing the goods. But needless to say, in the US, manga was whispered about being this thing that everyone, young and old, professional and homeless had access to in Japan.

In walks, Ben Dunn and everything changes. Ben Dunn has become synonymous with American Manga. Here's a guy who cut out the supplier, (Japan)  from the equation. He was creating the manga style and it was also in English designed specifically for an American audience. The uncouth may look at the title Ben is most known for, "Ninja High School" and proclaim that it's a comic about Ninja's and Aliens, and there's this normal dude who the audience is supposed to relate to, and there's something going on with the power of steam. But what they fail to see is that Ninja High School contained remarkable parody, humor, and pop-culture references from both American and Japanese culture. Who can forget the Chef of the North Star, the controversial Archie parody, or iconic characters from popular movies/tv drawn into frames, often simply lurking in the background (Tom Servo, I'm looking at you). Those are three examples. I know there are more but I haven't read through the original run in quite a while. I'm sure now that I'm older and hopefully wiser, I'll get a lot more of the references.

Obviously I'm writing once again about Ben Dunn and Ninja High School to help promote Ben's Kickstarter that is now in it's final days. This will be the last of these for a while. What you have to understand is that as a kid, Ninja High School was comic books for me, and Ben Dunn might as well have been Stan Lee. I wasn't really into the super hero genre. Even now I'll occasionally read a Batman book. And being only in middle school at the time, I wasn't allowed to read anything from DC's Vertigo line. (Laugh all you want. I had parents). NHS was both entertaining and it was drawn to be provocative without being pornographic. It was an important part of my childhood and it's still important.

It's also pretty clear that I like complaining like a curmudgeon about how incredibly easy these pesky kids have it these days.

Now get off my lawn!