Chicks On Anime
GloBL and Gay Comics - page 2

by B. Dong, C. Brienza, S. Pocock, Nov 25th 2008

Casey: Mostly female. Some of them have a middle- to high-school age range. The kanji even have furigana.
Sara: There's some in American indie comics. Gay porn for women, that is. But kind of going back to what I addressed earlier, it tends to be more nuanced and interesting than fetishizing, which is what the whole "yaoi" thing strikes me as.
Tina: It's funny you mention that—fetish. Class Comics is one of the most prolific and popular gay comic publishers. They're founded on the signature style of “large penis” comics, and yet this past year, they've licensed and produced original comics that don't feature that fetish. They're doing quite well. The readership has expanded to include those who want some plot with their sex, but they still want sexy comics. I think the male audience that came to yaoi manga excited, has gravitated more toward homegrown gay erotic comics and manga. Naturally, the stories are going to be less fetish, and more smut with a touch of substance.
Bamboo: You know, I didn't know this genre of BL really existed. Is it popular in America?
Casey: Wait. Which genre of BL are you talking about Bamboo?
Bamboo: Big dicks and big muscles.
Tina: That's not BL. What I'm talking about is gay comics. Also, "bara" manga, which creators in Japan want to call ML or mens love.
Casey: Class Comics is a Canadian publisher. The main audience is gay comics fans, their creators are usually...gay comics fans.
Sara: Interesting. It just seems to me that "sexy" is such a subjective term, and it means so many different things to different people, and the general consensus I've reached from Tina and Casey is there doesn't seem to be a whole ton of variety in BL.
Tina: Basically, BL sort of hit a stall in Japan; the newest trend was male fans taking notice of it, and male creators taking an interest. Now there are about four major pubs with manga anthologies that cater to 'male fans'.
Casey: The Japanese manga market in general is stagnant. And what do you do when your proverbial back is against the wall? The old reliables, of course! It makes it even harder to innovate. Actually, BL is one of the few categories that does consistently well.
Tina: I have noticed that nearly all 'ML' anthologies, their publishers, and the online stores that sell them have extensive "English" pages. They actively seek foreign readers.
Sara: Wow, it seems like the problem in every other creative industry.
Casey: Keep in mind that gay manga sells nowhere near the numbers that BL does in Japan.
Tina: I have a question. Can anyone name one GloBL title?
Casey: I can. But you've made your point.
Bamboo: Until recently, I didn't even know it existed, honestly. It's not very well publicized.
Sara: Yeah, I didn't know about it either.
Tina: No, it's not. Neither are gay comics though, I guess we're in the same boat.
Sara: A little earlier, Tina talked about four major publications with manga anthologies that cater to 'male fans'. How does one cater to male fans as opposed to female fans? Is it a matter of subject matter or character or what? Like, how does one decide what makes something more with more feminine appeal as opposed to masculine without falling into stereotypes?
Tina: It's mostly about style of art Sara. Men are drawn (just as over idealized I might add) to appeal to male readers as opposed to what I woman would find attractive. The stories are just as romantic or dirty, but the art style is markedly different.
Casey: I second that. Gay manga is often more sexually explicit as well. And less prelude before the action. I speak in gross generalities, of course.
Bamboo: So... beefier men?
Tina: Definitely more body diversity; chunky men, muscle men, thin men, older, younger. You name it, it's in there. Sadly, the stories are just as crack-induced.
Sara: No, I can see that, definitely. They have more testosterone and all.
Casey: Oh yes: Characters in gay-oriented titles from any country tend to be promiscuous. Very promiscuous. The more partners the better. BL characters usually stick to one lover/tormentor. Women like monogamy and all that.
Tina: There's few out there that are quite serious in terms of plot, but they're hard to find amidst the locker room dramas and the fuck-buddy romances.
Sara: And I imagine there's more emphasis on the physical relationship than the emotional one.
Tina: Yes, having as much sex as possible, seems to be the way to go!
Bamboo: Just like live-action porn.
Sara: It kind of makes me feel a little bit indignant, in a way, because it reinforces relationship archetypes that men/women are expected to like. But I suppose in marketing you have to go with what sells.
Tina: In BL, there's what they call an 'aggressive uke', or what we would call, a slut. In ML— not so much. There might be a man playing hard to get, but in the end, everyone is wanting it.

In these times where bookstores are cutting back, and publishers are insisting on hiring work-for-hire in GloBL...I think the wave of the future is web production. Either from established creators, or up and coming creators. There are plenty of GloBL webcomics out there that are great. One that comes to mind is Honeydew Syndome.

Casey: I disagree with that, actually. I think webcomics will always be a very small niche.
Bamboo: You think so? They appeal to people's desires for free stuff.
Casey: Webcomics are created by people who cannot make money off of their efforts. They will by necessity be amateurs who are either independently wealthy or people who have another day job. This means, in the latter case, that they will likely have little time to truly hone their craft. And furthermore, independent production typically means near nonexistent visibility. Not to mention the guidance of a good editor.
Tina: I know where you're coming from Casey, and I understand it. BL fans are collectors at heart. They love having their books in their hands. What I'm saying is, that many GloBL creators are going to start utilizing the same method as Dark Horse is these days. Running their series and stories online, and then if there's interest in it, either taking it to a publisher, or publishing it themselves.

I know plenty of people who have webcomics who are making money off their efforts. Many of them just don't want to play the submissions game for either egotistical reasons, or 'market reality' issues that publishers have in not wanting to take a chance on anything unknown by an unknown creator.

Casey: BL webcomics? Enough to live on? I doubt that.
Tina: No one makes enough to live on BL print comics, Casey. *laughs* Not unless they license foreign or work strictly as WFH writers and artists.
Casey: And until the genre means enough money to live on, chances are the best storytellers will look elsewhere. That's just the economy of these sorts of things. Most of the web content is likely to be marginal quality.
Tina: It is. I have a gay web comic debuting in December, and I'm doing it that way because I can only dedicate so much time to updating weekly, and the publishing market in the US right now is dismal. In Europe though, I'm doing pretty good.
Sara: Speaking of the future, we all know that sex sells, so there will always be a place in the comics world for BL and gay comics, but do you think it will reach a point where the genres need to re-invent themselves, or will it stay as-is?
Casey: I don't see BL go anywhere. The pleasure of genre fiction is the pleasure of already knowing where it's going to go and how it's going to end. The pleasure of the familiar. And if what is marketable is BL's sameness, then it'll go on forever.
Tina: BL from Japan? I don't think it will change either. It's tried and true and as long as girls hit puberty, they will always have a fresh crop of fans. I think GloBL will get better as more and more storytellers hone their craft and establish the fandom.
Sara: So it's not the kind of comics that women will become life-long fans of, really, as their tastes mature and develop. It's more to feed the hunger of a specific trend?
Tina: BL and ML in Japan, yes, Sara, that's exactly what I think of it. I think there will be a place for GloBL, and it will only flourish if it gets away from trying to imitate the Japanese standard.
Casey: Ah, I disagree with what Tina said back there. Japanese girls often age out of BL manga, perhaps because it has a younger demographic, but BL novels, which actually outsell the manga, seem to cater to life-long adherents.
Sara: Where would you take the genre, if you're abandoning the Japanese standard?
Tina: I abandoned it ages ago, but I think that GloBL will incorporate more body diversity, sexier smut, and more plot-driven romance. These are the things that are making m/m erotic fiction for women successful in the eBook market—I think creators of any gender can do this for original English gay romance manga. Once they do, that's when GloBL will accomplish something. First, we need to stop calling it yaoi. Just my opinion.
Bamboo: Do you think that's a big hindrance? The term "yaoi" itself is marketable. Girls hear about it from their friends and become intrigued.
Tina: Absolutely. I think marketing GloBL to fans of Japanese Yaoi is a massive mistake. Calling it yaoi makes fans expect 'yaoi'. Yet some companies get away with it because they're imitating the Japanese style and so that's where they get it in.
Casey: In the larger view, the market for indie comics and the market for manga doesn't overlap that much. This goes for homoerotic content, too. In the U.S., that is. Indie comics fans think manga is "commercial junk for kids," while manga fans think that indie comics are "elitist, ugly stuff that isn't fun to read."
Bamboo: It may face the same problems that OEL has, then. When companies market it as "manga," people get upset.
Tina: I think that does a great disservice to those of us who are making erotic comics or manga with gay relationships in them, because fans are coming to the table because someone has rang the 'yaoi bell' and when they don't get something that looks like that they want, they get nasty. I've seen terrible reviews at Amazon on GloBL titles, and its mostly those titles that have 'yaoi' attached to them. I have no problem with fans of Japanese yaoi. Honestly, God bless 'em, because they're the reason BL is here in the first place. What I don't like it having all of my gay erotic work called yaoi, just because that's hot sales term.
Casey: Creators are more promiscuous in their reading material than fans and can get caught in the crossfire. Especially when they don't give the fans what they expect to see.
Tina: I'm not trying to fool anyone, and I'm not trying to male 'BL' for fans of the Japanese variety. I want to tell erotic stories for fans of erotic stories.
Bamboo: A noble goal.

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