Femmes have fueled explosion of manga

It’s been a long time since comics were just for kids, but increasingly they’re also no longer just for superheroes.

The exploding popularity of graphic novels has opened up comics to new audiences and new genres. And just as the superheroes of yesteryear have taken up permanent residence in Hollywood, the new comics of today could become the bigscreen hits of tomorrow.

“Comics are now written without regard to the age of the reader and written in ways that females like, which means from a movie standpoint that they’re steeped in the real world a lot more,” says Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, president of Platinum Studios.

Females have fueled the explosion of the manga style, both in imported titles from Japan, like “Fruits Basket”; homegrown efforts such as “Dramacon”; and even yaoi — erotic comics for women about pretty gay men.

Female readers also are scooping up comedies such as Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” and personal memoirs along the lines of Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” and Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis.”

Comics are a passion business that compensate for frequently slim financial rewards with near-complete creative freedom, making possible such idiosyncratic books as “Pride of Baghdad,” Brian K. Vaughan’s forthcoming graphic novel about lions escaping the zoo during the American invasion of the city in 2003.

Image Comics, which once produced almost exclusively superhero comics, has one of the broadest catalogs of titles in the business. In addition to “The Walking Dead,” which has inspired a wave of zombie comics, the company puts out popular thriller “Girls” and “Fell,” an acclaimed crime series from writer Warren Ellis.

“What we encourage people to do when they come to Image Comics is follow their own muse,” says president Erik Larsen, who writes and draws superhero series “The Savage Dragon.”

Mike Richardson, president of Dark Horse Comics, says that being based on a comic can’t hurt a film project, but simply turning a screenplay into a comic is no guarantee of success.

“We’ve produced nearly 20 projects over the past 20 years. None have been created solely for the purpose of ‘Let’s make a movie,’ ” he says.

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