The Best Comic Books of 2021: Eternals, Tunnels, The Good Asia and More – Variety
From Eternals to The Good Asia, here are the best comic books that came out in 2021.
In Captain Marvel Adventures, a character named steamboat was an amalgamation of some of the worst stereotypes of the time. The Writers’ War Board did not ask for any change with this character. “Eliminating Steamboat required the determined efforts of a black youth group in New York City.” Originally their request was refused by individuals working on the comic stating, “Captain Marvel Adventures included many kinds of caricatures ‘for the sake of humor’.” The black youth group responded with, “this is not the Negro race, but your one-and-a-half millions readers will think it so.” Afterwards, Steamboat disappeared from the comics all together. There was a comic created about the 99th squadron, also known as the Tuskegee Airmen, an all black air force unit. Instead of making the comic about their story the comic was about Hop Harrigan. A white pilot who captures a Nazi, shows him videos of the 99th squadron defeating his man and then reveals to the Nazi that his men were defeated by African Americans which infuriated him as he sees them as a less superior race and can’t believe they bested his men.”… Tuskegee Airmen, and images of black aviators appear in just three of the fifty three panels… pilots of the 99th squadron have no dialogue and interact with neither Hop Harrigan nor his Nazi captive.” During this time, they also used black characters in comic books as a means to invalidate the militant black groups that were fighting for equality within America. “Spider-Man ‘made it clear that militant black power was not the remedy for racial injustice’.” “The Falcon openly criticized black behavior stating’ maybe it’s important fo us to cool things down-so we can protect the rights we been fightin’ for’.” This poor portrayal and character development of black characters can be partially blamed on the fact that, during this time, “there had rarely been a black artist or writer allowed in a major comics company”
Asian characters faced some of the same treatment in comics as black characters did. They were dehumanized and the narrative being pushed was that they were “incompetent and subhuman.” “A 1944 issue of the United States Marines included a narrative entitled “The Smell of the Monkeymen…the story depicts Japanese soldiers as simian brutes whose sickening body odor betrays their concealed locations.” Chinese characters received the same treatment. “By the time the United States entered WWII, negative perceptions of Chinese were an established part of mass culture…” However, concerned that the Japanese could use America’s anti chinese material as propaganda they began “to present a more positive image of America’s Chinese allies…” Just as they tried to show better representation for Black people in comics they did the same for Asian people. However, “Japanese and filipino characters visually indistinguishable. Both groups have grotesque buckteeth, tattered clothing, and bright yellow skin.” “publishers…depicted America’s Asian allies through derogatory images and language honed over the preceding decades.” Asian characters were previously portrayed as, “ghastly yellow demons”. During WWII, ” major superhero worth his spandex devoted himself to the eradication of asian invaders.” There was “a constant relay race in which one asian culture merely handed off the baton of hatred to another with no perceptible changes in the manner in which the characters would be portrayed.”
The Native American representation in comic books “can be summed up in the noble savage stereotype” ” a recurring theme…urg American indians to abandon their traditional hostility towards the United States. They were the ones painted as intolerant and disrespectful of the dominant concerns of white America”
Korean manhwa has quickly gained popularity outside Korea in recent times as a result of the Korean Wave. The manhwa industry has suffered through two crashes and strict censorship since its early beginnings as a result of the Japanese occupation of the peninsula which stunts the growth of the industry but has now started to flourish thanks in part to the internet and new ways to read manhwa whether on computers or through smartphones. In the past manhwa would be marketed as manga outside the country in order to make sure they would sell well but now that is no longer needed since more people are now more knowledgeable about the industry and Korean culture.
Webtoons have become popular in South Korea as a new way to read comics. Thanks in part to different censorship rules, color and unique visual effects, and optimization for easier reading on smartphones and computers. More manhwa have made the switch from traditional print manhwa to online webtoons thanks to better pay and more freedom than traditional print manhwa. The webtoon format has also expanded to other countries outside of Korea like China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Western countries. Major webtoon distributors include Lezhin, Naver, and Kakao.
France and Belgium have a long tradition in comics and comic books, called BDs (an abbreviation of bande dessinées) in French and strips in Dutch. Belgian comic books originally written in Dutch show the influence of the Francophone “Franco-Belgian” comics but have their own distinct style.
The name bande dessinée derives from the original description of the art form as drawn strips (the phrase literally translates as “the drawn strip”), analogous to the sequence of images in a film strip. As in its English equivalent, the word “bande” can be applied to both film and comics. Significantly, the French-language term contains no indication of subject-matter, unlike the American terms “comics” and “funnies”, which imply an art form not to be taken seriously. The distinction of comics as le neuvième art (literally, “the ninth art”) is prevalent in French scholarship on the form, as is the concept of comics criticism and scholarship itself. Relative to the respective size of their populations, the innumerable authors in France and Belgium publish a high volume of comic books. In North America, the more serious Franco-Belgian comics are often seen as equivalent to graphic novels, but whether they are long or short, bound or in magazine format, in Europe there is no need for a more sophisticated term, as the art’s name does not itself imply something frivolous.