Manga Mania Shonen – Drawing Action-Style Japanese Comics


By Chris Hart (Sixth&Spring)
ISBN: 978-1-933027-69-2

Even though the global craze for Japanese comics and cartoons seems to have partially abated the popularity of Manga and Anime style storytelling is pretty much unquenchable, and with Annual Gift-Giving Season rapidly bearing down on us it might be worthwhile to take a look at one of the better “How-to” reference volumes still available to the budding exponent of Japanese comic making.

I actually found this copy whilst browsing the shelves of my local library so your creative impulses might not even have to wait ‘till December comes…

Manga Mania Shonen is the part of an extensive series of art-instruction books by prolific graphic guru Chris Hart which includes manga titles such as a Beginner’s Guides and more specialised tomes devoted to Girl Power, Bishoujo, Occult and Horror, Romance and many others as well as other art “genres” such as Wizards Witches and Warlocks or Drawing The New Adventure Cartoons

This perky volume focuses on the Shonen or action story characters: lavishly illustrated from stick-figure first concept to fully inked and coloured final work, and opens with a section on Shonen Basics: Drawing the Head, generically broken down further into Action Boy, Teen Enemy, Girl With Crush and Dark Beauty with attention paid to Drawing Eyes For Action Characters, Young Teen Boy, Young Teen Girl, Bishie Boy, Bishijo Girl, Male Villain and Female Villain before rounding off with Craaaazy Eyes!, Intense Expressions and Shading Faces.

Swiftly following is Shonen Basics: Drawing the Body divided into Brave Fighter Kid, Powerful Foe, The Hero’s Girl, Alluring Nemesis, Younger Vs. Older Teens, The Fighting Team, The Character Lineup and Action Tattoos whilst Action! provides timeless, educative and extremely useful truths on Action and Balance, Do’s and Don’ts for Drawing Action, defined as Classic Run (side vs. ¾ view), Fast and Furious Run, The Big Windup and the Big Punch, The Punch and Making Contact; examines Forced Perspective through Flying Kick, Standing Kick and Leaping Forward; depicts Extreme Fight Scenes via Running Start and Impact (both with side and ¾ views) and concludes with a variety of Panel Designs For Action Comics, featuring a four-panel page redrawn numerous ways for different effects.

Samurai Characters and how to construct them follows with model sheet “turnarounds” (the drawing rotated through five positions – Front, ¾ front, side, ¾ rear and Rear views) for a Samurai Boy, plus Girl Samurai, Bad Samurai!, Street Warrior and Evil Samurai Grandmaster as well as sidebars on Uncommon Weapons and Samurai Fantasy Fighters.

Fighter Girls is divided into Flying Ninja, Spy Girl, Sharpshooter, Evil Enchantress, Fantasy Fighter and Karate Girl, Supporting Characters into Teen Punk, Evil Kid, Yakuza, Knife Fighter, Big Buddy, The Blockhead, Motorcycle Rider, The Cursed Hand, Sci-Fi Fighter, Costume Makes the Character and The Dramatic Trench Coat after which Monsters and Creepy Creatures covers such popular standards as Rock Monster, Devil Creature, Ogre, Monsters with Special Powers, Monster Fighter! and such Animal-Based Spirits and Demons as Tiger Girl, Scorpion Boy, Wolf Demon and Bear Spirit.

The final chapter checks out Battle-Ready Robots with Drawing the Robot’s Head, Round-Type Robot, Classic Colossal Robot, Elegant but Deadly Robot and Hyper-Mechanized Robot before Robots and Their Human Pals – sectioned off as A Boy and His Robot, Female Robot, All-Firepower Robot, Villainous Robot and The Mecha Team – finishes up the drawing lessons. The book concludes with a very basic four-page introduction to Sketching a Sequential Story.

By applying a “Time-and-Motion”, mechanistically deconstructive approach Hart has isolated those cool facets ardent newcomers always fixate upon and has perfectly described how to become fully facile in their use. After that, it’s up to the neophyte storyteller to progress at their own pace and inclination…

The whole book is pretty much the equivalent of a set of manga “cheat-sheets” detailing how to produce generic action actors, but as I can certainly attest after years of teaching comics-production, scripting and art to kids from age 4 to 60+, that’s most often the initial alluring spark which can kick off the drive to practise, improve and eventually find a uniquely personal creative path…

Created specifically for the American sector of the global marketplace and targeting younger fans, there’s no time spent here on the harder, less fun and downright laborious aspects such as constructing a plot, shaping narrative, designing believable backgrounds, building scenarios, page composition and copy/balloon placement, and the slavish pigeon-holing of the manga/anime phenomenon into basic construction-line “models” may annoy more advanced students, but if the goal is simply to inspire interested parties into making their own people and stories this book does the job affably and enthusiastically…

© 2008 Star Fire, LCC. All rights reserved.

How to Draw Disney’s Mulan


By uncredited (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-038-3

I haven’t covered a “How To” book for ages and as this one’s entertaining, wonderfully fit for purpose and readily available it would well serve any budding artists and prospective animators to seek it out and absorb…

Following a brief précis of the story – involving a young girl who rose to prominence in the army of legendary Ancient China – the instructional portion begins with Equipment and Techniques, Designing Characters – animal and human, comedic, villainous and heroic. Costume Design, Staging the Action and Use of Props. This large scale, slim book concludes with a test – Creating a Scene: providing a chance to use the knowledge gained to have fun and practice.

Brilliantly colourful and with clear concise instructions covering the undeniable basics that every artist of any age needs to master, such as stylisation and basic anatomy, and including detailed step-by-step breakdowns and model sheet for every major character from the films this is an indispensable aid and a tremendously inspiring introduction for the aspiring Artist of Tomorrow.
© 1998 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

All and Sundry – Uncollected Work 2004-2009


By Paul Hornschemeier (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-285-2

In his relatively short artistic career Paul Hornschemeier has produced relatively little work, but all of it has been of phenomenal quality and boldly dedicated to deeper themes and compelling expansions of the medium of graphic narrative. Its also manages to be funny sad and pretty all at once. Don’t take my word for it: acquire The Collected Sequential, The Three Paradoxes. Let Us be Perfectly Clear and the incredible Mother, Come Home and see for yourself.

While you’re at it, the perfect accompaniment for that enviable investigation is this delicious collection of art and ideas ranging from the broadest sketches, prose and ideas to fully finished and coloured strips and stories gathered from such disparate sources as the experimental strip anthology Mome to the back up strips produced for Dark Horse’s comic interpretation of Michael Chabon’s brilliant novel The Escapist.

Also included are assorted commercial illustrations from magazines such as the Wall Street Journal, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and Nickelodeon Magazine, Penguin Books and many others, designs and typography for the numerous foreign editions of his creations and many other visual treats from this always enchanting and thought-provoking creator.

If you want – or need – a peek inside the head of a truly creative force, or just love great drawing and fine amusing, sad whimsy this is a book you must have.

© 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Paul Hornschemeier. All Rights Reserved. The Tick © & ™ Ben Edlund; The Worst Comic Book Heroes That Never Existed written by an © Michael Kupperman; The Escapist © & ™ Michael Chabon

Paper Dolls from the California Girls


By Trina Robbins (Eclipse Books)
ISBN: 0-913035-57-2

I haven’t looked at anything for the sheer fun of it for awhile so here’s a delightful peculiarity from the 1980s: an example of an old hobby that’s just crying out to become the next big fad. As a follow-up to her wacky, wise and wonderful Paper Dolls from the Comics (ISBN: 0-913035-20-3) cartoonist Trina Robbins turned her designing eye on her own strip: California Girls.

One of the last serious attempts at creating a fun comicbook for young girls, the series featured the everyday lives of Maxine and Maureen Muldoon, twins who attend Hollyhock High School with their gal-pals. While not to every fan’s taste the strip consisted of fashion, comedy and everyday adventure, carried out with Robbins’ slick wit and accessible style.

The newspaper comic strip was a powerful and ubiquitous tool used to raise circulation and promote customer loyalty in the first half of the twentieth century, and as well as laughs, thrills and escapism creators frequently added games, cut-out collectible premiums and paper toys to their output in their efforts to win and keep an audience that consisted of the entire family, not just adolescent males of all ages.

One of the most popular and effective – even to this day (don’t take my word for it, crank up that search engine and see for yourself), was the addition of favourite characters in their underwear, with additional clothes you could “dress” them in. You could even design your own outfits for them. The common belief was that young children and girls loved this kind of “dress-up” play, but I suspect many young men also joined in the fun.

This practise migrated to comicbooks, and every youngster and girl friendly title from Sugar and Spike to Millie the Model had their own paper-doll pages. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, even my exceptionally smart and utterly sensible wife is not immune to the seditious allure of these things.

So grab your crayons to decorate the monochrome pages (there’s a glorious full-colour centre section too), snag some scissors – don’t run! – and revel in the modes and fashions of the 1980s West Coast. And remember if you do come across a copy of this joyous little gem, with today’s scanning and reprographic advances you can easily duplicate all the pages and go mad without destroying this fun and funky little package…
© 1988 Trina Robbins. All Rights Reserved.