4. What's with Steve?

Steve wakes up a little bit today, and gets his chance at bat with Shemp.

A few changes
I’m going back to just including a link on the page to the current comic and leaving the blog to being a blog. Just easier on the eyes and organizationally.

Comic Creation Minutiae ‘07

I recently purchased Pen & Ink: The Manga Start-up Guide from B+N. Now, I’m an American comics kid. I have a soft spot in my heart for the superhero comics. Always will. Over the last few years (and especially since starting Q-Burger), I’ve learned quite a bit about how American comics are produced. From script to art to letters to colors to publication.

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Manga fits into my comics diet as the exotic, break-from-the-ordinary pallet-cleanser. I’m a writer, so good writing and good stories are important (and there are some in superhero comics contrary to popular belief), and I think it’s missing in most manga that I’ve read so far. Some of that might be a cultural thing, a translation thing, or an artist-doing-the-writing thing. I don’t know for certain. But I often walk away from a session with manga impressed with the visuals, but not really satisfied overall.

But that’s just me. I’m a writer-doing-the-drawing, so anything that I have or will produce will likely have a similar effect on many people.

This newest addition to my library is an English translation of a Japanese book. And apart from the charming turns of phrase that English just can’t quite capture without sounding a little goofy, it’s really quite interesting to a part-time student of the art-form, such as myself. The book features AS IT HAPPENS interviews with 3 or 4 creators (including the creator of Trigun, which I recognize) and you can nearly see the enthusiastic Japanese reporter sitting beside the artist at the board, asking questions, “Is it difficult to draw both easily and precisely?” and “it looks like you’ve entered the final phase of drawing. Do you have any thoughts to share?”

They do things quite differently in the Manga world. This book serves as kind of a Manga version of Making Comics by Scott McCloud. When compared to Making Comics, Pen & Ink has a lot more of the practical approach. It doesn’t spend much time talking about the theory behind panel and page composition, story, expressions, or any of the softer stuff that McCloud really delves into. Pen and Ink is more about how to use the tools. If Scott’s book is art school, Pen & Ink would be technical college.
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You get to see the tools that these popular artists use, and they provide actual photos of the drawing process, which is something that I’ve not seen before. There is much more importance placed on the inking than on the pencils (or ‘underdrawing’ as they call it). Many of them use a lightdesk to trace over pencil drawings or photographs or other materials in order to capture images quickly and easily.

The book also provides a brief but good tutorial series on practicing line drawing, cross-hatching, perspective and others. If one would practice these techniques, one would get better.

And most importantly: Lots of pen porn. Nibs, holders, positions. I’m unable to determine if this was just the angle that the author was going for, or if the manga world is that pen-centric, but there was a lot of attention paid to the pen. A weird flowchart that asks you personal questions to determine what kind of pen you should use in your manga. Interviews with many creators regarding what tools they use, what ink, what pen nib, what paper, etc.

This is something that I haven’t seen in the books about comic book creation. There’s usually a chapter about it, but really nothing compared to the detail that this book provides. And this was the primary reason for me picking it out from the shelf full of Manga How-To books.

Of course, I could have just gotten a traditional art book on drawing with pen and ink, but the context would be wrong. The standard art books I’ve looked at or had to buy for art classes focus on Art. And I certainly could use some time spent learning the basics, which I’m trying to find time for. But these books don’t focus on the art being one componant of a larger whole, which is telling a story.

I could lose myself in learning to draw still-lifes or composition or shading or any of the other things my college drawing instructor had us do. But I’m much too pressed for time, I’m much too driven toward the goal of drawing comics, which doesn’t require much that I learned about, lo, those many years ago. Although I wouldn’t object to more sessions with the nude.

Spending on the book leads to more spending at the art store
Inspired by the technical information and advice, I decided that I wanted to try these pens. The holders cost $1.29, and the nibs cost roughly the same. Ink costs about $3.00 for a small bottle. So it wasn’t a tremendous investment. I made my trip to Dick Blick and picked myself up some.

Anyway, this episode marks the switch from markers to that Speedball type pen. It’s rough, but I’ve drawn the next three episodes with them, and I think I’m getting better. It’s fun, and it’s a challenge to pick up a new tool, but I think I’ve found my standard tools.

Which is a little sad, as I enjoy the search, but I’m happy that now I can settle down and invest some time practicing and focus on getting better, instead of on getting better tools.