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Book Review: How to Pen & Ink: The Manga Start-up Guide

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Nowadays, if you spy some kid boredom doodling in class, chances are the images they’re scratching on their lined notebook paper will be manga/anime influenced. None-too-surprisingly, many manga publishers have strived to tap into this potentially creative market by putting out manuals on how to create manga. Twenty-five years ago, the emphasis was on How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, but that was a whole different generation of comics readers.

DMP’s 2006 addition to the pool, the anonymously edited How to Pen & Ink: The Manga Start-up Guide, focuses on the mechanics of crafting black-and-white inked panels. Though occasionally advice is given on other aspects of manga storytelling — setting up a compelling storyline and characters, letting, mechanical shading — the focus remains on the nuts and bolts. This is exemplified by an appendix where 71 artists list their favorite tools (pen nibs, ink, manuscript paper, etc.) right down to the erasers. More than a little obsessive? Perhaps, but I can see many would-be manga-ka poring over the tiny print at the back of this book.

For those of us who just want more general info, the more readable material comes in the book’s beginning: where a trio of manga artists (Yashuhiro Nightow, Oh! Great, and Satoshi Shiki) are interviewed about their lives and work as professional comic artists. The book’s central section, a series of strips depicting a round-headed cartoonist’s misbegotten attempts to create his/her own manga series also proves amusing. Those more serious readers will doubtless light on the Q & A pages – which work to introduce readers to technical terms, tricks of the trade and some basic drawing tips. If much of the last should have already been learned in Basic Art class (perspective, anyone?), perhaps our fledgling artist should’ve spent less time doodling and more just listening to their teacher, eh?

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.