I was part of a Deviantart comic group that opened up a suggestion box to Ask the Mods when I noticed artists were asking for tips on how to make manga panels. Eager to help, I immediately wanted to reply with something but found it was difficult to boil down everything I felt needed to be included. Reflecting on my own learning process, I wasn’t even sure I knew what made my own panels ‘good’ or ‘good enough.’ So like everything you’ll probably read on this blog, these posts are somewhat selfish in nature, as they also serve to remind me of the important stuff that go into creating comics.
Elements of Good Composition
If you think about what creating comic panels really are, it’s the art of arranging boxes on a page. Manga is particularly known for its diverse and bombastic arrangements. But first and foremost, nothing beats knowing the most basic of design elements: composition. Fortunately, the Temple of Seven Golden Camels (a fantastic resource blog for story board and layout artists) has two short reference links on this: Composition 101 and Composition 102. You just can’t go wrong brushing up on foundational stuff.
Panelling and Pacing
Lilrivkah’s post regarding the pages of her OEL manga Steady Beat is quite informative as she analyzes how creating her panels informs the pacing of her story. On this note, I think it’s really important for manga/comic artists to actually “study” how the comics they read and appreciate actually work for that particular genre. For instance, the elements of a shojo manga like Fruits Basket won’t necessarily work for a seinen comic like Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. The two are very different stories and therefore, employ different kinds of pacing, layout and panels. I find that I go back and forth between more open layouts and strict grid-like formations because I want to make the panel arrangements serve the purpose of my scenes.
Disney Comic Artist’s Kit
Carson Van Osten’s helpful handout illustrates some recurring problems with staging and perspective within panels and also shows how to resolve them. I’m personally ecstatic to have come across this because even if superficially, it has nothing to do with manga, it has everything to do with depicting characters in believable environments – a most difficult task for beginning comic artists everywhere. Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Work handout (pictured above) is a nice little reminder of the different ways you can stage panels in Western comics and also helps fuel more interesting compositions.
Feedback from a Manga Editor
SASAKI Hisashi (former Editor in Chief of Weekly SHONEN JUMP – where Naruto, Bleach and One Piece are all serialized) recently gave some insightful feedback to young American mangaka at Comic-con last month. He also shares a lot of beginning artist problems which are worth keeping in mind. It’s no question getting feedback is an important step in growing artists’ process and whether it’s from someone as high up the ladder as Hisashi-san or your own best friend, I think you can always learn a thing or two from the people who read your work.
Manga-Apps Template Page Layouts
Finally, for manga artists totally in the dark about composing their own panels, here’s a Deviantart resource group filled with Template Page Layouts. The risk of using cookie-cutter boxes is ofcourse you may not learn the right way to do things from the ground up but learning is very personal journey for everyone. What works for me may not be the same for you and I’ve always felt you still learn something just by the sheer act of DOING IT. So if you just want to make comics, go MAKE COMICS!
What are some other tips, posts, and sites about comic panels you recommend? Feel free to sound off below!
I was in line for the Gallery Nucleus‘ Harry Potter Tribute Exhibition opening night the other weekend with some friends and by 9 PM, gave up on the idea I would make it to any of their advertised events. Seriously, it was like a Hall H line around the block and through the parking lot! I wasn’t too bitter though (I had a yummy dinner at Noodle World nearby) and was delighted so many people and their kids showed up and wanted to be part of the celebration.
Before I left, in the course of our conversation my friend asked me, “Wouldn’t it be great to create something this culturally relevant?”
I’m sure everyone reading this would answer a resounding, “YES! Ofcourse!” (and if you deny it, I think you’re probably not being honest with yourself XD). Everyone wants their beloved stories and creations to be appreciated. The especially fortunate few like JK Rowling have innumerable fans who not only love her books, but also everything that has to do with the world she created. They expand her established world by creating their own kinds of art (fanfics, fanart, costumes) and form communities that share their love for her stories.
I’ve always felt much respect and admiration for the storytellers whose works inspire such devotion and creative frenzy. Joss Whedon’s works (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly) and LOST, are a few more of my favorite stories with similar kinds of following. On the manga side, Hiromu Arakawa’s stellar work with Fullmetal Alchemist makes me weak in the knees and Naoki Urasawa’s handling of Pluto was very emotional.
It is somewhat intimidating to start off loving these phenomenal blockbusters and then, to ask yourself “What do I do to create something like that?” but I’m getting to the point of this post and it’s this: At the heart of each of these successful dramatic stories are characters. You may love the Harry’s wizarding world or enjoy deconstructing the Island’s mysteries but you tuned in and you stayed for the characters.
Creating compelling, sympathetic and memorable characters and giving them rich, believable and interesting stories is no easy feat. It takes time, lots of work and patience. In today’s fast-paced world, those are becoming rarities.
I’m discovering this gradual, fairly maddening process myself as I work on even more drafts for my story. As I suffer my way through rewrites this week, I take a lot of comfort in the fact that apparently, JK Rowling spent over five years planning Harry Potter’s story before she even started writing her first book. It makes me believe in the writing process and helps me be patient as I try to usher my story to be the best it can be.
Yes, my stories may never even be a fraction of the ginormous successes like Rowling’s or Whedon’s but if I plan it right, and respect the processes these creators share, no one can say I didn’t give it my best shot.
Some links I just wanted to share this week:
What if Harry Potter were an anime – a technically stunning anime illustration featuring Harry Potter characters by this PIXIV artist.
Another one equally as impressive is this Harry Potter collaborative piece by Rem and Maximo Lorenzo.
And finally, a must-read post on a now infamous SDCC panel and the questions about female DC creators/characters. Over at Comics Alliance, Laura Hudson’s response is equally fascinating and well-written.
Decided to compile a masterlist of the posts regarding my Final Track process. Hope you’ll find this useful!
This was a series of posts I wrote about how I made Final Track, a 34-page shojo manga I submitted for the Yen Press New Talent Search Fall 2010. I was contacted as a finalist in March 2011 and was given valuable feedback by the editors.
I was wondering how I was going to approach this post because coming into this project, I knew I’d make the mistake of announcing something and was going to have to revise it. It makes me think I should set up some kind of rewards system every time I run into technical issues like this. (Oh, you guys are going to be so spoiled! XD) I’ll set up a new request post on DA and tumblr.
If you’ve been keeping up with me on Twitter and DA, you’re probably aware of the state Polterguys is in. I just completed the first draft of thumbnails for the book and showed them to my editor (i.e. Nathan) who says, they need work. Not just cleaning up work as thumbnails need but actual story-rehauling (this-isn’t-going-to-be-easy) work.
Which puts me in a bind, you see, because I had previously announced this Polterguys entity to be an online series that would start in mid-July. I had originally envisioned completing a chapter each month and publishing them subsequently but I couldn’t get a grasp on the book as a whole, cohesive story. As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry! I was advised to thumb the rest of the book and treat it like a standalone story. Admittedly, I’m sure not everyone else treats their comics in a similar way but I think it was a useful note for me personally because I’ve never been that strong of a writer.
So, that leaves me in the nebulous place of rewriting: a dark, lonely territory especially for a new writer. I venture forth somewhat reassured that the next state form Polterguys Vol. 1 becomes will be stronger and better than it’s previous incarnations. I thank you for your patience and hope you stick around to see how it comes along.
In the meantime, I leave you with two recent pieces. A small tribute to the legacy of Harry Potter as you can see above and fanart of Tony Cliff’s delightful Delilah Dirk below.
I just started reading The Fox Sister, a new webcomic by Christina Strain and Jayd Aït-Kaci (AKA Chira) the same artist for Sfeer Theory. I’ve been a fan of Chira’s fluid and dynamic style since I first saw her Bleach fanart pieces on Deviantart. From there, I watched as her manic and often hilarious doodles and fancomics boosted her confidence as a fantastic character designer and brilliant storyteller. The Fox sister starts off with a dramatic bang and I can’t wait to see what the creators have in store for us.