Monday, June 30, 2008

Professional Manga

By Steve Horton and Jeong Mo Yang
Published by Focal Press, an imprint of Elsevier

Slugline: Not just a software manual

The subtitle of the book is Digital Storytelling with Manga Studio EX, but despite the implication the subtitle gives, the book is more and less than just a manual on how to use the software. For the people that do not know, Manga Studio EX is graphic design/publishing program that has been optimized to work manga and comics publishing formats. About half of the book deals with the use of Manga Studio EX, such as laying out and toning art, with the other half dealing with non-art issues such as storytelling, panel selection and choice, and where to pitch the completed product.

It is more than just a computer manual in that it deals with some of the very real issues of storytelling that are necessary for creating a good story. These are issues that once they have been described, they make perfect sense and is stuff that the reader probably already knew but wasn't consciously aware of. But until they do, it is hard to create stories that include those elements. None of the hints and suggestions are particularly deep or stuff that you will not find elsewhere, but are still useful especially since the storytelling and writing aspects of manga creation tend to be overlooked. The section also includes information about pitching and publishing a manga, though considering the recent changes in TokyoPop some of the information is already out of date.

The art and computer manual information is the first half of the book, and while I am much more of a writer than an artist, there is some interesting stuff there. Details as the importance of line thickness and how it contributes to storytelling is nice, but the actual suggestions for the software seems rather threadbare. I have seen computer software manuals be far more in-depth than this for less complicated actions. I suspect that this falls more into suggestions and tips for using Manga Studio EX rather than a manual on how to use it per se.

It is nice that deals both with art and writing aspects of manga creation rather than just treating one or the other as the whole of manga creation. But while it does cover both, it does not feel that it covers either in an in-depth manner. Maybe this is more useful as the beginning point rather than a master class or in truly making the reader a professional. I don’t want to say it doesn’t have any use, and it does offer relevant and useful information, but this feels more like an introduction to manga creation.


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