*Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga — Recommended

Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga hides useful information about creating and analyzing readable, marketable comic stories inside savage parody of the industry.

Inspired by the crap people read and publish, two manga creators decide to lay bare the secrets of success, using the rationale “if they can do it, anyone can”. They aim to create popular series that become anime, spawn character merchandising, and make them rich. The first lesson is therefore choosing the right pen name, which isn’t the best choice, since it relies on in-jokes based on a high level of manga familiarity.

Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga cover
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
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The next chapter gets a bit more down to earth, discussing panel borders, their importance, and how to create them cleanly. After that, the pace increases, with lessons on facial expressions, figure drawing, and generating ideas. The chapter titled “Youthful Arrogance” rips into the difference between art and entertainment with energy, even if it’s not always coherent. The rest of the book consists of parodies and breakdowns of different manga genres.

Readers of adventure or other types of boys’ manga will likely recognize more of the art styles and panel compositions than I did, since I mostly read shôjo, but the dramatic closeups and other genre conventions are obvious enough to still be funny to even the most casual reader.

Since this material is aimed at the adult, there’s nudity and various scatological gags, including one bit where a scrawny naked man executes a series of porn poses. Also, according to the authors, comics for men and women are all about sex. It may be vulgar, but it’s often funny, especially when they compare women’s comics, and the way they seek to fill emotional gaps, to Tetris. The basis of the humor is how no one — not artists, readers, or publishers — is treated with respect.

11 Comments

  1. Ed Sizemore

    Johanna, I loved this book too. There were no sacred cows here. In fact, I finally found my copy and can’t wait to read it again. You’re right, the more manga you know the more jokes you get.

  2. Such a shame that the second volume never came out…

  3. Ed Sizemore

    Adam, was there really a second volume in Japan? If so, you’re right, it is shame.

  4. Dave "The Knave" White

    Alas, yes, there are more volumes in Japan which we will apparently never get to read.

    Man, I love this book. There’s a reason I have it shelved with all my “how to draw” books and not the rest of my manga. I think everyone who sets out to make “art comics” should be forced to sit down and read the “Youthful Arrogance” chapter…

  5. This came out back in the late 80s/early 90s, so a lot of the references seem a bit out of date now, but overall I found it hilarious. There are two more volumes in Japan, but since it’s been years since Volume 1, I imagine it didn’t sell well enough to bring over the others. Shame.

    One of the authors, btw, is responsible for a comic with a cute little Thomas the Tank Engine-like train telling commuters not to jump in front of him and kill themselves. It was used as an incredibly popular PSA (as that’s a popular form of suicide in Japan).

  6. One of the artist/authors also worked on the color Super Mario Adventures comic/manga that Nintendo Power ran back in the early 90s. The trade paper back of that story actually credits the artist as also having done “Even Apes Can Draw Comics” or something like that.

    Here’s a wikipedia article on the title: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Mario_Adventures

    [Nintendo Power also ran a Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past adaptation that was done by the Cyborg 009 manga-ka.]

  7. I recomend this book to anyone who has the time to go forth and reading/ doing it’s ideas.

  8. [...] reviewed two how-to books: Manga Secrets is straight-forward and includes the basics, while Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga is satiric. You’ll learn from it, but you’ll learn more what NOT to do. And [...]

  9. This one looks pretty promising. I think I’ll give it a go–I like to have a good stock of “how to” books to not only help with the drawing itself, but also to act as inspiration. I’ve just found your site, but I’m starting to like it more and more. Keep up the good work with your reviews!

    Ashleen

  10. [...] you aren’t familiar with the glory that is Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, you should read Jason Thompson’s recommendation of the book. He explains and illuminates [...]

  11. [...] The next U.S. volume of Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga [...]

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