Mangaka America

Mangaka is the Japanese term for “comic creator”. It’s used in Mangaka America to mean those young creators affected by and working in the style of manga. Many of them combine American and Japanese influences in their work, and like the subjects it covers, the book itself is a hybrid. Its larger size, glossy full-color pages, and anthology format suggest a paperback coffee table book, while most creator sections contain not only an interview and art samples but a short “how-to”, like a sample of an instructional manual.

Mangaka America cover
Mangaka America
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Those included are some of the most exciting young talents working in the format called “global manga” or “OEL manga”. The terminology is sometimes in dispute, involving as it does issues of culture, race, and heritage, and the title of this book may put some off. Longtime manga stylist Adam Warren provides a foreword that tackles the subject head-on, setting the right tone for the material that follows, while also conveying his excitement for the subject and promoting the idea of the combined writer/artist.

Tania del Rio (writer/artist of Sabrina the Teenage Witch) follows up along similar lines. The book was produced and edited by Steelriver Studio, who is del Rio and her husband William Staehle, HarperCollins art director. Del Rio first gained notice through winning one of Tokyopop’s “Rising Stars of Manga” contests, and many of the creators profiled in this title are currently published by Tokyopop, who also has a co-publishing deal with HarperCollins. Cozy, isn’t it?

Regardless, that doesn’t change the high levels of talent on display here, in a variety of styles. Artists covered include Svetlana Chmakova (Dramacon), Amy Kim Ganter (Sorcerers & Secretaries), Felipe Smith (MBQ), Corey Rey Lewis (Sharknife), Rivkah (Steady Beat), and M. Alice LeGrow (Bizenghast). Ms,Shatia Hamilton (Fungus Grotto webcomic) provides a digital painting tutorial. Jesse Philips (graphic designer) shows off mech (robot) design. Christy Lijewski (Next Exit) covers character design. Lindsay Cibos and Jared Hodges (Peach Fuzz) screen tone. All use computers.

The interviews stick with the basics — influences, work process, favorite manga — with a few lighter topics, like convention experiences and writing a haiku, thrown in for entertainment. This book also gets right something many other art books miss: every piece of art is captioned with source or title, even one-off sketches. The layout is open, inviting, and exciting in its variety while keeping the basics, like section titles, consistent for reader ease. It’s a terrific book for dipping into, either for inspiration or education.

The official website looks abandoned, but contributor Hamilton has assembled a collection of links to the creators’ sites, and del Rio was interviewed at Newsarama when the book came out last year. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)

11 Responses to “Mangaka America”

  1. Tommy Raiko Says:

    “Del Rio first gained notice through winning one of Tokyopop’s ‘Rising Stars of Manga’ contests, and many of the creators profiled in this title are currently published by Tokyopop, who also has a co-publishing deal with HarperCollins. Cozy, isn’t it?”

    I enjoy a bit of skepticism/cynicism about corporate goings-on as much as anyone, I don’t quite get what you’re implying here.

    A little websurfing leads me to these bits of info:

    * the Tokyopop/HarperCollins distribution deal was announced in late March 2008 ( )
    * MANGAKA AMERICA was published on or about October 31, 2008 ( )

    I don’t know how long it takes to write and ilustrate and print big complicated illustrated books, but I could believe it’s more than 7 months, so it’s likely that MANGAKA AMERICA was in the works before the Tokyopop/HarperCollins distribution deal was finalized.

    It’s possible, of course, that those who pulished MANGAKA AMERICA were aware that a Tokyopop/HarperCollins deal was in the works, and that may have influenced their decision to publish the book or to focus on whatever creators they included. On the other hand, large publishers that distribute smaller ones often take steps to keep they’re distribution business separate from their publishing business, so there’s no immediate reason to assume that those who published MANGAKA AMERICA were aware there was a Tokyopop deal brewing. Unless you have a gun that’s smoking more than just the happenstance coincidence of a calendar, it’s really a bunch of idle speculation.

    Which is fine, for what it’s worth. I mean, I do find it important to note these sorts of connections. But I also think it’s important not too read too much into them.

    After all, it was not too long ago when the topic was comics journalism and the degree to which our little hobby indulges in speculation without investigation. And I guess it was just that slightly-too-precious “Cozy, isn’t it?” comment that bugs, and reminded me of exactly the kind of thing we were decrying in that other discussion.

    Anyway, it’s good to note the connections that may have influenced this book–a co-author’s staff position, a co-author spouse’s connections, a possible corporate relationship. And, harping on it as I have, I’m probably taking the focus away from where it should be, the book itself.

    Sorry ’bout that…

  2. Tommy Raiko Says:


    And of course, in my outpouring above, I made twin typos for the years–

    The HarperCollins/Tokyopop deal and the MANGAKA AMERICA book came to pass in 2006 not, as I erroneously typed, in the as-yet-future 2008…

    Sorry ’bout that, too…

  3. Brigid Says:

    I think the explanation is simple: At the time this book was being published, Tokyopop was the biggest publisher, by far, of manga by American artists.

  4. Tania del Rio Says:

    I just wanted to chime in and say that we were working on the book long before any TPOP/Harper deal was announced. We started initial talks with the artists in about August 06. So the eventual announcement was a surprise to us,(and to some of our artists, I’m sure). We did end up using many TPOP artists partially because, at that time, they were among the most prominent up-and-coming North American manga artists around, and because it was just easier to arrange to work with them given that I already knew many of them through blogs,etc. I also was acquainted with several people at TOKYOPOP who were very helpful in giving us permissions to use their artwork. Will and I still plan to do a 2nd volume at some point, and we will be branching out to other artists who are not necessarily tied to TPOP. Honestly, Mangaka America was our first book, and a huge learning process. We wanted to make it easier on ourselves as well as showcase the work of some young artists we really admire!

  5. Tania del Rio Says:

    Ugh and getting my own dates confused, I mean that we started talking with the artists in August 2005, not 2006! So the whole process took about a year.

  6. Johanna Says:

    And all things considered, it’s a great book. I think Tommy may be reading more into my comments than I intended. I do think it’s relevant to note the connections — but the line between “friends I know/like” and “unfair benefit from relationships” is a tricky one, different almost every time, and affecting every field and business.

    I’m glad to hear that there will be a second volume. I look forward to seeing it.

  7. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Monday big roundup Says:

    […] at vol. 17 of Hana-Kimi at Soliloquy in Blue. At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna enjoys the anthology Mangaka America. At the Star of Malaysia, Kurogane reviews vol. 1 of Shiki Tsukai and Kadzuki finds lots of reasons […]

  8. Julie Says:

    hey can you tell me how much a mangaka makes in america. And please dont say it depends on how good it is, but tell me the average.

  9. Johanna Says:

    You’re not going to like this, but the answer really is “it depends” – on how you’re publishing, for example. Are you running your own webcomic? That can lead to a bigger publisher paying you to reprint (as happened to Megatokyo and Red String). Or you can struggle along making no money and needing a day job. Are you looking to go straight to print (with a company like Tokyopop)? They’ll pay you some money, but they’ll own the rights. Other publishers only pay after they’ve covered their costs, which means you may make very little.

    In short, there is no average number.

  10. Interview With Tania del Rio on Sabrina Plans, OEL Manga » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] asked Tania del Rio (Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Mangaka America) some questions recently about what she’s been […]

  11. mozhda ahmadi Says:

    this book is realy nice especially the art in the book




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