by Mark Crilley
published by Impact; $22.99 US
When I think of Mark Crilley, I fondly remember Akiko, the charming small-press comic that began in 1995. That was a long time ago now — the comic ran 50 issues, before spinning off another ten children’s prose books, and if it was a person, it would now be getting ready to graduate high school — and Crilley has done other books since then, Miki Falls and Brody’s Ghost. His newest publication gives readers the benefit of his experience, providing “30 Drawing Lessons from the Creator of Akiko”, as the subtitle has it.
Typical of Impact’s how-to books, this volume is attractive, well-laid-out, and easy to read. Unusual for the format are the one-page illustrated comic strips that introduce each chapter where Crilley draws himself talking to the reader. They’re welcome, a comfortable way to make the reader feel closer to the author, as though he’s there, helping them along and wanting them to succeed.
I was impressed by how Crilley makes it clear from the early pages that he’s not promoting manga as a style, that there are different styles that can be used that are equally “manga”. Fully a third of the book covers faces, heads, hairstyles, and eyes, working on getting the correct proportions in structure drawings. There are plenty of examples provided to guide readers and spur their artistic imaginations.
The second third is dedicated to bodies, with different ages and types, poses, clothing, actions (including kissing and fighting), chibis, and emotion sample pages. The last section covers settings, plus lessons on perspective, page layouts, and inking.
Mastering Manga struck me as an excellent basic reference book that covers the fundamentals quickly but with clear knowledge and experience. If you’d like to see examples of Crilley’s teaching technique, he’s posted a number of lessons on YouTube, including this lengthy piece on his thoughts about creating the book and a preview of its pages.
(The publisher provided a review copy.)