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.
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.
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 is gone, but contributor Hamilton has assembled a collection of links to the creators’ sites. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)