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Tribulations of a Comic Artist
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24th-Nov-2010 08:55 am - The Last of the Polar Bears pgs 30-31
Amanda and Peach

I updated www.lastpolarbears.com with pgs 30-31. Who might those mysterious paw prints belong to?

Other mini-announcement: I’m currently working on a short Fraggle Rock comic for Archaia. Yay, Fraggles! <3
7th-Nov-2010 10:43 am - Under the Influence of Manga
Amanda and Peach
Comics editor Tim Beedle discusses on his blog whether or not it's necessary for manga-influenced artists to change their style in order to find work.

I chimed in with my experience as a professional manga-influenced comic artist. My full reply is below, but you should also go read Tim's post and the proceeding comments. The whole discussion is very interesting.


As a creator who was part of the OEL movement, this topic hits close to home. For me, manga had a heavy influence on my artwork during my formative teen years. My manga-influenced art style wasn't something I quickly adopted as a moneymaking scheme to dupe the manga-reading public, as some naysayers of the OEL movement believe, but simply a part of me, a natural expression of the material I grew up reading. An art style that was natural to me, intuitively picked up from years of reading manga, mixed with other influences, and personal touches.

For a while, it looked like the possibilities for manga-influenced artists were on the rise, until the manga market/economy collapsed. Then Tokyopop stopped taking chances on creator-owned properties, other companies followed suit, and the movement more or less died (save for the small handful of licensed properties -- good opportunities, but nowhere near enough to support all of the talented manga-influenced creators out there).

Following the completion of Peach Fuzz in 2007, I went from being a successful creator with a growing career, back down to the ground level, scraping around for jobs, painfully discovering that outside of the Tokyopop bubble, there are very few opportunities for comic artists heavily influenced by manga.

The year or two following Peach Fuzz, I received my fair share of rejections: art agents telling me that while my art is professional and solid, it's unmarketable due to a lack of jobs calling for a "manga" look; publishers and literary agents enjoying a story premise, but turning it down due to, again, the "manga" look. Eventually the message started to sink in: adapt or die.

The last couple of years, I've been working to tone down the manga influences in my artwork, but it's been a soul-crushing, painful process. Some good has come from pushing myself in a new direction - I've definitely grown a lot as an artist because of it. For example, I've developed a new approach to comic pages that I'm very happy with (see Last of the Polar Bears). But it's also depressing to look back at Peach Fuzz, and the art style that came very naturally to me, that I've had to sweep under the rug and hide.

Still, while it's good to be flexible, this ordeal has given me a fair bit of stylistic schizophrenia. For example, earlier this year, I was approached by a comic creator seeking an artist for a graphic novel script they'd written. They felt a manga-style perfectly suited the story. After reading the script, I wholeheartedly agreed, and submitted some sample work. Unfortunately, their publisher did not want a manga style, so I didn't get the job.

I think the thing that gets me the most, is that even though mainstream publishers are apprehensive about comics with a heavy manga influence, the kids and teens adore it. The amount of times I've had kids come up to me at conventions to tell me that they loved Peach Fuzz, or even that it was the first "manga" they ever read (!!) are too numerous to count. The kids don't have any innate prejudices against the material--all they want is fun, appealing stories to read. Give that to them, and they're happy--who cares whether your artistic influences are eastern, western, or both?

Given enough time, I'm sure more publishers will open themselves to manga-influenced comics again... In the meantime, should creators have to alter their style to make a living? Sorry to say, but at least for this creator, it was either that or find a new career path.
20th-Sep-2010 01:26 pm - The Last of the Polar Bears pgs 28-29
Amanda and Peach

I updated www.lastpolarbears.com with pgs 28-29. Stella discovers the joy of leaving pawprints in the snow.

If you're relying on LJ for updates, pgs 26-27 will also be new to you. :)
7th-Sep-2010 04:24 pm - NYCC + Limited edition book!
Amanda and Peach
Hi everyone, I wanted to let you know about a couple of exciting things happening next month.

First, I'll be attending New York Comic Con next month (October 8 - 10, 2010 in New York City). You'll be able to find me in the artist alley with the usual array of books, stickers, bookmarks and other goodies. If you're attending NYCC, be sure to stop by the table and say hello!

The other exciting thing is that I've been working with a small press printer to produce a limited edition book collecting the first half of Chapter 1 of The Last of the Polar Bears, and it will be ready in October. It's always been my intention for The Last of the Polar Bears to be viewed in print, so I'm really thrilled to be making it a reality.

I'll be bringing the book with me to NYCC, where I'll be alternating my time between my artist table, and showing Last of the Polar Bears to publishers. Hopefully something good will happen from reaching out to publishers, but if not, I intend to continue self-publishing Polar Bears online and in print on my own.

To do that though, I'm going to need your help. If you're interested in seeing Polar Bears in print, be sure to pick up the new book. If this first book is a success (i.e. recouping my printing costs), future collected editions will follow. By supporting the printed edition, you'll also be helping me continue making pages for the online web comic version.

For those of you who can't attend NYCC, the book is available for sale through my website. I'm currently taking pre-orders and will ship them the second week of October. Each book will be hand-numbered, and those of you who pre-order will get the earliest numbers. :)

Follow the banner for more details about the book~!

Amanda and Peach

I updated www.lastpolarbears.com with pgs 24-25. Stella is ready for adventure. Nanook isn't.

If you're relying on LJ for updates, pgs 22-23 will also be new to you. :)
23rd-Aug-2010 01:13 pm - The Last of the Polar Bears pgs 20-21
Amanda and Peach

I updated www.lastpolarbears.com with pgs 20-21. Mama Bear is awake, and she's not happy. (If you'd been relying on LJ for updates, pgs 18-19 will also be new to you. I forgot to mention them last week. ^_^;)

Enjoy, and please leave a comment on the site if you have a moment. I'd love to hear your thoughts!


P.S. If you know anyone who might also enjoy the comic, please pass along the link to them! Thanks!
Amanda and Peach

I updated www.lastpolarbears.com with pgs 16-17. Nanook sees the world outside the den for the first time.

By the way, if you've been meaning to pick up a copy of my graphic novel, Peach Fuzz, but never got around to it, Amazon is currently selling the first volume for the bargain price of $3.33 - 67% off the cover price. I doubt you'll ever find it cheaper than that. :)

The deep discount price probably means Peach Fuzz in its current form is coming to an end, though that's just speculation on my part. Sad. But Peach Fuzz came out during a time when resistance to American-made manga was high, and the desire for all-ages graphic novels properties was still just starting to build. The first volume sold really well through Scholastic, but the bookstore buyers didn't give it much of a chance. That's unfortunate because kids frequently tell me that they want the book, but can't find it in stores (and don't have the means to buy stuff online). It would be nice to re-release the three volumes as an omnibus, though that's up to the publisher.

Anyways, just wanted to give you all a heads-up on the super cheap price. :)
2nd-Aug-2010 12:46 pm - The Last of the Polar Bears pgs14-15
Amanda and Peach

Just posted pages 14-15 of The Last of the Polar Bears webcomic. Peering out of the den.... See the full two-page spread here: http://www.lastpolarbears.com/comic-pages/chapter-1/the-last-of-the-polar-bears-pgs-14-15/
19th-Jul-2010 11:30 am - New webcomic
Amanda and Peach

Hi everyone~! I'm dusting off my LJ to say that I've started posting pages of The Last of the Polar Bears online as a web comic. I plan to post a new double-page spread every week, on Mondays, as well as write about the process of making comics as time allows. I just posted pages 10 and 11 today. You can read The Last of the Polar Bears comic here: http://www.lastpolarbears.com/

Why the webcomic format? I started working on The Last of the Polar Bears a year ago, researching, plotting the story from beginning to end, designing the characters, and working on the sequential art. After storyboarding the first chapter, I determined the complete story would be around 500 pages--meaning it could take years before the book would be ready for publication. I strongly believe in The Last of the Polar Bears and its message, so rather than keeping the project hidden for the next several years while I continue to work on it, I've decided to make the pages available to readers as they are created. I'd love to hear your feedback. :)
5th-Feb-2010 09:09 pm - Creative Lettering in Comics
Amanda and Peach
There has recently been a lot of scrutiny over the quality of lettering in the Twilight manga adaption. From what I've seen, I don't disagree. The lettering is lackluster, difficult to read and feels like an afterthought-- word balloons seem to be transparent and awkwardly placed for no other reason than simply because there wasn't any space allotted for them when the artist made the page. For example, the second panel of this sample page shows two hands touching over a microscope, but a word balloon has been plopped over top of it, covering the primary focus of the panel with dialogue.

I've read a number of blog posts listing lettering mistakes in the Twilight manga. But while there are basic guidelines for readability, lettering is not an exact science. As with other art forms, the art of lettering is subjective. Some of the techniques that have been identified by some bloggers as "wrong", such as word balloons bridging multiple panels, transparent word balloons, and overlapping word balloons, can actually be used to good effect under the right circumstances.

Here are some examples from various manga to show you what I mean:

Word balloons bridging between two panels - This can be an effective and interesting way to transition between scenes, or tie two panels together for a greater emphasis of their connection to each other.

In this scene from Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden by Watase Yuu, we see Takiko's change in reaction over two panels as another character gives her insight into the reasons behind an earlier event. The bridging word balloon makes the transition feel smoother and her reaction immediate, as the other character is speaking. Breaking up the dialogue into two separate balloons would have changed the timing of her reaction.

In the Suikoden III manga, Aki Shimizu raises the tension of an opposing army charging forward by connecting Lucia's word balloon to the adjacent panels. This gives us a sense that the enemy's war cry is ongoing (*and* getting louder - note the increasing size of the "aaaAAA" sound effect) as she instructs her son, Hugo, to make a critical choice.

Transparent word balloons - Used sparingly with thoughtful application, transparent word balloons can allow text to greater integrate with the imagery contained within the panel.

In these examples from Fate/stay Night, the transparent word balloons have a piercing effect, as if the words are going straight through the character as they are told something confusing, shocking, or unexpected.

Naoko Takeuchi uses transparent word balloons often in her Sailor Moon manga. I suspect that the effect is used more for aesthetic reasons, to integrate the balloons with the artwork in an attractive, non-intrusive way, like in this page featuring a full body illustration of Usagi. But it has the added effect of giving us a sense of being within Usagi's psyche as she reacts to information about a legend (the balloons contain voiceover dialogue from Rei).

In all of these examples, there's plenty of room where balloons could have been placed without obscuring the artwork, so I think it's safe to assume that they are intentionally transparent for effect.

Overlapping word balloons - Effective for indicating that a character is responding quickly, talking over, or interrupting another character.

Here's two examples from Nana by Ai Yazawa, one of my favorite mangaka. Showing the nuances of character interaction is one of her specialties.

In this panel, Yazawa uses the proximity of the word balloons to contrast between Nana's explosive outburst and Takumi's quick but cool-headed reaction.

In this panel, Junko's boyfriend Kyosuke adds detail to Junko's comment. The overlapping panels here give the impression that these romantically-involved characters are working together to build upon each other's thoughts.

Finally, here's an example from my own book, Peach Fuzz (volume 3, pg 56). This page utilizes all three techniques:

Edwin and Peach are ferrets that don't see eye-to-eye in their needs, so while Peach is concerned with status and entitlement, Edwin is quick to get distracted by the presence of food. As Peach explains the layout of her kingdom in the first panel, Edwin perks up at the mention of food and interrupts her with an overlapping word balloon. His word balloon flows uninterrupted into the second panel, as we close in on Edwin's drooling face. Peach's response bridges the gap between the second and third panels as she explosively wrestles control of the conversation again. Finally, in the fourth panel, Peach's assumptions that Edwin has a kingdom of his own blend seamlessly into the sparkly background through the use of a transparent word balloon, showing us that she's caught up in her own fantasy.

In all of these cases, the style of the word balloons helps express the tone and intent of the character without ever sacrificing readability -- that's important. These techniques should not be used on every page, only when there is a need for it. To use word balloons effectively, I find that it's essential to plan out the word balloons at the same time I'm composing the actions and layout of a page - during the roughing stage.

There's a *lot* more you can do with word balloons and lettering to enhance the story. I'll cover more of the basics and other creative techniques in a future post.
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