So, you wanna be a manga artist? Well, so do many, many artists just starting out ­ so check out these titles to see what your competition may be, and to gather advice on how to make it (or at least create the best work you can) in the world of manga-style comics.

However you define manga, there’s no question Japanese comics have had a huge influence on comic art today, and will continue to do so as all the dedicated manga fans put pen to paper and write and draw manga-style comics of their own.

Tokyopop’s annual Rising Stars of Manga competition is one of the best ways to get your feet wet if you’re serious about giving manga a try. The judges give honest criticism, which each volume gives in a prologue to each story, and even if creators don’t make the final cut, they encourage aspiring artists to submit again once they’ve honed their skills. The nicest thing about these manga collections is that they are a window into what’s to come while at the same time giving a window into how the judges (the editors and staff at Tokyopop) consider each title, commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of each entry.

For the latest volume 6, there’s everything from a surprise lesson in searching the trash to a villain’s check list for successful crimes to a violin that cries. These artists take to heart the example and lessons that manga teaches, but they use those tools to create work entirely their own.

Mangaka America is a lush book, full of many pages of everything from sketches to final art from the leading manga-style creators already working professionally. The title highlights some of, in my humble opinion, the best artists working in manga-style comics today, from Svetlana Chmakova (Dramacon) to Christy Lijewski (Re:Play) to M. Alice LeGrow (Bizenghast). There are profiles and chatty interviews of each artists, showing off how each creator works from imagining a story to the nitty gritty of what tools they use.

Now, there are fans who quibble about what manga is, and I see a lot of those points as valid (Japanese manga is unique in its perspective, and I don’t quite buy that manga made elsewhere is automatically the same.) However, in the end, comics are comics, and good stories are good stories. These artists are those who are not just imitating manga’s rules and visuals but are also making fresh stories and inventing new looks that meld styles together ­ and it’s just plain fun to guess where it’s all going. I just look forward to the stories that are coming ­ from these examples, there’s already a lot in the works, and there’s always room for more.

Rising Stars of Manga, vol. 6
by Various Authors
ISBN: 9781595328168
Tokyopop, 2006

Mangaka America
by Various Authors
ISBN: 9780061137693
Harper Collins, 2006

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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