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March 28, 2016

Drawing Manga - Guest Post by Danica Davidson


With comic books and graphic novels becoming much more mainstream, the door is wide open for manga --- Japanese comics --- to finally make their presence known in the United States. Although manga are more popular worldwide, they are still relatively unknown in our country. Writer Danica Davidson first discovered manga as a teen and has followed her passions to write about manga for numerous publications, including our sister site, In this blog, Danica explains how she became interested in manga and how her new book, MANGA ART FOR BEGINNERS, aims to introduce new readers to the genre.

It started out with a love of reading manga. When I was a teenager and discovered manga, it was like a whole new creative world opened up for me, with wonderful stories and characters to explore. I began to pitch articles on manga for different publications, and this led to me writing about the topic for Publishers Weekly, Booklist, CNN, MTV, The Onion . . . and, and! Next I started freelancing for a manga publishing company, adapting the books into English after they’d been translated from Japanese. All this led me to where I am today, preparing for the release of MANGA ART FOR BEGINNERS, my first book on manga.

Manga are Japanese comics, and worldwide they have a wider audience than American comics. They’re especially popular with teen and young adult readers in America, but the truth is that manga are written for people of all ages. Any type of story you want to read, no matter your age or genre preference, there’s a manga out there for you.

When an opportunity arose for me to write a book about manga, I was eager to get started. Skyhorse Publishing, the company I also write a series of Minecraft books for, was interested in publishing a book on how to draw manga, and I knew immediately how I wanted to map it out. A lot of how-to-draw books jump over steps. For example, they might show a basic outline, a picture halfway there, and then the finished drawing. I don’t know about you, but I can’t follow that sort of thing! I wanted a book that really showed step-by-step.

sdfI have the book, MANGA ART FOR BEGINNERS, start with the basics, showing how to draw eyes, faces and bodies. After pages on that, the book starts to show how to draw popular character types found in manga. These include ninjas (think Naruto), butlers (think Black Butler), and magical girls (think Sailor Moon). The book is composed of more than 200 pages with more than 400 drawings.

I wish I could claim credit for the art in this book, but, sadly, I can’t. After putting the proposal together, I teamed up with Melanie Westin, a great artist who came my way by a referral through an editor at VIZ Media, the country’s largest manga publisher. Melanie is also a big manga fan, and she learned how to draw from studying art books. This means she also understood my vision on showing how to draw characters very slowly, because she knows herself what works and doesn’t work in how-to-draw books. After I set up the proposal, Melanie did her amazing artwork and I wrote alongside her work.

With the book coming out, we hope to share it with our fellow manga friends and artists, and with librarians and teachers who know how passionately people can get involved with manga. Learning to draw manga can help people appreciate manga in a whole new way while also opening up their own creativity. Manga has definitely opened up a lot in my life, and I want to share my love and appreciation for it with readers of all ages.