Thursday, July 24, 2008

Updates on my manga work

I'm back, as promised, and the calculus manga book is now completed and published. I've also moved to the Los Angeles area, and am looking forward to a new phase in my life.

The all-digital workflow that I used for this book worked beautifully. At the beginning, while I was still getting used to the Cintiq, each page was taking as much time as when I was finishing my first book. But once I got used to it, there was no comparison in terms of speed and convenience.

Also, thanks to my readers out there, my evolution manga is now on its third printing (the second printing of 1,000 lasted less than two months). I got a big boost in sales when I got it on the shelves at the gift shop of the National Science Museum in Tokyo, during the Darwin exhibit. That exhibit is now in Osaka, so I'm hoping that'll help sales too.

And now, I'm excited to see how the calculus manga will do.

But, this is only the beginning, so my next project will be to work on skills and ideas necessary to do a weekly series of fiction. I plan to become a hermit very soon...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Going on hiatus...

Taking care of our daughter, supporting my wife while she finishes her medical residency, and, of course, working on my next book, leaves very little time to do anything else. To focus on these tasks, I'm going to take a break from this blog for a while.

Making manga is not just a mental endeavor, but a physical one as well. These days, with the lack of sleep, I'm finding that I don't have enough energy left after I come home from my day job. To remedy that, I've started exercising again (I stopped when Audrey was born). Hopefully I'll get into a routine that I can keep for the long-term.

So the plan now is to finish my math manga book early next year. After that, I'll focus on improving my skills and working on ideas so I can bring them to a publisher in Japan.

I'll be back here, at this blog, to talk about the manga path again...I promise. But for now, I'll be concentrating on getting this career on track. After all, if I don't succeed in becoming a full-time mangaka, there will be no path to talk about.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Input devices useful for creating manga

Now that I've gone completely digital, my main manga tools are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. I use two displays: a Wacom Cintiq 21UX (mentioned in a previous post) that allows me to draw directly on the screen, and a 30" Apple cinema display that is great for doing layout work.

This setup has been wonderful, but manga work on the computer can be tedious at times, and you really have to be careful about avoiding repetitive stress injuries. For that, the creative use of input devices is essential.

When you're sitting in front of a tablet monitor like the Cintiq, it's a bit harder to use your keyboard. Part of it is because the hand that's not holding the pen might be grabbing the monitor, so that if you want to type, you tend to have to look down to relocate the keys.

Now anyone who likes to work efficiently in Photoshop uses shortcut keys, if not programmed macros to simplify tedious tasks. But when you can't access the keyboard easily, all this doesn't work very well. Fortunately, the Cintiq 21UX has programmable buttons on the side so that you can access your most used commands with your free hand. But Photoshop is complicated enough that a few buttons just doesn't cut it.

Enter the NuLOOQ input device from Logitech. It's a small device that has buttons, directional and twisting controls, along with a touchpad interface (similar to the one on the iPod). But, unlike the Contour ShuttlePRO, which has many buttons that I find confusing to use for my purposes, this is simple and compact enough so that you never have to look down to figure out which button to press. I programmed this device with controls such as zooming in and out, changing brush sizes, undo and redo, scrolling in all directions, and useful modifier keys such as command, shift-command, etc.).

This device also comes with the NuLOOQ navigator software, which is a programmable popup tool. I've programmed the button on my Cintiq pen, so that when I press it, the NuLOOQ navigator pops up. I've programmed the NuLOOQ navigator so that I can access the remaining functions that I frequently use in Photoshop.

So with this programmable navigator tool accessible from my pen in my right hand, the programmable NuLOOQ input device that I use with my left hand, and the programmable buttons on the Cintiq, I can often go for long periods working on my manga without having to access the keyboard.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Pets, manga, and comics

Before Audrey came along (and still now, of course!), my wife and I have been entertained by our two Maltese dogs, Heidi and Alfie. Although at first opposed to the idea of getting pets (because I thought it would be a hassle and chain us down), once we got them, life hasn't been the same and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Having never owned such pets before, I have to admit that I was really surprised to see how much personality and hilarious individual quirks dogs can have.


Heidi is a dog with a very broad spectrum of emotions. On the one hand, she can be super shy and demure. In fact, because she hid so much from strangers and loud sounds when she was a puppy, she got the name "Hide-y." On the other hand, when she's happy, she gets so spirited that she'll run around at a million-miles-per-hour with her tongue sticking out and will bark at and taunt a 60 pound dog (our dogs are a whopping 6 pounds each). She'll then look at you with her pretty lady eyes and sit patiently with good manners when she wants food, but, when sleeping, you'll find her sprawled out on her back.


Alfie has always been laid back and happy. When he's alone, you can peer in from another room to find him playing with toys, kicking balls around, rolling on his back, and just having a great time. One of his favorite pastimes is to taunt and annoy his big sister, Heidi. They'll eventually get into a wrestling match, and Heidi will overpower him to the point where he'll have to run away and hide under our bed. But within a few moments, he'll relentlessly come back for seconds...and more...and more...

Characteristic poses when waiting for mommy or daddy

I now understand completely why a cartoonist would want to create characters out of their pets. Charles Schulz owned a pointer, which influenced the creation of his character, Snoopy. And Dr. Seuss had many pets, which is probably why he liked drawing cats, and drew the furry feet of his creatures like the way our Alfie's feet get when he's in dire need of a haircut.

Someday, I'll make some comics or manga about my dogs too.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The first translation of my manga!

The Korean translation of my first manga has been made by Han Seung publishing, and it looks great (although I can't read the Korean)!

As for my second manga, it's coming along. Due to my wife's complicated pregnancy, I had taken a hiatus from this project. But I'm working hard on it again, now that Audrey has been safely born, and things have stabilized a bit. I've also started exercising again, which does help keep me at a higher energy level so that I have the stamina to work on my manga after my day job.

Audrey's been doing well, and I've been taking plenty of photos. I sold off a lens that I wasn't using, and upgraded my telephoto zoom to an image stabilized and optically superior version. So my current lineup is very functional now with the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro, and EF 70-200mm f/4 IS on a Canon EOS 20D.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The future of manga

While manga's popularity has been increasing steadily in the States and Europe, with translated manga filling dozens of bookshelves in major bookstores, it's been seeing a slow and steady decline in Japan, along with sales of general publications.

This is not surprising as there are increasingly more alternatives for people when it comes to hobbies. The same thing happened with plastic modeling, and, even with video games that seemed like the hottest thing a while back, we're seeing some stabilization.

One factor to this decline is the increasing desire for instant gratification. In some ways people are getting lazier, leading to the preference from the novel to manga, and now, even from manga to movies. The less work the audience has to do, the easier it is for them to be entertained. Even in America, we see comics taking on a new life and taking over Hollywood, with many of the highest grossing movies either being created from or inspired by comics and manga.

Another factor that is problematic is pirating and free use. The music and software industries suffered because of this, and now it's happening to manga. Although it has not yet become mainstream, more manga is being offered in digital formats, making it easier to copy them. Some have even started the pirating process by scanning individual manga pages themselves. Then there are problems like manga cafes, where customers can read manga to their hearts' content without paying a dime to the creators (while the manga cafes benefit from increased patronage, which is not right in terms of general business principles).

So the battle for content rights will rage on (so I hope), but one thing is certain. Without the audience somehow paying for manga, there will be no manga industry. And without an industry, there won't be much manga to read.

As for me, what matters most is that I can remain the storyteller. The final medium, in some sense, doesn't really matter, although I would like to start off in manga, which is where I can retain the most artistic control.

As for manga, if it gets too pigeon-holed into cliche roles, general interest in it as a medium will wane, and it won't have much of a future outside of pornography and fringe cultures. Manga needs to continue growing both in artistry and in its ability to express relevant human ideas, as is the mark of any good literature.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Audrey is born!

On April 18th, our daughter, Audrey, was born. As a golden pig on the Chinese zodiac, she adds to our tradition of surrounding my wife with pigdom, as our dog, Heidi, eats like a pig, and our other dog, Alfie, snorts like one. I was also born a pig.

My wife had a complicated pregnancy, so the sleepless nights that followed after the birth were pretty simple in comparison. It's given me an excuse to do more photography, and Audrey, at least not yet, doesn't mind me taking pictures of her. I can't wait for the weather to get better so that I can take some fresh spring pictures of the new baby.

Of course I'm not expecting her to get deeply entrenched into Gundam plastic modeling, but I am really looking forward to all the fun activities we'll be able to do together.