Ommus and I got to talking about some of the differences between American comics and Japanese manga (comics) a ways back. It started with broad strokes, such as how they can print these fat black & white tomes and sell the shit out of them, and how they enjoy a much more mainstream acceptance than American comics. Then we got to the details: the tones and ink styles, the four-panel grid many of them use, even the formats and layouts of the books themselves. It made me realize I need to pick up some more of this stuff.
I’ve always been a Lone Wolf and Cub Fan, so I picked up some other Kazuo Koike work and started looking at it from a creator’s perspective rather than just as a fanboy. I started with Path of the Assassin, and it amazed me how quickly I could burn through such a dense (in terms of page count) book with that four-panel grid. The pace just moves along, and it seems artist Goseki Kojima can pack in much more information without having to rely on splash pages for major scenes or reveals. The grid left him plenty of elbow room to show off his ink lines and rendering. Of course, it also helps that there’s a lot of historical detail in this one, and I just eat it right up.
I picked up two volumes of Koike’s Crying Freeman, too. I enjoyed the first volume, but the second went off the rails. It just got a little too out there. Artist Ryoichi Ikegami breaks the four-panel grid frequently, yet like Path of the Assassin, I ripped through these 300+ page books in no time. Ikegami rendered some great images in brushwork, then transitioned into some straight lines and tones. It makes for a very lush book, despite the lack of color.
It stuns me how long some of these series run. I read the first Death Note book and the first few MPD-Psycho volumes, and I liked the way they slowly revealed the layers of their plots without leaving more and more questions behind. Yet if you look at some of these manga series on the shelves, they run for a dozen volumes or more. Something I’ll need to explore is whether they concentrate on one long story, similar to the way books like 100 Bullets and Preacher reach a finite end, or if they reboot/relaunch themselves like most of the American superhero books.
In any case, they make for entertaining study. There’s a reason the Big Bad Wolves preview book is in a four-panel grid, and I can tell you, the artist, Mike S Henderson, loved me for it. Sure, his art boards were the same size, but he was able to lay out and draw the pages a lot faster. I could probably explain why if I were an artist and had the words, so I’ll just assume it’s because he didn’t have to draw as much detail in tinier spaces. At this point, whatever helps an artist move along more quickly is a good thing.
It will be fun to see how much reading the manga style and pacing will affect my scripting the next few weeks.