In a previous post we discussed two out of the five major points doujinshi artists have to keep in mind when producing their works. Let’s wrap things up with the last three items on our list.
Paper and Print Quality
Another major budget consideration is paper and print quality. In Japan, there are plenty of professional printers that accept projects from doujinshi artists; however, that is not the case with the Philippines, so we are encouraged to improvise.
A neat trick that many college art students use and that you can take advantage of as well is to use a laser photocopier machine. The proofs are drawn in larger sizer — A2 or A3 in some cases, and then taken to the photocopier to be reduced to A5 and then mass produced. What you end up with is a sheet of A4 with two major panels on each side composed of clear and crisp lines. You can then fold it in half and staple straight down the middle to make a comic book.
Paper is another consideration to make. Generally the thicker the paper the better the print quality and durability. However, it’s not a very good idea to splurge on some good quality paper if it means blowing your entire budget. Settle on the thickest size you can afford — 16 weight is already good, since going lower means your comic will tear easily, and going higher will make your comic more expensive to produce.
Line Art and Coloring
Nothing ruins a good comic more than sloppy linework and badly-washed colors. Doujinshi artists with goals to make it to the big leagues start honing their speedball skills with their very first comic. However, if the idea of using speedballs and india ink intimidates you, there is a practical solution: refillable drafting pens.
Thses pens are staples for engineering and drafting students, and come in a variety of point and nib sizes. The most popular brands are STEADLER and ROTRING, and they are quite affordable and easily available at your nearest school supplies store. These pens eliminate the messy business of inking speedballs since they carry their own refillable ink reservoirs, and allow you to practice your sketching, cross-hatching, and line work where ever you please.
As for color, many — if not all manga artists use COPIC markers to color their works. They come in nearly three hundred colors and have up to nine nibs. They even have a gray scale line designed especially for manga artists, since manga is done mainly in back and white. COPIC markers are likewise available locally, although they are a tad pricey so make sure you pick only the colors you use constantly.
Last but not least, is the importance of telling a good story. Some new circles are too ambitious and do a 50-page comic on their first try. I don’t like to discourage these new circles as much as the next collector, but I personally feel that new artists should practice with a few shorter works before attempting their EPIC LIFE’S WORK™. Heck — a collection of funny and spot-on yonkoma poking fun at Saotome Alto’s hairstyle is infinitely more enjoyable than a full 100-page dissertation on why Macross Valkyries™ should not fly.
Try to create a story that is both brief and accessible, even to readers who are only distantly acquainted with the series you are working on. Too many in-jokes, deviations from the original character’s design and personality (unless your comic is a full-on comedic parody), or artistic liberties ruin the entire doujinshi experience. Try to limit the insertion of Mary Sues into the mix; if you’d really like to use an original character it might be better if you made an entirely new fictional universe to go along with it.
Most importantly, the story has to be entertaining. We read manga to entertain ourselves, so doujinshi shouldn’t be too far removed from that concept. Good stories “show”, not “tell” — don’t be too heavy handed on your readers. And if you must, limit fandom meta and other expositions to the Talk or Author pages of your comic :)
That’s it for my criteria for making good doujinshi, from a buyer’s perspective. Of course the artists themselves may have a different set of priorities, and it would be great to hear from them. If you are a member of a circle producing doujinshi here in the Philippines, or are another collector like myself, I definitely want to read about your thoughts. Please drop a line in the comments section, or e-mail me directly. After all, the more, the many-er :D