I have in my collection a rather large amount of books dedicated to comic theory and craft. I love reading about comic theory. And since a lot of these books tend to be recommended reading I thought it might be beneficial to share my thoughts and review some of the books I've read and will read; On the chance that you might be wondering if a certain book might be of benefit to you and worth the time to read. The books I might review here may not be limited to just books about comics but books that may help us all grow as artists.
So I will start off with my favorite.Manga in Theory and Practice: The Craft of Creating Manga
This book is my Holy Grail. And it should be an indispensible part of any Jojo fan's collection. If you know me at all, you will know just how much Jojo's Bizarre Adventure means to me. Ah, but wait! Don't stop reading! You may say you yourself are not a Jojo fan or even really know much about it. Let me assure you, not only is this book a pivotal book for Jojo fans but for all aspiring comic artists, writers or even just for people curious about the creative process. The book is written in such a way that even if you're not familiar with Jojo, enough is explained so you may follow the examples. For those familiar with Jojo lore, it offers insight into some of the pivotal points.
I admittedly pre-ordered this book before I even had any idea of what it was about. You might think the rather long title says it all, but I had no idea if I was getting a 'How-To Manga' style book or what. What follows is an indepth and influential look as to what it takes to create a long running classic manga. Araki-Sensei begins by explaining the purpose of his book and why he chose a to write a book as opposed to drawing a comic. He believes in what he calls the "Golden Way" or "Royal Road to Creating Manga", which to put it simply is Manga as an Art Form made to last as opposed to a temporary hit. And he very much agrees that you may not agree with all the ideas he presents but rather believes that there is still value in what he has to teach and it's applications to not only manga but to creatives across all mediums.
The book is framed in two ways really. Araki-Sensei spends a good deal outlining his own trial and error by offering examples from his own early career and works as well as providing examples of other successful stories. The second way is by examining the structure of good storytelling and what to look for in other works. I should point out a lot of his specifics are for shounen manga but in a general sense his lessons still apply. He outlines the four fundamentals: Characters, Story, Setting and Themes and explores each one in depth. He points out that you may notice that not all popular stories incorporate all four structures but that if you analyze it you may understand the story does one of these things well enough that it resonates with the audience. And above all, he points out, a comic artist should be able to incorporate all of these with their art and this is what sets them apart from other disciplines.
In each section he goes into depth about how he crafts each fundamental and what sorts of pitfalls he avoids. When it comes to characters, he discusses design, motivation, and the importance of a detailed background. When it comes to story, he outlines the Japanese story structure known as Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu (Introduction, Development, Twist and Resolution)(Note the difference in the Western 3-act structure). For example, he explains why even though he writes shounen manga he will never do tournament arcs because they defy the rising action of this structure.
The following section deals with his thoughts on art and the goals of art and how he came to pursue his style. After that, he goes into the importance of setting and of research in order to establish that setting. And finally he settles upon themes as the basic most important component of all stories. He believes the theme is a reflection of an author's philosophy and attempts to change your theme to fit an audience will only result in a weaker story.
Finally he concludes the book with examples of one shots he has worked on, outlining his meeting with editors, script creation, planning and implementation.
I hope that by pointing out what the book is about and what it discusses that I've piqued your interest. It really is a wonderful book and even if there are parts you don't agree with, you will at least be peeking into the process of an established author and may be able to take something from that. There are many sections that I feel are important and that I'd love to share with people but you'd be better off reading it for yourself and walking away with your own impressions. I'd advise people to either highlight or take notes on Araki-Sensei's words.
But finally let me share with you a part of a section that I found inspiring for my own writing:"I'm sometimes asked, "Do you ever run out of ideas?" but I don't believe that ideas ever run out; I think a creator's curiosity can run out and then the ideas stop coming. Because good ideas come from one's life and experiences, losing interest in the world mean's losing the ability to come up with ideas...You musn't restrict your attentions to only things that interest you; that sort of conceit must be avoided."