Truly great artists have there own unique style. From classic painters like Van Gogh and Picasso to modern comic artists like Scott McCloud and Obata Takeshi, anyone could look at a painting or panel and instantly see the artist’s unique lines, character design, color, and use of space. Even for beginners its important to start developing a style as soon as possible. It affects the way people view your work, and it can dramatically influence how your comics characters and environments are perceived.
A good artist borrows, a great artist steals. If you took this statement literally, you’d do yourself a great intellectual disservice, and your work would inherently ooze of disgraceful plagiarism. However, the presence of a continuous tradition in art has been a source of great scholastic work. The continuous tradition, or the presence of recurring themes in all types of art, is the reason why originality in modern work seems so difficult to find. However, I do believe that your work should not be valued by your subject, but by how you treat it.
When I sit down to create a main character for a piece of work, I first determine whether or not the narrative requires a main character. If it is a fragmented narrative, like Last Exit to Brooklyn or I, Robot, it may not need a main character for the story’s continuity, as readers can pick up on even minor characters’ identifiable traits. Stories like I, Robot or World War Z can use the trick of a narrator collecting stories within the book’s universe, but since the manga I wrote has a clear main character, I won’t cover those methods any further. Once I have an idea, I bring the characters I’d like to see interact within my idea into being name-first. I start from a name because it’s a great way to take inspiration in an everyday situation; we all use names every day, we read them, hear them, and speak them, so when you’re thinking about it, several names will strike your fancy throughout the course of the day and get you thinking. Another reason I start with names is because I mentally ascribe certain personalities and types of people to certain names, so when I come across an interesting name, it’s not a huge leap to invent an interesting character.
With any creative work involving a narrative one of the most important aspects is the character design. This is especially true in comics for two reasons: first, not only is the character’s personality taken into account but also every part of their looks and style must also be created from scratch; second, a long running series may have many plots stretching over hundreds of chapters, so the characters must be flexible enough that they can change with the long running narrative while still remaining true to their core values and ideas. As the artist, I’m mostly going to focus on the physical design of the character, while using the character of the comic (a man by the name of Tetsuya Takeda) as an example.