The vertical four panel comic is a format commonly used in Japan, for good reason. A yonkoma, as it is called in Japanese, serves wit and humor in a nutshell. It provides a reduced, very efficient framework to train visual narration – a reason why I’m using this format in my workshops to get creative processes going. The more people contribute to a yonkoma development, the easier it gets to bring diverse matters into a smart sequence of images. And the richer the result.
After years of training varied audiences, I decided to introduce this interactive storytelling method to the Berlin Manga Club. Since we first teamed up in 2009, we’ve been working together on eight now published manga anthologies and numerous drawing workshops, sharing manga related talks and literally never getting tired of it. Drawing yonkoma is nothing new to most manga artists, but creating them together is something different.
So I was really looking forward to see the outcome of such a teamwork-storytelling. And I wasn’t disappointed: When you get interested and skillful people to interact, the learning process becomes both dynamic and playful. Before long, vivid cooperation among seven artists led to a row of seven entertaining short stories, done in about an hour. Guiding that process, I realized once again how much I love to encourage and to channel teamwork, and how well-suited yonkoma comics are to do so.
A couple of years ago, what I needed most when I started to draw comics on a professional level (i.e. getting paid for it) was the confidence of not being alone with my interests. To be able to make a living only out of comics (manga and western style alike) may be still somewhat exceptional in German culture, but we passionate artists don’t come alone, there’s a bunch of us. And this is what ultimately gives us strength, I think. Every now and then, we come together to produce something new, and since it is fun… chances are high there will be sequels. So be on the lookout for more to come!
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