“Tonoharu: Part Three” Review on Comics Bulletin!


“Like all great graphic novels – and this is a great graphic novel – Tonoharu encompasses many truths, delivering a book that moves the reader to profound meditations about the walls we build, the geographies we live in, and the transient vicissitudes of life.” —Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin

Read the full review here!

My thanks to Comic Bulletin and Jason Sacks for the thoughtful review!

Two weeks ago I wrote this blog entry, promising a followup in my “next” blog entry. With all the book shipments and such I didn’t have time to write it yet, but I hope to do so for next Monday’s entry. Stay tuned!

Tonoharu: Part Three—SIGNED COPIES NOW ON SALE!!

Great news! Copies of Tonoharu: Part Three are en route to me, and are scheduled to arrive early this week!! (The week of October 9th~October 15th.)  As such, I should be able to start mailing out orders in just a matter of days!

Since I now have confirmation that I’m just days away from having copies, I’ve decided to start accepting orders. You can pre-order Tonoharu: Part Three (as well as any of the other Tonoharu books) by following this link:

Get those orders in now. Thanks!

State-of-the-Art Ephemera


Imagine calculating your monthly expenses on an abacus, and then turning around and entering that data into your smartphone. The workflow for my graphic novel Tonoharu was kind of like that.

First I’d draw the line art using tools straight out of the 19th century. Each panel was roughed out on paper with a pencil, eraser, and ruler, and then inked with a brush and a dip pen.

The dip pen—perfect for inking comics (or signing the Declaration of Independence).

After that I’d scan the artwork into my computer. All of the coloring, typesetting and page layout was done digitally, using cutting edge computer hardware and software that had been released just a matter of months before.

I could have ditched my analogue drawing tools and gone completely digital. Even back in 2003 when I first started Tonoharu, you could get a computer monitor that you draw on directly with a stylus, roughly simulating the experience of drawing on paper. That would have streamlined the process (no more scanning in each and every panel), and allowed for quicker, on-the-fly edits.

But honestly, I never really even considered going that route.

Inertia was a factor to be sure. I’d drawn by hand my entire life, so I was reluctant to completely uproot my artistic process. Price was another factor; tablet/monitor hybrids were (and still are) a pretty significant expense.

But probably the biggest reason I dismissed digital art creation was because I thought that it would compromise the quality of the work. And to be fair, I think even the most advanced pen displays are still inferior to physical tools in a number of ways.

Real brushes and dip pens bend and flex, really giving you a sense of the line as it gets thicker and thinner. A stylus/monitor can’t provide that sort of tactile feedback.

When you draw on a monitor, there’s a piece of glass separating the stylus from the pixels. So you’re not drawing directly on the surface the way you are on a piece of paper. In addition to that, the plastic stylus tip moving across the glass feels slippery.

Pictured: Where the stylus is touching the glass (red arrow) and where the line is showing up (green arrow)

And finally, there’s sometimes a bit of lag from when you move a stylus across the monitor to when the line actually shows up. This is especially pronounced when you’re drawing quickly or using a large digital brush.

All these factors make digital drawing feel more floaty and less precise than drawing the old fashioned way. So for years, I snubbed my nose at the very idea of digital art creation.

While I still acknowledge digital’s shortcomings, I’ve since done a complete 180 on the subject. I’m now fairly convinced I’ll be working exclusively digitally for all of my artistic projects from here on out.

I’ll explain where this change of heart came from in my next blog entry. Stay tuned!


Finally, this week’s obligatory Tonoharu: Part Three shipping update:
First off, a recap of the thrilling saga of me waiting for copies of Tonoharu: Part Three to arrive:
Two weeks ago, copies of Tonoharu: Part Three were traveling by rail to my distributor.
Last week, they arrived at the distributor, but hadn’t been logged into their computer system yet.

Now on to this week’s episode:
Six days ago the shipment of Tonoharu: Part Three was logged into the distributor’s computer system. I requested some of those copies be sent to me, and prepaid for the shipping. The order has officially been placed.

And…that’s all I know for now.

My contact at the distributor says the warehouse should let him know when they’re shipped, but I kind of got the sense that maybe they’re not always the best at conveying even that. And apparently getting tracking numbers is rarer still.

So maybe the books have already shipped and I’ll get them later today. Or maybe they won’t ship for another week or two. :-/

I’ll update this entry if I hear anything new. Otherwise I’ll have a new blog entry up next Monday as usual!

“Tonoharu: Part Three” Media Flyer

Marketing flyer for Tonoharu: Part Three.

First off, exciting news! The main shipment of Tonoharu: Part Three arrived at the distributor late last week!

Apparently it takes “a few days” for books to be processed and put into the distributor’s computer system. After that happens, they’ll send some copies to me via UPS Ground, which will take another few days.

So when will I have copies available for sale through my website? I don’t know exactly, but I’d imagine I’ll get them sometime next week or the week after…? Not long now, in any event. I’ll keep you posted!


With the release just around the corner, I’ve begun preparations for the MASSIVE MARKETING PUSH I intend to give the third and final volume of Tonoharu. A big part of that is sending out review copies to media people. In addition to the book itself, I send out a promotional flyer to try to pique reviewers’ interest.

As I’ve done for past Tonoharu marketing materials, I’ve gone for a classy, “Oscar bait” type design for the flyer.

I was careful to make sure that the design folded neatly in half, with the top half having a strong visual hook and the bottom half having all the important information about the book. This perfectly fits the size of the book:

For the actual ad copy, I decided to emphasize Tonoharu’s absurdly long development and ill-advised scope:

Tonoharu is a graphic novel trilogy about a young American who moves to rural Japan to work as an English teacher.
Featuring more than two hundred distinct locations meticulously crosshatched in a style reminiscent of 19th century etchings, the scope of Tonoharu’s depiction of modern Japan is unprecedented in the world of Western comics. The series was thirteen years in the making, with almost half of that time devoted to realizing its highly-anticipated final volume.
Tonoharu: Part Three expands on the themes introduced in the first two books, exploring the sense of isolation inherent to living abroad, the unique relationships that form in expat communities, and the challenges in connecting with the locals.
Tonoharu comes to a stunning conclusion in this unique portrait of the joys and frustrations of living in Japan.

So there you have it! If you just can’t get enough of my sweet design work, you can click here for a full-sized version of the flyer. (446kb PDF file).

See ya next Monday!

“Tonoharu” Media Page

header2The main shipment of copies of Tonoharu: Part Three is currently in the US, traveling by rail. They should arrive to the distributor this week, and then the distributor will send some of them to me. So I’m hoping to get my hands on them some time late this month or in early October (knock on wood).

Once I have a bunch of copies on hand, I hope to start contacting media people in earnest to try to drum up interest. I still haven’t decided what my e-mail “pitch” is going to look like, but I figure it should be short and sweet, and conclude with a web link they can go to in case they want more information. I want that link to be a “one stop shop” for info about Tonoharu, including what it is, links to sample artwork, and stuff like that.

So that’s been my project this week. Here’s the page I’ve cobbled together:

The Tonoharu media page is a work in progress, so if you have any comments or criticisms, I’m all ears!

Also! If anyone knows of any websites/blogs/magazines/newspapers/reporters/etc., etc., that they think would be interested in Tonoharu, please let me know! It’d be very useful.

Okay, that’ll be it for this week. See you next Monday!