Arts and Entertainment
CONTEMPORARY AMATEUR MANGA (COMICS) IN NORTH AMERICA
Featuring U.S.-based artist Silvia Chang, also Canadian artist circle OFU

By Kat Kaneko Avila

OFU

"A bunch of artists roaming Toronto in search of a good place to draw, eat, and play." - from OFU's digital scrapbook
Tofu Cube
OFU is a doujinshi (DJ) artist circle whose members are mostly situated in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. My OFU contact is Heather-chan because she was the one who autographed my copy of their latest anthology ( TOFU 3: tofu cube) at Anime Expo 2001 (AX2001) in Long Beach, California. Fortunately for me (and I guess OFU too), Heather is a former university newspaper editor; in response to a very simple query she basically threw an interview into my lap, which didn't fully register until the last minute.

If the name OFU meant something before, it has lost that meaning now, but the group keeps the name because it sounds cool and has some name recognition. The group started in 1998 with about 10 people who met through an online fan-art community. When they figured out they all lived within driving distance of each other, they decided to risk meeting face-to-face. Luckily, no one turned out to be a psycho-killer or anything, says Heather. They maintain contact with each other through online chat, BBS (Bulletin Board System) and ICQ (I Seek You).

The inaugural issue of TOFU came into being in spring of 1999 and made its debut at Anime North, the only convention some OFU members attend. The anthology is presently sold only at conventions, though OFU might eventually take advantage of mail order. TOFU 1 is sold out (no plans for a reprint), TOFU 2 and TOFU 3 are still available, and TOFU 4 will be sold at Anime North 2002 (May 24-26, in Toronto) and Anime Expo 2002 (July 4-7, in Long Beach). Each issue of TOFU averages 7-10 contributors.

Leaving Home cover by Heather Chan To produce an issue of TOFU, Heather explains, "We photocopy printouts of our black-and-white comic pages and get digital printouts of the colour cover. The main cost of producing TOFU is the cover, which is often printed at a different print shop and costs extra to have the laser colour copies printed on cardstock (regular paper would be too flimsy for a cover). In past years, we've had to staple them [the DJs] ourselves, although this year I think we paid to have it done for us at the copy store. The size of our doujinshi is 5.5" x 8.5", the size of a standard piece of paper folded in half. The price we charge is basically just enough to cover the cost of printing. We shop around a lot to find the cheapest copy stores that can still give us high quality."

OFU is a closely knit group of friends who like to watch anime and read manga. The composition of OFU is mostly male. There are two women, Heather and Jen C, who have been with the group since the beginning and have contributed to all three issues of TOFU. "In general, the number of female English-speaking, anime-style amateur artists is not equal to the number of males, but then again, most anime fans are male, so it's not surprising. This has been changing slowly in recent times, but anime fandom is still far from being 50/50 M/F, and anime art fandom is nowhere close."

Dragon by Heather Chan They have been approached by others interested in joining up, but she stresses, "We're not a comic publisher. We're not a production company. We're not looking for new recruits." (The feeling, expressed on a defunct OFU site, is, "Do you like strangers showing up at your parties?") "You can't get the unity needed in a good doujinshi from people who don't also spend a lot of time together as friends," Heather points out. "Even though TOFU is an anthology of short stories, I think you can still feel that it is a group effort."

For further information, see:

OFU's web site: http://ofu.hypermart.net

Heather's web site: http://www.heatherchan.com

Other than the TOFU cover, all graphics accompanying the OFU interview are Heather's artwork. Heather has a B.S. in Biology and is currently attending animation school, hoping to eventually work as an illustrator or an animator. Her first picture was a Christmas card of the character Shampoo from RANMA 1/2. She didn't have much interest in drawing until she started watching anime in college and getting involved in OFU, whom she considers a great support group, both artwise and as friends.

*************************

Recommended for potential doujinshika:

HOW TO DRAW MANGA official web site
http://www.howtodrawmanga.com/
Publications generated by The Society for the Study of Manga Techniques. Available in English and Japanese. (Be careful! There is a similarly titled "How to Draw Manga" series published by Antarctic Press.)

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO ASSEMBLING A SELF-PUBLISHED COMIC
By Tammy Lee
http://www.umbrellastudios.com/
From the web site: "This straightforward guide to assembling a self-published comic will take you through the steps from deciding on a format for your comic to what to do when you are at the photocopy shop. This booklet concentrates on 'zine-style production techniques." And it only costs $2.00!

COPIC MARKERS
http://www.copicmarker.com/
COPIC markers are very popular among manga artists for color artwork. They are on the expensive side, but once you have used a COPIC marker it is very hard to go back to using any other.

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