by Harlequin’s Overseas Team & Harlequin Japan
You probably already know that Harlequin books are published around the world in more than 110 countries and more than 30 different languages, but did you also know that many Harlequin books from some of your favorite authors and series are also made into comics? This format of graphic novel, known as manga, is very popular in Japan, and over one hundred Harlequin comics are available in English in North America in digital format. You can buy them from many ebook retailers, as well as from balloonsandchapters.com.
All Harlequin comics start as Harlequin novels. From everything we publish in English, Harlequin’s Japanese office chooses a large selection of titles to translate into Japanese and publish locally in both print and digital formats. The adaptation to comic format happens in Japan and starts from the Japanese novel.
Our Japanese editors work with many different comic artists and select two or three novels to give to the artists at a time. Each comic artist has a specific style and is interested in certain types of stories. They read all the stories and select which ones they want to create as comics. Many artists say that getting inspiration from the book is one of the most important criteria for them to be able to create the manga.
The first step for the artists is to draw the characters’ rough illustrations. Next, they start working on writing out a summary of the story to work out the comic’s overall framework. From there, they work on design drawings with some rough illustrations and then start to put text into the comic balloons. The editors work very closely with the artists at this point in the process to make sure the storyline is accurate and that our readers will enjoy it. Finally, the artists make the final manuscript with full illustrations. For a 125 page comic, it can take artists as little as 3 weeks and as many as 4 months to complete!
We had a chance to speak with the Japanese comic editors and artists about the process for two particular comics:
As we set about adapting the bestselling Lords of the Underworld series, we faced the challenge of selecting the right artist for the series. The artist must not only bring the fictional world into life in full details through illustrations but also draw the mythic guardian heroes as divinely handsome men in a compelling way. Despite our initial worry, our problem was instantly solved as soon as someone mentioned the name in a meeting: Earithen, the artist who adapted The Darkest Night. The editorial team unanimously voted her the perfect choice.
Earithen said working on The Darkest Night was a life-changing experience for her as a comic artist. When the first draft of her storyboard arrived in the office, we were impressed by the quality. She had worked and reworked on the draft multiple times before sending it to us. The nagging question in her mind was: “What was so special about Maddox that made Ashlyn feel she could even sacrifice her life for him?” After reading Gena Showalter’s original text, the artist sensed that the special emotion that existed between Maddox and Ashlyn was a sudden, fleeting joy, which lifted them out of their feeling of eternal isolation. The challenge for Earithen was to effectively depict their precious love in the form of a comic.
Some fans of The Lords of the Underworld series might be surprised by the images of the characters, such as long-haired Paris and dreadlocked Sabin. She came up with such artistic treatments after poring over the story and identifying the unique features and appeal of each character. In the comic, Earithen constructed the characters by accentuating those attributes. Each hero, gorgeous in his very own way, acquired passionate followers in Japan based on the Japanese comics. Earithen’s favorites are Maddox and Torin. Japanese readers have told us that they are looking forward to seeing a happy ending for Torin one day.
Artist Kazuko Fujita says, “The Desert Sheikh’s Captive Wife holds a lot of memories for me. Since its part of The Rich, the Ruthless and the Really Handsome miniseries, I exchanged my illustrations of the characters with the artists who made the other two books in the miniseries so that we could try to draw the characters in a similar way. It was my very first experience working with the other artists and it was enjoyable! Lynne Graham’s heroine has great strength and I worked to portray her charm and strength in her face. I hope that I was successful in showing this in the comic. I think that there is a charm in the hidden passion behind the hero’s cold behavior. Don’t you think so? I spent a long time researching wedding dresses in order to draw this story, and really enjoyed the exotic mood of the sheikh story. This is one of my favorite parts of the drawing.”
Have you read manga before? What Harlequin books do you think would make a great comic?