Free manga on the web

Hi everyone! I’m Brigid, the newest member of Digital Strips. Some of you may be familiar with my other blog, MangaBlog. Daku invited me to join the crew here to talk about online manga.

I have a great manga to start off with, but you have to act fast: For the next two days, Tokyopop is making volume 1 of Dramacon available for free on the web. They have been adding one chapter a day, with the final chapter going up on November 8. After that, they will take all the chapters down. Their manga reader is pretty easy to use, but there’s a catch: To read more than the first few pages, you have to register on the site. As annoying as that is, registration is free and they won’t spam you.

Dramacon is a screwball romantic comedy set at a comics convention. The heroine is a comics writer whose boyfriend has suddenly gotten in touch with his inner jerk, so when she meets a quirky, mysterious stranger, sparks begin to fly. It’s well written, and the characters feel very authentic. Tokyopop has just released volume 2 in print but not on the web.

This is an American manga, so it reads left to right, and the art is a little less stylized than the stereotypical Japanese manga. In fact, Svet does a nice job of giving each of her characters a distinct personality. She still uses many manga conventions, like using symbols (sweatdrops, the cross-shaped anger sign) to signify feelings and drawing the characters as chibbi (chubby little children) when they get emotional.

Dramacon was conceived as a print comic, and the web format is two-page spreads. Unfortunately, losing the three-dimensional split between the two pages makes them a bit harder to read. Svet uses a lot of toning and a lot of diagonals, and she varies the sizes and shapes of her panels quite a bit. Without a sharp separation between pages, the layout can be confusing. On the plus side, Tokyopop’s manga reader is easy to use and, unlike a lot of web formats that I’ve seen, fits comfortably on my horizontal computer screen.

Svet’s style may seem familiar to webcomics readers because she is the author of Night Silver and Chasing Rainbows. She also writes The Adventures of CG for Cosmo Girl.

While you’re on the site, you may want to check out some of Tokyopop’s other online manga. They have just reset all their books to chapter one, so this is a good time to start reading. Every week they put up a new chapter and take the last one down, so bookmark your favorites.

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