Outside of Japan, heck, even inside of Japan, the road to a career in manga is risky. It’s not enough just to have raw talent.
Manga artist Elena Vitagliano knew that even being the 2011 first place winner of the UK’s premier manga contest, Manga Jiman, wasn’t enough. So she came up with what I think is a pretty ingenious idea: she invited four other artists who’ve won the contest over the years to join a manga collective, Cross#atch.
Need an illustrator, a portrait artist, or a workshop instructor? The idea behind Cross#atch is that you can go to one place and find all of England’s top manga talent there. Hailing from diverse backgrounds—Vitagliano is Italian; her colleagues hail from Portugal, Libya, China, and England—their work is equally impressive but distinct.
Elena reached out to me in September to ask if I’d like to review a copy of Cross#hatch’s debut book, Hatchlings. It’s basically all four of their winning entries (two of the five are collaborators) in one volume, bookended with a cute visual story of the artists’ avatars meeting for the first time. Title pages are in color, chapters are in black-and-white.
The artistic styles are certainly varied, but each story reveals a common theme of self discovery. But since there aren’t any links to buy the book, that’s not what my review is focusing on. I’m more impressed by how these artists devised a strategy to stand out by teaming up together.
In creative fields it can be especially tough to stand out. But when Elena put her ego aside and invited the people that should be her competition to join her collective, she really increased her chances of success. Even if people who buy a Cross#atch book or attend one of their drawing workshops prefer another artist’s style, for example, that’s still attention that goes toward the collective. And the more people are talking about it, the more likely it is that Elena will find her perfect customers.
I can see this technique working not just for illustrators, but for cosplay accessory creators, photographers, and even indie game designers. More people means more content and variety, which means more clients and buzz. To me, the fact that’d she’d gotten so much top talent to work together was the most interesting part of Elena’s pitch.
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