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Cartoonist learns the hard way how demanding his craft can be

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA‒ Shortly after arriving in Japan in 2003, cartoonist Lars Martinson began work on Tonoharu, a graphic novel about the experience. He estimated that he would finish the book in two or three years. Now, more than seven years later, he has just reached the halfway point.

It’s a familiar story in the world of independent comics. When cartoonist Chris Ware began Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, he figured he’d be done with it in a summer; it ended up taking six years. Charles Burns spent a decade drawing his graphic novel Black Hole. Art Spiegelman devoted thirteen years to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus.

If Lars continues at his current pace, Tonoharu will take him even longer. So what is it about graphic novels that makes them so time-consuming?

“Unlike movies that have crews of hundreds, independent comics are usually the product of just one person,” Lars said. “It’s great in that they give you complete creative control, but they take a lot longer to finish, especially if you have an intricate art style.”

Tonoharu certainly falls into that camp. The book’s tight crosshatching is more evocative of woodblock prints than comic book illustration.

“I’ve always admired the detailed engravings in books from the nineteenth century, and felt that style would be a good fit for Tonoharu,” Lars said. “If I had known how long it would take, I might have reconsidered!”

Tonoharu: Part One is available now; the follow-up Tonoharu: Part Two hits shelves this December. For further details, visit Lars’ website at

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     Tonoharu: Part Two
AUTHOR:     Lars Martinson
CATEGORY:     Graphic Novel / Fiction
LIST PRICE:    $19.95 USD
PAGES:    160
SPECIFICATIONS:    Hardcover w/ full color jacket,   Two-color text pages, 5½”×8¼”
ISBN-13:    978-0-9801023-3-8
PUBLISHER:    Pliant Press
PUBLICATION DATE:    December 1, 2010
DISTRIBUTION:    Top Shelf Productions / Diamond Book Distributors

Mr. Chris Staros
Top Shelf Productions
P.O. Box 1282
Marietta, GA 30061
TEL (770) 425-0551
FAX (770) 427-6395
chris [at] topshelfcomix [dot] com