In a startling turn of events, I’m trying a new segment for the blog: featuring my favorite artists on Fridays. Friends of mine will make the list occasionally, but I want to include some big (and maybe not-so-big) names.

This week I want to talk about my first favorite artist, Akira Toriyama.

Here in the United States, anybody who hears the name can name one project of his immediately: Dragonball Z.

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I already wrote all about my experiences with the series in an older post. So I won’t talk too much about it except to say that Dragonball Z was an influence on me early on in life, and it and its prequel, Dragonball, are still my favorite comics to read.

However, let’s talk about Akira Toriyama’s first hit manga, called Dr. Slump.

220px-DrSlump1Dr. Slump was the first manga of Toriyama-sensei’s I ever read, to tell you the truth. I saw Dragonball Z on TV but never read the original manga until I came across an abandoned Shonen Jump magazine in high school. But back to Slump.

I loved Dr. Slump immediately. I loved the outrageous jokes, the characters, the whimsical and playful art, and the pacing (which was brilliant).

Once I finished the first volume, I went ahead and got Dragonball the manga and devoured it, and then moved on to Dragonball Z.

Where do I start with my love for Toriyama-sensei’s work?

I want to start with an under-appreciated aspect of comics-making: pacing.

Toriyama paces his work very well starting in Dr. Slump. Once he gets into Dragonball Z is when his pacing and his sense of timing are really shining through. I think part of why he’s good at this is because he’s primarily a joke-teller. Telling jokes is all about timing, and Toriyama does it well. He carries this skill over into the actual story, and he KNOWS how to keep the reader hooked and waiting for the next chapter in suspense. Toriyama is brilliant that way.

His rendering skills are excellent. I’ve seen quite a few posters he’s done and his ability to draw anything floors me. From dinosaurs to one-wheeled motorcycles, he can draw pretty much whatever he wants and can get away with it.

Another thing I like about his comics: he has a diverse cast of characters in all of his works, and just about all of them are believable people. The primary example I can think of is his cast in Dragonball and Dragonball Z. Let’s take quick stock:

There’s a shape-shifting pig, a desert thief, a teenage girl scientist prodigy, a little person, a three-eyed man, a green alien, a friggin’ prince, and that’s just the main characters! There is a huge cast of unusual people and creatures, especially in Dragonball, where sometimes half of all the characters are some kind of talking animal.

That’s what inspires me the most about Toriyama-sensei: his imagination.

The way he gets these crazy ideas and just writes and draws them to his heart’s content makes me happy. Anytime I feel down and Marc the Boyfriend is not around, I grab a book by Akira Toriyama and it cheers me up right away. Sometimes I just leaf through his books to read his silly onomatopeias (in Dragonball, they ride in a boat and it makes the sound “BOOOOOOAT”) or to check out his crazy facial expressions.

Most of all, I appreciate what Toriyama does with his art – tell jokes and share interesting, ridiculous stories about over-the-top characters.

That’s why Akira Toriyama is one of my favorite artists ever.