Every kid likes cartoons, but Christopher Hart, from an early age, loved cartooning. He was 11 years old when his family relocated from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. It was there that his cartooning "barometer," as he describes it, set itself as he watched the animated TV series 8th Man, based on a Japanese comic, about a police detective who is brought back to life as an android. "I can literally recite the episodes," says Hart of the Japanese television classic, dubbed into English and released in the U.S. in 1965. "I looked at these as epic battles of good and evil, courage and betrayal. They were almost exquisite in their meaningfulness to me. This stuff planted itself in my gut." Such was the boy's passion that, for his 13th birthday, his mother bought him a light box.

Fast-forwarding nearly four decades, Chris Hart still has the light box in his Westport, Conn., studio. He also has 60 how-to-draw art books to his name from his longtime publisher, Watson-Guptill, with seven more under contract through 2008. He's matter-of-fact about his output: "I work on two books all the time," he says. "It helps me focus, and it gives me perspective."

Although the bulk of Hart's books are filled with uncluttered line drawings intended as reference works for artists, it's his winning voice that sets them apart. In Cartoon Cool: How to Draw New Retro-Style Characters(2005), for example, he not only points up the details needed to draw a megapunch—nonpunching arm pasted to the body, speed lines at the heels and toes up for humor—but the three things it takes to learn to cartoon in the first place: "Practice, technique and a bag of chips. Two, if you leave out the practice," he says.

Oddly enough, his newest project will feature only his voice. It's to be a graphic novel, signed up by , Dallas Middaugh, associate publisher of Del Rey Manga; but Hart won't do the drawings. Anzu, a manga artist, wanted to start a creator-owned series and, having worked with Hart before, asked him to write it. Hart's sworn to secrecy about the storyline, but confides that he's thinking of it as the first in a trilogy. "This will free me up to concentrate solely on the writing, without the drawing side of my brain constantly peering over my keyboard analyzing every paragraph with the comment, 'How are you gonna draw that?' "

Hart's come a long way since he was a kid scrawling pictures in front of the TV. He did some animation for commercials while he was still in high school. He went to college at New York University but returned to L.A. to work as a writer for Showtime, 20th Century Fox and MGM-Pathé. He also joined the writing staff of the classic comic strip Blondie and wrote regularly for Mad magazine

It wasn't until the late '80s, when an editor at Watson-Guptill approached him about doing a book on cartooning, that he fused his writing and drawing. His first effort, How to Draw Cartoons for Comic Strips (1988), continues to be one of his bestselling books, with sales of more than 180,000 copies. Gradually he took on more and more book assignments between film assignments. By then he and his wife had two young daughters, and they decided to move back East, closer to his New York—based publisher and to the kind of straight talk you might expect a son of Brooklyn to prefer. "People, generally, in publishing, they're down to earth," says Hart. "You don't have to worry about what the secret meaning is. In the film business, you're always in the position of having to interpret what they're saying. I've never heard so many people tell me, 'I love you.' "

Hart is definitely a mega-achiever, a true type A personality. His books, divided by series, are displayed in his living room. There are a few one-off books, like Drawing Crime Noir: For Comics & Graphic Novels (July 2006). On a window seat nearby are advance copies of the first eight Christopher Hart "How-to-Draw" Art Kits,a collaboration with art supplier Loew-Cornell to be distributed to the trade by Watson-Guptill.

So many books, so many categories. This is a game that Hart works really hard at and he enjoys his success. "I find it fun to hit the target, the sweet spot," he acknowledges, and who's to argue? His Manga Mania: How to Draw Japanese Comics(2001), held the number one art book spot on BookScan the entire year after it came out—and continues to hover in the top 50.

"Manga is a trend that will become a staple," says Hart. "It's like waiting for rap music to fade. If you open a conventional American comic book, all you see is talky, talky. No fight scenes. You open manga, and you see action, in-your-face fight scenes. Manga does for kids what comic books used to do."

In the New York Times Book Review, John Hodgman's "Comics Chronicle" (June 4) makes the same point: "many of the alternative fine-art comics that cross my desk these days are kind of boring.... The most exciting moment is a stirring scene in which the protagonist realizes his leg has fallen asleep."

In his neighborhood Barnes & Noble, there are 55 Hart books available, almost everything he's ever published. Only one of his books has gone out of print.

"I've never repeated a character," he says. "Guys like Charles Schulz, they come up with a cast. I come up with new characters every day." Watson-Guptill publisher and general manager Amy Rhodes calls Hart "the quietest franchise in the universe," referring to how little-known he is outside the world of cartooning. But with the lead book for Watson-Guptill's fall list, Manga Mania Magical Girls and Friends, due in November and a the new manga novel coming from Del Rey, that just might change.

"When I develop books, it comes from a part of me that's a kid," says Hart. "There's a barometer in me that's very much adolescent and never gets older. If I find something exciting, generally other kids will, too." Not to mention adults, whose enthusiasm for comics and graphic novels has made it one of the fastest growing segments of publishing.