Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Talking comics, art, and life, with Tomer Hanuka and Asano/Matsumoto/Shinzo

I'm not a huge interviews person, but I wanted to point you towards two great ones I read recently that stayed with me, the first with Tomer Hanuka, in which he discusses his maiden New Yorker cover, illustration as career and vocation, the need to continually work, progression, choices and a lot more. The second interview is a mini-roundtable between highly regarded Japanese comic creators, Taiyo Matsumoto, Inio Asano, and Keigo Shinzo in another frank and open dialogue about their respective careers, who they consider as rivals, whether they consciously attempt to create something angled towards a certain direction or result, what it takes to consider a work successful, and much more; it's a really interesting talk. Interviews aren't my favourite thing to do, partly because I feel if I ask the questions I want to, people would probably be get offended, so I'm incredibly appreciative when artists are analytical and honest about their work life and decisions- it makes for great, insightful reading. Take the time to read both pieces.

An excerpt from the Tomer Hanuka interview, which you can find here:
'I’ve been doing illustrations for The New Yorker for 15 years, but a cover is something else. In the world of illustrators it’s something like a unicorn that you pursue but will never get to see. For at least five successive years I thought about it every night, and on every long train trip, and while having lunch with friends. I was constantly coming up with ideas, looking at what happened this week and how it could be made into a New Yorker cover.
You were on a high?
For at least 20 minutes.
I don’t know why I always go to the place of monsters. Our life is very normative and very orderly, but even so, there is always also this pit. There is something black seething below, and to behave as though it’s not there is a lot worse than trying to cope with it...Yes, because to tell a story is to give meaning to a situation that is by its nature random. It shuts down the anxiety for a few seconds. The idea that I can take very stressful things and arrange them in a logical, aesthetic composition affords me a feeling of control. I am 40. The penny has dropped. I got the message. I understand that if I’m lucky I’ll do another four or five books. I’m working on a book now, and it’s very hard and is taking a long time, and I also have to make a living in the meantime. You can’t make a living from comics. You don’t see a shekel from it. So I’m trying to figure out how to put this Lego together.
So why this obsession to illustrate? I think it’s because I’m afraid to grow up to be the person I think I was supposed to be. Or at least what the army personnel officer and most of my high-school teachers promised I would be: no one.'

New Yorker cover by Tomer Hanuka

Here's that Asano/Matsumoto/Shinzo panel- again full thing here:

'Asano: Looking at the three of us here, I’d say that the two of you have some traceable lineage in common, whereas I’m sort of off somewhere else. The styles of one generation of artists tend not to be inherited by the next generation, because it’s too close to them. You’ve got to wait another ten years, say, for the pendulum to swing back that way.
Shinzo: Apparently my generation strikes some people as being a throwback to manga from a long time ago. 
Asano: Right. So the way I see it, the art and atmosphere in your manga is sort of like the antithesis of all these manga from the past few years that aim to be as realistic as possible.
Shinzo: The total opposite of your work. (laughter) 
Asano: That’s how this stuff goes, though. When I was in high school and reading Ping Pong as it ran in Big Comic Spirits, I was drawn to it, but I knew that I shouldn’t try to pull off something like that myself. You might admire someone who’s out there doing something really amazing, but you don’t want to follow them. I see that as being the dynamic here between the three of us. 
Editor: Inio, who do you admire from the generation before Taiyo’s? 
Asano: I guess it’d have to be Kyoko Okazaki. 
Shinzo: So it’s like you’ve got these realists like Katsuhiro Otomo, then you have cartoony artists like Taiyo, and then things get realistic again, then cartoony, then realistic, then cartoony, and it goes on and on like that. 
Asano: That’s how it always is — especially in terms of seinen magazines. 
Matsumoto: I guess the star for my generation was Katsuhiro Otomo. I remember when I was just starting out, feeling this pressure to come down on one side — do you like Otomo, or not?  He was just so influential. There were people who didn’t want to admit they’d even read him, they so hated the thought of being accused of his influence. So I decided that I for one would admit to liking his work.'

By Keigo Shinzo
'Matsumoto: Okay, when I was 27… Let’s see. Tekkon Kinkreet was a total flop, so I took my editor’s advice for my next work and went with a sports manga — Ping Pong. It was after finishing Ping Pong (at age 30) that I decided I wouldn’t do weekly magazine serializations anymore. I would wake up, sit at a desk stacked with CalorieMate bars, start drawing, and the next thing I knew it’d be evening. It was no way to live.
Asano: True.
Matsumoto: But it was around that point that I started hearing good things here and there about my work.

Shinzo: Did you see Tekkon Kinkreet as a failure at the time, even after all that effort?
Matsumoto: I really did put a lot of effort into it. It’s hard to judge these things. I personally thought it was pretty good, but there wasn’t much of a reaction among the readers, so you start to think, “Huh? Maybe I failed.” '