- Tell us about your latest work. Where did the inspiration come from?
Eighty Days is an original, eighty-page comic about freedom and romance in a world of alternate-1930s pilots. Inspiration came from Golden Age aviation stories: Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso and some killer autobiographies by pilots Beryl Markham and Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Will Eisner’s A Contract With God had a large impact visually and morally, too.
- What makes CALA different from other conventions?
CALA does a great job highlighting original, self-published books and zines, from what I’ve seen it nets a wide range of stellar art! The small setting allows you to flip through books and chat with authors in a way that feels really cozy and personal.
- If this is your second year at CALA tell us about last years experience and what brought you back. If this is your first year, what are you most excited about?
This was my first year. I’m all-around excited to dive into LA’s comics culture and to be in the same space as some of my favorite living artists!
- What will you be selling at CALA?
A mix of original and fan books, mostly handbound. Eighty Days is the big story, while Takeoff and Passages are related one-shot comics. I’ve also got copies of some collaborative fanzines I was fortunate to be part of, plus a couple prints.
- Who are some of your biggest influences, creatively?
Oh boy. Here’s a condensed version of a very long list:
On the comics side of things – Eiichiro Oda, Naoki Urasawa, Jen Wang, Natsume Ono, Will Eisner.
Elsewhere – Michael Chabon, Rene Magritte, M.C. Escher, Hayao Miyazaki, Victo Ngai.
- What would you like fans to know about your work in general?
It’s too early to say anything definitive about my small body of work I think…but I know comics is a way of processing thoughts for me personally, with aspirations toward making such things entertaining (and pretty) for everyone else. The stories that stick with me have characters that are deceptively simple, but are drawn strong and clear enough to leave you with a great depth of thought and feeling. For now, that’s the goal.
- Both of your stories, Eighty Days and Take Off feature an incredibly diverse cast. How is diversity or representation important to you? Even though your books are science fiction do you do any special research?
Absolutely. For example, traces of Amsterdam, Rome and Odessa show up in various cities’ architecture to convey a powerful ruling class that is European in origin. Jay, Fix and Sable are not. All three are somewhat displaced in this world, and the story is rooted in how they deal with that in different ways. Although I’m writing an alternate reality it’s important to reference different cultures and backgrounds in order to give the characters context and identity: my heroes are young, talented, Asian queers; my enemies are oppression and prejudice.
- Both stories are also about flight. What intrigues you about flight?
Everything. I may yet get in a minor car accident staring at a flock of birds. Really the idea of flight strikes me as both deeply practical and spiritual…especially with airplanes, there’s this lovely contrast of something very mechanical and carefully engineered leading to moments of transcendence, freedom, clarity.
- IN Eighty Days, Jay, the main character isn’t fluent in the local language. In Sci-fi there’s always some translator or fancy piece of technology that transcribes everything for the hero so they can get about, but you’ve created a real world scenario, highlighting the challenge of trying to communicate and navigate in a language not your own. Why?
At first Jay bypasses the worst difficulties of being foreign simply by being good at his job. But that only goes so far, especially after finding someone who relies on him. Access to opportunity and freedom doesn’t always come easily or equally, and I built this story in part to think about that.
- Everything about Eighty Days is different than what is expected. For example, diary-style books tend to be dense with language and waxing poetic about the character’s current state or their cities current state, but Jay’s journal entries are tight observations, or reminders. Part of this is because he’s busy flying a plane, but it also feels like part of his personality. It makes learning about the character a beautifully slow burn. What inspired you to take this route?
It’s funny, all the pilot books I’ve read so far are indeed lyrical and wax-y! You’re right to say it’s part of Jay’s personality. I wanted to tell the story of someone who’s terse and detached, but also terribly vulnerable and poetic at heart. The dual nature of the comics format inspired me to do that: where Jay’s text is reluctant to admit certain feelings, images reveal them.
- Talk about your journey to becoming a comic creator.
I didn’t understand comics the first time I read one and found it very strange haha. But when I did fall for the medium, I fell hard and read a ton all at once. My dad gave me Scott McCloud’s Making Comics one Christmas–that was a turning point. Comics have been fairly constant ever since then, though only in the past couple years have I gotten to print and self-publish books. I’m lucky to have had a lot of support along the way.
- Did you have a formal education or were you self-taught? Is one better than another?
I studied illustration at Laguna College of Art and Design. Art school at its best offers structure, resources and colleagues, which was worth the investment to me. Is going better than not? Not at all.
- What other kinds of art do you create? Does that factor into your comics work at all?
I do freelance illustration and watercolors. I think every piece has some effect on my comics whether it’s informing design sense or how to handle a particular wash of paint.
- If you have a collaborator, what is it like working with them? If you work solo, why? Would you ever consider working with another artist or writer?
I create solo, but I’m always running ideas by my partner Emil Konishi. It’s great having another artist I trust to look over compositions and tell me what’s working or not with fresh eyes. Even at the scary, fragile writing stage, I always end up glad to have that dialogue with him. I’m definitely open to collaborating with others!
- If you could write in any fantasy world (Harry Potter, Avatar, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, ext), which would you, work in and why?
You’re gonna make me choose? Okay fine, Harry Potter. I grew up with these books and will always admire this series for its inventive whimsy and conviction and heart. The tension between and within magical and Muggle worlds suggests so many story possibilities too.
- What tools do you use to create your comic and why?
For inking: Rapidograph ink, sable brush, pen nibs (Saji Nikko and Hunt), Canson bristol paper
For lettering: shaved down Hunt nib, Ames guide
Looking at the perfect amount of ink soak into paper, hearing the scratch of nib, holding the physical finished pages…it’s just so satisfying.
- When you’re having a difficult time creating what do you do to help you push through?
With a mild case I’ll go back to basics drawing studies from life or books. If it’s really bad, I’ll stop drawing for a bit and refresh. Eat something good, hang out with friends, consume someone else’s stories. Walk the doge.
- Do you have any new projects on the horizon? What should fans be looking out for? Where can they find you online?
The sequel to Eighty Days looms largest, but CALA’s inspiring me to go back to experimenting with short-form comics, too. Stay tuned at blueludebar.tumblr.com or on twitter: @blueludebar !
- I’m obsessed with Eighty Days, and I know it was just released, but… any idea when we can expect book two?
That’s a great compliment, thank you. I’m aiming to have the next book done by Winter 2016. I’ll do my best!