Adam Warren was kind of enough to consent to an email interview, so of course I immediately bombarded him with way too many questions. As a result, we’ve got a long, and wide-ranging, interview that I think is pretty interesting. We cover a lot of ground, and Warren does it with good humor. And I do mean a lot of ground– this thing weighs in at over 5800 words. I went through and added in links for context or reference, in case you’re curious about a few of the topics that come up.
Thanks to Ken Kneisel for supplying me with the majority of Warren’s run on Dirty Pair, Jacq Cohen at Dark Horse for turning an offhanded Facebook comment into a fun interview, and finally, Adam Warren for answering a million questions.
After you finish reading, you should buy some Empowered (One, Two, Three, Four, Five), Dirty Pair, Iron Man: Hypervelocity, and Livewires. While you’re waiting for those to arrive, visit his DeviantArt to look at some art.
Let’s get it in.
(and yes, adam warren week is just three days long. shut your face.)
At the time that I’m writing this, Empowered has been out for a couple of weeks. What’s your workday like now that it’s on shelves? Do you take a vacation between books or get right into working on the next volume? What do you do to relax?
Right now, I’m working on an Empowered one-shot (in conventional comics format, for once!) and frantically trying to wrap up a few other miscellaneous art jobs before I head off to the San Diego Comic-Con this week (ouch). This is more or less par for the course, as I usually try to work up other pitches or grind away at brief stints of better-paying work before I go back to full-time work on the next Empowered volume; in a way, though, this almost is a vacation, compared to the crazily long hours I often have to work as a volume’s deadline looms ever nearer.
As for relaxing, well, once the workday’s over, I might read some books, watch a DVD (starting over with The Wire season 1, at present), or crack a Sam Adams or two and catch some Craig Ferguson in the wee hours… (Though the latter’s not an option, of late. Since the spectacular onset of the digital TV revolution, my remote neck of the woods went from receiving about eight different TV stations’ signals to receiving a grand total of none whatsoever; yay, DTV! So, no Craig Ferguson for me, nowadays.) Ah, the manifold joys of the rural-dwelling freelancer’s off-work lifestyle…
How fast are you, art-wise? Do you do any digital work, or are you strictly lo-tech? What do you listen to while you draw?
I certainly wouldn’t claim that I’m an especially speedy artist in general… but, when working in the straight-to-pencil format used for Empowered, I can usually turn around at least two pages per full workday, which isn’t too shabby a production rate.
That’s the whole point of the format, really: to move on to the finished page as quickly as possible, leaving out all the intervening stages that used to slow me down as an artist. As in, my technique used to progress from scrawled roughs to very tight but undersized layouts to even more tightly penciled, full-size pages to final inks that were even tighter still; on Empowered, I jump from the thumbnail/rough stage straight to final, penciled pages (at the wee 8.5” X 11” size, BTW), a considerably more streamlined process.
While the technique I use on Empowered is indeed extremely “lo-tech”—nothing but graphite on letter-size copy paper, without resorting to such high-tech, cutting-edge, space-age innovations such as bristol board or inks or a separate lettering stage—I can’t say that it’s strictly lo-tech, as the pages still wind up getting scanned into Photoshop, then tweaked and cleaned up (and lettering-corrected, as necessary) at Dark Horse. Contradictorily enough, only modern scanning and printing technologies make Empowered’s primitive process viable in the first place…
Nowadays, I listen to a helluva lot of talk radio when I’m working, mostly of the sports-related variety (I am a New England native, so Pats/ Sox/ Celts interest comes naturally to me), occasionally mixing in some books on CD for variety… I do, however, switch over to music from the ol’ iPod when working on scripts, due to the sad fact that talk radio’s babble frequently derails my train of dialog-related thought. (Unless I actually want to mix references to KG and Jonathan Papelbon and Randy Moss into my scripting, which is rarely the case.)
While doing research for this interview, I realized that you don’t sell your original art. I don’t think that you travel to many cons, either, so genuine Adam Warren Sketches(TM) are pretty rare. Do you prefer to keep your art within the confines of published books, rather than sketches and such?
It’s not that I’m particularly opposed to selling my artwork; it’s just that I’ve never clawed out enough free time to set up some means of actually selling the stuff. (Plus, I am a tad paranoid that some Empowered material might need to be rescanned at some point; such are the problems inherent to working in the ever-tricky medium of grayscale.)
I should say that, back when I used to attend considerably more conventions than I do now (the invites dried up a long time ago, for better or for worse), I did crank out a goodly number of commissioned sketches every year… Empowered is descended from the last major clump of such commissions (mainly of the “damsel-in-distress” variety) I took on, after all. Now, though, I no longer have the time to deal with many (or any) more such requests along those lines.
Side note: Come to think of it, my attendance at San Diego this year will mark my first convention appearance during the entire time that Empowered has been coming out… Alert the media! Well, perhaps not.
In general, I suppose that I do prefer to keep my artwork within the confines of a published book, or at least within the confines of a story… Drawing as such doesn’t interest me all that much, save for as a means of conveying a narrative. I’ve never filled a sketchbook, I don’t draw people in the subway (er, that is, assuming I moved to a location that had a subway), I don’t hang around sketching with fellow artists after conventions (though the first part of the social “Drink & Draw” experience does appeal); in short, I don’t do the things that a real artist, someone who’s Crazy In Love With Drawing, should do. Luckily, this isn’t a major, psyche-twisting source of angst for me, as I pretty much see myself as a writer who happens to be able to draw.
I know that Empowered has been published online via Dark Horse Presents and that you have an established presence on DeviantArt. Have you thought about serializing complete stories from previous volumes or sneak previews from new volumes of Empowered on the web?
Oh, I’ve definitely thought about it, especially in regard to keeping archives of the earlier volumes online. I had tenuous plans to run the previous volumes in webcomics-archive form, but so far, I’m just too damn busy with trying to stay ahead of both Empowered’s perpetually looming deadlines and the deadlines of the other jobs I have to take on, in order to keep the fragile book afloat… Oh, well; maybe someday you will, in fact, see a legitimate form of Empowered online (other than through the crappy-looking scans one can find on BitTorrent and Rapidshare and the like; please pardon the sound of my grinding teeth), but I’d advise against holding your breath.
While I don’t have much interest in twittering as myself, I’ve actually twittered quite extensively “in character” as Galacta, using the same Twitter address used in the story that ran in Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #2: http://twitter.com/Gali_girl. As a goofy little writing exercise, I racked up about 400 or so tweets of Gali pontificating about various subjects (mainly relating to her thinline love/hate relationship with her father, Galactus), some of which might prove useful for future stories… or pitches for Galacta stories, at least.
Your work tends to have a very clear sci-fi influence running throughout it. Even your older work is laden with fresh ideas across a variety of disciplines, which still aren’t dated in the modern day. Where do you pick this stuff up and how do you keep current with emerging tech?
Nowadays, I think you’d almost have to make a deliberate effort to avoid hearing about emerging tech, due to the blinding rapidity with which especially noteworthy science or engineering developments are disseminated online… I mean, hell, most of the political or humor-oriented blogs I follow are almost as likely to link to some odd new technological breakthrough or bizarre weapons system or counterintuitive sociological analysis as a dedicated science site would be, or so it often seems.
Still, though, I try to keep up with the usual science/ tech suspects like Boing Boing, Bad Astronomy, Next Big Future, >The New Scientist and so on… Plus, keeping an eye on specific science authors’ sites is always a good idea, with Carl Zimmer (author of the SF-influential Parasite Rex), Cliff Pickover (Sex, Drugs, Einstein & Elves and many, many others), and Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity Is Near) being choice examples. Beyond that, I also prowl the Science shelves of my local bookstore for books and magazines that might be of interest and/or use. (Then again, if I stumble across something of interest, it’s certain to also be of use to me; pretty much everything is potential grist for the writing mill, needless to say.)
You’re at least partly responsible for the manga explosion in the US. I know that Dirty Pair and Bubblegum Crisis were a big part of keeping me interested in anime, and I can only assume that your comics based on those helped keep those series and anime itself in the public eye. Do you still read manga? Has anything caught your eye lately?
I no longer follow much in the way of anime, as very little of it is particularly relevant to the work I do. (Plus, well, it takes too much damn time to watch.) A few recent exceptions spring to mind, though: Gainax’s Gurren Lagann and the manga-derived extrapolations of the Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei and Genshiken anime, for example.
Manga is a much different story, though, as comics-based storytelling is very much relevant to the work I do… At present, I’m especially enjoying Naoki Urasawa’s superlative Pluto and 20th Century Boys, Ai Yazawa’s soap-operatic epic Nana, Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki’s surreally offbeat Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, and (as mentioned earlier) Koji Kumeta’s fractally joke-crammed satire Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. I also follow quite a few other manga titles for more specific and limited reasons, whether we’re talking about my fondness for the far-future SF concepts of Yukito Kishiro’s Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, the lunatic bread-baking minutiae of Takashi Hashiguchi’s Yakitate!! Ja-Pan, the stratospherically over-the-top battles in Tite Kubo’s Bleach, or the immensely appealing character art in Yuji Iwahara’s King Of Thorn.
I should note a third category among the manga titles I buy… These are books that I find to be quite technically inspiring, but inspiring mainly in a poignant and wistful fashion that has little relation to the work I can actually do. When I look at the artwork from these meticulously accomplished titles, I think to myself, “Boy, if I were only a lot more talented and had access to a whole boatload of equally talented assistants and if it were even vaguely profitable to employ them in an American comics format—which is definitely not the case—I’d love to do a comic as maniacally detailed and obsessive and jaw-droppingly work-intensive as these manga.” I’m talking about heavy-duty, assistant-overworking stuff like Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond and Real, Oh! Great’s AirGear, or even Ken Akamatsu’s Negima! (Further side note: Believe it or not, I have no time for Akamatsu’s fan-service shenanigans, but you gotta admire his ability to handle an enormous supporting cast of characters… plus, turns out that he and his assistants can do some seriously kickass fight scenes.)
Your Dirty Pair work is largely out of print. Do you have any plans to re-release or revisit the Lovely Angels, perhaps in one of those omnibus volumes Dark Horse has been releasing lately?
Last time I checked, I was told that I’d need to do an entirely new Dirty Pair project in order to get permission from Studio Nue (the DP’s owners) to reprint the older material.
Back circa 2003, I actually did write and draw a 48-page Dirty Pair story (in a proto-Empowered, pencil-based format), in the hopes of drumming up some interest in the franchise; nowadays, though, I’m rather more ambivalent about the prospect of drawing another lengthy installment of Kei and Yuri’s adventures. While my take on the Dirty Pair may be personal and idiosyncratic, this is still just my take on characters that someone else owns (though my DP work wasn’t technically work for hire as such, I hasten to add). On Empowered, by contrast, I can do pretty much whatever the hell I want with the story and characters, as they’re all mine.
Plus, I’m honestly not sure if I could handle the high degree of technical drawing that a Dirty Pair project’s science-fiction setting would entail, especially when non-mainstream (i.e., much lower than Marvel or DC) page rates are involved… I’m having a hard enough time rendering the lesser degree of high techiness depicted in Empowered, really. Nonetheless, yes, I would most definitely love to re-release the old Dirty Pair comics in an omnibus format… Maybe someday that might still happen, if we could iron out the various complications involved.
You tend to write fairly often about good people with real problems, be it Roxy’s self-esteem in Gen13 or Emp’s issues in Empowered. However, in the end, it seems like all of them end up okay in the end, in one way or another. Are you particularly interested in the triumph of optimism, or at least stubbornness, over adversity? Does the point of view you put into your work match up with how you view life?
Hadn’t really thought about it that way, but “the triumph of optimism, or at least stubbornness, over adversity” is as apt a summary of Empowered as any I’ve seen… I might just have to rip that off! Thanks! (For some reason, I’m sadly uninspired—if not borderline inept—when it comes to pithily summing up my own work. I’d much rather do the work than talk about it, which is a useful attitude for actually getting something accomplished… but not a useful attitude for subsequently trying to promote said accomplishment.)
But, yeah, the triumph of optimism/stubbornness over adversity is definitely is a theme that interests me… Or the struggle of optimism/ stubbornness against adversity, at least, if not the actual triumph; the book reflects a fair degree of ambivalence about whether or not Emp will wind up succeeding, or even what the hell “success” for her would, in the end, really mean. One of the tangential issues addressed in Empowered is whether or not relentlessly “following your dream” is necessarily a great idea in the long term, especially if you might not be quite good enough to bring your dream to fruition… Or even if you are good enough, maybe you’ll still find that circumstances conspire to frustrate you from catching up to that dream, regardless. Or is the dream really worth chasing in the first place?
In real life, I’m not even remotely as positive in outlook as Emp, but I am just about as cluelessly stubborn (or stubbornly clueless!) about my line of work. After all, I have been relentlessly banging my head against the comics field’s stony wall for the better part of twenty years, arguably with not a whole lot to show for the effort (or so it seems, on my bad days)… Any similarities to Empowered are strictly coincidental, of course. (Unless they aren’t.)
Your body of work is notable for featuring sci-fi, pretty girls, deadly girls, believable teens, and pop culture-inspired dialogue. While a certain amount of dating is inherent in using pop culture references, the bulk of your work holds up very well, all the way back to Dirty Pair. You practically invented Google Maps two or three years before Google did during your Gen13 run, for example. Do you keep an eye toward trying to keep your work timeless, but still innovative, when writing?
Have to say, I don’t. IMHO, worrying about whether or not one’s work is “timeless” isn’t just a waste of time, but worse, a richly pretentious waste of time… Even if a writer is careful to stay clear of overt “dating” issues—say, ultra-transient pop-culture references, à la some hideous Friedberg & Seltzer cinematic atrocity—his or her writing is still going to wind up dated by less obvious contemporary trends, current influences, fashionable assumptions and cultural paradigms informing and underlying the work. So I say, screw it, just do the best you can with what knowledge, insight and speculation you can garner at the present time, and let posterity take care of itself. (And, let’s be honest, there is no such thing as posterity for the overwhelming majority of disposable, soon-forgotten pop-culture ephemera… including comics, of course.)
Video games are another major, or at least noticeable, part of your work. Do you still play regularly? What are some of your favorites? Could you ever see yourself masterminding a game based on one of your works, like Dirty Pair or Emp? I’ve seen mentions of Metal Gear Solid a few times in particular. Are you a fan of the series?
I still play a few different videogames, usually while getting my caffeine on at the respective starts of my morning and evening work shifts. Pathetically enough, I still rock an aging Playstation 2, having not yet made the leap to a next-generation system… Then again, I’m not overly burdened with enough free time to invest in modern, cutting-edge timesucks such as GTA 4 or the like, which is probably for the best… (Let alone the dread specter of involvement in the career-destroying über-timesuckery represented by MMORPGs, of course.)
As for my favorites, which are rather far from being au courant: Resident Evil 4 (Quite Possibly The Best Game Evar, IMHO), Midnight Club 3 Dub Edition Remix, Odin Sphere, and various iterations of the Tenchu and DDR franchises remain in heavy rotation.
Re: Metal Gear Solid, I’m not an especially devoted aficionado of the series, but when I was cranking out cartoon pages for the videogame magazine PSM (now reincarnated as Official Playstation Magazine, tragically sans a role for myself), MGS-derived humor was always a rich vein to tap… Hence the multiple riffs I did on Solid Snake and, most frequently, poor ol’ Raiden, the perpetual whipping boy (or whipping bîshonen, if you prefer). Here’s a link to one of the more popular examples of said riffs.
You were working on Gen13 at a point when Wildstorm was having something of a creative renaissance. Joe Casey and Sean Phillips on Wildcats, Mark Millar on The Authority, and Ed Brubaker beginning his Sleeper saga with Point Blank. Do you see yourself ever going back to a corporate comics environment and playing in someone else’s sandbox on a regular basis?
Well, I’ve kinda been trying to get back in the corporate-comics sandbox for some time now, but without a great deal of success; it ain’t the easiest playground to get into, what with the bigger kids hogging all the figurative swing sets. (Have I belabored this figure of speech grotesquely enough, yet?) I still pitch projects hither and yon on a fairly regular basis, but scoring writing work—I have little to no interest in drawing a book—is a rejection-intensive process, alas. Still, “you gotta keep getting back on the damn horse if you wanna ride in the rodeo, son,” as my pappy used to say in an alternate universe. (Well, yeah, he certainly didn’t say that in real life, as New England’s really not the most rodeo-intensive of environments… I just felt like belaboring one more figure of speech.)
I’ve been told that your run on Gen13 was cut short prematurely, resulting in the team dying and a bit of auto-critique in the last issue or two. I know you mentioned a Rainmaker-based story in the lettercol of your last issue. What were your plans for the book if you’d had a chance to keep going?
I should say that, while I did indeed get shot outta the Gen13 saddle rather earlier than anticipated, Wildstorm very kindly gave me the opportunity to wrap up the run in a satisfying manner. In fact, the final arc, “This Is How The Story Ends”, wound up comprising my favorite story I ever wrote for the book.
Anyhoo, the long-term plotline I originally had in mind for Sarah Rainmaker was slated to be a way-over-the-top SF extrapolation of some rather obvious implications of a weather-controlling character whose powers are genetic in origin… Later, I sanded off the idea’s edges and repitched the story to Marvel as a Storm miniseries, but its unfortunate lack of X-continuity connections doomed the ill-fated proposal. I still might try to reuse the Rainmaker plotline’s basic concepts in Empowered, though; you might keep an eye out for a weather-controlling superchica in future volumes…
Beyond that, all I can remember is a planned Caitlin Fairchild plotline that would’ve been far more emotionally wrenching than what I ended up doing with the book—and I wound up killing off all of the Gen13 kids, you’ll remember! I’ve covertly placed all this plotline’s pieces on the board in Empowered, but I’m not quite sure if I have the nerve to actually pull the trigger on this one, as the story concept really is tearjerkingly brutal as hell… I mean, worse than the end of Empowered vol. 5, even. So, stay tuned to this Empchannel, kids, in case I ever do work up the nerve to deploy this long-dormant Plotline of Mass Destruction. (For whatever it’s worth, I probably won’t.)
Iron Man: Hypervelocity seems like a book that fits the Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man film almost perfectly in tone, technology, and humor. What was the origin of Hypervelocity? On a somewhat related note, what’d you think of the movie?
Hypervelocity was a truncated version of a longer-form, considerably more ambitious—albeit rejected—pitch I made for the regular Iron Man title, dating back to well before the Warren Ellis relaunch. (I think Mike Grell was writing the book, way back then.) After the critical success—and sales-figure failure, alas—of Livewires, I repitched a miniseries version of the old IM proposal’s first story arc to Tom Brevoort, in the hopes that a strongly SF-oriented miniseries with a known character might fare better than poor Livewires had; well, I’m afraid that turned out to quite emphatically not be the case.
I liked the Iron Man movie a great deal, overwhelmingly because of Downey’s excellent performance, which was very much what I had in mind in Tony Stark: Very smart, very screwed up, and—importantly—very funny. Looking back at Hypervelocity’s release, I’m amused to recall some folks bitching about Tony Stark 2.0’s overly pronounced sense of humor, at the time; mysteriously, these criticisms ne’er quite seemed to arise about the movie’s commendably humor-laden portrayal of Tony. (Go figure.)
Iron Man: Hypervelocity, your short tale in Marvel’s Assistant Editor’s Month book, and Empowered comprise most of your work in comics for the past few years. Are you doing any work in other media, or working on some projects in between Empowered volumes? What do we have to look forward from you over the next couple years?
I’m about to start work on a Top-Secret Commercial Art Dealie, about which I cannot say anything, other than the fact that this is another one of my rare but much-prized Big Damn Jobs that help subsidize my (much) lower-paying work on projects like Empowered. (Yes, terrifyingly enough, despite the insane work hours and extreme drawing-hand wear and tear that I rack up during Empowered’s production, slaving away on the book is still essentially a luxury for me.)
I have to admit, during my brief but shining moments of Big Damn Jobbery, I sometimes find myself thinking, “You can just go to hell, comics field! Look at me, earning money like a goddamn grownup! Hell, if I could somehow keep this job going, I’d be earning almost as much as a Multiple-Comic Writer (a.k.a. the comics-field version of the Big Damn Job)! Screw the fact that I haven’t been within fifty-cal rifle range of regular work in comics for most of this decade! F**k you, comics field!” This brief surge of defiance is instantly undermined by the inescapable reality that I do, in fact, know a fair number of artists who rock solid-paying Big Damn (Real-World) Jobs full-time… and a surprisingly large number of ’em pine for the comparative freedom and autonomy and corporate-meeting-free joy of comics work! Hell, most (if not all) of these folks are considerably more enthused about comics than I am, and I work in the damn field! Note, however, that few of ’em are enthused enough to actually quit said Big Damn (Real-World) Job and go seek comics-field employment, because, hey, they’re not stupid, folks.
Anyhoo, beyond the Empowered one-shot I’m currently working on, the sixth volume of the book should “drop” sometime next year. I’m also looking into the possibility of Empowered spinoff miniseries, written by me and drawn by other artists, in an attempt to keep the Empowered flame burning (and, importantly, visible on the comics shelves) on a more regular basis… And, as I’ve been doing for some time now, I’ll keep on flinging comics pitches at the corporate walls, in the hopes that one of the damn things will eventually stick. (Eventually, one or more of them will stick, I believe.)
A few months ago, I wrote an essay on race and Empowered (here). The intersection of race and comics is one of my biggest interests, and I was amazed at how well you portrayed Spooky’s issues. It wasn’t put forward as an afternoon special or anything condescending. It was simply a personal issue. Why did you decide that Sistah Spooky should face this problem?
At the time, way back in the Empowered vol.1 day, I was just trying to think of a way to humanize Spooky, who’d mainly been portrayed strictly as Emp’s implacable, SuperMeanGirl nemesis up to that point. Along the lines of Jean Renoir’s oft-quoted “everyone has their reasons” aphorism, I thought that one interesting explanation for Spooky’s behavior would be that, just as you put it in the 4thletter essay, she’d internalized a blonde ideal of beauty, and her treatment of Emp was only an outward symptom of her own (inward) struggles with self-image and self-worth.
Anyhoo, since then, she’s been one of my favorite characters in the book, despite—or more likely because of—her often “more difficult & prickly, less warm & fuzzy” personality. Hell, her covert relationship with the blonde, ill-fated telepath Mindf**k—yeahp, cue Spooky’s inescapable blonde-ideal-of-beauty issues—wound up being arguably the most critical element of Empowered vol. 5’s finale. She has an especially intriguing character arc in the volumes to come, due to the fact that, during vol. 5’s climax, I accidentally stumbled across a compelling concept that I’d not previously seen addressed in a superheroic milieu… Stay tuned, folks! (Actually, the issue in question probably has been addressed at some point in superhero comics, but I don’t read enough of ’em to know that for sure… Nor do I especially care, really.)
What story of your own do you look back on the fondest? Can you re-read something you’ve written after a few years and enjoy it, or are you too close to the work, even still?
Of my older work, I’m arguably the most fond of a pair of very different stories that came out in the same year: The far-future, aggressive SF of the Titans: Scissors, Paper, Stone one-shot, and the pop-culture-drunk, aggressive goofiness of the Gen13: Grunge: The Movie! miniseries. Titans was a possibly overcomplicated attempt to drag superheroes into a strongly SF-informed environment, while the less ambitious Grunge might be the easiest read of any comic I’ve ever done… In a way, I suppose that Empowered is an attempt to combine the two approaches into one book.
Reading my old work is an odd—though sometimes enjoyable—experience, mainly because I can’t quite separate myself from the process of actually doing the work. I often reread the stuff in an attempt to figure out what an outside reader would get from the books; this attempt rarely works, though, because I’m always perceiving scenes that I had to cut, dialogue that I changed, art techniques that I now dislike, or remembering exactly what I was listening to when I inked that particular page, 15 years ago…
Adam Warren: The Coffee Table Artbook. How can we help make this happen? Do you have any interest in producing a retrospective book of your career thus far?
In theory, I am interested, but my lack of free time to think about such a compilation has once again prevented me from getting anywhere on it. Come to think of it, the fact that the bulk of my work is in B&W would be a bit of a drawback for an artbook, as most of ’em tend to be color-driven. (Not to mention that an important chunk of my career has been spent on licensed-character artwork that one of the Big Companies might not be inclined to let me reuse…)
I’ve seen you mention that you dislike how you used to draw faces in the early ’00s. Can you break down your problem with that facet of your old style for the fanboys among us who enjoy all of your work?
Well, in short, I have to draw in a manner looks “right” and aesthetically pleasing to me at the time; I can’t change my approach until whatever I was doing starts to look “wrong” to me. This has triggered an ongoing series of minor, microevolutional changes to my art style, mainly noticeable in the faces and bodies I draw… That’s not to say that my art style changes particularly rapidly, as I’m a tad long in the tooth for the wholesale, macroevolutional, “Great (Artistic) Leap Forward” changes possible for a young artist who’s still in his or her formative artistic years. (This is a reference to a long, complicated theory about age, talent, and skill that I’ve devised but rarely discussed with my fellow artists, due to its rather depressing conclusions.)
On the matter of faces, I used to draw more distinct and pronounced noses on both males and females, along with taking a certain approach to depicting eyes, all of which has changed a fair bit at present. I grew to dislike those old techniques over the years, and now am known for generally using “minimal nasal indication” (though not as minimal as some “real” manga artists use, such as the tiny, two-dot nostrils favored by Masakazu Katsura), a stylistic trait which bothers some readers a great deal… Too bad for them, alas, as I won’t stop using “MNI” until it looks wrong to me. On the other hand, I do occasionally use different nasal-structure techniques to give certain characters distinctive looks; for example, the new ninja “****ing Oyuki-chan” (as seen here) is drawn with an old-style nose, just to differentiate her design a little.
On the topic of body design, the variations are probably most notable on the various female leads I’ve drawn… My default “hawt chica” body type used to be a rather alarmingly attenuated and Olympian 8 heads tall, which made for some long, spindly, ungainly legs on Kei and Yuri, back in the day; eventually, this shrank to more reasonable (and, to my modern-day eye, aesthetically pleasing) 7-head-tall proportions. I drew quite thick-waisted heroines back in the 90s, before waistlines suddenly shrank—and hips correspondingly swelled—to a more pronounced, possibly Bruce-Timm-influenced degree. Bust size occasionally spiked at times in the 90s and early 00s, then dropped off quite a fair bit, more recently (or disappeared altogether, given Empowered’s conspicuously flat-chested hottie, Ninjette)… and, well, let’s not even talk about the whole “booty” issue.
While preparing for this interview, I think I read every interview you’ve done in the past couple of years. Is there a question that you wish people would ask, but they never do? What is it?
Perhaps: “Would you like fries with that?” To be honest, I’m just glad to get through most interviews without blurting out anything especially boneheaded… which is why I usually write out my responses via email, as opposed to, say, stammering and babbling answers to an interviewer over the phone.