A Conversation with NINA MATSUMOTO, creator of YOKAIDEN
You're also known for The Simpsonzu-fanart that "manga-fied" characters from The Simpsons cartoon and comics. What inspired you to create that piece?
I simply wanted to try drawing the characters in my own style. I knew the results would be frightening. Sometimes I like to draw things just to get a fun reaction from my friends.
How did you get involved with Bongo Comics?
The art director for Bongo Comics saw my Simpsonzu picture an employee had printed out and put up on the wall. Around that time, he needed someone who could pencil a Simpsons manga parody they had a script for and decided my style would be perfect for it. He contacted me and, of course, being a huge Simpsons fan, I couldn't turn down such a job.
What has it been like developing Saturnalia (www.spacecoyote.com/comics/sat), your webcomic, for the past 5 years?
Looking back on it, I spent an insane amount of time on that project. I mostly worked on it during my high school years—much homework and sleep went neglected. I wasn't the most skilled artist, so each page took several hours. Sometimes I'd work on it at school in the library during my free block. I was happy with my results, however, despite its many flaws; being able to tell a story I had written through my own artwork was fun and the imperfections didn't bother me. People liked it, and I was satisfied with that. It was excellent drawing and writing practice, and it was extremely important as my development as a comic artist. Working on Saturnalia taught me a lot about comicking and what I'm capable of. It taught me my strengths and weaknesses—something I had to think a lot about before creating Yokaiden.
What were some of the challenges that you faced creating your first full manga, Yokaiden, and how has that affected your outlook on the world of creating comics?
I'm glad I spent so long on Saturnalia, because I'm sure I would've struggled far more on Yokaiden without those 5 years of practice. It took me a little bit to get used to the new characters, environment and story atmosphere, but overall, it hasn't been that difficult. The biggest challenge for sure is time management, especially when I hit an art block and nothing I draw comes out the way I want it to. I've ended up losing a lot of time from those. It drives me crazy when I can't stick to my schedule—I hate being late or behind. I'm someone who prefers to show up 10 minutes early when meeting up with someone.
I've learned that you can't make every panel perfect. Well, you can if you really wish to, but the time spent on that is better spent drawing more panels.
Where did you get the inspiration for Yokaiden?
I knew I wanted to do something about yokai to teach people about them. Japanese monsters and ghosts are interesting and diverse, but they aren't very well known in North America yet. As for the plot, I wanted something simple and classic I could work with. Something like a folk tale or a ghost story, to fit with the monster theme. I was largely inspired by traditional Japanese folk tales when thinking of the plot for Yokaiden.
What do you do with your free time (if you have free time)?
I like to spend it outsides with friends if I can, as being a comic artist isn't the most social or physical job. The job requires me to sit at a desk in my room (which, incidentally, has no windows) for hours on end, so doing anything at all outside of it is a welcome relief. I go running nearly every day and I love to travel.