T’SAO WEI is the artist who did my Cherry Blossom Girl mini-comic. Keep an eye on this chap – he’s going places. He’s just released his new comic, Windrush, which I can’t recommend highly enough – not just because the art and story are strong, but because it’s really very special: each issue is hand-bound and sewn together by Wei! I think it’s possibly my favourite comic in a long, long time. Anyway, here is the interview…
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the comics you’ve produced?
I’ve been making small press comics for 1 year and 10 months now. My first book project was A Lonely Raven, which is my metaphorical interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, presented in a series of lino prints.
The first actual comic I produced was Through These Slanted Eyes, which is a self-indulgent autobiographical comic about racism and isolation, and it helped me work through my own personal problems I had at the time (the first version of the comic was made in 2005, and will never see the light of day!)
My second comic was in collaboration with the writer Stuart Atholl Gordon on a comic called Neon Loneliness, which features a Creature from the Black Lagoon type character who is separated from his family and finds himself the target for discrimination and prejudice.
What are your favourite comics of all time?
Lone Wolf and Cub, Vagabond, Blade of the Immortal, Blood Sword and Storm Riders are my all-time favourites and they’re the books that made the greatest impact on me as a writer/artist.
Lone Wolf and Cub, like anything created by the Koike/Kojima team, carries an air of dignity and grace. Koike can write about anything and make it interesting while Kojima’s ability to tell a visual story is breathtaking.
Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond taught me a lot about brushwork, figure work and general visual storytelling.
Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal impressed me the first time I read it in 2001 and it continues to impress. Although the story is set in Edo Japan, the genre of the story constantly changes from action to drama and from romance to horror, which makes the story fresh every time you pick up a new volume.
Both Blood Sword and Storm Riders are creations of Ma Wing Shing and he is the biggest influence on me as an artist. At the peak of his popularity, Ma Wing Shing was one of the most experimental artists around. He would use watercolours, flat colours, oil painting, fine line-work or thick brush strokes and even simple black and white depending on the needs of the story or to highlight important moments in the comic. There are very few artists out there that can depict anything from gentle to savage, soft to hard, elegance to anger, from confidence to utter fear. I learned a lot from observing his artwork when I was only 14 years old, and even now I still learn a lot from studying his old work.
What comics are you reading at the moment?
Right now I’m slowly making my way through the Justice League International collections, which I think every aspiring creator should learn from. Humour aside, I think JLI’s best quality is how natural the characters interact with each other. Kevin Maguire’s artwork is just a bonus!
Some of the monthly comics I’m enjoying now are Rachel Rising by Terry Moore, and Fatale is Brubaker and Phillips at their very best!
As for anthologies, I’m currently reading 2000AD which features the brilliant Nikolai Dante. Great writing by Robbie Morrison, amazing art by Simon Fraser and Gary Caldwell’s colours are equally amazing! The second anthology I read is The Phoenix, which I enjoy reading week after week! It features work by the wacky Etherington Brothers, and the naturalistic and elegant line-work of Kate Brown.
For the British small press, I finished reading Spandex issue 6 a few days ago, which was the best issue so far! Just like JLI, Martin is great with the character interactions!
Another small press comic I recently read is Tozo. The sci-fi setting and the mystery made for a nice transition from The Incal!
How did you find your experience of the Spandex universe (i.e., working on the mini-comic)?
It was a rather joyful experience! The format I had to work from didn’t leave me much space to draw but it did force me to think harder about the overall page design, which was a welcome creative challenge. I’m very happy that I got to draw Cherry Blossom Girl. My first impression of the character (from what I saw in Spandex issue 5) was a sophisticated and confident young woman; I constantly kept that in mind while drawing the mini-comic.
What comics are you working on at the moment and where can we see your work?
I’m currently working on a superhero comic called Windrush, but it doesn’t necessarily follow the generic superhero model. It’s a very special project for me because this is my first ongoing series and the first time I ever enjoyed working on a comic book project. Windrush is the embodiment of everything I love about fiction, and my love letter to the Chinese Wuxia genre, but disguised as a superhero comic. Wuxia is often translated as “Chivalrous Knight” but I prefer the translation “Martial Hero”. The characters of the “Martial Hero” genre tend to have two categories, those within normal society and those who prefer to work outside of society. Outsiders are often described to be in “Jianghu” world, where the laws of normal society are generally of no concern to them. The average superhero comics have their own “Jianghu” where the likes of Superman and the Joker exist in as they attempt to affect the normal structure of society from the outside.
You can check out my work at http://daventer.com/ or http://daventerprojects.blogspot.com/. Anyone interested in Windrush can purchase the first issue here http://www.etsy.com/shop/TsaoWei.
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