In Kitakyushu City, a big city with a population of 0.9 million located south of Japan, an artist-in-residence program named “KITAQ COMIC AIR” was run by International Comic Festival Kitakyushu committee and supported by The Agency for Cultural Affairs, a special body of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Two comic artists Babs Tarr (USA) and David Baldeón (Spain), both known for their works with American comic publishers such as Marvel and DC, were invited to the program and stayed in the city from 28th November to 13th December.
Kitakyushu City is the birthplace of two big names in the manga industry, Leiji Matsumoto and Tsukasa Hojo. The animated adaptation of Mr. Matsumoto’s Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 and Mr. Hojo’s Cat’s Eye and City Hunter are world famous and popular. “KITAQ COMIC AIR” is an interactive program between world-famous comic artists and general citizens and young artists in the city, with the goal to create cultural exchange opportunities and supporting the growth for the next generation of international comic artists.
During the term of the residence program, Babs and David firstly attended International Comic Festival Kitakyushu* and after the festival they did special lectures at a high school and a university and some live drawing events in front of general public in the city.
We interviewed Babs and David to share what they felt and brought back to the American comic world the things they’ve faced and experienced from the people they’ve met during your stay in Japan.
*: International Comic Festival Kitakyushu is an international event focusing on comics from the world, starting in 2018 as a derivative event from Tokyo International Comic Festival. Tokyo International Comic Festival (from 2012) is an event with the goal to gather the top artists from not only American comics, manga and bande dessinée, but also the comic industry from all around the world to enable people who love comics to freely communicate and feel connected.
Interviews with Babs Tarr and David Baldeón
Animationweek (AW): Could you please introduce yourselves to our global network of animation professionals, in brief?
Babs Tarr: My name is Babs Tarr. I am a professional comic artist and illustrator.
David Baldeón: I am David Baldeón, a comic book artist.
AW: From your experience during “KITAQ COMIC Artist In Residence”, has manga or Japanese culture inspired you as artists? If so, could you please share how it inspired you?
Babs Tarr: Manga and Japanese culture already has inspired me greatly! This was my fourth trip to Japan! I only read manga for my whole life until a few years ago. I love Sailor Moon (by Naoko Takeuchi), the anime and the cartoon, My Hero Academia (by Kohei Horikoshi), and Kimi Wa Petto (by Yayoi Ogawa) is my favourite manga of all time. “Josei” is my favourite genre of manga.
David Baldeón: Apart from specific manga or authors, what has inspired me the most is how deeply rooted and powerful manga is within the general landscape of Japanese culture (or pop culture, if you’d prefer the distinction). The manga aesthetics, illustration, narratives and graphic language are omnipresent in the streets, the daily life and general landscape in Japan, and I love that. It shows how powerful a communication tool this medium can be.
AW: When you compare the big picture of American comic and Japanese manga from your professional viewpoint, what makes each of them unique?
Babs Tarr: I think because manga doesn’t have to worry about color and has more pages, I feel like the pacing and storytelling has more room to be better.
David Baldeón: The audiences! All the differences between manga and American comics (and European Bandes dessinées) start and end in how the audience reads them, what they are used to and demand in terms of pacing, and format, and themes. Best part of it is that the world is smaller these days. We all have access to almost everything, and different audiences with different reading cultures have started demanding different formats and works. It’s one of the reasons why manga is so popular in the US and Europe, and one of the reasons why the KITAQ COMIC AIR program brings American comics creators to Japan. We all want a bit of what is being done everywhere.
AW: Could you please let our readers know some your favourite comics? Could you also let us know the reason?
Babs Tarr: There are some more I love that probably aren’t in print anymore! Mars (by Marc Hempel and Mark Wheatley), Paradise Kiss (by Ai Yazawa), Nana (by Ai Yazawa), Ranma ½ (by Rumiko Takahashi), Fruits Basket (by Natsuki Takaya), Scott Pilgrim (by Bryan Lee O’Malley), Lastman (by Bastien Vivès, Balak and Michaël Sanlaville) are also some of my favorites!
David Baldeón: I’m a huge fan of anything Rumiko Takahashi, of course. Osamu Tezuka’s Buda might be one of my favorite books ever (manga or otherwise); I love its treatment of the historic-religious subject and how he weaves it into a beautiful, deep tale. On the Bandes dessinées side, and just to pick two, I’m going to go with Donjon (by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim) because it’s just marvelous, and the beautiful art of Mathieu Bablet. Oh, and I very much recommend Albert Monteys’s Universe!.