“I wanted to draw a ‘natural Tokyo’, one which wasn’t weird” – An interview with US comics artist Steven Cummings

We interviewed the US comic artist Steven Cummings, who drew an original illustration following with FRI’s concept of .
Mr. Cummings is the artist behind the popular comic “Wayward”, currently being published by Image.

■The US comic artists he admired as a kid

FRI: What made you decide to become a comic artist?
Cummings: Once, when I was in elementary school, I wasn’t able to go to class because I was ill. One day my father bought 3 comic books for me at the drugstore. One of them was the 2nd volume of Marvel’s “Psi-force”, and it utterly stole my heart. Ever since that moment I have been totally immersed in the world of US comics.
It was in middle school that I first became serious about drawing comics. Those days were the golden age of US comics, when best sellers sold 10 million copies, and even works which weren’t successful managed to sell 1 million copies. Conventions were held all over the country, and the US comics artists you met there were very rich, and every kid wanted to become one of them. When I saw them I thought “when I grow up I want to become a comics artist!”, and it all followed naturally from there.

■His amazement and shock at “AKIRA”

F: When did you encounter Japanese comics?
C: My major subject in university was languages, and there I began to study Japanese. From that moment I came into contact with a lot of Japan’s culture and comics. The first Japanese comic I bought was volume 6 of the “Z Gundam” film comic book. Then I found the AKIRA manga. In Japan AKIRA is printed in monochrome, but the US version was in color. I was amazed at how it portrayed entire city blocks being destroyed in such a dynamic way, and the warm colors it used were so unusual that they shocked my sense of coloring.

■He loves Masanori Morita, creator of “Rookies”

F: Is there a comic artist who has influence your style?
C: If I were to specifically say who had influenced me, it would have to be Tsukasa Hojo, creator of “City Hunter”. But if I were asked who is my favorite artist I would say Masanori Morita, creator of “Rookies”. In his works there are lots of characters, and yet all of them are fascinating, none of them are mere filler characters. I think this is an amazing feat.

■I wanted to draw a “natural Tokyo”, one which wasn’t weird

F: We are finally reaching the topic of “Wayward”. What lead you to draw this work?
C: My collaborator Jim Zub and I were thinking of a new project to work on, and we came up with a plot about psychics set in New York. However, I thought Tokyo was a better option, and won the argument without a struggle (laughs). At the time there were a lot of US comics and movies which depicted Japan, but all of them showed an unbelievable, weird vision of Japan. For example, ninjas make an appearance, or everything looks like the streets in front of Shinjuku Station. But in reality that’s not what it’s like. Daily life in Tokyo includes things like visiting the suburban residential districts, or going to the supermarket. I wanted to try and turn that natural Tokyo into my setting.

■The first fans of “Wayward” were “people who like cats”

F: When “Wayward” first got serialized, what were the first reactions from fans?
C: Actually, I have one more anecdote about “Wayward”. After deciding to set it in Tokyo, Zub really liked this particular illustration so we expanded the story from it. Because of this, the 1st volume also included this image as its cover art, so the first people who became fans of the comic were, surprisingly, cat lovers (laughs). I got a lot of fan letters saying things like “finally a US comic which features cats!”, “I’m happy that there are so many cats!”

■He likes Ueno more than Shibuya

F: You have drawn us a beautiful illustration set in the streets of Shibuya. So we must ask, do you like Shibuya, Mr. Cummings?
C: Actually, I don’t like Shibuya that much (laughs). It’s just so busy… When it comes to Tokyo, my favorite place has got to be Ueno. I also really like the moments when Shinjuku, Ginza and Akihabara become car-free pedestrian zones.
F: Any last words you would like to share?
C: Volume 3 of “Wayward” has already been released, and at the end of the chapter the setting changes from Tokyo to Ireland. The world of the story is going to expand even more, so be sure to continue reading!

“Wayward” by Steven Cummings can also be purchased as an e-book.

Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.


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