By LJ Douresseau
Sep 14, 2004 - 10:30
Last year Mr. Charlie interviewed or did a question and answer session individually with the winners of TOKYOPOP's Rising Stars of Manga 2 contest. It worked out so well, we're back for the winners of RSoM3. We're gonna start with Christy Lijewski of Freeland, Maryland, who was a runner-up winner for her story, "Doors," which earned her a $500 prize and an honorary plaque.
In addition, Ms. Lijewski has a new comic series, NEXT EXIT, to be published by Slave Labor Graphics. Look for it in November 2004. Now, Mr. Charlie #37 introduces this new talent:
Would you mind introducing yourself to the readers?
Well...let's see, my name is Christy Lijewski but you can ignore my last name as it's one of those names that kinda just looks like a jumble of letters. I'm 23 and graduated last year from SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) with a BFA in Sequential Art. Obviously I've got a big interest in comics since I majored in it, and you can guess that, by proxy, I'm a giant geek. (Psssht, I'm not gonna lie, I totally am.)
Uh, other important things to know about me? I have a weird obsession with zombies, pirates and punk music. If I could find a zombie pirate in a punk band Id marry him that second!
Would you mind also introducing the readers to the characters and concept of your winning entry?
CHRISTY: Well the concept was pretty simple, two characters are trapped in this really bizarre world and are looking for a way out. I wanted to create a world that made absolutely no sense to the reader but seemed perfectly normal to the characters in the story. Like, you know when your dreaming and things are all crazy, but since your in the dream you don't really think anything of it? Then you wake up and are confused as to what the heck you were thinking. That kinda thing.
I can't really say much more about the story since if I do, I'll totally give away the ending. And since it's a short story the ending is kinda important I guess!
At what point were you first exposed to manga and anime, and what were your initial reactions to it?
CHRISTY: Well I started reading American comics a few years before I got into manga, but I never really found any American comic stories that appealed to me. I read them, but superheroes in spandex fighting evil got old fast.
When I was at a comic convention back in like 94 I picked up a bootleg tape of "Sailormoon," which at that point was brand spankin' new on Japanese TV even *L* I watched it, and being a middle school-aged girl at the time, thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. From that point on I really got more and more into anime and manga and my interests in American comics dropped off.
What was it about the form that attracted you to manga, and what were the particular titles and creators who appealed to you?
CHRISTY: I think what I liked and still do like most about manga is the variety of genres covered. Pick a topic your interested in and there's probably a manga about it. I think that's so awesome that there's no real standard plot for a manga, it can be about anything your heart desires.
Also I like the consistency of manga, for the most part you get the same artist and/or writer all the way through a book series so you get a really concrete plot and a well defined vision of the story. There might be many story arcs in a specific book but at the end there really is a complete story told, I like that and feel like I'm really getting a solid story that is saying exactly what the creators want to be said.
As for creators and titles I liked, well Sailormoon and Naoko Takeuchi were what dragged me into manga I suppose *L* I used to be a huge shoujo fan, CLAMP and Yuu Watase were probably my biggest idols back then. Now, I'm not really as much of a hard-core shoujo fan as I used to be, and I'm definitely not a magical girl fan, but I still credit them for bringing me into the genre.
Right now some of my favorite series are FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST by Hiromu Arakawa, BLEACH by Kubo Tite, DEATH NOTE by Obata Takeshi, HOT GIMMICK by Aihara Miki and ZETTAI KARESHI by Yuu Watase.
When did you first become aware that there were U.S. based publishers of manga (like Eclipse, Dark Horse, TOKYOPOP, etc.) and what titles did you like?
CHRISTY: Actually I've been into manga since before anyone really DID publish much manga here. I remember when the first announcement that SAILORMOON was being published here was made back when TP was still Mixx *L* I feel so old!
Back then I was most excited that MAGIC KNIGHT RAYEARTH and Sailormoon were going to be in English since they were 2 of my obsessions at that time. Back a few years I would never have thought even that would be available here, let alone all the other wonderful works that are being translated today!
When did you become aware of TOKYOPOP and the Rising Stars of Manga contest and was this your first entry?
CHRISTY: I found out about it when they announced it on their website for the first contest, but I found out about it midway through the contest so I promised myself I would enter the next time. I did actually enter the 2nd contest as I had planned but do to some complications my entry wound up being rolled over into the 3rd contest instead.
Was your entry something you'd been working on for a long time, or was it something new for RSOM? Did you have to rework the concept to make it fit the preconceived notions of what manga is?
CHRISTY: The idea for my entry, "Doors," was something that had been floating around in my head for a long time. I knew what I wanted to write but I didn't really see any place where I could write a short story and actually use it for anything other than personal enjoyment *L* So when the contest came up and it was FOR short stories, I was happy that I would finally be able to put it down on paper.
I actually didn't think about what the concept of manga is, I just drew what I wanted to draw. I've always been told that my style is more manga styled than American comic styled so I didn't worry about it. I'd rather other people come to their own conclusion about how they see my art rather than me define it myself.
How does your work fit in with the "manga style," and I'm asking this knowing that manga encompasses an incredibly broad base of genres and storytelling techniques?
CHRISTY: I suppose my style is manga-based since it is black and white and uses tones. Artistically I think that's a major component to something "looking" manga. I think my girls tend to have kinda stereotypical "manga" eyes or something, I mean...they're big...that counts right? Ah~~! I don't know how to define manga, so I guess I can't really say if my style fits it!
Story wise I like to write with a definitive end and ongoing plot, something not as many American comics I've read seem to have. I suppose that's due to rotating writers and artists and what not. I guess in that aspect I would say my work is more manga-styled.
Is it your goal or dream to be a cartoonist, and how are you working towards that goal in terms of educating yourself about the history, form, and content of comics?
CHRISTY: Its been my goal in life since I was in middle school. Like no sooner I picked up my first comic I literally knew that was what I wanted to do with my life. Which was a big change of pace considering up until that point I wanted to be a Paleontologist ^_^*
I went to college at SCAD and majored in Sequential Art, which is pretty much as dedicated as you can get to actually getting schooling in comics, you know, majoring in them and all! Heh, so yeah, I studied them as an art form and as a pop culture icon and what not, and try to read as much manga as I can to make sure I'm not overly influenced by any one genre. I read a LOT of books for the same reason; novels and everything are a great way to make sure you don't pigeon-hole yourself into one interest or one style of comic.
Did winning change your long range plans in terms of your work and/or budding career as a cartoonist?
CHRISTY: I don't think it changed my goals any, maybe it strengthened my resolve a little. Shortly after I entered I submitted my first proposal to SLG and that ended up getting accepted so I think entering the contest kind of pushed me to actually try to achieve my goal more than I would have if I haven't entered. Even if I hadn't won I think actually completing a 20 page comic is enough to motivate a lot of people who haven't ever completed a while story before. It makes you feel like you've accomplished something!
THANKS, CHRISTY. Visit www.slavelabor.com where you can preview 9 pages of Christy's comic, NEXT EXIT #1. Christy's RSoM3 winning entry can be seen in THE RISING STARS OF MANGA 3 manga, which is available at your local comic book store or at book stores like Books-a-Million and online at Amazon.com.