Continued from Wizard World Chicago: Part 3 of 5
Tom Nguyen is an illustrator who got his start with DC Comics. He has done work for DC, Marvel, Seattle Weekly, Wizard Magazine, Dynamite Entertainment and Upper Deck Entertainment. He has a past life as a bodybuilding champion, and is well known for his appealing depictions of the female form.
II stix: Can you tell us how you got started in comic books?
Tom Nguyen: Drawing was a talent I discovered early on as a child. I got into comic books when I was in middle school and I figured that’s what I should do. I don’t have any other talents, I don’t know how to do anything else, how was I going to make a living? So after high school I thought, “Well, I’ll just draw and try to figure out how to make some money out of it.”
I dropped out of college after one year, because I hated the art program there. Lo and behold I got desperate and sent in some samples to DC Comics to be an inker. And I got my start when I was 19 years old.
II stix: Going into comics and dropping out of college. How did that go over with the folks?
Tom Nguyen: You know Asian parents. The Asian dream is to me a doctor, lawyer or a scientist, so even to this day they are disappointed and want me to quit and be a doctor. No matter how many times I show them I can make a living doing this, they just won’t accept it. Its like they are living in Bizzaro world.
II stix: Since you’ve been in the industry for 12 years, how has it changed for Asian-Americans since you’ve started?
Tom Nguyen: The role of Asians. Well, there are a lot of Asian artists, maybe we just like to draw. It’s hard to say. The whole industry is a melting pot, with everyone of different ethnicities. I don’t think its really changed since I’ve started. I think every culture is represented pretty well. Sure there is there is the majority of mainstream stuff where all you see are Caucasian heroes and characters. As time goes on, you see more and more culturally diverse characters, which is never a bad thing. As far as Asians are concerned, I think we are represented well on the creative side, that’s something that will never die down.
II stix: Thanks a lot!
Tom Nguyen currently has an instructional DVD, a book entitled, Incredible Comics with Tom Nguyen and the forthcoming Incredible Comic Book Women with Tom Nguyen: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Kick-Ass Babes! His portfolio and books can be seen and purchased at www.tomnguyenart.com
Taki Soma is an independent comic book illustrator and writer. Her work has been featured in Top Cow, Image, Silent Devil, Caption Box and Arsenic Lullaby. She currently writes and pencils You’ll Never Die.
II stix: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started?
Taki Soma: I started reading comics really hardcore when I was 22, and when I was 27, I decided I wanted to draw comics.
II stix: What were you doing before you decided to make the leap into comics?
Taki Soma: I was going to school for advertising and trying to figure out my life. I really wasn’t happy with how things were going. My parents loved the art side of my life, they have been really gung-ho and happy about it when I decided to make the change.
II stix: How has your experience been as an Asian-American woman in comic books?
Taki Soma: I really don’t know, because the factors are tied to both being a woman and being Asian. I think a lot of people think it’s a benefit, I feel that it’s the opposite. It’s really hard to compare because I am two places removed.
II stix: Do you think the Asian-American females characters in comic books, as well as creators are still hampered by the prevailing stereotypes of Asian women?
Taki Soma: I hate to say it, but yeah. It’s not just in comics, but it is all over the place, movies, comics and in any media. Especially in movies. There needs to be a greater collective effort to change it.
Taki Soma’s work, as well as her comic book, You’ll Never Die, can be seen at her website, www.takisoma.com. Unfortunately, I was not able to steal her best art from the internet for this article.
Stan Yan was born and raised in the Queen City of the Plains, the Gateway to the Rockies, the Mile High City, Denver, Colorado, and received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the greatest university in the world, the University of Colorado at Boulder. (Yes, the author is also from Denver, and an alumnus of the University of Colorado, Boulder.) After a career as a stockbroker, he began freelance illustrating in 2005. He is a member of the Squidworks Comics Cooperative.
II stix: How did you get started in comics?
Stan Yan: I’ve always been drawing, for as long as I can remember. My dad worked at a place where they threw away all sorts of computer paper. I always had something to draw on. When I started my post college career as a stockbroker, I was always drawing comics. After being laid off twice in 3 years, I began freelancing full time, which I have been doing for the last 2 1/2 years. I learned that it wasn’t any better to have an erratic income stream as a freelance artist, than as a financial planner. I was a little worried about what my dad would think about being a freelance artist. He would always go to financial seminars and tell me, “Fidelity is hiring.” But I would always tell him I was too busy to go. I learned how to keep myself busy to prevent from going. My dad is OK with it now that I’ve committed myself to a life of poverty. Fortunately, I’m also married to a sugarmama, so I get health insurance.
II stix: How do you feel about the role of Asian-Americans in comics?
Stan Yan: I find the presence of big Asian-American figures in the comics inspiring. And there are people like Jason Shiga, who I really look up to in the indie world. He putting out really deep, great books. As a storyteller, he has paved the way for people like me, and I’m happy to ride in his coat tales. Creators like him and Derek Kirk Kim, its really made me a lot more brave in infusing my Asian-American culture into my work. For example my comic The Wang, I purposely made my character designs ethnically vague. As I’ve continued the story in webcomic format, I’ve proudly announced that he is a Chinese-American. A lot of the story elements deal with that.
II stix: Thank you very much.