“The High Bridge,” part 1
TETSUNORI TARAWAYA is a Japanese artist and musician who began his career drawing portraits while living in San Diego in 1999. His recent projects include The High Bridge for the U.D.W.F.G zine series, as well as Tetsupendium Tawarapedia (best of 2002-2012), from Hollow Press. His next US exhibition will be Ars Necronomica 2015 at the Providence Art Club, August 11 – Friday Sept 4th. He posts new updates about his work through Twitter and his website.
ON MUSIC AND SAN DIEGO
I discovered great bands from San Diego through a mixtape a friend made me in high school. I got into Clikatat Ikatowi, Angel Hair, Antioch Arrow, and especially the bands on Gravity Records. Then I bought a VHS of The Crimson Curse that featured a chaotic house show on Halloween, and thought, “Oh man, I need to go to San Diego to experience this.”
Around the same time, The Locust did their first Japanese tour and their show blew my mind. So I went to San Diego, and I started absorbing awesome music every day.
Back then, I couldn’t speak English at all, so I started to draw people’s portraits on the street — at coffee shops, record shops, venues, anywhere I went. It was a great idea, because I’ve been drawing comics since I was a kid, so drawing portraits solved the communication problem and helped people discover my style of art at the same time.
ON STYLE AND DIY
Since my art doesn’t follow a classic manga style, I don’t fit into the Japanese comic scene so much. People have told me that my storytelling approach is hard to predict, probably because I’m more into betraying what the readers will expect, and focusing on drawing what I really want to draw. So the sequence of panels are connected unnaturally and unpleasantly. But somehow, I have better feedback from other countries.
In the beginning of my career, I made xerox copies and bound my comics by hand, which I still do. That was naturally accepted in the U.S., because there was the DIY fanzine scene and a strong handmade culture. I had a lot of imagination, and didn’t have the patience to wait for a publisher to approach me. My cousin taught me how to make a fantasy game book, kind of like Dungeons and Dragons, when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was loving playing with it. So it was very natural solution to make a comic book by myself. Japanese people thought it was childish, but other countries accepted it as an art comic.
ON POINTILLISM AND PUBLISHING
Shigeru Mizuki is the king of pointillism in Japanese comics, and he drew 1000 or more creepy monster characters. The greatest part is his comic was widely accepted by the public, because of the perfect mix of cute characters and horrifying landscapes. I always admired his work, but never had patience to draw so intensely. Drawing pretty much consists of lines and dots, but I avoided pointillism because I had so many ideas to draw.
But one day, Michele Nitri from Hollow Press asked me to make a comic for U.D.W.F.G. several months in advance of the deadline. I had a lot of time to prepare, so I tried to think what I could do to make a high quality nightmare. Pointillism came up as a solution.
I’d been making handmade comics with xerox copy and thread binding from 2002 to 2012, but Tetsupendium Tawarapedia will be my first solo book that’s made by a publisher. There are some short stories from compilations that have never been reprinted, and long stories that have never been translated to English before. I’m chuffed to tell my friends that this book has 400 pages and it’s all English!
ON HOW TO MAKE COMICS
The most difficult way for me is writing a script in words from the beginning to the end. But I often draw random ideas, and put it together like a puzzle. And there will be missing pages, so I draw more and connect them. That’s also difficult, because the puzzle doesn’t have a complete vision. It’s tricky, but it makes me feel better to solve it piece by piece. Sometimes I draw from beginning to the end, non-stop, too. I’ll make everything in a day.
I always think about the idea that there are special sunglasses to unveil the inner face of a human, like the sunglasses in John Carpenter’s They Live. My characters are meant to appear as though we’re looking at them through They Live sunglasses, because this is what humans really look like inside. Sometimes it’s mutants with bug legs or shrimp tails. But it’s just a mix of ideas from stuff we see in daily life.
Tetsupendium Tarawapedia (Best of 2002-2012) is available now from Hollow Press.
Below: Click the top left image to read the second part of The High Bridge.
Want to be considered for future installments of The New Comics? Send your work to Comics Curator Keith McCleary via the Entropy submissions page.