With the release of the French edition of Tonoharu just a week away, I recently did an interview with La Fabriquerie. You can read the interview (in French) here:
Since they didn’t include the English version of the interview, I asked if they’d mind if I post it here, and they said okay. So here it is:
La Fabriquerie : Can you introduce Daniel, your main character ?
Lars Martinson: Daniel Wells is a painfully shy 23 year old recent college graduate who moves to rural Japan to work as an assistant English teacher in a junior high school.
You have traveled extensively abroad, what makes Japan so unique?
Japan was the first country I went to by myself, when I was sixteen. In many ways, I think it was the perfect introduction to international travel. It felt very exotic & exciting without feeling dangerous or intimidating. This combination of attributes is unique to Japan I think, and really inspired me to want to explore more of the world.
You studied Shodo, Japanese calligraphy at Shikoku University. How does it influence the way you draw?
It’s had a tremendous effect on my inking in particular. East Asian calligraphy is a 3000 year old discipline, and to my mind is the world’s most sophisticated line art tradition. I think cartoonists and illustrators of all stripes could benefit from its study. My next project after Tonoharu is going to be a graphic novel that attempts to explain what makes the art form so unique.
You’re a cartoonist, you love Japan, you lived in japan so you must be a fan of manga, are you ?
Manga and anime are what introduced me to Japanese culture when I was in high school. Ironically, the more time I’ve spent in Japan, the less interested in these art forms I’ve become. Other interests started to vie for my attention, like American alternative comics and Japanese calligraphy. But I still like some anime and manga. Like everyone else I *love* the Studio Ghibli movies. Otherwise the anime I gravitate towards isn’t well known in the West; Poppee the Performer and Oden-kun spring to mind. For manga, I really like the work of Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Sensha Yoshida.
The covers of Tonoharu are tributes to Hokusai. Japaneses prints are a real inspiration for you or just something you like as a viewer?
A little of both, I guess. Japanese prints led me to East Asian calligraphy, so for that I owe them a great debt.
You are deeply indebted to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, can you explain us why ?
There are two reasons. The first is that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of the first comic books I ever read in elementary school, so it influenced my thoughts about comics in a fundamental way. The second reason is because one of the creators of TMNT, Peter Laird, gave me a grant to self-publish the first volume of Tonoharu. TMNT was originally a self-published comic, so Peter Laird established a foundation to help other self-publishing cartoonists. I couldn’t have self-published the first book without his help.
Do you know French comics/cartoons ? Have you ever heard of a French comic or an European one?
When I was young I used to read English translations of Tintin comics that belonged to my cousins, and I remember really enjoying them. These days I really love the work of the Norwegian cartoonist Jason, but other than that I have to admit I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to European comics.
Tonoharu is published/will be published in France by Le Lézard Noir. Is it going to be published in other countries ?
I hope to see Tonoharu published in other languages, but haven’t worked out any arrangements with other foreign publishers yet. Here’s hoping!
By the way, La Fabriquerie said I should let them know if I noticed anything in their translation that didn’t seem accurate. So if any French-speaking readers take a look at both the English and French versions, let me know if you notice any mistakes! Thanks!