DeeJuusan writes and illlustrates the heart-warming slice of life manga, Grey Is… You can read it in the Premium Section.
Welcome to the Premium Tier, Dee! Whenever I read Grey Is… I feel like I’ve not only read an engaging story, but I’ve also read an insightful essay. It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind story, and I’m really excited to see it get promoted!
Trust me! Nobody is as excited as me! Thanks a lot for the kind words! It’s truly touching! I’m, also, thankful to the great admins of MangaMagazine.net for the constant support and endless appreciation to the medium! It’s a month away for my anniversary and I’ve seen nothing but encouraging support and a great deal of inspiring art here.
I know you have a great interest in the human psyche and how it handles interpersonal relationships and life events. What made you want to explore the human psyche with comics?
Basically, I love humans and I love comics. Why not write about both? What inspired my whole career in comics is Manga and Anime. Eastern Comics have such amazing ways to deal with the inner emotion and expressions. They pace differently than Western comics with close-ups and slow storytelling, at least the ones I enjoy are like that (Shoujo, Seinin and Josei Genre. Though I sure enjoy the Shounen Genre). There is a lot to tell about a character’s psychological state through words and pictures and panels. The cool thing about comics is that you can write and show an emotional state without the need of music which can be really heavy-handed at times in movies and series. I love music and I listen much to OSTs while writing and drawing and if I ever daydream of having an anime out of my manga, it would be to have an OST for it. But it’s interesting to me that a reader can be touched while reading the art and the story without the need of the moving tune.
Tell us a little bit about the main characters, Black and White. How did you come up with them?
Black is the main character of Grey is… while White is the protagonist of it. They, both, make the hero of the story. Black is the guy in white and White is the guy in black, which confuses everyone at first haha, and I apologize for that but it’s related to the story. I picked the names at first out of laziness; I wanted to write their names over their shirts and I picked to write over White’s shirt which is black with white font and over Black’s with black font so that I wouldn’t need to use strokes for the words to show and it occurred to me to flip the names like that. But as I wrote more and more in the story I found out it fits the personalities. You see, Black is an emotional guy who represents the heart while White is a rational person who represents the mind. And both the mind and the heart have their own light and darkness, so the silly happy-accident for naming worked on my favor in the end XD
Grey Is… was originally a one-shot, correct? At what point did you decide that it should be a longer story?
I wanted to bond with the characters; Black and White. So I started doodling scenes I liked from the one-shot and the boys doing random things, just to improve the art and know their looks better. I guess I got hooked and loved them too much that I felt like making the story a bit longer. But then when I started writing, I realized that everyone is as important as the main characters. Everyone has a backstory. Black was abused. Why? He has siblings, what everyone did or thought about it? Why the abuser abused him? I can’t just write an evil character. Realistically speaking, something made an evil character evil, and so on. Now I have a story that’ll sure reach a +90 chapter long. There is a lot to tell!
I’ve seen your traditional artworks, digital artworks, pages that seem half drawn by hand and half drawn on the computer… What is your drawing process like? Do you simply use whatever feels comfortable to you at the time?
There is two main reasons for this. 1. I don’t like to limit myself and I love to experiment. At first, I doodled for long on the computer that I felt like my art became rigid, too clean and that I started relying on digital tools like “Free Transform” to fix my mistakes. So I decided to go traditional for a while and experiment with new tools to find my own liking and my own style. Then, as usual, mere curiosity about something becomes an obsession for me haha! Now I’m all over the place with tools and techniques which turned out to be helpful coz it leads to reason no.2; 2. My day to day life is a series of multi-tasking. I socialize with Mum, spend time in waiting rooms (doctor’s, airport, bill paying) or quality time with my bunny while I traditionally sketch or thumbnail. I watch shows, listen to podcasts or e-books while I digitally line. I write chapters and visualize the panelling while I do the dishes or is forced to be in a place that I don’t like to be in XD I want to draw comics all day long so I use the tool that’s most convenient at any given time.
Take us through your creative process. How does a chapter of Grey Is… get made (from start to finish)?
I would already have an idea of what I want to reveal, emphasis or tell in a chapter from a pre-written plotline of an arc.
1. I start with writing the scenes in one or two words like “Room Scene, Fight scene, confession scene” for a chapter. I sometimes doodle next to those words a certain pose, setting, expression that I’d like to keep in mind.
2. From there I start writing the script which doesn’t have any description of the setting or panelling. It’s all in my head while I write. I visualize the scene and write down the dialogue. Sometimes I write a scene too abstractly coz I like to keep some lines spontaneous; to show up when I’m drawing. We all know characters lead their own lives and get out of the creator’s hands after some time, so I like to give them that freedom.
3. Thumbnailing or storyboarding. This is a step that’s quick coz I’ basically drawing circles, rough perspectives of camera views and abstract lines but it takes a lot of time and effort that I don’t really feel tired from. I mean, 3 hours can pass while I thumbnail without me feeling like much has passed. Just like with scripts, I give this step much thought but not too much coz I give room to change it at a later stage; while sketching or even lining . I kinda do that throughout the making of the chapter to keep a place for me to be creative in all steps to prevent one from becoming pure technical. That would make it boring for me. There is only one chapter that I thumbnailed digitally, all other chapters I did traditionally on an A6 notebook (2 pages per sheet).
4. Sketching is where the panels start taking shape and I start adding details. Pages start looking pretty but not final. I never draw all the details coz again, I like to keep the creative process as long as I can. At this stage I start looking up references or taking photos for the Backgrounds.
5. Lining. MY PLAYGROUND! Funny I say that when it was the most daunting task for me long ago. But I learned to make it interesting with hatching and details that I only draw in this stage. Backgrounds are drawn manually from imagination or referenced from a photo, Traced from a photo that I took or modeled using Google Sketchup. I use the last method with places that appear often, like Black’s apartment for example so it would save me time to take shots and place on page. Although, I never use the shots as is, coz they’re too clean, digital and dead. I place the abstract empty shot and draw the characters, the mess and the imperfections manually.
6. At last, the toning and shading. It’s a fun process. The least interesting for me but it’s what makes the page what it is in the end so I enjoy the depth it gives everything.
I see you have a degree in Architecture. What made you decide to draw comics instead?
I never liked dealing with dead buildings. I’m more into the story that happen inside those buildings. I love writing about the living more. I took what I needed from Architecture; tools, rendering techniques, perspective, 3D modeling and used to enrich my art.
What is your greatest motivation to draw Grey Is…?
My love for the characters, the story, the people reading it and the rush I get from creating. What are your long-term goals for yourself and your comics? I want to go the distance! Where there is a chance I want to take it! Where there is an opportunity to take and give back, I want to jump! I’m greedy so it’s hard to list my goals haha but let’s try; I’m an Arab girl from the Middle East and I’d love to reach out across the seas, to everywhere to say “We’re, here, different from how we’re usually represented. We’re just like everyone else; black sides and white ones, with grey choices and colorful lives” I want to win a manga contest (any one) and own the International Manga Award Trophy, the Golden one. I want to have a manga Exhibition somewhere. I want to study Anatomy more and more and maybe publish a series of handy small books about that. I want to own a store that sells books and merchandise or/and my own studio. I want to travel, meet new people and write/draw a lot! Ahhh so many dreams and goals! Told you I’m greedy ^^;
Thanks a lot for talking with us today! Best of luck on the future chapters!
No, thank YOU! It was my pleasure and I just wish to be able to give this community all my best and support it in all the ways that I can. I appreciate this and your time! For real, I thank you deeply! Thank you for those reading <3 I appreciate you taking the time to read my blocks of texts ^^;
Ashikai is a Community Manager for MM.net, Co-founder of the resource group Manga-Apps, and artist for the original series, Shamrock. Interested in contributing to the blog? have feedback or comments about MM.net? Send her an email!