EVAN HAYDEN // blog

“Cacciatore” – remastered


Cacciatore

I revisited an old friend. Since I’d lost the original files for most of my circa 2007, 2008 work, I’ve gradually been remaking some of them here and there, remastered and able to be printed huge. In 2012, I redid my old favorite Automaton JDM. This time I decided to revisit “Cacciatore”, which I not only no longer could make big prints of, but always felt a little bit conflicted as to how the final product turned out. Here’s the original:

 

Cacciatore - original

I liked the general elements of the piece, but was always a little unhappy with the size and placement of the guy (my old roommate Patric) with the background, and was planning on fixing that before, when I had the original layered file. Also, while the whole splattered blood thing seemed pretty cool to me at the time, and I was going for a bit of a giallo Italian horror / crime movie vibe, over time I felt a little weird about it. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve become more and more anti-gun over time… I realized a lot of my old pieces had guns in them, and I’ve been trying to steer away from that in recent years. This new version still has the gleaming golden gun, but I opted to tone down the general violent feel a bit. Maybe I’m just becoming an old softy.

 

For this new version, I scanned the 8×10 print I’d made for the original, and used that as a a base at first (for the outlines on Patric’s suit), then used the original two photographs (Patric, and the Alfa Romeo & spokesmodel) as a base and ended up redrawing the whole thing, adding new textures and changing things such as the highlights and shading of the car, as well as including the girl’s arms and showing the dash lit up. I thought about maybe having the woman more visible, as I went to the trouble of redrawing the whole background, even the stuff that can’t be seen in the final product…. but opted not to. The thing is, I took the photo of this spokesmodel and the Alfa Romeo Brera at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, when I was there doing freelance work for Intersection. Since it was press day and she was paid to be there to be in published photos, it’s fine for me to show her face in the Motor Show pics I have online, but I felt a little odd about having her face in the final artwork that I’m displaying online, since it’s unrelated to the original reason she was there. Plus, I think leaving the pic as it is maintains the mystery of the original piece.

 

Anyway, it was a fun project. Even though I have it further back in the gallery, with the other 2007 stuff, it’s basically a new illustrated-photography work from me. I’ve been in the mood to make a lot more, after taking a few years off from working in that style. I have some ideas that I want to get done, when I have time. Problem is, my manga work keeps me busy enough it’s hard to find time to work on my own stuff. Hopefully I can get another new piece done in December, since things will be mellowing out for a couple weeks mid-late month. I’m also still really wishing I could find models to work with here, but it’s hard in Nagasaki, where it’s a bit more conservative and a lot of people are shy. I’ve been really missing setting up big shoots with models, props, makeup, and wardrobe, and then making crazy illustrated-photography pieces from them. I may at least revisit some old photoshoots and make illustrated photography from them in the meantime, just to cast a new light on things. Anyway, stay tuned!



“Silence is Golden” – revisited


Silence is Golden - new art

Recently, I made a box set of my music for my friend Ethan, before he moved to Tokyo. For each of the six included albums, I redesigned the packaging and added some new art.I’ll make a post about more of that later, but to start, I wanted to share with you the two new illustrated photography pieces I made this summer for “Silence is Golden”, my 2006 LP. In addition to the original cover and back cover, I used two more photos from my shoot with Dawon to make an inner sleeve to hold the disc, one of which is a track listing. It was fun to revisit this photo shoot and make something new from it. Check out bigger views of this art in the Illustrated Photography section and see the packaging design in the Design section!



Flock Together


Flock Together

Hey folks! I’ve been dreadfully busy, as usual, but I made a little time when I was visiting Michigan recently (where most of my art supplies are) and made some new art. This piece, “Flock Together”, is the fourth in my series of pretty women with cute animals that I’ve been doing each of the last four autumns. I was planning on ending the series with this fourth one. If I get in the mood, I might make a couple more in the future, but for now, four seems like a nice even number to end it on. Click the above picture, or here, to see bonus stuff!

 

In other news, I went through the site over the last couple days and fine-tuned it a lot. All of the image thumbnails are bigger now, fonts are tweaked, and each main gallery page has a more colorful header. I also moved some more stuff to the Archive page, and took a few really old stuff off said page. I have a few new things I’ve been meaning to add, but will do that soon when I have a little more spare time.



Barefoot Gen cover designs


Barefoot Gen cover designs

Last year I had the great honor of redesigning the outer sleeves for Last Gasp’s 2016 Kickstarter campaign edition of Keiji Nakazawa’s “Barefoot Gen”. The first four volumes were released in hardcover form to backers, and donated to libraries and schools. Over time, the softcover versions of all ten volumes will be replaced by new editions with my designs. Click here or the above preview to see the sleeves larger and in detail.

 

For these covers, I scanned-in many interesting and emotional panels from my copies of the 1985 run of the Japanese edition. My books are old and weathered, and I decided to retain that for the images in my final design(hence the back cover of volume 3 having some damage, for example.) For the logo, I made that in sumi ink with a large brush.

 

I’m very proud of these designs, and very much enjoyed seeing the hardcovers in print, and am looking forward to seeing the softcover editions when they are in print. Barefoot Gen is an extremely important and historic work of art, and I’m happy I got to take part in its new print run.



Captain America VS The Nazis


Feeling deeply troubled by the news of the racism and violence in Charlottesville, I decided to make something cathartic, and a tribute to Jack Kirby’s great 1941 Captain America issue 1 cover.

 

Captain America VS The Nazis

It seems like history is repeating, no matter what name this hatred labels itself. Alt-right? Nahhhh, Nazis by any other name. I’ve never been a blind patriot, but I’ve always appreciated the multicultural side of America, and the fact that our major metropolitan areas are like microcosms of the world. I think the mix of cultures makes us all stronger, and I deeply sad to see that some people would want to hurt that diversity. If Captain America were real, I don’t think he’d approve. Anyway, this was a fun little thing to make. Click the pic above, or here, to check out a much larger view of this piece, as well as bonus stuff!



Lots of manga lettering!


Lots of manga lettering!

Hey everyone! A couple years ago, I added examples of my manga lettering work to the site. Since then, I’ve done a lot more books (I’ve lettered 60 manga volumes to date!), but never really had the time to show examples of that newer stuff here. Well, I just posted a TON of samples of my lettering work, showcasing a wide range of techniques. You can see the extremely complex and challenging lettering tasks I’ve taken on on Real Account, the large amount of hand-written work I’ve done on Forget Me Not, the all-by-hand lettering I do on Land of the Lustrous, the crazy action-packed sound effects of Ninja Slayer Kills, and other fun stuff! Also, check out the work I’ve done on dream-come-true projects such as Akira (for the upcoming 35th anniversary box set), Die Wergelder, and The Osamu Tezuka Story. I’m still in disbelief that I got to work on Akira. I’ve been a big fanboy for that series since I was 13 years old! Also, feel free to take a look at some of the pages for manga that I’d previously posted here, such as Sankarea and Maria: The Virgin Witch, since I overhauled the pages and added new examples. I think in general, the stuff I chose to share gives a good example of my range as a letterer, and I’m excited to finally have something convenient to show to family and friends who are curious what I do. Oh and btw, I went out of my way to avoid using images that are spoilers, so if you’re a manga fan, don’t worry about having stories ruined for you when looking. While you’re checking out the samples, feel free to follow the links on each page to buy the books from their respective publishers! More manga selling means dinner on my table.

 

Anyway, you may notice that I’ve changed the location of my manga lettering pages from the Design gallery, to the Comics gallery. Even though I do plenty of design work as part of my manga job, as a whole it seemed like it would fit in better in the Comics gallery, not to mention adding a little life to that page (since I never seem to have time to make my own comics.) Go ahead and check out the Comics gallery to see everything, but if you want a handy little list of all the titles reflected there, here you go!:

 

Akira  |  Barbara  |  Cat Diary: Yon & Mu  |  Complex Age  |  Die Wergelder  |  Forget Me Not
The Ghost and the Lady  |  Land of the Lustrous  |  Livingstone  |  Maria: The Virgin Witch
Ninja Slayer Kills  |  The Osamu Tezuka Story  |  Panorama Island  |  Real Account
Sankarea  |  That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime  |  Tokyo Zombie

 

PS: I also relettered a volume of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order a couple of years ago (another dream title, seeing as the original Battle Angel Alita is what introduced me to manga in the first place), but since I just handled dialog balloons, I figured there wasn’t too much to show of that.

 

What else is new? Since last I typed here, I had a crazy busy month of work, then a lot of preparation for my wedding, then the big day itself, then showing my parents around Japan for a couple weeks during their first visit here, then a couple weeks of recharging my batteries, then more work. I’m in a brief time of respite at the moment, then back to more work soon. I have another post ready to share with you soon, however, about another neat comic-related thing I worked on. Stay tuned!



Tatemae / 建前


Tatemae

Hey everyone! I’m, uhhhh, not DEAD. I finally made a new illustrated-photography piece. (Well, I made a quick one two years ago in ink over inkjet print, but this is my first digital one since 2013.)

 

Honne (本音) and tatemae (建前) are Japanese words used to describe the contrast between one’s personal feelings (honne) and the facade that one presents to the world (tatemae). While it certainly depends on the person, in Japan it’s often difficult to get past the wall that people put up and get to know someone’s true feelings. Generally this “wall” is a friendly one, mind you, but sometimes not genuine. I don’t think this is a uniquely Japanese thing, and I think we all conceal parts of our true feelings. I thought I’d explore this idea a bit since I find it both fascinating and frustrating.

 

One thing I often found unsettling while teaching English in Japan was how many of my students would wear a mask, not just when they were sick, but in general. Some kids wore it every day. Once in a while, during flu season, I’d walk into a jr high classroom and every single kid would be wearing one, and I’d be unable to fully “read” their social cues. I think for most people it’s a matter of stopping germ transfer when a bug is going around, but for the folks who wear them every day, it seems like the tatemae mask takes on a literal form.

 

Anyway, as usual these days for a lot of my art, you can pop on over to Society6 to order a print of it, or cell phone case, pillows, tote bags, whatevs!

 

In other news, this has been a crazy busy year so far with manga lettering, but pretty front-loaded. From now on I’ll have a bit more free time here and there to make more art and hopefully music. One of these days, I badly need to update the lettering section of my design page since it only reflects four of the 17 different manga series I’ve lettered, but that’ll have a wait a bit more. Right now, after a nice stay-cation, it’s time to get to work on the next book.

 

I will say, I got to work on a dream project earlier this year. I got to re-letter Akira for the 35th anniversary boxed set that Kodansha is putting out this fall! It was amazing! I’ve always deeply loved that manga, and it was a huge inspiration on me growing up, and to be able to observe Otomo’s art with the level of intimacy that working with it on my own computer brought, was a truly special experience. More on that later.



Back in 日本 / new art: “Honey Bunny”


It’s been a while since I’ve posted here and even longer since I’ve had much new art to show. That said, I recently did a third piece in my cute girls + cute animals series, “Honey Bunny”. Click the pic, or here, to see details!

Honey Bunny
Anyway, not much else to say, art-wise. It’s strange to have a site dedicated to my art, but not have anything to post for a long time due to being too busy working in art to make my own art. I’ll post more examples of my manga lettering eventually, when there’s time, but basically that’s been dominating my life for a while now. I don’t totally mind though, because I’m working on some cool stuff!  (I’m especially proud of something that I’m starting this month that I can’t announce until sometime next year, but it’s “dream-project” status.)

 

In other news, I’m living in Nagasaki again! I got married in August and decided to come back to Japan to live here with my wife while we do the immigration process for her and wait many, many months for that process to bring her to the states. Anyway, more later. Just wanted to tell anyone reading this that I’m not dead!



Looking back on Project Orion, and my history in and around comics


Project Orion: a restrospective, 1993-1997
(I meant to make this post on July 15th 2016, a special day, but life got crazy-busy. Oh well, better late than never. I’ll explain the significance of that date soon enough.)

 
When I was in middle school and high school, I used to draw a ton of comics. I’d usually crank out an issue per month, full-color, and sometimes two. I started several series, all of which were seen by only friends and family, and the occasional comic artist I was getting a portfolio review from. I had big dreams of exploding upon the comics world as soon as I graduated and finding a spot in said world for my manga-influenced comics – a sort of rare thing in the states, in the mid-90s. Various things eventually kept this from happening… the realities of life… I started college and didn’t have time to make comics. My interest in photography became a full-on passion and pushed the comics aside and I took on new hobbies like making music. I started having a social life in high school, and later in college at techno & house music nights. I started enjoying dating girls as opposed to just wishing I could be less awkward and shy. …aaaand my confidence in my artistic abilities and ability to network waned, but let’s keep this post positive. Anyway, let’s rewind…

 

I started drawing comics in 1991, when I was 11 years old, and began by just drawing a lot of pictures of Spider-Man and other superheroes. I made my first original character, “Electron Man”, and messed around with drawings of him fighting crime, but never really made any actual comics with him. I read superhero comics religiously during that time. I had been given a lot of superhero comics as a really young kid (like 4-5) as well, but I mostly scribbled in them. As an all-grown-up 11 year old, I devoured issues of Todd McFarlane & Erik Larsen’s runs on Amazing Spider-Man (and eponymous Spider-Man), Jim Lee’s X-Men run, and other early ’90s contemporary superhero books, and then delved back further into back-issues from the ’70s and ’80s, reading a lot of John Byrne Uncanny X-Men, as well as less popular, weird, awesome comics like Cloak & Dagger, Dazzler, ROM, New Mutants, and Moon Knight. I also was reading a lot of “mature readers” stuff that thankfully my mom knew I was mature enough for, like a lot of Vertigo stuff, Swamp Thing, Sandman, Preacher, and other more mature stuff like Matt Wagner’s amazing Grendel and Sam Keith’s The Maxx.

 

In 1993, I picked up a copy of Battle Angel Alita #1, and instantly became a fan of Japanese comics. Around this same time, I was watching my brother’s old Robotech VHS tapes, and then realized – via an ad in Battle Angel for said manga’s anime adaptation – that there was a whole world of Japanese animation to explore. Thus began my otaku days. Back then the only way to get anime in the US was on outrageously-overpriced VHS tapes, where in order to collect a series like, say, Ranma 1/2, you’d have to shell out $30 each for a bunch of two-episode tapes. I would get some of my anime this way, and some via bootleg fansubs of Japan-only titles that I would pick up at conventions. As for manga, that’s when companies like Viz and Dark Horse were still releasing thin floppy US-style releases, where you’d get one chapter, and then have to wait a month for the next one, and eventually be able to get it in a collection. Manga was flipped to read Western-style, and the sound effects were totally replaced. Also, many manga being released in the states involved actual ink-based lettering, as opposed to the comic-friendly fonts we have access to now. (In my current job as a manga letterer – jumping a head a moment here – it already takes crazy-long to do each tankoban volume I work on, and I can’t imagine how much longer it took to do it all in ink!) There are so many titles that brought me so much joy throughout middle school and high school… Akira, Ranma 1/2, Maison Ikkoku, Urusei Yatsura, Macross, Mai the Psychic Girl, Crying Freeman, Cutey Honey, Devilman, Caravan Kidd, Dominion Tank Police, Ghost in the Shell, Dirty Pair, Lupin the Third, Baoh, Xenon, and last but certainly not least, anything by Osamu Tezuka!

 

In those early days, I started a comic that was very inspired by all the manga and anime I was taking in. I called it “Project Orion

 

Project Orion covers
It was a space opera, very much inspired predominantly by Macross / Robotech, and by Star Trek TNG. I also worked in inspiration from Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Battle Angel, Chrono Trigger, and Go Nagai anime. “Worked in inspiration” might be a generous way to word it. Looking back on the comic years later, I basically copied a lot of stuff from those inspirations, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re an adolescent. Art doesn’t come from a vacuum after all, and when you’re learning how to draw and craft stories, it’s a good idea to take ideas from things that interest you, and reshape them to fit your vision. It took me over a year to make the first issue, because I just didn’t have the work habits for it yet. After that, I cranked out monthly 22 page issues until my later high school years.

 
So why is July 15th 2016 a special day for me? Well, that’s the date where the story begins, when the big space station launches from Earth. When I was a kid, 2016 seemed like an impossibly futuristic time – a time where it wouldn’t be unreasonable to imagine things like warp-drive, teleportation, transformable mecha, contact with aliens, and the world’s governments allocating as many resources to space exploration as the real 2016 allocates to warfare and corporations. Back then, twenty years seemed like an epoch of major size, and yet, twenty years since then, it feels like it flashed away in a second. The me of today doesn’t have much confidence that we’ll be doing much in space in 2036. We’ll probably be more isolated from each other than ever thanks to the trends of our “social” technologies, meanwhile fighting over resources and trying to fend off the ravages of climate change here on Earth. But I digress… The story revolved around a group of teenagers picked to travel on this giant spacecraft and see what the outer reaches of our galaxy holds. (Of course it’s teenagers. It’s always teenagers. Maybe if I were doing the comic now, it’d be a bunch of flabby disillusioned 30-somethings. Art reflects life.) Anyway, this peaceful mission doesn’t stay peaceful for long, as they are ambushed by space pirate aliens. The first story arc, issues 1-9, mostly focused on the story of dealing with them, with themes of revenge, and overcoming the urge for said revenge. The villains became a bit more sympathetic over time, as a younger member of their group falls in love with one of the human characters, and a new villain is introduced who is intent on wiping out this band of space pirates and their entire species. The story of this genocide would take place in the background during the second story arc…

 
Project Orion pages
I was feeling heavily influenced by the SNES game Chrono Trigger, I made issue 10 the start of a time travel story arc. It was to be much longer and varied than the first arc. Around this time I decided to reinvent my art style, and started drawing characters with a little bit smaller eyes and less bizarre face shapes. (Masakazu Katsura and his Video Girl Ai and DNA2 series were a big art style inspiration on me at the time) Anyway, in this first issue, one of the characters discovers a stone that teleports her to a mysterious dimension where she meets a pantheon of space gods. She is instructed that stones like this grant the power of at-will time travel and teleportation. Our space explorers are each given one of these stones, and instructed to use them with the guidance of the god of time, in order to right wrongs and seek knowledge. Two of the characters, a brother and sister, play a little loose with the timeline and save their parents from the car accident that killed them. Another character travels a few days into the future, to Christmas 2016, to walk around Central Park and enjoy the lights and snow. She then witnesses something terrible – the total destruction of New York. She and the other characters learn that in a few short days, the Earth will be ravaged by an alien being that feeds off of planets, moving from one world to the next. (This alien being, “Anuo”, was admittedly quite inspired by Chrono Trigger’s “Lavos”) The team of the Orion are tasked with using their best technology and training to try to defeat Anuo, but they are slaughtered in quick succession. They are reincarnated by the gods and told that they must learn more before they can defeat the beast. The god of time then casts the thirteen main characters into wildly different time periods and locations, without the immediate aid of their time stones. They have to find their stones in whatever ways they can, in order to return back to modern day. I only managed to do two of the characters’ solo stories – one girl was thrown into a post-Anuo dystopian future in an underwater city, and one guy was cast into ancient Egypt. I had planned lots of other interesting settings… World War II Germany from the sides of two lovers, one a Jewish girl cast right into the fray, and one, her boyfriend who landed there 40 years earlier and never found his stone. I also had a samurai story in Japan… a wayyyyy distant future story… a western… an ’80s Los Angeles story… and lots of good stuff planned…. Then I rebooted the series from scratch.

 

I started the reboot in 1997. I felt the need to reboot since a lot of the story was based off of things that I started to realize were carbon copies of plot elements of different anime. I wanted to make a more truly original story, using the same characters, redesigned to be a little less ridiculous… some of the original designs had absolutely dumb hairstyles and inane personalities, and some were the products of my puberty-addled brain, which in my high school years was starting to embarrass me (let’s just say that the redesigned females had more realistic proportions). I rewrote the history of the characters, planned out more distinct personalities, erased things that originally caused gaping plot holes and trimmed the fat. I also planned a new pacing that would take things in a more deliberate and detailed fashion, as I realized that my original series had a lot of shortcuts and places where I didn’t feel like drawing scenes out, so things jumped all over the place. I had big plans to retell the general story arcs that I’d worked on, but from new angles and with new plot devices that came from lots of thought and advice from my family and friends… I also had plans for a big third arc which would wrap up the story of the original crew, helping their alien former-foes escape genocide, and then a sequel focusing on the children of the original characters, dealing with sentient technology gone awry and, then even further on, a second sequel that would be set a couple hundred years in the future, after said gone-awry-tech basically brought an end to man’s space exploration as it was once known. Big plans…. but I only made a few pages of that reboot issue 1, and soon got too busy with friends, love life, and homework, to continue.

 

Zakkanti, diving into the teleportation bath

After that, I had some false starts on other comics, including a cyberpunk police drama in the vein of Ghost in the Shell (called “Neo Necropolis”), and then a story about an American foreign exchange student in Japan (“Tokyo Jack”). Neither made it past a few pages. College changed me in a lot of ways, and as I was growing jaded about a lot of anime, my interest in making comics inspired by it also waned. There are times where I wish I could go back to those young days of making lots and lots of comics, but in retrospect, it was a simultaneously happy and sad time. I was happy to be making comics all the time. I brought my in-progress pages to school and drew them in class, then immediately got to work on them once home from school until I went to bed each night. I didn’t have many friends until junior year of high school. Before that I was a fat awkward shy kid who found much more solace in drawing comics at home, away from my bully classmates in the outside world. In the summer before junior year, I lost a ton of weight and got a car and suddenly I had a bunch of friends and confidence. After a couple months, the kids who were mainly interested in me because I had a car faded away and in their place were very solid friends, some of whom I’m friends with to this day. It was very valuable to me that I put in so much work drawing comics at a young age, as that taught me art skills that lead me down the road I’ve taken through the art and publishing world. In retrospect, it was equally important that I put the pen down once in a while in high school and went to parties, went to proms, went out driving with friends and listening to music, and all the other things that I may not have experienced had I not came out of my shell.

 

In the years since, comics have held various roles in my life. I’ve done a few short stories here and there… I’ve continued to read a lot of manga, even after getting jaded by anime (its own separate topic, but manga is still a very creative and vibrant scene. Anime not as much)… I’ve collaborated on comic and zine projects with friends… and that all lead me to where I am today, so many years after high school, finally working full-time in comics… just not the way I could have expected as a kid. I did some manga lettering projects just for fun early on (Same Hat!), then professionally with Last Gasp and Digital Manga, which lead to my current work with Kodansha Comics, a very fruitful relationship. I’ve been lettering, doing touch-up work, and interior book design on some of their titles for three and a half years now, and have lettered around 9000 pages of Japanese manga to date. My 16-year-old self probably would have been disappointed to be working on other people’s comics as opposed to my own, but my 36-year-old self is quite pleased with the work I’ve had the opportunity to do, and am looking forward to doing a lot more of it. While the behind the scenes people working on manga – like letterers, editors, proofreaders and translators – tend to be invisible to mainstream manga fandom (as we should be, since the original creator’s work should take precedence), it’s nice to get the occasional Tweet or see the occasional review bit that says something nice about my work. It’s a job, and there are times when my schedule gets so oppressively busy that I get crazy stressed, but then I remind myself that I’m working in comics, and that makes me feel better. The ego I had at age 16 would have wanted to be in the center of the spotlight, but the internet-world-weariness of current me is just fine being behind-the-scenes.

 

It’s been a long and stange road leading me to this point, but I thank my old friend Project Orion for sending me down the comics path. To this day, whenever the Orion constellation is in clear view in the night sky, I smile.