Anime Boston 2019: Yuko Ota And Ananth Hirsh On The Secret To Their Success

by Tito W. James

Tito W. James: You two are kind of like anomalies. You’re a creative couple, you’re producing unconventional work, and you haven’t worked for one of the Big Two. Yet, you’re living in New York, getting invited to conventions, and I can always find your work on store shelves. Do you have a secret to your success? Is it just 20 years of work?

[Both Yuko and Ananth laugh]

Ananth Hirsh: I think 20 years of work is definitely the beginning of it.

Yuko Ota: But you [Ananth] were working concurrently doing a full-time job for a long time. And I did a lot of freelance work doing other stuff early in my career.

I think our biggest secret weapon, that we try not to keep a secret, is our manager George Rohac. He’s the person who figures out a lot of shipping, costing, and budgeting for our Kickstarters to make them sustainable. So we’re not paying out of pocket to do shipping but we also make money afterwords.

AH: I think part of the reason we wanted to do everything ourselves is because anytime we would pitch a book early on, publishers would have a hard time understanding it. So we thought “screw it,” we’ll do it on our own. We’re posting everything on the web anyway. So then we had to figure out how to print a book and ship a book. I did that myself for 3 or 4 years out of our apartment. We had a Kickstarter where I had to ship 1500 books on my own.

YO: It was horrible!

[Laughs]

AH: At that point, we knew we had to figure out how people use distribution. How do you warehouse your books? How does it all work. It’s been a process of doing every job and figuring out how to hire someone to do each job.

YO: It’s about become experts in every aspect of what we do and then outsourcing it. We know a lot of stuff now.

[exasperated laugh]

AH: But now it’s good because Yuko gets to spend a lot more time drawing and I get to spend a lot more time writing. Even with the design stuff– design is something that I would absolutely love to do but I have to decide whether I want to be spending more time designing than I am writing.

YO: Now we also have a literary agent. That’s another recent development.

AH: Barry Goldblatt is our agent and he’s sold two of our books. One I’m working with Tess Stone and it’s going to be published by Random House. the other is with Jenn Doyle and published by Abrams.

TWJ: You have your own comic line titled Johnny Wander. Are you planning to do what Eric Powell has done with Albatross Funnybooks–as in bringing on other creators and publishing their content under your line?

AH: We’ve talked about it and I’ve thought about it. The thing is, I think Johnny Wander is the umbrella where our work sits. So we’re doing Barbarous right now which has this growing list of characters. We have talked about do side-stories or something.

YO: Yeah, we would write the stories but hire other artists to draw them.

AH: That is something I could see doing. There’s nothing concrete there. But that’s the sort of thing we might bring under the Johnny Wander umbrella.

YO: As far as turning into a publisher— I don’t know if I’m interested.

[Laughs]

AH: I think a large part of everything that we’ve done enables us to do the stories that we want to do.

YO: Yeah, to do specifically and exclusively what we want and as little as possible– else. That’s what we’re trying to work towards.

TWJ: Do what you want and hire others to do what you don’t– sounds like a plan!

I’d like to that thank Yuko and Ananth for taking the time to do this lengthy interview. You can read their work online at johnnywander.com and pick up hard copies at your local comic shop.

Tito W. James

Tito W. James is a journalist writing for Comicon.com with a focus is on highlighting high quality independent content. His comics draw heavy influence from hand drawn animation and incorporate action and comedy into various genres.

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