At Anime Boston 2019, I had the opportunity to have a nice, long conversation with creators Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh.
Tito W. James: Have you tabled at Anime Boston before?
Yuko Ota: A long time ago.
Ananth Hirsh: A very long time ago.
YO: It was around 2004. That was the last time I tabled here. [To Ananth] and I think we might have been guests. That was the first time we met each other.
TWJ: That’s awesome. Happy anniversary. Tell me about the time you first met.
AH: We were both guests. Webcomics was really small back then. So, there weren’t a lot of people to have as guests.
YO: Entertainment on the internet was little bit smaller. It was more common that people who had webcomics (even very small webcomics) would be invited to be at conventions.
AH: It wasn’t like the most popular comics would come to the show it was whoever was doing comics would come to the show.
YO: Yeah, there were very few people doing webcomics because the barrier to do webcomics was much much higher. Now there’s platforms for it and free services. Things are much more accessible to many more people.
TWJ: You’ve been making comics for almost 20 years now. What I notice about your work is that (to my knowledge) it’s more about quality as opposed to quantity. I mostly know you two as the people who create three to five high quality graphic novels as opposed to 300 comics. And now you’re coming out with a special edition for Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us.
AH: We self-publish most of our stuff. So the special editions we do ourselves. I had a background as a graphic designer before I worked at a writer. It’s nice that you notice the quality. We try to be very particular about it. Yuko and I try to think of the books as “objects” that you want to hold onto.
TWJ: Like the book itself is part of the art or visuals.
AH: Yeah, so for the special edition of Lucky Penny we went to a used bookstore and looked at Danielle Steel Vorince hardcovers and tried to emulate that.
YO: For Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us special edition we were trying to emulate Andrew Lang fairy books. Because in our book there’s all this poetry that looks like old Victorian verse. And we wanted to make the book that it would have come from. So we specifically wanted to make these books that looked like linen fairytale books from the turn of the century.
We’ve also started working with other designers very recently. For Off Hand we worked with Fawn Lau— who’s phenomenal! For Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us, we worked with Keith Wood who has done a lot of work with Oni Press.
AH: Yeah, Keith was like the former lead designer at Oni Press. And I think going forward we are starting to work with more designers because we understand what we want. But there are also designers out there who have a very particular identity to their work. So we’re interested to see where in the Venn diagram our book can be.
The books with Fawn and Keith are all about having conversations with the designer. I guess the work between Yuko and I is collaborative and working with these designers is also collaborative.
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.