Review Fix chats with Andrew Archer and NICE, who discuss the inspiration and creative process behind their manga, “The Tokyo 5.”
Review Fix: What inspired this comic?
Andrew Archer: At its core, The Tokyo 5 is really just a collection of all the best parts of all my favorite anime and sci-fi franchises. It’s kind of like a love letter to classic ’90s anime like Akira, The Bubblegum Crisis, and Project A-Ko. I remember getting to a certain age and flicking through a copy of Katsuhiro Otomo’s ‘Akira Club’ and thinking, “Why don’t I do my own dumb little comic too?” (not that Akira is dumb, DEFINITELY NOT. IT’S AMAZING) Twelve months later, here we are, five chapters and 122 pages deep.
Nice: Mostly ‘80s and early ‘90s cyberpunk manga and anime. Andy and I talked a lot about how we both love Akira and GITS during the initial phase of The Tokyo 5’s development. We also talked a lot about how we liked Blame!’s atmosphere and visual style. Basically, we take inspiration from the things we love and aim to make something inspirational. Oh Battle Angel Alita, too.
Review Fix: What was your creative process like?
Nice: I like to start early in the day stopping at midday to do my ritual domestic chores and continuing on in the afternoon till evening. The Tokyo 5 uses a lot of dialogue, so careful planning around text is required. I used to struggle with that at first but I’ve adjusted to it. I lay down all the text first in the page, then I create the panels, making sure the dialogue is arranged naturally and only then do I start with the sketches. Sometimes I listen to music (video game music because I am personally convinced that video game music is specially designed in a way to not interfere with your focus). I like to vary the music depending on the tone of the scene I’m drawing.
Archer: I’m lucky because I don’t need to do all the heavy lifting, it’s NICE that has the hardest workload. For me, I usually just make a coffee, get comfortable in bed, throw on a little Wu-Tang Clan and think of dumb things like robots punching each other. Somehow in among all that a script gets made.
Review Fix: How is it different from your previous work?
Archer: Before NICE and I started working on The Tokyo 5 I was putting together a collection of short stories. One of those stories eventually ended up forming the backbone of the comic. In comparison to comic script writing, prose is really difficult to master and I found myself spending hours second-guessing every paragraph, wondering if I’d been too wordy, too vague, too boring etc. Now I get to storyboard and show the world of The Tokyo 5 instead of telling people about it through words. It’s meant that I can spend more time crafting and perfecting the narrative instead of reaching for a thesaurus in a vain attempt to fulfill a 15,000 – 30,000-word limit. I think every creative writer should attempt a comic script at least once in their life, even if it sucks because it’s so liberating.
Nice: I have a couple of other mangas: Deity and Her Last Fairy Tale written by Belgian manga writer, Bart Lambotte, both are Shonen/Fantasy/Yuri-Ai title and both are very much the opposite of everything I’m doing with The Tokyo 5.
Review Fix: What makes this comic special?
Archer: One of the best responses we’ve got so far, well, to me anyway, was that the female characters were so surprising. There are entire segments of manga (and anime to an extent) that see and use female characters purely as entertainment for their male audience. I didn’t want to do that. It wasn’t a conscious decision to be political or even a nod to feminism, it’s just when I started writing the story an all-female team seemed really natural. I grew up on Marvel and DC comics (mainly DC) like everyone else, but apart from Batman, the only heroes that really meant something to me were the all-female stars of classic anime like Bubblegum Crisis, The Dirty Pair and Sol Bianca. They just kicked ass. I think that’s what makes us different, we don’t aim to pander to the ‘magic girl’ manga fandom. We just take our characters and throw them head first a complex storyline.
Nice: Creatively, The Tokyo 5 is special because it’s always trying to push me beyond my own creative capabilities. From the design, the panel flow and oh the background art. I feel anxious every time I start a panel and I feel a sense of achievement and pride whenever I finish. I’m overcome with relief when I see that somehow I have nailed it. Then the anxiety starts all over again with the next panel. Of all my current projects, The Tokyo 5 is the most visually challenging as of yet but the thing that makes this special is that unlike my other projects, The Tokyo 5 has no deadlines (yet) I can take my sweet time with every nook and cranny of each panel till I feel satisfied. Haha!
Review Fix: What creators do you think have influenced you the most?
Nice: I’ve been obsessed with Evangelion since I was a teenager and I love Yoshiyuki Sadamoto’s style. However, now that I’m working on projects of my own, I take creative inspirations from whomever I find inspiring, but the two most prominent would be Asano Inio and Naoki Urusawa.
Archer: I’m constantly being influenced. In the past few years, I’ve become fascinated by writers like Scott Snyder and Rick Remender. There was a moment in Snyder’s New 52 Batman ‘Zero Year’ storyline that absolutely thrilled me and made me understand the power of good writing. It begins with Edward Nygma, the Riddler, standing in a room overflowing with adhesive notes that are filled with what appear to be random words. Over the course of the next eight or so issues, we see everything that was written on those seemingly insignificant notes come to pass, as though Riddler (and Snyder) had meticulously planned every event from start to finish. From the earliest moments Snyder and Capullo told us exactly how the story was going to end, it’s just as an audience we had no idea until it happened. It turned Riddler from a C-grade villain into an antagonist that was so complex that even Batman was nearly stumped. That influenced me a lot and it was a level of cunning that I had to implant onto The Tokyo 5’s bad guy, Tyrannus.
Review Fix: How do you want it to be remembered?
Nice: I’m a locally published illustrator and The Tokyo 5 is my shot at the international scene. I have a couple of other projects in development with publishers in Japan, but The Tokyo 5 is aimed at the western scene. Aside from having tons of fun creating it and sharing I with anyone who’d care to read, I want everyone to know that I genuinely feel a sense of pride and accomplishment drawing each page of it.
Archer: I’ll be happy if it just IS remembered at all. I just want people to have fun with it.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Archer: More Tokyo 5! Part 1 features 4 chapters and a prologue, but there’s so much more story to come. We have giant mecha, inter-dimensional creatures, a political revolution, heartbreak and a really really really cute scene with a stuffed toy. Once we have some more chapters under our belt we’re hoping to take the comic on the road this year to various cons and events. So keep an eye out for an overweight nerd wearing a gigantic tiger onesie pleading with you to read their silly little comic book, more than likely it’ll be me.
Nice: Andy talked about a couple other story ideas with me but for now, 100% of our attention is in the development of The Tokyo 5. I have other titles in the works but those are aimed at Japan through Medibang.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Nice: I have two adorable dogs, Phoebe and Arya and I’d like to take this opportunity to say that they are the reason I work hard, so that I could give my two girls the best life they deserve. That and indomie instant fried noodles is the best instant fried noodles there is! dd?
Archer: Check us out at www.thetokyo5.com. Rico’s Roughnecks!