SplashComics chat with creators of Evergrey

November 5, 2006

Last week we announced that Splashcomics would be holding a chat with the author/artist team of Tokyopop.de‘s Evergrey, Mary Hildebrandt and David Boller.

David answered questions about the global manga scene in Germany versus that in the US, about the creative process behind Evergrey, and about when we might see Ouija (working title) released.
Here’s a translated transcript for your reading pleasure.

Noah: I just wanted to ask how translating works. :)
DavidB: We write the script in English, then I translate it and Jo Kaps, the editor [and CEO of Tokyopop.de], works on it. It’s a little difficult, because I don’t speak German that often anymore… In Evergrey, a lot of the language is intentionally old fashioned, especially the vampire scenes. Mary read a lot of Goethe, like Faust
Noah: How far are you on volume 2?
DavidB: The whole book is written, and a couple of things are scripted. The cover is done, and the first chapter is in the works…
Noah: How long did you need for volume 1?
DavidB: Too long… the work had to be interrupted a couple of times because of a kidney transplant…
Noah: Are you done with the first volume of Ouija (working title)?
DavidB: Ouija is done, and we’re waiting for the final approval from the editors. The name will be changed, because we can’t use it due to copyright laws. A new name is currently being worked out.
Noah: Can Ouija be expected to come out in TOKYOPOP’s spring program (April-July 2007)?
DavidB: To be honest, I can’t promise that. You’d have to ask Tpop. But I really hope so. :) The second book is already written, the cover is done, and the first chapter is pretty far along…
Mariat: What’s working with an editor like when you live abroad? Is talking about it on the phone really difficult because of time zones…?
Bernd: By the way, New York is 6 hours behind. :)
DavidB: We mainly talk online. Time zones aren’t really that big of a problem, since it’s only six hours. And all files are uploaded onto the Tpop server via FTP.
Noah: How many hours a day do you draw?
DavidB: A lot… Don’t forget that we do a lot of things on the computer, so time gets split up between drawing and other things… so roughly 10 hours a day…
Milo: I noticed a slight stylistic difference between the first chapters of the manga and the artwork. Were the artworks created much later?
DavidB: What do you mean by artwork? Color pages?
Milo: Illustrations. :-)
DavidB: They were created inbetween. Of course, in the first volume, it’s a little difficult to tune into it… you can also see that with a lot of Japanese manga…
Noah: What’re your favorite manga? :)
DavidB: Mary’s favorite is Gon. Little Butterfly, Kiss Me Student, etc…
Xenebi: David, I have a pretty general question. How do you discover talent in drawing, and how can you further it?
DavidB: I have always drawn, and as a seven year old, drew my first 60 page comic. Then I designed my own volumes. You just stay on it, and draw more and more and more…
Xenebi: And with time you develop your own style?
DavidB: Exactly. After all, you draw what interests you, and the longer you draw, the better you get. Your own style is pretty important…
Milo: So, have your works only been published in German, or in the US as well? If so, how was that decision made?
DavidB: As far as I know, Tpop USA has agreed to publish Evergrey in the States, but there isn’t a definite date yet. Mary will probably have to do a couple of script revisions. I think the decision was made by Mike Kiley and his editing team.
Milo: Do you see a big difference between the German and the US market? Possibly between the readers, or your target audience?
DavidB: I think the German market is about five years ahead of the US market. I know that Tpop US really likes most of the German projects…
Milo: That’s great. Sounds like it’ll really encourage German artists. :-)
zellchan: Is there more info on when Ouija will come out in Germany? Even though I really like the style of Karma! :) [info about Karma can be found on their site.]
DavidB: Karma is a little side story of Ouija, a kind of prequel. The ghosts are really great, and I think that a lot of Bone readers might be really interested in it…
scribble: Does the choice of target audience influence your work at all? As in, do you draw and write for an American audience in a different way than you would for a German audience?
DavidB: I think we really created something international with Evergrey. Ouija may sell better in Europe, because of the humor…
Noah: Is Ouija a single volume?
DavidB: Ouija‘s second volume has a lot of fantastical stuff. Lots of Egyptian influences. It should look really pretty… Ouija is planned as a three-volume series. It’s relatively epic, what with the ghost world… Volume one has a really nice ghost gallery.
Milo: So did you apply to Tokyopop with a complete concept, or was a lot left open that you then worked out together with your editor?
DavidB: The concepts were pretty developed. Everything changed a little, but the basic concept stayed the same. I have to say, that we did a lot of that online, with the flash trailer and all the “bells and whistles”. It took quite a while to put it all together, too… We naturally have more and more ideas, which may become series sometime. Mary sleeps with her notebook in her bed, because dreams are often good ideas. I read a lot and get ideas from articles in newspapers.
Noah: What’re the chances that you may show up for the Leipzig Bookfair in 2007?
DavidB: Pretty pretty good. We’d be very happy to meet you all and scribble a little in your books.
Milo: Have you ever been to fairs that large and done signings?
DavidB: We didn’t really have a lot of time to walk around, but we had a table with our doujinshi at the NYC Comicon in February 06, and last month we were at MangaNEXT.
Zellchan: I figure US cons are a lot larger than ours…
DavidB: NYC Comicon was huge. They had to send 10,000 people home on Saturday. But that’s nothing compared to Comiket in Tokyo.
Xenebi: Is it very stressful being a mangaka? How often are you pressed for time?
DavidB: Yes, sometimes the stress is very overwhelming. But it’s easier because it’s something I love. Unfortunately, it’s very expensive to live in New Jersey, so drawing can be really stressful. You have to really love it…
Milo: Is the work on your manga a full-time job?
DavidB: Absolutely. You can’t do this part-time. The details in the completed work are just too overwhelming to do them on the side. We are very harsh on ourselves, so we only put out the best we can. We have a big part in the production, too… logos, etc… So it’s a lot of work…
Milo: Does it seem unreal to draw for people that live so far away on another continent?
DavidB: I’ve always worked with people from all over. Mary once worked with someone from Nigeria. It’s a small world…
Milo: Do you translate everything?
DavidB: I translate everything myself, and then it’s edited. I think that’s better, because I know the story better than most other people. But it isn’t easy… First and foremost, I’m an artist, and old English can be really hard for me…
Milo: Do you think something gets lost in translation?
DavidB: Maybe a little, but as far as the feedback I’ve gotten goes, even small details have been understood really well in the German version. A lot of it really depends on the person who’s translating it. We have a couple of books by Goethe in German and English, and the translation is great… nothing is lost… but it’s a lot of work to figure out a good translation. You have to love the work.
Milo: Could you imagine your works in other media? Like as a novel or audio drama?
DavidB: Multimedia is cool. Totally. Look at the Evergrey trailer. I know it’s basic, but wouldn’t an Evergrey anime be so cool? Novels would be cool too. We’re definitely open to anything…
Milo: And how important is an “exchange platform” like the Tokyopop forum? Do you stop by there a lot?
DavidB: Very often. Especially since the book just came out, and we want to get as much feedback as we can. Believe it or not, your appreciation makes a big difference. It’s really motivating…
Milo: How far would you consider the wishes of fans? Would their be a conflict with your own version of the project? And who do you draw the manga more for, yourself or for the fans?
DavidB: I think that in pop culture there always has to be an exchange. Of course, we always want to create something that’s popular, without giving up on our own ideas too much. So it has to be a part of us, but not so private that no one else can understand it. For example, if everyone had said that they had no clue what was going on, we definitely would have had to change stuff.
Milo: Were there explicit changes that had to be made due to the publisher’s suggestion? Was there something that was really difficult for you?
DavidB: There were a couple of small edits. A page had to be redrawn (I think page 16?) and a couple of other small things. Tokyopop is very good to us. But we did a lot of things well from the beginning. I’ve had a lot of experience with print and computers, so it all worked really well… The only thing that was difficult was the health issues.
Milo: Why did you have to change the page?
DavidB: The style wasn’t consistent, and the composition wasn’t savable either. Not the end of the world.
Xenebi: So in the end, it’s probably really great to hold your work in your hands, right? ^^
DavidB: To be honest, I haven’t seen the book yet. I assume it’s okay, if you all think it is. :) Of course, I know every square centimeter of the book, so it’ll be great once it arrives. But for me, it’s more about the making than the results. To look at it philosophically, the path is more important than the goal…
Milo: How much influence does Mary have on the design of the manga and the drawings? Or is that all left to you?
DavidB: No, we talk about all of that. The style is mostly mine, but the clothes, poses and layouts are discussed. It’s total teamwork… For example, Szandor’s white hair and skin were Mary’s ideas. She didn’t want a typical vampire, but a kind of “vampire outcast.”
Milo: Are there some situations where you disagree? If so, who usually wins? ;-)
DavidB: Mary always wins. ;)
Milo: How long did it take you to work out the concept for Evergrey? I mean, the time that you productively worked on it.
DavidB: Before the pitch?
Milo: Since you said “now we’ll make our idea into a manga!” until you handed in the last pages of volume 1. Or maybe until you got Tokyopop’s approval.
DavidB: Originally, the basic idea of Evergrey was meant for the RSOM contest over here. Then we changed our minds, and I guess it was about six months of back and forth and reworking… The basic idea used to be a lot less complex, but it grew and grew. At that point, it became an epic series.
Milo: Interesting! What do you think about the German version of this project for newcomers? Have you ever had a look at Manga Fieber?
DavidB: I’ve seen it, but I have the book. Some great artists seem to have come from it, which is great, but I hate the covers (maybe I’m not alone concerning that). The ones over here weren’t so great either. Maybe it’s just difficult to find a good design with so many artists…
Milo: Over here, the authors don’t have much of a hand in cover-design… hehe! ;-) How did the RSOM competition go? Did you participate?
DavidB: Here either… We didn’t, no. I think that if you submit something, then the story belongs to Tpop [DM note: this is untrue, unless you win], and we didn’t want to risk that. It wouldn’t have made too much sense either, since we prefer making whole books to short stories. You can’t do much Evergrey in 20 pages. :)
Milo: In Germany, it’s less of a contest. To be honest, it’s not at all. What do you think about such contests? Are the Rising Stars of Manga truly found?
DavidB: It definitely helps. I don’t think it’s bad at all. The winners, are of course a matter of taste. I believe that the handing-out of book contracts could have been a little more careful over here. But if it helps find good authors, then it’s okay…
Milo: How’s the artist community over there? Here, it’s relatively close. Pretty much everyone knows everyone, especially through communities like Animexx. What’s that like in the US?
DavidB: The States are just pretty big. I always compare it to fish. In Germany (or Switzerland), you’re easily the big fish in a small lake… but over here, you’re often a small fish in an ocean. The community is okay, but not as well organized as in Germany. You can meet a lot of mangaka on livejournal or deviantart.
Milo: So is it harder for artists in the US, in your opinion?
DavidB: Absolutely. But there are also more opportunities. In general, the climate over here is “less friendly”…
Milo: That’s a shame. Congrats on making it. Do you have role models? Maybe even authors/artists in the USA?
DavidB: Well, so far so good. The books still have to come out in the US and sell here. Right now, OEL has a hard time, because the bookstores feel flooded, and a lot of non-mainstream titles aren’t put out anymore. Just look at the sales of non-mainstream titles on Amazon.com, and you’ll see what I mean… We have a lot of role models, but mostly from anime/manga, and not so much OEL. We both would love to be involved in anime. It’s sort of a dream. Hopefully we won’t have to wait for long, though…
Milo: Do you think that western comics in manga style will have a chance in Japan at some point?
DavidB: I have no hope… sorry… I think that the Japanese have more material than they need. I know a couple of Japan-specialists over here, and they’ve all told me that they doubt it’ll work out. Too bad, it’d be really cool…


8 Responses to “SplashComics chat with creators of Evergrey”

  1. David Boller Says:

    Thanks for cleaning up the original “messy” German chatlog. Even Bernd (Splashpages.com) had to admit that this was a pretty extensive chat. Thanks for the great work.

  2. […] Deutsche Mangaka translates an interview with Mary Hildebrandt and David Boller, co-creators of Evergrey. […]

  3. Thanks for translating. I really appreciate it. However, it would have been nice to ask first. ;-)

    Can I copy your translation and publish it on our site?

  4. elae Says:

    Sorry about that- we weren’t able to be there for the actual chat, because of time zones, and afterwords didn’t know how we should contact you. ^^;
    And sure, go ahead. We cut out a bit, though (mostly the anime-wishful thinking stuff, etc).

  5. hm yeah, that’s the problem we have here in Germany. We have to put the contact-form under “Impressum”. But who knows that in the us?

    I had a better idea than copying. I have integrated a link into our dossier :)

    Thanks again for the translation :)

  6. elae Says:

    We’ll be sure to ask in the future!

  7. […] Deutsche Mangaka’s Elae and Kiri translate a German-language chat with Mary Hildebrandt and David Boller, creators of the Tokyopop-published Evergrey (which has yet to be translated into English, if the company’s website is correct). The interview is interesting anyway, if for nothing other than the duo’s thoughts on the differences between the American and German “global manga” scenes. (Link via ComiPress.) […]

  8. Peter Says:

    Brilliant Website. Please take a look at my website. Let me know what you think.
    Maybe you will link to it…Thank You.

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