What was the source of inspiration for the story? Why did you decide to use King Yama and the Netherworld as source materials?
When I was a kid I read a martial arts novel that had a kung fu move called “King Yama’s Travel Permit”. It was probably meant to make the move sound particularly devastating, as if it would send you straight to the Netherworld to see King Yama. The phrase left a strong impression, and I started thinking how interesting it would be if there really was a document that permitted one to travel to the Netherworld. Once the idea of the “Netherwarrant” was settled, I threw in a few characters, a few messed up things that happened to me, and a bunch of my personal gripes about life, and that’s the story.
The gods that figure most prominently in the graphic novel are Black and White Impermanence. Why did you choose to focus on these two characters? Are there any thoughts you can share about the process of designing the characters?
In folk tales, Black and White Impermanence are gods. One is short, the other tall. One is black, the other white. Selecting them to be main characters meant that the images in the graphic novel would be quite varied. In order to make the graphic novel more appealing, I depicted White Impermanence as a tall, beautiful woman, and Black Impermanence as a small boy. If I had drawn them as they appear in folktales, with the whole plot revolving around their quest to find King Yama, it might have seemed too pretentious. On the other hand, if I had modernized their appearance, the otherness of these folk gods would have been lost.
After a lot of fretting I finally decided to preserve their color schemes, but otherwise simplify their appearances. For example, White Impermanence should hold a fan of feathers, but a simple folded fan was easier to draw. Black Impermanence should have a black veil over his face, but a mask of white cloth was easier to draw. And White Impermanence should have white hair, but black hair is easier to draw, so once again I took the easy way out.
The second supernatural incident in the graphic novel takes place in an easily recognizable real-world setting. Was there some real life incident that formed the basis of the story? Are there any other backgrounds in the book drawn from actual places?
There was no incident on which the story was based. Because the main character is so burdened by high expectations, she can never settle for anything less than perfection. I imagine other people would see this kind of character as leading a charmed life, so when it came time to draw her university, naturally I chose the prestigious National Taiwan University as the backdrop. Other real-world places that made it into the graphic novel are Taipei Main Station, the shopping district around Taiwan Normal University, and a nightlife district in Banqiao.
You mentioned that you used an ink brush while working on the graphic novel. What’s the difference between working with an ink brush and more conventional art tools? Is there anything interesting you can share about the ink brush?
The tip of an ink brush is quite soft so at first I had to work hard at controlling it to produce the desired line thickness. But once I got used to it, I found that I could produce any thickness of line I wanted using one tool. That makes it very convenient. Also, I no longer have to keep all this pointy dip pens on my table, which has greatly reduced the number of accidental jabs I receive in the name of art. The downside is ink brush painting doesn’t suit every kind of subject matter, and it is hard to find assistants who can use an ink brush. So in the end, using an ink brush increases my workload.
- Yuzu: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=271
- Netherwarrant: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=386