It’s not every day a person in your math class ends up being your creative partner. But that’s what happened with Lindsay Cibos and Jared Hodges. As a team, they’ve published several books, including the three-volume OEL manga Peach Fuzz, winner of the Rising Stars of Manga contest from Tokyopop. The two told GraphicNovelReporter about their work process, how they got started, and the inspiration for their fictional ferrets.
How did you two get involved as a creative team?
Lindsay: We met in a high-school math class, but because we were on opposite sides of the classroom, we didn’t actually meet until Jared approached me at a Japanese animation club meeting held at a local college. He saw me doodling away in my sketchbooks and realized I was an artist too. We’ve been together ever since.
Jared: We started like that, friends who would draw characters and comics together. By the time we reached our first graphic novel, we were accustomed to assisting one another on projects to streamline the work flow. It’s a creative marriage out of practicality and similar interests.
What’s it like making a graphic novel with a second person?
Jared: It’s wonderful and horrible and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. Working with a partner means double the creative input. It also means each artist is challenged by an outside point of view. You both pitch ideas, you both play editor. It can be frustrating, because we’re brutally honest with one another. We have to fight for our input, convincingly pitch ideas, and find compromise. The back and forth can slow the process during the conceptual stage, but the clarity achieved hastens the final production. In the end, I think the process works because the reader gets a better, more rounded product.
What is your creative process?
Lindsay: The process varies depending on the work, as Jared and I are both artists and writers. On Peach Fuzz, we wrote the book together. We started by brainstorming a complete synopsis of the three volumes. I then broke it down into a more detailed play-by-play. Jared went over that with his own ideas. Once we had something we both agreed with, I broke it down visually into rough storyboard form. We again read over the work and made adjustments as necessary. Then I penciled a page and handed it over to Jared to ink. We both contributed to the screen toning. It sounds complicated, but we’ve been working together for a long time, so the process is fairly streamlined.
Do you ever have disagreements on where a story should go?
Lindsay: Oh, definitely. And while it can be frustrating when I have one idea for where I see the story going, and Jared has a completely different idea, it forces us to analyze and debate our ideas for the story. Sometimes we go with his ideas, sometimes we go with mine, and a lot of times we compromise and come up with something that incorporates both—ultimately, it’s all about what best serves the story. The filtering process ensures that the best ideas go through, and the weak ideas get cut.
How long does it take you to work on a project?
Lindsay: It takes about seven to eight months to write and illustrate a 160-page graphic novel.
Jared: Once we start rolling, each page takes around a day to produce. Early developmental work on a project is less quantifiable. Figuring out the premise, visual style, the character’s attributes and goals, plot, setting, doing research, and then creating an outline or a more formalized script can take months—all before drawing the first page.
How did you get Peach Fuzz published?
Lindsay: In 2003, Tokyopop ran a competition called the Rising Stars of Manga. Jared and I entered into the second one with the 17-page stand-alone short story based on Peach Fuzz, which at the time I had been writing one page at a time and posting on the web. I’d almost forgotten about the contest when Tokyopop called me up to tell me that I won grand prize. They liked the concept so much that they asked Jared and me to put together a pitch for a three-volume series.
Were any of the characters in Peach Fuzz based on real people (or ferrets)?
Lindsay: The ferret characters are based off of my own ferrets, Momoko and Elf. Peach is based off of Momoko (whose name means Peach in Japanese), and was a bit of a princess and especially bitey when she was a kit. Thankfully she grew out of that stage when she got older and became a sweet and gentle cuddler (though always a troublemaker!). Edwin is based off of Elf. Elf had a lot of funny mannerisms that we injected into Edwin. Pavaratty’s devotion to his toy microphone was also inspired by Elf’s single-minded obsession to a pair of headphones. The human characters in Peach Fuzz aren’t based on anyone specifically, but bits and pieces were likely inspired from the people around me and from an amalgam of life experiences Jared and I had growing up: remembering what it was like to be in the fourth grade, having a pet for the first time, dealing with bullies, misunderstandings with parents, and so on.
Jared: Aside from characters, we based many of the settings on real locations to give the world of Mushroom Valley more flavor. For instance, the pet store where Amanda buys Peach and Edwin is loosely based on an exotic pet store in town, and Mimi’s apartments are based on a housing community I grew up living next to.
How did you get involved with Domo: The Manga?
Lindsay: Alexis Kirsch, the editor in charge of the Domo book, needed reliable artists to come on board and help finish the project in a timely manner. Alexis was our editor on the third volume of Peach Fuzz, so he was already familiar with our work and knew we could get the job done. I’m a big fan of Domo so I was pretty ecstatic about the project. I put together some sketches of Domo and friends to show Big Tent (the company that makes Domo) that I could draw the characters on-model, and got the job.
Do you have any favorite graphic novels?
Lindsay: Right now, I’m really loving Osamu Tezuka’s work — I’m currently making my way through Buddha. Nana by Ai Yazawa is another current favorite.
Jared: We’ve both been on a manga classics kick lately. I’m reading and enjoying A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. My favorite single work is a little known Frank Miller inspired gem called Ashen Victor, by Battle Angel creator Yukito Kishiro. Second to that is Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga by Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma. The Death Note series was also a very good read.
What are you working on now?
Lindsay: We’re currently developing a graphic novel set in the near future about a family of polar bears struggling to survive in the tough and rapidly changing conditions in the Arctic. I’m very deeply concerned about the plight of the polar bears, so my hope is that the story will build awareness about the difficulties polar bears are facing.
What sort of tutorials do you offer on your website?
Lindsay: Over the years, Jared and I have written and contributed to several art tutorial books, such as Digital Manga Workshop, which is about digital art techniques like inking and coloring using Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. We also have a number of free web tutorials on the topic of digital art techniques—see the right sidebar of our tutorials page. Corel hired Jared and me to write a number of tutorials on art techniques using Corel Painter, which are all linked to on the sidebar.
Is there anything you’d like our readers to know about you or your work?
Lindsay: If you’d like to see more of our art and comics, please check out our website at jaredandlindsay.com! Thanks!