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From Scotland to Japan – An Interview With Sean Michael Wilson

Sean Michael Wilson is a manga and comics writer who grew up in Edinburgh, and made the move to Japan where he has made it big in the manga world.  He is the writer of a number of successful manga including ‘Yakuza Moon’ and ‘Hagakure’.  He is the editor of the Harvey Award nominated anthology ‘AX: Alternative Manga’.  We got in touch to ask him about his experiences as an international writer and editor.  Here he discusses his work, and also announces a very exciting opportunity for Scotland based artists.  Read on!

What comics did you grow up reading, and what has influenced you work most?

Like most kids in Scotland and the rest of the UK I grew up reading comics as a matter of course. It was Whizzer and Chips and Victor, ones like that at the start. Then, like a whole generation, I got the 2000AD benders! It was 2000AD that plunged me into the deep well of comics that I am yet to crawl back out of. And I don’t want to, there are many great wonders in it. But I also quickly got into even more mature comics, like Warrior and Escape. Interest in Superheroes was only a short concern for me, because the more indie stuff seemed so much more vital and moving. Of course Alan Moore, and also Eddie Campbell, Grant Morrison, Harvey Pekar, Joe Sacco. This is nothing new but Moore has deeply influenced me, as with many others. Not so much that you can see it in my writing, but in the stance of wanting to do work that matters to you, that has a high level of sophistication. The love of the medium as an artistic form of expression and exploration. Cheers big Al!

What was the draw of Japan for a Scottish born comic creator?  How important is where you live and where you come from in making comics?

The draw of Japan is still a mystery to me in one way, although in another way it’s very simple: the lovely women! I came here with a Japanese girlfriend and settled. Apart from that I also thought it would be useful to be in Japan to make an effort to get into working in the manga industry. Which has proven to be the case, through giving it a good go in approaching editors and publishers here, and a bit of luck.  But I often need to make it clear that I’m not an expert in manga, or in fact such a big fan. That sounds odd coming from someone who lives in Japan, works with Japanese artists and publishers everyday, and is the editor of one of the most respected manga anthologies yet to come out (AX), but its true! I’m too busy actually getting on with MAKING my books to have time to become an expert about manga in general. Paul Gravett is an expert. Ryan Holmsberg (who did the Ax bio section for us) is an expert. The only area of manga I am knowledgable in is the gekiga type, the mature, indie style. And even that is mostly because the Ax Japan editor, Asakawa-san, has told me about it.

YAKUZA MOON manga edition, art by Michiru Morikawa

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Graphic Scotland

A new organisation has just launched, with the aim of promoting and showcasing the best in Scottish graphic fiction.  There’s no content on their website just yet, but we’re excited by the prospect of more people taking an interest in promoting Scottish comics.  Keep an eye on their website, over at www.graphicscotland.co.uk

Also, it looks like they’re on the search for someone to design their logo and branding.  Email them at info@graphicscotland.co.uk if you want to volunteer for the task!