Jillian & Mariko Tamaki
Published: July 16th, 2015
Jillian Tamaki is a Canadian illustrator and comics artist living in Brooklyn, New York. She is the creator of two books of personal works (including Skim, with her cousin Mariko Tamaki) and the ongoing webcomic, SuperMutant Magic Academy.
Mariko Tamaki is a Canadian writer and performer. In addition to her celebrated graphic novel Skim, co-created with her cousin Jillian Tamaki, she has also published several works of prose fiction and nonfiction, including the young adult novel (You) Set Me on Fire. Mariko's short film, Happy 16th Birthday Kevin, premiered at the Inside Out Festival in Toronto in May 2013.
This One Summer won the Caldecott Honor Book Award and the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature by the American Library Association. Skim won an Ignatz Award, a Joe Shuster Award, and a Doug Wright Award in 2009, and was a nominee for the "Children's literature (text)" category at the2008 Governor General's Awards.
Howl: What is your writing/artistic process like for co-creating a graphic narrative?
JT: Mariko comes up with the story. She writes a script, similar to a theatre script. I do a thumbnail and sketch version of the whole thing. Then I draw the whole thing. We confer and edit at all of these points, but don't work hand-in-hand.
Howl: With graphic narratives, you have writing combined with visual art. How do you edit your graphic narratives to get them just the way you like them?
JT: I imagine it's quite similar to any other storytelling: books, film, whatever. However, it's important to understand that comics are not exactly like story-boarding or "viewing" a movie. You can do things in the medium of comics that you can't do elsewhere, for example, the compression of time. I try to visually edit with that in mind.
Howl: What advice would you have for budding graphic narrative writers/artists?
MT: Keep working. Make work because you want to, make the work you want to make. Put it online. Improve on it. Challenge yourself. All that stuff. Read lots.
Howl: What do you look for in what you like to read and are there any exciting new writers or artists we should keep our ears to the tracks for?
JT: Noelle Stevenson, Michael DeForge, Emily Carroll. (Not that all of them are new, per se.)
MT: I'm a big fan of Sherman Alexie, Lynn Coady, Leslie Jamison. In comics Vanessa Davis, Jeff Lemire, and Maurice Vellekoop are artists I'm enjoying right now. Also not really new. It's hard to narrow down a list. Plus I'm not really someone who's ahead of the curve on what's up and coming.
Howl: Your work is so personal and introspective, perhaps even therapeutic. Yet, there is a vulnerability in publishing your graphic narratives and stories because they'll be read - and ultimately judged - by the masses. How do you feel about the process of publishing your work and handling the reception?
JT: That's just something you kind of accept when you publish something, whether that's in a book or online. It's a skill to be able to block out unhelpful or straight-up unfair criticism. But I think showing some vulnerability ultimately draws other people to you, so it's a trade-off.
MT: People's reactions used to get to me more. Lately, I'm more wary of having people's reaction influence work than I am of what people will say.
Howl: The two of you are cousins. How did you team up to put out such great work and how early did you recognize an artistic partnership?
JT: After we made our first book.
Howl: What's next for each of you?
JT: SuperMutant Magic Academy, my collected webcomic, and SexCoven, a short 32-page floppy.
MT: I've got a prose YA novel, Saving Montgomery Sole, coming out in April 2016. And a lesbian romance comic in the works.