The Mannamong – Chapter 1

The Mannamong – Chapter 1

The Mannamong

Chapter 1

***BOOK AVAILABLE***

THE MANNAMONG – VOLUME 1

Mythical spirits crafted by Mother Nature called mannamong have become the pinnacle figureheads of old legends and folklore. One little girl, Kali Teal, finds comfort in her mother’s bedtime stories of these beings as she struggles with an unexplainable illness. In the midst of one of her worst episodes, Kali has a dream where the mannamong cure her of her ailment… Only to discover a rogue mannamong responsible for her illness is using her to hide from his kind. But for what reason?

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The Mannamong – Volume 1 contains 192 pages (5 Chapters) plus concept art, storyboards and mannamocks (short funny out-takes comics).

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My journey in my first Inktober challenge

My journey in my first Inktober challenge

So I finally decided to tackle Inktober for once in my artistic life. And I’ve got to say it’s been a liberating experience. It felt very nice to accomplish the simple goal of just finishing inked drawings every single day. That alone has encouraged me with my ability to produce. It’s definitely something I might consider again next year. We’ll see.

As of now, I just want to go over the images I worked over the month and give a snippet of artist commentary for each one. To explain my thought process and the progress it took to make them each day. It’s just to show that it was certainly a challenge, but worth the growth of an aspiring artist. I hope my comments encourage you with your own art skills and growth.

ink art of children playing dress up by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 1: Children Grow Fast

I really like drawing children because of how fun natured they are to their core. So my initial approach to Inktober was an idea I had wanted to draw in a long time anyway. Finally getting around to creating a complete art piece of it. Just simply two children who try on grown up attire to feel more adult. It’s something I felt we all went though at some point in our childhood. Or at least, the inner desire to seek maturity in fun ways.

Day 2: Genie in a Magic Lamp

Another old concept idea I had lying around in my crude loose sketches I made years ago getting the attention I intended to give. I just drew up the illustration using shapes to stretch the design of the two characters. I was still getting my feet wet with ideas on what to ink exactly so went with something I had prepared a long time ago already from a familiar concept.

ink art of genie granting wish by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of the mannamong by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 3: The Mannamong

Shameless plug in of my two main characters of The Mannamong comic series. I figured doing some sort of promo for Inktober had to be considered doing sometime during the month eventually. But I just went ahead and jumped the gun for day three mostly because I was short on time and ideas. Inking the flames was different than how I inked them in the comic so it was also more of an experimentation for once.

Day 4: Under the Sea

This was an illustration that took inspiration from Jake Parker’s Inktober prompt for this year. The day’s subject was “underwater” so I went with the easy approach. Mermaids. Trying to set myself apart from most mermaids drawings however I experimented with giving my mermaid a more monstrous aquatic look rather than the serene human like ones you commonly see. This was also my first attempt at inking the bristol board vertically as I realized how Instagram takes pictures. And the previous three felt too small for me as I wanted the frame to take as much of the illustration as much as possible. So I hunched her tail into a curve over her arching back and tried to play with more of the environment she was in. Filling in blacks to contrast with the finer details like the scales was also my risky attempt to try and balance the image.

ink art of mermaid creature by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of girl walking her puppy by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 5: Walking the Dog

Another old idea I sketched long ago finally getting inked. My early days were used to ink up ideas I’ve wanted to do for years but was a little too insecure completing with my inking skills at the time. I’ve had some practice drawing puppies after recreating a cartoon version of my previous dog Josie so the pup was a little fun to express. Not sure what breed it is though…

Day 6: Butterflies

This one started getting me a lot of attention on Instagram. I guess people like the artsy-ness of it. I wanted to draw the girl a bit lanky so her body looks a little elongated on purpose. The shoes were stylized in an attempt I hadn’t tried before but I like how her left shoe turned out. The butterflies were a lot of effort though. Trying to come up with the pattern was tricky enough but then filling them in to have them pop through the image was a little taxing on my energy once I finished. But I suppose it was worth it. Definitely the best in terms of contrast and inking approach I had then.

ink art of girl with butterflies by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of mom grocery shopping with baby by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 7: Grocery Cart Girl

This was inspired by a real life child I saw at a Publix last year with messy hair, sunglasses, and a pacifier holding the steering wheel just like this! I just had to recreate the memory. It was adorable! I added in the mother through my own creative merits because I don’t remember who was with the kid. And I wanted to practice my car drawing skills for good measure so I added the daydream to spice up the charm of the image. Getting the right perspective for the cart was the biggest challenge; as I really wanted this particular angle rather than a birds eye, worms eye, or neutral view so badly. I managed to get it exactly how I pictured it in my head. That itself made it a success I was proud of.

Day 8: Crush

Back to horizontal framing, I had the idea of a boy being distracted by a cute girl. I wanted to convey a little humor to the love story though, so I went with the typical “watch where you’re going” message. Poor boy. I really began to crosshatch more comfortable starting with this image that will repeat itself later down the road.

ink art of young love crush by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of dragon and fairy by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 9: The Dragon and Fairy

Probably one of my most popular illustrations surprisingly. For me at least. I was worried I botch the dragon’s scales as I desperately tried to fix it with adding so much detail to it. I suppose that’s what made it work in the end. Nevertheless, the image speaks for itself. I wanted a daring small creature like a fairy boldly teasing a beast that could easily incinerate her. I find fairy tale like creatures would be far more interesting to look at if they play off of each other in some interesting way. Literally.

Day 10: The Daughter of Mother Nature

Another promo of The Mannamong, this time with another pivotal character Gisenes. I just wanted to draw her at the time. She’s a fun character with interesting ideas I have in mind for her in the series. Her hand glows because she possesses spiritual powers that I tried my best to convey with the effect I drew. Not sure if I’m satisfied with how that went… And yes, she suppose to have four fingers on each hand.

ink art of the mannamong character Gisenes by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of witches by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 11: Witchy Bond

I was a tad disappointed with how low received this one went as I was a little proud of the approach more so than my others that were far more popular on Instagram. But I guess the subject is common place so what can you do? It was a fun attempt at drawing some quirky looking characters by design alone.

Day 12: Tangled Mess

With the previous sketches having some fairy tale related subjects, I took inspiration from Rapunzel with this one. Probably not as obvious considering you can’t even see the girl. But yes, the long hair was more used to fill the board than to make it related to the fairy tale. Honestly, this is one of my least favorite as I had a real difficult time trying to decorate the hair with accessories I could think off the top of my head. I wanted to convey messiness if that worked out but eh, the hair didn’t go as messy as I could’ve made it if I went at it longer…

ink art of a tangled hair mess by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of sibling rivalry by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 13: The Last Piece…

I had that thought of siblings fighting over the last slice of…well whatever in my head, so I went with pizza. I played around with how I designed the two more so than being concerned with the pizza and the box.

Day 14: Negative Thoughts

I was genuinely surprised how this illustrated drew a lot of attention on Instagram after I posted it like with the dragon and fairy one. Especially considering it’s message is a little foreboding. The typical shoulder devil skit was stretched to have my devil looking character a little more fitting with my artsytle. I tend to attempt drawing existing concepts with a design I haven’t seen or tried before in order for it to stand out to me. I guess I succeeded in that as it was another of the popular drawings I made.

ink art of the devil made me do it by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of angel giving hope by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 15: Hope…

To contrast with the previous depressing image, I countered it with something a little more enlightening. Sadly, this one didn’t get much reception as the previous. I seriously wondered if people are just more drawn to the sinister dark imagery? It was an interesting insight as to how people favored my work at this point. But it did disappoint me a tiny bit as I was quite proud of this one. I suppose it’s because hopeful meaning and enlightenment encourage me and give me a little happiness inside so I wanted to convey that.

Day 16: Sweets For All

This was fun to draw. I started out with having a monster eating sweets in my head for some reason, to contrast with how tiny the food was to him but eats them regardless because he loves them. So I added in a maid minuscule to his size and played the idea of a tavern or something in a fantasy world where any creature could enjoy some nice food and service. I really liked how both characters came to be from that initial thought.

ink art of sweet tooth monster by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of fiery hula dancer by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 17: Fiery Dancer

I was thinking of Lilo and Stitch at the time I drew this and decided to draw hula dancing for once. I liked the decor of a hula dancer so I went a bit further and combined it with fire dancing as well. Then turned the dancer into some fire creature with flaming hair for added effect.

Day 18: Nest

I’m not sure what inspired this idea. Probaby Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg and a Salandit from Pokemon Sun and Moon. Anyway, I just made a giant egg sitting in a branchy nest to practice how much detail I can add to something. The bird was fun to draw too, as I made him a tiny bit anthropomorphic with the wings being its arms. I added the lizard to show why the bird is surveying its surroundings on top of the egg. Not much else to say.

ink art of children sharing ice cream by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 19: Sharing is Caring

Working for Kilwin’s, an ice cream and chocolate shop, has me meeting with lots of different kinds of customers. This wasn’t inspired by a real occurrence I saw like the grocery cart girl, but I can possibly imagine something like this happening with siblings. Maybe. I overall just needed an idea to draw from and my job was the only thing I could think a topic on. And since the store I worked at was close to the beach I thought the summer attire was appropriate.

Day 20: Pucker Up

This was actually my father’s birthday so I had to come up with something quick and easy to draw that wouldn’t have taken so much of my time. I ended up going for another fairy tale inspired piece by using the frog prince. But I exaggerated the concept a little bit by having the frog look a little questionable in addition to a fairy godmother-like fairy goading the princess to kiss it. Made me think of interesting scenarios in how this story could’ve been approached with a begrudging mindset. It’s thinking beyond the norm like this that stirs my creativity every now and then.

ink art of the princess and the frog by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of child curiosity of nature by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 21: Upon Closer Inspection

I was really scrapping the bottom of the barrel with ideas at this point… The only thing I could look back to for inspiration were the ideas of children doing innocent stuff. I remember how inquisitive children can be when things new to them are accessible at a closer glance. So I practice my perspective skills to try and enlarge a close up view of a ladybug with a child, who’s gigantic in size by comparison, observing it. At this point, I was running dry with visual flair in my inktober approach so it’s not the most appealing to me personally.

Day 22: Lurking from Behind

I got inspiration for this piece after my mother suggesting drawing children in costumes for Halloween with one of their bags spilling candy on the ground. I added the dog and ghost for good measure to illustrate the creepiness following these children. I wasn’t sure how to detail the ghost however as I ended up crosshatching it messily until I stopped smearing it. Pretty tricky to figure out considering I already filled the sky black and wanted the ghost to appear menacing but I was running out of time as it was and had to submit it before the day ended.

ink art of halloween trick or treat travels by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of vampires on the beach by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 23: Vampire Beach Day

I was getting back in the creative groove starting with this. The idea of vampires on a grim looking beach with black water, undead fish, sea monsters surfing and a creepy looking sun was something that felt perfect to draw for Inktober and the upcoming halloween festivities. I made the vampires sickly looking with veins protruding from their bodies to remind myself and others that they’re undead. Giving the two and umbrella which one is burning also showed the kind of relationship these two may have…

Day 24: Hide and Fall

Autumn is my favorite season and I wanted to express that with the idea of children playing with the leaves. The approach of hide and seek using the trees gave this image more life than most of my previous illustrations to me. Giving the children warm looking attire also helped deliver the cool autumn atmosphere I wanted to present. This is another of my more proud achievements during the month.

ink of children playing hide and seek in the fall by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of sibling fighting by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 25: Shipment

Not exactly related to Jake Parker’s prompt of the day “ship”, but it was the key word that inspired another kind of “ship” I don’t believe he meant initially. Actually, it was a day which something didn’t go my way and I was really upset over it for a while. So I kind of vented my frustration a little into this piece. I can only imagine this is how some siblings feel towards each other since I’m an only child. But I guess the joke worked as it’s one of those most favorable posts on my Instagram that took me by surprised. And on a day which I wasn’t feeling my best. Funny, huh?

Day 26: Cards

Inking the thin cards was a little daunting at first. Trying to get them to look good without using a ruler demanded my full attention just like the girl in this image. I felt using ruler wouldn’t give the same affect I wanted and the nonlinearity probably helped convey the message of steady concentration anyway. Adding the little sister planing to topple all the hard work gave the picture a little cruelty to it I suppose. But making her bored and hunched was to convey how long she’s been waiting as is. I think of little details like this even when it’s not the focus to give my drawing a little more variety for people to look at. The thought bubbles were also added in the last minute because there was so much extra space left and I though it’d be doubly cruel to get an insight to both girl’s heads.

ink art of children playing with cards by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of boy resting on his dog by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 27: Man’s Best Cushion

I just wanted to draw a big dog in contrast to a child at first. However, having the boy use it like a piece of furniture not only amplified the dog’s size but gave it a little story to tell, which has always been my main goal in coming up with these illustrations. Like the previous dogs in the other posts, I didn’t consider what kind of breed this dog was and made it up, to excuse it’s gigantic proportions too I suppose.

Day 28: Behind the Mask

Jumping the gun with another of Jake Parker’s prompt that was meant for the last day, I used the word “mask” and made an image about a mask of course. But I thought it’d be more interesting if it was only half of a mask and the other half expressing what the kind of person was behind it. Giving a child an innocent expression yet layered with subtle unsettling signs was the attempt of the image. The eyes especially were a last minute addition to make them pop out from the mask’s side of her face, but it complimented the creepiness I tried to convey.

ink art of little girl behind a mask by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 29: Calm and Storm

An idea of two mythical goddesses riding clouds with designs reflected on the type of cloud they’re riding on. I felt I could’ve stretch the design more if I had time but I was surprised by how well received this one got as one of the top three most favored on Instagram. I guess people liked the approach I was going for alone.

Day 30: Castle Besieged

Living in Florida constantly reminds you of the warm weather and the beaches near you so I easily came up with this illustration pretty quickly. I wasn’t satisfied with the simple prospect of having children build a sand castle however, so I added the seagull in as an intrusive guest to their construction. I wonder if such a bold bird would ever exist in the world but I bet it’d be pretty amusing.

ink art of kids making sand castle on the beach by Michael Adam Lengyel
ink art of qwibble quivering bag of bones by Michael Adam Lengyel

Day 31: Meet Qwibble

And last but not least, I made a very quick doodle of my character Qwibble the Quivering Bag of Bones. I swore to at least have a drawing made for him every Halloween ever since I debuted him in the comic I made last year so he was saved for the very end of my creative ropes. Honestly, I wish I could’ve done something more elaborate like another comic but this first time experience with Inktober have taught me to plan ahead for next year. At the very least however, I intend to have Qwibble and his short stories be a tradition for every Halloween.

There you have it. Quite possibly, the longest blog I’ve done yet. And one that’s been overdue. Like I stated on day 27, my ultimate objective was not just to draw characters for Inktober, but to share little stories within them. It’s how I want my artistic direction to be viewed by my followers online. So this challenge was a great exercise in stretching my creativity and my skills. I probably would like to try it next year if possible. I definitely recommend any other artist to try it as well. And let me tell you; if you don’t give up and keep at it every day, it’ll without a doubt be rewarding.

Looking back on all the illustrations I made has already got me reminiscent. I can easily remember each day because of them and I’m just amazed at how fast it all ended… But it certainly was a lot of fun. Can’t wait for next year’s bout!

Celebrating 20 Years of the Pokémon Anime

Celebrating 20 Years of the Pokémon Anime

Pokémon is without a doubt the prime form of entertainment that gave me many things as a child. The prospect of the adventure, exploring new places, meeting people both kind and bad, and growing along the journey are the elements founded upon both the video games and the anime based on them. Last year was the celebration of the franchise’s 20th anniversary and this year celebrates the 20th anniversary of the anime. If it’s not the games, it’s the anime fans talk about when mentioning Pokémon. And I would like to share my personal thoughts on the show itself.

A promo poster of the sixth generation XYZ Saga

I find the Pokémon anime series a bit unique as a long running animated series compared to others like say, The Simpsons or Spongebob Squarepants, because it’s still a chronological story despite what others may say. And the 20th anniversary specials were proof of it. Since its inception, the anime keeps consistency of the past pokémon Ash Ketchum has caught, regardless whether his experience as a trainer had improved or not. That alone shows that no matter how long this show has been running, it is still a narrative that insists on chronicling Ash’s journey despite his remaining ten years old throughout all his traveling. This has alienated some fans, especially the earliest generation, for refusing to have Ash grow up and develop properly. Reasonably so, as it’s hard to believe that everything he’s experienced thus far, and will continue to experience, is all contained within a single year. But the focus has always been to target towards the next generation of children who will be exposed to the next installments of each new video games to accompany the anime. And this got me thinking why that is.

Apparently, the people involved working on the show both past and present have stated their personal belief that keeping Ash ten years old is meant to signify the innocence of childhood no matter how old you get. Which I can appreciate. A lot of fans aren’t convinced however, due to the timeline consistency issue evident by the people and pokemon he’s encountered as I stated previously. There are two arguments because of this. Leaving the protagonist ageless even though the show treats itself with events that demand a time chart for the sake of marketing and nostalgic purposes will frustrate old fans but invite newer, younger fans to relate to this child closer to their age. And demanding growth and development from an icon who should age with the following that grew up watching this from the beginning would better relate to it’s first and more dedicated fans. The anime is at a constant tug of war with this mindset on both ends for years. And honestly, that’s what impresses me the most for how long this show has continued.

The anime is no exception for being repetitive like other long running forms of entertainment, but one striking difference that sets it apart are the journeys Ash and his partner Pikachu go through. Pokémon as a whole is all about the road trip theme incorporated in the games and the world building that fans love to explore. Ash himself is a catalyst to travel and seeing new regions, new people and of course, new pokémon to catch. The structure may be stagnant to some, but it is always a fresh take with different characters.

Ash, Misty, and Brock from the early years to the current Sun and Moon art style

This is where I bring up Ash’s first two close friends Misty and Brock. It’s been a very long time since the three went their separate ways. And because of that, it’s incredibly refreshing to see the most recent two episodes focusing on their reunion. I’ll admit, never did I ever imagine both of Ash Ketchum’s first traveling companions would return all together after all these years… But when it did, not only did the old generation of fans explode with ecstasy online, there was a strong sense of nostalgia that blossomed within me that made me think, “Wow, have we really come this far?”

Coinciding with Ash’s friends from the Alola region, we get a blend of characterization from the past and present. But this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Previous traveling companions like May and Dawn returned for a couple of episodes to the generation ahead of them after they parted ways with Ash, which were highlighted as some of the memorable episodes by fans. It’s this aspect of reuniting with old friends and introducing them to new friends that appeals to the audience because this never-ending journey doesn’t want to forget what it left behind. As I’ve stated repeatedly, that’s impressive and charming for an animated children’s show that lasted this long.

But the other biggest appeal this show presents to me is its boundless positive atmosphere. For a fictional universe focusing on cartoony monsters with superpowers caught and contained in red and white balls, despite the premise centered on battling, including some of the grim undertones mentioned in their original game counterpart, the anime is very lighthearted and child friendly, regardless of what some adults may say. Whenever there’s a problem presented, the characters usually tackle it head on with zeal. Even when they fail, they usually take it in stride with a smile and convince themselves to do better next time. This is consistently presented throughout the show and it’s very encouraging for younger viewers in my opinion. It doesn’t mean there’s never any conflict. The characters just continue to push forward. And that’s the key here. Pushing forward.

Following Ash and Pikachu in their stories of new challenges with an uplifting attitude, followed by the new friends they make, and exploring an increasingly building world are the things why I still love the series to this day. So where am I going with this?

Pokémon may be a never-ending franchise that will insist on keeping the status quo for the anime, but you know what? That’s fine with me. As long as new fans get to meet Ash and Pikachu and follow him on the journey he’s currently on and appreciate the time they spend with them. Will Ash’s journey ever conclude? I cannot say for certain. But I feel it’s important for fans both new and old to keep in mind that regardless, it’s always about the adventure. That’s something I find remarkable to find in an animated children’s show that continues to thrive strong. Happy 20th  anniversary Ash Ketchum!

The Cartoons, Anime and Games That Influenced The Mannamong

The Cartoons, Anime and Games That Influenced The Mannamong

So as I mentioned in the previous post, there were a lot of things that made my childhood and gave me a plethora of entertainment that inspired my love for storytelling. And for those who are curious as to which stuff actually gave me ideas for The Mannamong growing up, I’ve made a list that details certain aspects of these shows, movies, and games that brought me to where I am today. Take note however, that not everything mentioned here actually made it to the final product but they were rather the catalysts that gave me the light bulb dings in my head growing up.

This is probably the only Disney movie that left an impact on me through an aesthetic level that really ties the whole movie together very naturally. Everything that Disney is notably known for has to do with fairy tales. If not that, then it’s either Pixar or Lilo and Stitch. What captivated me was the fact the setting took place in Hawaii and Lilo herself was a true native of the islands. It’s history and culture is deeply rooted within Lilo and her family; so much so it’s an essential theme to the story the movie was representing. And it’s executed tactfully, respectfully and naturally. I wish more works of fiction tackled this approach honestly. So I figured, why not try it myself? I was pretty interested in Native American culture so I decided to approach it with my own comic. I shamefully admit, the leading lady of The Mannamong, Kali, took heavy inspiration from Lilo so I won’t deny their striking similarities. 

I would like to share more about how and why I decided to go with an Indigenous American idea but I just wanted to conclude how Lilo and Stitch opened my eyes to the possibilities of telling a story with a protagonist’s background being a theme to the narrative.

The world itself is full of fun adventures just waiting to happen with each new game!

Every child will most likely encounter something remotely related to this franchise, and I was personally lucky to be born within the time it debuted throughout the world. The biggest compliment I can ever give is to the imagination and to how it incorporates these ideas into a tightly constructed fictional universe that kids love to explore. The games and anime’s general focus is the adventure. To travel without grown ups telling you what to do and encounter creatures to capture, tame and befriend while battling against the opposition; this is what a true child’s fantasy world should be. And it’s something I told myself a long time ago to keep in mind when questioning the series success and how I could use a similar approach for my own work…

I put these two together under the same discussion because they’re quite similar and both share the same reasoning in how they influenced me.

These two shows aired around the same time period right when I was initially inspired to create The Mannamong. I was in middle school at the time and the protagonists in both shows were roughly my age in the same grade level. Both shows were about the main hero interacting with the magical world that parallels with their suburban environment as the chosen ones responsible for maintaining balance. Funny enough, both shows featured a Chinese protagonist with magical powers too. Coincidence…?

Anyway, these two were the biggest inspiration that molded The Mannamong’s setting and genre towards a fantasy and slice-of-life mixture. 

I originally had my protagonist, Kali, set to the age of a preteen, too, at this stage like Jake Long and Juniper Lee. But I switched her back to a child and instead thought to have her possibly grow older as the story progressed. Nonetheless, if you haven’t heard or seen these shows, I suggest taking a quick look at them. If anything, they have some charm to the world building they both try to execute and will give you an idea of the kind of story I was initially aiming for.

Something similar to Jake Long and Juniper Lee, Cardcaptor Sakura, also featured a young protagonist being involved with magical activity that clashes with her every day life. Only it’s style and direction is much different. I discovered this series online right when I was wrapping up middle school. At first, I thought this was going to be more akin to Magic Knight Rayearth since I learned it was made by the same creators. Specifically, with the protagonist being whisked away to a fantasy world. But it’s focus stood firm within Sakura Kinomoto’s average hometown, Tomoeda.

I initially wasn’t too invested by the anime but it kept drawing me to continue watching for some reason. Unlike the previous aforementioned shows, Cardcaptor Sakura’s pacing and presentation left me with a more… calming feeling after watching them? Something I would like to discuss further in a future post, Cardcaptor Sakura felt more like a cruise than an exciting adventure, which I didn’t mind really. In fact, I think that’s what essentially drew me to continue watching it. Now it’s one of my favorite shojo anime. Cardcaptor Sakura gave me a relaxing and charming atmosphere that expanded my creative muscles to think more about delivering stories that could just be as soothing and adorable as this series could be.

This was probably my very first video game that tackled a deep narrative and exposed me to the innovations of story driven games with an expansive fictional universe. I would later discover the other installments of the Final Fantasy series, but this one in particular holds a special place in my heart for both nostalgic and multilayered purposes. Amongst all the Final Fantasy games, this one to me is the most stylized game in terms of its art direction. The main characters themselves vary in different races and come in unique shapes and sizes. Paint a black silhouette among them all and I guarantee you someone familiar with the series will immediately recognize them.

 

And the settings… Oh my goodness, the settings are breathtaking. So much detail is put into each location with a story to tell of its own. It really captures the history of said set piece with its rustic medieval design. Just looking at the concept art alone astonishes me how much time went into penciling every stroke to these sketches. I could go on and on how much the story touched me and how it blends masterfully with its characters and their personal stories, but I just wanted to emphasize the art and its level of creativity.

Final Fantasy games all have their invigorating stories and elaborate fantasy settings, but IX in particular feels more concise and memorable to me. Which may have to do with Nobuo Uematsu’s amazing music to accompany it as I played the game. Call it biased if you may, but I had a lot of fun playing this game. Exploring the entire world, meeting its charming characters, and getting lost in its lore was without a doubt what drove me in wanting to create something as massively enchanting as this.

Not a very well known video game, especially by today’s standards, but let me tell you, this game was addicting during my younger years. Before Final Fantasy IX, this was my true introduction to JRPGs. And thankfully, I was blessed to have been gifted with this little gem by my parents. I remember first playing it excessively as a demo in stores. My mom must’ve took note of my playing because I don’t ever remember telling her about the game, but I knew it was super fun to play. And it still is to this day because of its unique gameplay.

Legend of Legaia’s story was the second aspect that grew my love for this game. It’s full of suspense, peril, mystery and despair in such a simplified way. At least, for my little brain to comprehend at the time. Legaia is a dark game, surprisingly, despite it’s E for everyone rating. It takes place in a catastrophic world where monsters roam free under the maddening influence of a toxic mist that plagues the world. Everyone has been struggling to survive by barricading themselves from the mist reaching them by either forming walls, powerful fans or hiding underground. The people are paranoid and deathly afraid of the monsters and the mist lurking about. And they have every reason to be. These monsters can attach themselves to humans and turn them into mindless monsters themselves if surrounded by mist. Making the mist invested ghost towns you encounter the equivalent of visiting something from a horror movie. And fighting these things in the game is pretty tough, even by JRPG standards. The only way to stop them is for the heroes to revive these mystical trees called Genesis Trees, which have the mysterious power to repel the mist.

In short, Legend of Legaia gave me a world which I could genuinely want to save because of the destructive environment and all the bloodthirsty monsters I had to fight through. Most RPGs to this day have yet been unable to deliver adversaries and a world I could get this hooked in to. And more importantly, deliver the roller coaster of horrifying, tragic, hopeful, and loving emotions I gained going through the entire game. All the characters had some levity of charm and lives I would really want to save because of the conflict. And it’s definitely one of the games that had a lasting impact on me in how to write something with so much suspense, world building, and history that I really wanted to incorporate into The Mannamong.

A twisted, elaborate version of Oogie Boogie’s Tower from The Nightmare Before Christmas

The strangest combination of Final Fantasy and Disney characters that create this video game series actually left a fascinating impression on me when I first played it in 2002. The crossover delivered a charming adventure of originally made characters traversing through many settings from animated Disney movies in a story of their own; discovering new locations, solving a thrilling mystery, and meeting new friends. The story itself is something I would probably discuss in a future post, because it’s too big for me to cover, but it’s enough for me to say that the developers knew how to leave things hanging in order to build expectations of the sequels. And while this may frustrate some, I appreciate the efforts in expanding something with new things to discover when you’ve completed one game. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy really. But a gambling one, considering if the odds of positive sales seem to be low. But this series doesn’t seem to have any low sales in the future from the way I see it.

The second biggest appeal these games had for me was the art direction. Specifically, the settings. Kingdom Hearts is design heavy with its symbols and connection to the story it’s telling. Whether it’s from the original Disney movie it’s based on or from it’s own story. There’s a lot of abstract shaping to the environment and its props. Especially the props. The Keyblades are the biggest example of how flashy and creative the artists can be with their ideas. It captivates me seeing so much shape and color to the design of a cartoony weapon. I really like it when things are simplified into forms like this, even if it’s only for the background, because it makes me feel like a kid again. Which should make sense since the games features a lot of Disney IP. I can safely say it could definitely be one of the series strong suits that gives it it’s identity, and how I would love to follow something similarly with The Mannamong.

Like many young Americans in the late 90’s, I was exposed to a more thorough shoenen (action oriented) anime first and foremost through Dragonball Z. And through the show I discovered its origins Dragonball and learned more about the adventurous comedic tone the series initially had before it shifted towards the heavy fist-fighting genre. For all the years discovering more about the series through the anime and the manga, it captivated me mostly through its art more than anything else.

Akira Toriyama, Dragonball’s creator, has a very distinctive art style he can call his own. I’ve had plenty of fun just admiring it. I still do. His design can range from goofy to stylistic and it’s easy to tell immediately the art came from him. It’s just quite appealing and something everyone around the world knows him for. And quite fitting for the comic demographic. It reminds me a lot of american and european comics more than actual manga, which to me, gives it a universal attraction I feel most can sink their teeth into it upon a first glance. His villains are especially memorable by design. It’s amazing how distinguishable and simple they can be by the shape, the color, and the abstract alien features.

Overall, Dragonball Z’s cutting edge story full of suspense and action left me and many fans excited to continue watching if not just for the silly comedy thrown in by Toriyama’s cartoony humor in the relaxing parts. But it was always the art that grew my fascination and greatly inspired me to one day follow suit to what I can draw. The Mannamong and my art probably wouldn’t look the way it was if something like Dragonball weren’t around to encourage me to find my visual style.

Silva- a shaman whose tribe plays a significant role in the story

As mentioned in Lilo and Stitch, Lilo’s Hawaiian heritage inspired me to venture into Native American culture to see if I can explore my creative ideas to create a story I would like to tell that I don’t often seen in fiction. When I discovered Shaman King, there were Native Americans represented within the comics as well, so I took a look as to how they were executed. The aspect of shamanism as a whole fascinated me in how the creator played with his ideas through other forms of cultures around the world. There are characters from different nations that gave the series a more worldly feeling through their designs and ghostly powers, it felt kind of cool to me. I can’t say whether or not these nationalities or ethnicities were respectfully represented, but I saw nothing of extreme offense for the most part… And as I steered my comic towards the supernatural, I looked at Shaman King during my high school years as a source of inspiration to see where I may take my ideas through the spiritual approach.

 

So with all said and done, what were the shows, movies and games you grew up with that inspired your creativity? I feel it’s important to share other creative works in order to understand where our calling leads us in the entertainment field. These were the things that gave me ideas for The Mannamong, but the inspiration themselves are only the spark.

What Inspires My Writing and Art

What Inspires My Writing and Art

Everyone is inspired and influenced by something. That’s a given. It’s why I would argue the insistence of being “original” to be a moot point for a creationist. There’s a difference between using so much of an existing source as your inspiration to influence your work and using that inspiration in order to find your creative calling. That’s something I would like to discuss in a future post, but for now, I just wanted to share the things that inspired me to pursue my creative career. So what exactly inspires me for my own work? And what had inspired me in the past that helped shape how I started working on The Mannamong?

Long story short, I have three answers: western animation (cartoons), eastern animation (most prominently, anime) and video games. All three are pretty broad subjects, but what inspires me the most about them is their storytelling in a nutshell. Or more specifically, HOW they told their stories.

The first two are really two sides of the same coin. Both styles of animation most people are familiar with are easily defined as cartoons and anime. There are those out there that argue how they’re actually the same thing, just a form of animated storytelling from two different methods and different cultures. Others argue that they are different. I sort of agree on both sides, but I lean more towards the latter. And here’s why.

Cartoons are generally conceived in the United States and anime stems from Japan. Not only are their art style and animation approaches different but so are their overall presentation and methods of storytelling. From my experience, cartoons tend to be more comedic and episodic while anime is directed more like a mini-series. Now this doesn’t mean exclusively, both forms can have the other’s direction as well. It really depends on what the subject matter is, the kind of genre, and the target audience.

Cartoons


Growing up, the cartoons I was mostly exposed to throughout the 90’s and 2000’s were from Cartoon Network, Nickolodeon, and the Disney Channel. These showcased Dexter’s Laboratory, Spongebob Squarepants, Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy, and Recess, just to name a few. These were shows that tend to focus on comedic skits while blending in to another stylistic approach depending on the type of story that was told. For instance, The Powerpuff Girls (the original, not the 2016 remake) used the main characters’ effectively by having them be superheroes, kicking bad guys to the curb, while reminding us that they were still little girls in kindergarten. Presenting a show that pokes fun at its focus while still delivering some enticing action into its episodes. Every cartoon I saw growing up in America demonstrated this form of storytelling. Using the materials they had and just blending in some comedy for a run-of-the-mill short story with a brief beginning, middle, and conclusion for every episode.

But then there were the cartoons that had episodes with consistency in terms of having a chronological timeline. Events that happened previously are referenced or utilized to expand the fictional universe as if it were an ongoing world. These were shows like Hey Arnold, Kim Possible, and As Told By Ginger. Unlike the aforementioned previously mentioned shows, that combined their subject matter with comedy, these shows were sometimes more dramedy (comedy and drama) because they delivered stories that either had some serious topics or direction that was meant to be taken seriously or were just overall meant to be taken straight with no ounce of comedy throughout. In fact, that’s what made them feel balanced and memorable to me. These shows were interesting because it was clear that the people behind the shows wanted to do more than just a joke of the week kind of show.

Anime


This falls in line with my second favorite form of animation, anime. From the way I see it, Japanese animation creators tend to take their ideas to the extreme in a narrative sense. They can be varied in a multitude of different genres for a wider audience, with each to appeal to their specific target demographic. Sure, some american cartoons are purely for adults too, but for the most part they seem to be strictly comedic like The Simpsons, Futurama, South Park, Family Guy, and Archer. Anime generally wants you to take its content seriously at times, even if it’s a comedy. The Japanese have this intriguing delivery with their creative content. They usually will present something in a melancholic or heartwarming gesture that the characters themselves take very seriously. And in turn, it makes the viewer take it straight as well. To me, that makes it feel like the creators want us, the audience, to be immersed with the characters’ worlds and feel their emotions. Which is a direction I see prevalent amongst hundreds of anime.

And as stated in cartoons having stories contained within each episode, most anime will prolong a story into the next episode, often leaving cliffhangers. This alone is one of the medium’s strong suits. Viewers like myself get drawn into the show because it deliberately leaves you wanting more. This is because most anime adapt from an already existing source material; it’s manga counterpart. Some stay truthful to the original content and sometimes it later deviates away from it or adds in its own ideas from the studio producing the anime. This all varies, but the point is, anime use their stories to invent more elaborate stories to try and keep viewers invested. Sometimes it drags the story too long for its own good but I appreciate the approach of longevity and connectivity.

Video Games


Final Fantasy IV was the first of the series to use deep, thematic storytelling—to which critics praise as one of the starting innovators that influenced dramatic stories into role playing games (RPGs)

Finally, video games were my gateway to escapism. I LOVED playing video games all the time growing up, so much so it may not have been too healthy for me looking back on it. However, in my defense, it provided me entertainment I could immerse myself in when I had no one to play with. I was an only child growing up with a handful of friends so that might’ve been the reason. But nonetheless, video games did fill in a void during my adolescence. And what I found was just another form of storytelling.

In one of my previous blogs, I already mentioned how I tried to learn how to make video games but gave up on it because it didn’t grab me. I mistook my love for video games back then for what really got me invested in them. The stories. I was especially a stickler for the story-driven RPG type of games because they were games I became involved with in the fictional world I was participating in. What I learned is video games present their stories in an interactive style that you can only get from playing them. Some of the most entertaining games with stories either imply or give you absolute freedom in how you play the game and let you see how your actions affect the story as well.

Conclusion


Put them all together and I eventually began to see how these things influenced my ideas over the years and how they continue to inspire me today. It’s actually amazing how other artists can motivate you in ways that make creating so much fun! So to summarize; cartoons were episodic, self-contained and comedic, anime had layered characters, ideas, and emotion, and Video games showed me their immersive fictional worlds….

When I began drawing and writing my ideas for The Mannamong, I learned that I wanted to create a thrilling tale that left you wanting for more and got you emotionally invested in the characters like in anime. A lot of the anime and manga I witnessed inspired my creative muscles with their extravagant ideas as well. But I wanted to keep the stories contained and balanced. Cartoons in the states showed me how to stretch comedic timing and paraphrase key story elements without derailing the pacing for too long like how anime does sometimes. And video games got me excited to imagine ways I should make my content interactive towards my fans. Letting me think of new ways to approach my work both within the context of my stories and through a marketing standpoint.

I could continue more in depth but I think that’s better left explained in individual posts down the road. Please let me know what inspires you!