SMA8 was Toni Caballero’s first taste of SILENT MANGA AUDITION, impressing the judges with Go Skate!, an action packed tale of “fair play” in the skatepark and earned himself an Excellence Award Runner Up award in the process. Not bad for a first attempt! From tattooing the denizens of Valencia to creating award winning manga, Toni takes us through his journey to becoming an award winning mangaka!
Buenas (Hello) Toni!
“I’ve always loved drawing, ever since I was young boy…”
Congratulations on your award! How are you feeling ?
Thank you!! I’m feeling fantastic! It’s still a surprise for me, but it’s making me feel super motivated since I won. It’s interesting that I’m getting recognition in Japan before my own country!
Can you tell us a little about you?
I grew up in a small town, in the countryside surrounding Valencia, called “La Pobla de Farnals”. The house was provided by the school my mother taught at, in the school grounds. There wasn’t much to do, other than play football and draw. We eventually moved to Valencia itself, with my parents jobs, where I discovered music, and more importantly, skateboarding! I instantly fell in love with skateboarding, so much so that I gave up on drawing. Once I graduated from high school, I opened up my own tattoo shop and began drawing again, which was a lot of fun. After a few years, I decided to take the plunge and become a professional illustrator. It was a huge gamble, but after only a couple of weeks, a publisher approached me for ideas about creating a comic book. I’ve been creating stories ever since!!
That was an interesting career choice! How many tattoos have you got??
Yes, I know (laughs). A lot! My arms are full and legs are almost covered, though I still have pieces that need finishing off. My first tattoo was a big swallow on my right leg, and man, was it painful! I avoided another one for a long time! I’ve designed some of them myself, with others designed by friends.
So, from tattoos to manga! Why the change?
I’ve always loved drawing, ever since I was young boy so it was inevitable that I’d end up drawing for a living. When I was younger, a friend came to me with a story he had written and we started talking about how good it would look if we made it into a comic. I then tried drawing my first ‘manga’! I couldn’t get it right, but I remember enjoying the experience immensely and started to think up stories of my own to draw. From that moment on, I was hooked!
If a friend from the SMAC!ommunity visited you for a sightseeing trip, where would you take them?
I’m an old romantic so a trip to “el Carme”, the historic part of the city would be on the cards. With ancient walls and towers, dating from the medieval period, this area of the city also boasts beautiful architecture, making it a cultural gem! A modern alternative would be a visit to the “Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències”, a science museum housed in a futuristic building with stunning views across the city. It was also used in the Disney movie “Tomorrowland”! For food, there’s nothing better than “Les tendes”, a typical farmer’s restaurant in Almàssera, where you’ll taste the best in Valencian and Spanish cuisine!
What is your favorite movie/music/games?
My favorite movie is Donnie Darko! I love dark stories with good social commentary. I prefer to watch anime movies, rather than series and 1995’s Ghost in the Shell is a still a firm favorite.
For manga, I would have to say Hiroya Oku’s Gantz had the biggest impact on me. It was the first manga that truly spoke to me, as if it entered directly into my soul! I loved the style, characters, story and intricate background work. I’m still in awe every time I open it up! I also love music! I listen to anything, from J-Pop (laughs) to the heaviest of metal! My all-time favorite album is American Idiot by Green Day. I haven’t stopped listing to it since I was 15!!
What is a typical day for you like?
I usually wake around 9 or 10 in the morning, depending on the day’s schedule. After breakfast, I begin sketching and structuring the day’s page, then lunch! Once I’m happy with the paneled work, I proceed to inking and adding screen-tones, both digitally. If I manage to finish the day’s work before dinner, I’ll take my board out for a skate. Evening is a little Netflix session, then sleep. May sound a little boring, but this is the life of a comic artist! (laughs)
How is your work environment like ?
I have a small studio/office in my house where I create all my manga. I don’t really have a specific routine, as the day’s work schedule changes from one day to the next. I use both digital and traditional methods. Both have their pros and cons, but important to both is lighting! I use a cold night in the morning and warm one at night. Music is very important to the manga making process so you’ll always hear it when I’m working!
What do you like to do when you’re not drawing manga?
I’m a movie nut so a lot trips to the cinema, as well as playing guitar – but not at the same time!! I love taking walks with my significant other and exploring areas of the city new to me. I never leave home without my camera as there’s always a potentially amazing background to snap for use in my manga. I never switch off the creative process!
“I wanted to express my inner world through Manga”
Why is manga important to you?
Manga is my way of expressing myself, my way of unleashing my ‘inner world’. It’s a place where I can give life to my creative impulses and depict fantastical word’s, filled with death defying! Once I stopped playing music in bands, composing songs, I felt a huge creative gap in my life. I needed to express myself creatively so I decided to focus on illustration. I initially did not consider my work ‘manga’, but the more I developed my style, the more it evolved into manga!
Was there an artist or story that inspired you to become a manga creator?
Reading Gantz, by Oku Hiroya was a huge turning point for me. It reignited my childhood love of manga, and awakened a need to create stories myself. I’m heavily influenced by Oku-sensei, especially his use of photographic backgrounds and character designs. Drifting Net Cafe by Oshimi Shūzō also had a significant impact on me for the way he weaves a story. His narratives are crude, but they keep me gripped! So much so that I wasn’t rooting for a happy ending, I wanted more!
What challenges do you face creating manga?
Finding the right locations for backgrounds can be a challenge, there’s so much choice!! Getting the right movement when planning a page is another challenge. Making sure I have the right perspective, or that I’m making the best of use of panelling to depict the action can be frustrating. If I don’t get it right, I just have to start all over again.
How did you overcome those difficulties ?
With Go Skate!, I headed straight to my local skatepark with my trusty camera. I snapped plenty of pics of the park and fellow skaters in action, including myself! (laughs) I then took these home to use as reference for the action scenes in the manga. Though once I finished sketching jumps, they ended up looking like martial arts moves!
Is manga popular in Spain?
Manga is very popular in Spain, especially where I live. Since Netflix began, people have access to much more anime, and as a result, have been turning to the original manga. Barcelona hosts “Salon del Manga Barcelona”, the biggest manga event in the country which is going from strength to strength. However, there still isn’t much recognition, or support for Spanish mangaka compared to the industry in Japan.
ABOUT YOUR WIN
“I decided for something that I can relate and be different”
How did your family react to your SMA8 award?
They were super excited for me! They initially blew their tops when I decided to become a tattoo artist (laughs), so the career change to professional comic artist was very much encouraged!
What were your thoughts on the theme?
My first thought was to create a sport based story. I initially thought of basketball or football, but I wanted to avoid the obvious ones. I’m not really into those sports so I chose one I knew a lot about, skateboarding! Finally, all the slips, falls and wounds I accumulated on the board could be put to good use! (laughs)
How long did it take you to complete?
I only found out about the competition two weeks before deadline! (laugh) So I had to conceive, develop and finish my entry in that time. I was constantly fighting against the clock!
Did the entry fulfill your expectations?
It way exceeded my expectations! It was my first SMA entry, and because I didn’t have the luxury of time, I couldn’t finish it the way I wanted to so I was very surprised by the result.
“Creating my own stories and characters motivates me”
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m very busy at the moment with endless illustration work. I’m also working on a sci-fi manga for a Spanish publishing house, which is very exciting! Not to mention my entry for SMA9.
Where do you see you future career in manga?
I love illustrating but I’m much more motivated by creating stories these days. My dream would be to have my published work make an impact in Japan! I have a lot of work ahead before I can make this happen, but it’s not impossible!
What type of advice would you give to people that want to follow the same path ?
For the arists, don’t loose hope! Little by little, you will build the strength, ability and motivation to succeed! Never think you’Re not good enough, because with the right amount of effort, you will become the mangaka would dream of being!
Anything you’d like to shout to the SMAC!ommunity?
For the readers, please support your local artists. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of amazing manga creators all over the world who need your support and your feedback! So please, research mangaka in your country and see the amazing work they’re producing!
Thank you very much for you time Toni!
Motivation is the driving force of manga, whether in creating endearing characters, improving illustration technique or satiating an unstoppable urge to tell stories. Without motivation, we wouldn’t have the wonderful manga we all know and love today. Toni’s unique illustration ability, along with his innate need to create stories are the perfect ingredients for manga success. We cannot wait to see what fantastical stories he has in store for future SMA entries!
SMAC!ommunity, do you have a creative itch you’re dying to scratch? Are you overflowing with story ideas? If yes, then start drawing for SMA9 round TODAY!!
Do you want to join the world’s biggest manga community? Start drawing for the SMA9 round TODAY!
SMA9 is the first time we’ve offered THREE themes to choose from! If you feel like a challenge, why not pick two, or all three themes!
Make manga your language too! You have until March 31st, 2018 to say “HELLO” to your new friends! Click the banner for more details on how to enter…
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Banner photo by Gergely Csatari