The need for speed is strong for Honourable Mention Award winner RedJet. The Italian creator abandoned a career with a respected tire manufacturer to hurtle towards his dreams of becoming a professional Mangaka. A journey that brought him to the very home of manga itself, Japan! RedJet talks to us about the importance of healthy rivalries, challenging yourself and Italy’s greatest, chocolatey export!
“I was instantly hooked and hungry for more!”
The city of Turin, a mere stone’s throw from where REDJET grew up. Flickr/Federico Feroldi
Hello RedJet! Is this your first international interview?
Yes, it is!
My pen-name doesn’t have any particular meaning, but it does give me a strong sensation. It’s the combination of the two words that I’m attached to; “Red” is my favorite color, and “Jet” gives me a sense of speed and velocity. Both are a constant element in my manga-life, especially when I’m battling deadlines and commissions.
When did you come up with your pen-name?
I chose the name when I decided to become a professional manga creator, back in 2015. At that time, I was working for a tire manufacturer so the promise of speed was all around me! The tire is round, as is the manga narrative in its construction. I like the continuity, from one career to the next.
Is manga popular in your home town?
I live in Busch, a little city close to Turin. With a population of only 800 people, you soon realize that manga isn’t a part of most peoples lives. In fact, even having a conversation about manga is very hard to do here.
So, when did you have your first encounter with manga?
I drew my first comic strip when I 6, though I didn’t know it was a yonkoma back then! To me, it was just a series of drawings that told a story. I saw my first manga at school, when some friends brought them into class. I was instantly hooked and hungry for more! Dragonball was very popular in Italy at that time, and thanks to both the anime and the manga, I started to understand how manga is made.
And what about the American comics?
Italy has a long comic book tradition, including Disney stories! I grew up with Topolino (Mickey Mouse) and Paperino (Donald Duck), which have been published in Italy since the 1930’s. My very first attempt at making manga were heavily influenced by these Disney comics.
If a friend from the SMAC!ommunity visited you, where would you take them?
As I live close to the Nutella factory, I’d invite everyone to see how Italy’s most famous food is made…well, after pizza and pasta of course.
“I was reborn as a manga artist!”
What’s a typical day for RedJet?
I wake at 9:30, and after a quick breakfast, I plunge straight into drawing, including commissions, manga for SMA and work for my French publisher. Around 12, I have lunch and jump back into drawing until evening. After dinner, it’s none-stop drawing till bedtime!
Wow! How do you relax between one drawing and the next?
I draw! This is my hobby and my job, so I can work while I relax!
About the French publisher, what kind of work do they publish and how did you begin collaborating with them?
They publish manga, comic books and BD, but they focus primarily on manga. They approached me after seeing my SMA entries and asked if I’d like to collaborate with them. I created a manga called Space Duck RG for them, my very first Shonen manga!
Do you listen to music when you create manga?
I always need background noise when I create manga, either movies or music. Creating manga can be lonely so having come company in the form of noise helps me relax into my work. Music is also a source of inspiration! I like rock, pop, drum and base, J-pop, K-pop and classical music. In fact, I’m working on my SMA9 entry while listening to Bolero at the moment.
What do you like to do when you’re not drawing manga?
I love gaming! Metal Gear Solid and Pokemon are my favorites. Playing video games allow me to improve my creativity and provide a good source of inspiration.
Computer games, including Metal Gear Solid has proven a huge source of inspiration for REDJET.
So manga is always on your mind, even during your free time. Is it safe to say manga is your best friend?
Yes, for sure. Manga is a huge part of my life. Even when I was working at the tire company, I always had a manga to hand.
Which manga were you most inspired by?
Gon, by Masashi Tanaka, is my current inspiration when creating Silent Manga entries as I love the simplicity of the concept. My style is heavily influenced by Oda sensei’s masterpiece One Piece. The manga that biggest impression on me, and the one that made me want to become a professional manga artist was Bakuman.
It’s a manga that works on different levels. As a child, I loved the story itself, about how to become a manga creator, and as an adult, I liked how the everyday life of a mangaka can be portrayed in a manga.
What kind of environment do you work?
I’m both an analog and digital person, though I do love working with traditional tools. When I visited Japan with my girlfriend, I bought a lot of tools, from pens and brushes! Luckily, my girlfriend speaks Japanese so it was easy to navigate. She’s an amazing polymer clay modeler!
REDJET’s SMA5 character, brought to life by his girlfriend
So tell us more about this Japanese trip!
I was reborn as a manga artist! So when I left my previous job, I decided to visit the country where manga was born. We were there for a long time, spending time in the Kansai region, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara, where we visited many historical sites. We then focused our trip in Tokyo, where I managed to visit the Shueisha offices, the publisher of Shonen Jump!
How did you manage to visit the Shonen Jump office?!
My friend’s Japanese wife managed to arrange the visit. Thanks to her, I got the chance to speak to a Shonen Jump editor, with her as interpreter. Which was an incredibly rewarding experience! We spent around 2 hours discussing manga, how Shonen Jump operate and talked about my own work, identifying my weak and strong points.
Very useful information indeed! When challenges do you face when you create manga?
I have two, big challenges a year…SMA rounds!! The other major challenge to make Italian readers aware of my work. If you’re not a huge, international star, you won’t be noticed in Italy so my constant, daily challenge is to take on the Italian market, with SMA as my strongest ally!
How do you overcome these challenges?
By joining the SMAC!ommunity! Just being involved in this competition can help improve yourself. I know a lot of people who won’t take part in SMA because they are afraid of failing, but for me, even in failure we can learn and build up courage. It’s important to keep challenging yourself, pitting yourself against others. My favorite SMA creator is Ichirou, and though I admire his work, I see him as a rival. Salvatore is also a great creator, a friend and a rival!
Where the magic happens, within red walls of course.
“[working with editors is] an amazing example teamwork!”
What was the reaction of your friends and family when you won the award?
My family don’t know about my international manga work, as I we don’t really discuss it, other than telling them that I’ve entered a competition. For SMA8, my girlfriend was the most unsatisfied with the result. I was a little downcast too, but I also see it as a new challenge, even if I have so many commissions to get through! (laughs)
What was your reaction to the theme?
Like always, when a new SMA theme comes out, I try to figure out the best way to represent it in a unique way. I experiment and try to do things differently.
Did you utilize yonkoma in the development stages? What was your inspiration?
There wasn’t any particular inspiration. Actually, I’ve only now started to create yonkomas thanks to the “Fair Play” theme. Initially, the story was more dramatic and serious, but thanks to the support and advice from the SMAC! editorial team, I lowered the tone and took a more comedic direction, making my characters reactions more and more extreme!
How was it working with Japanese manga editors?
This was my very first collaboration with Japanese manga editors. I learned how to work on the character’s emotions and feelings (especially when I create a silent manga) by utilizing their advice and suggestions. It’s an amazing example teamwork!
How long did it take you to complete and you were satisfied with it?
It took me around 2 months to find the right yonkoma and 2 weeks to complete the manga once the concept was finalized. The story makes, and I feel it flows well so I was very satisfied.
“Remember that SMA is just the beginning!”
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a new story for the French editor, commissions and my SMA9 entries. Also, as always, provide my social media followers daily illustrations!
Anything you’d like to shout to the SMAC!ommunity?
Join SMA! Even if I’ve already said that, I really want you understand! Remember that SMA is just the beginning! The professional life of a manga creators awaits you after gaining essential support from SMAC! And Coamix!
Thank you RedJet!
Like the best Shonen manga, rivalry and friendship can go a long way to improve yourself! We hope Redjet continues down his path of self improvement, in making manga that captures the hearts of everyone in the SMAC!ommunity.
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 Fulvio Spada