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"Hojo Tsukasa's favourite artworks" – Hello AWARD WINNERS!!! #01 Hagane Ishi

Enrico Croce Enrico Croce 17/08/2017 14 min read
Italian manga creator duo Hagane Ishi are excited to win an international manga award, but there was more surprise for them in the prize. The award is “Judge’s special award” by Tsukasa Hojo – the creator of “Cat’s Eye”, “CITYHUNTER” series, the very manga Hagane Ishi admired since they were a child… The duo consists of artist Massimo dall’Oglio (Ishi) and story writer Adriano Barone (Hagane). They published their works in France, Italy and USA. Are they ready to take their challenge to Japan, working with the pros who created their favourite manga series? Let’s hear it direct from them! Hello, Hagane Ishi!

Hagene Ishi, self portrait

Ciao! Can you please begin, by introducing yourselves using only three words? 
Massimo – Sincere, curious and seeker. Adriano – Never satisfied. Inpatient. Ambitious. Oh, that’s four.   “We started working together since 2009.” How did you meet? Massimo – At an Italian event called Lucca Comics. I was there to present the Italian edition of Underskin (a science fiction manga I provided the character design and published in France). We met at the Manga publisher stand. Shortly after, Adriano proposed to the same publisher a giant robot-themed manga, “The Age of Titans”, and I was in charge of the general design of the project. It was 2009, and that project was our first collaboration. We became friends since then. Adriano – Yes, exactly. Then we went on to our careers, but we always had manga as a priority in our heads. How did you begin to create Manga? Massimo – I’ve always been a passionate comic reader, especially Shonen and Seinen genre. Then I also had passion for drawing, it was my encounter with Manga, that gave me the very desire to pursue creating stories of my own. I then went on to study art and comic design. Adriano – I decided I wanted to make comics when I was 15. I wrote my first short story when I was already 27, and my first graphic novel, in manga style, drawn by Massimo when I was 33. Let’s talk about your working environments. How do you create manga? Massimo – I work in a shared studio with other professionals. My office is near to big windows, and I always work with plenty of light and music in the background: listening to everything, from classical music to extreme death metal. Adriano – I write in my office, which is just a room in my house with a desk, a chair, a laptop and a huge bookshelf full of books, DVD and manga.  
“In Italy, young people read Manga if the Anime becomes popular.” Anything the world should know about your place? Massimo –  I live in a beautiful Mediterranean island; Sardinia. I am very attached to my land and its traditions. Of course, I live isolated from what is the heart of the Italian comic movement, but I can always travel wherever I want. Adriano – I live in Rho, a small town very close to Milan, but I just sleep and write here, my working life and friends are in Milan. I always recommend my oveaseas friends to make a trip to Milan: tourists go to Milan basically for its shops (especially for the fashion), but there’s so much more. Are local comics popular among young people? Massimo – Many people read Manga from Japan (maybe because they saw their Anime) and the remaining readers read some graphic novel, more well-known to the general public. Adriano – Graphic novels in Italy are on the rise, but our “traditional” serialised comics are apparently of no interest to younger generations. Young people read Manga if the anime becomes very popular. How people around you see Japan and its culture? Massimo – All my friends are Manga readers or passionate about Japanese culture. One of those friends years ago introduced me to Kendo, and I practised it for about 13  years. Japan is often still perceived as a fascinating and exotic land. Adriano – All of my friends are comic artists, directors and writers. All of them love and read Manga. Plus, my sister in law is Japanese and my two and a half years old niece is half Italian/half Japanese. Japan is part of our lives. What are the most popular Japanese Manga at the moment in Italy? Massimo – I’d say Naoki Urasawa’s works: though not reaching the number of copies of Shonen Manga which are popular among younger readers. The more mature audience appreciates his Manga. Adriano – “Attack on Titan” is going viral, and “One Piece” has always been a fan favourite.

Manga Name

      “The entry comes from an idea for a longer Manga.” Congratulations on winning the “Tsukasa Hojo’s Award”. How would you express your feelings? Massimo –  It’s an amazing feeling! I was wondering for so many years how a Japanese reader would react by reading my manga. I’d like to share the same feelings I had when I bought my first Manga, with Japanese people. Adriano – Hojo sensei’s saying our work is good. I watched “Cat’s Eye” Anime when I was a child, and the Mangaka who made the original manga said good things about our work. Man, it’s unbelievable. Where does the story take place? Massimo – The idea was originally for a longer story that I have been working for a few years, entitled “Sea of Tranquility”. I extracted a fragment from the story and proposed it to Adriano who wrote the script, reworked and adapted it for the competition. In my story, the Earth is destroyed and the main character, Moses, is the last man surviving in the Solar System. Adriano – We know the first part of the entry has some plot holes. I managed to rearrange the story Massimo gave me to make it fit around 20 pages. The Manga starts on Earth, and then, with a wise close-up on the Space-base the setting changes and the story continue on the Moon. Any of your own experience helped you creating the entry? Massimo – In every comic I draw, I put everything from my previous works and try to leap forward if necessary, experimenting and risking new things. For SMA7 there was no difference, in fact, it was the first time I created a whole story with particularly rough lines. I thought it was the best “dress” for that kind of story. Adriano – When I write for comics, I always try to make them understandable even without reading the dialogues. I decided to do that after reading manga since I was a teenager. I just didn’t read manga, I studied them, and this was a quite shocking discovery: you could easily understand what was going on just with the graphic storytelling. Which SMA7 Award winning entry you like? Massimo – I loved “Our Promised Land” by Zevania & Nattorin. I found it very clear and direct. I like the stories where emotions go straight to the target! Compliments! 
Adriano –  I think all the winning entry authors were amazingly talented. Congrats to all.

“L’era dei Titani”, first Hagane Ishi collaboration

“Try Again. Fail again. Fail better” What are your future expectations? Massimo – Simple: keep drawing Manga! Adriano – Being able to attend the MASTERCLASS, submitting a pilot and being serialised is a dream right now. So the first step is hoping that Massimo and I will create a good entry for next SMA8 round to get closer to that goal. 
Anything else you want to share with the community?
 Massimo – I’d like to give something back to a country that gave me so much and still does. I love you so much, Japan, and I hope you all to keep on creating Manga! CIAO! Adriano – Try. And if you fail, like Beckett wrote, “Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” “Till you make it”, I add. I’m 41, I always wanted to make Manga, but when I was a teenager, there was no internet. Have a real chance of making a manga in Japan is an opportunity that I could have never imagined about years ago.
Thank you, Massimo and Adriano! Your beloved Japan and SMACommunity is waiting for you next Manga! See you soon, at the end of September, for SMA8! SMA-Community, take a step forward to MASTERCLASS and join SMA8 “Fair play” theme TODAY! Deadline: September 30th! 🤗 See you next time!
Enrico Croce

Enrico Croce