SMA8 Interview #08 – Gábor Molnár (Grand Prix Runner Up Winner)
Succeeding in manga isn’t an easy thing for this Social Media savvy Hungarian, but it’s a fight Gábor Molnár is winning! In country that has embraced the American superhero, while stigmatizing manga, Gábor has had to up his game in self promotion. Today, he talks to us about Hungary’s difficult past, manga’s supposed “bad influence” and the all important need to embrace SNS in the creative world.
“When most people think a war is over, the ones who’ve lived it know better.”
What part of the world do you call home?
Budapest, the capital of Hungary. I’ve visited other parts of Hungary, and I enjoy the mountains and stunning scenery but Budapest is in my heart, I love this city. It has so much history.
Indeed! I believe there is a park in Budapest displaying all the Soviet era statues…
There is, Memento Park. It’s a tourist attraction but Hungarian’s don’t really visit as the monuments hold many difficult memories, though they are an important reminder of the past. The statues are very manly, rigid looking, depicting agriculture and factory workers, all saluting the future of communism.
My mother was born in the middle of a fierce gun battle between revolutionary and pro-Soviet forces, during the failed revolution of 1956. My Grandmother told me stories of how they had to run from one house to the next when she went into labour!
How do you feel when you hear those stories?
It’s hard, but I have the luck of not living during wartime, and my mother was only a baby during the revolution. But my Grandmother and her generation lived it. When most people think a war is over, the ones who’ve lived it know better. They know before it happens that war will start again.
These memories would make an interesting manga!
Well, in Hungary there are many comic books that tell these stories. From WW2 to the revolution and beyond. When I read these stories, I can easily see the political leanings of the authors of these books. In fact, I’m currently reading a comic that is obviously written by a Right wing author, and another I’m reading is clearly Left.
What do you do when you’re not creating manga?
I work full time as a shop assistant at a textile wholesaler, from 8 in the morning till 6 in the evening. I then come home to feed my animals, snakes, turtles, frogs…None are venomous I hasten to add!
The echoes of Hungary’s difficult past can be found everywhere.
“… using Social Media is becoming even more important for creators.”
So you have a full time job, exotic animals…where do you manage to fit in manga?
Actually, making the manga doesn’t take up that much time, it’s self promotion that does! I spend a lot of time on Social Media, getting my work out there. I think its very important, even more so from Hungary as not many people know what we can produce comic books!
Absolutely, self promotion is very important. What kind of responses do you have? Is it successful?
It’s somewhat successful, well more successful than when I started making comics anyway! I actually found out about SMA through Facebook, so using Social Media is becoming even more important for creators. Nobody really cared about my work until I started I promoting it on Facebook. I now have about 100 regular readers…well, every Hungarian comic creator have around 100 readers…
How are you influenced? For instance, is music important to the manga making process?
Very much so. Music is very important when making manga. I like Hungarian folk music with a modern twist, like rock or metal, which melds very well. I’m working on a folk tale at the moment, so listening to Hungarian folk, with this twist really helps me to capture the atmosphere. Much like the anime series Samurai Champloo, set in the samurai era with a rap/hiphop soundtrack.
What was your first experience with manga?
My first experience with manga was about 20 years ago with Dragonball. The series wasn’t published in the standard Tankōbon format, but much smaller, in a Hungarian format. The series was pulled, and I suspect the Japanese publisher wasn’t too happy with this smaller format, I could be wrong though.
Doesn’t sound like Manga has had an easy time in Hungary!
Manga was a very foreign entity back then. The media were very suspicious of manga, thinking it could ruin our youngsters by promoting sexuality and violence. Especially with Dragonball! In its second year in Hungary, there was an article in the news which was picked up by bigger news outlets. As a result, the network changed the broadcast time from 3 in the afternoon to 11 at night. The target audience missed out, because of the fighting, they thought it was an adult thing. This actually killed Dragonball in Hungary.
Did you find it difficult to access manga back then?
We simply couldn’t get any as we couldn’t order manga from outside Hungary. We could read manga on the internet, but staring at a screen for hours on end isn’t good for me. You could get anime on VHS, but it was very expensive. I could only buy, maybe four tapes a year with my pocket money. Now it’s much easier to access manga now, thankfully.
Has Hungary’s view of manga changed?
Manga is still viewed as a bad influence unfortunately. Most people think they’re Chinese stories! But it’s now getting bigger here. Manga and western comic book readers are very much separate. For me though, it’s only the style that is different, how it’s made.
Do you talk to many people in the SMAC!ommunity?
I’m not a very sociable person, preferring to shut myself away and work. A lot of my short story work is for Hungarian audiences so there isn’t a huge need to publicize myself outside of Hungary, at the moment at least.
Well, SMAC! is the perfect opportunity to showcase Hungary to an international audience!
Yes, in fact I’m developing my SMA entries to showcase Hungary . I’ve won three awards in Hungary but they haven’t helped my career, but winning an international manga award, chosen by Japanese mangaka is making a big difference.
Would you say that western comics are more popular in Hungary?
I mix with more western comic fans rather than ‘manga’ fans. I’ve noticed that people who are into ‘manga’, do not actually read manga! They are more interested in cosplay and anime, rather than making manga. Western comic fans seem to be more interested in making comics, so I feel more at home with them.
Gábor’s tools of the trade.
You mentioned Dragonball as your first manga experience. What emotional effect did it have on you?
The main character, Goku and how he defeats everyone. I was also fascinated by the setting of the anime, like earth but not. But mainly the fighting – I don’t know why! It looked good, and each fight had so much emotion involved. I also loved the adventuring. Its an amazing combination of action, fun and adventure!
Do you have many comic events in Hungary?
Yes! In fact I was at an anime convention last Saturday. They have a big one four times a year, with lots of small ones throughout the year. The Hungarian Comic Festival is smaller than the anime event, but it’s the best for creators and fans of western comics.
Do you have attend these events as a creator?
Yes I do. For the last 8 years I’ve been in a group with other comic creators who book a table at these events. Its very beneficial, as most people in Hungary read the physical format rather than digital, so it’s important to attend these events to sell books.
The organizers look for comic artists, pay for our accommodation in exchange for creating work on a theme for their internet page. We have to do that right on the spot, while serving customers at the same time!
So you’re drawing with an audience! What kind of environment do you prefer work in?
I’m not that comfortable with an audience at these events, as I get very irritated when I’m watched or talked to. When I’m at home, I work in my room on a simple desk. I don’t have the fancy work stations, a simple desk, computer and shelves for tools is all I need.
Do you prefer to work traditionally or digitally?
Traditionally, I find I work much more faster with traditional methods. I find working digitally strange.
What challenges do you face when making manga?
The hardest thing is to get a good idea that fits the manga format. An idea that will be fun for the audience to enjoy, not just you. Then creating storyboard, where the process becomes much easier. Once you have a reference to check your work against, you’ll be surprised at the progress you make.
How did you learn to make manga?
I just started from one day to the next, reading internet articles and attending workshops. There was actually a workshop from Kyoto University that came to Hungary. I attended lectures and workshops which I found very useful. We didn’t learn technical abilities, as it was more general, like how manga works as an industry, the tools professional us, things like that. They actually brought some of the tools to the workshop – like the G-pen. They then gave some away as presents, which was nice.
What was your initial reaction to the manga method of making comics?
I was immediately drawn to the strong use of characters in manga. It’s interesting as most creators say they were brought up with comics, but not me. I read several when I was small, but not for the sake of the story, but solely for the characters. I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics when I was younger, I wanted to read more adventures because of the characters.
Hungary is now running manga style competitions at anime conventions.
“…I don’t dwell on finished work. I’m always looking towards the future.”
What was the reaction to your win for True Riders?
I had a positive reaction, but then I didn’t make a huge thing of it. My work colleagues don’t know anything about manga, but they were happy with, “great, you’ve made some money at last!” (laughs)
A lot of people found the theme “Fair Play” quite difficult to work with. How did you find it?
I think it was very appropriate for manga. Fair play is a common theme in Shonen manga, how people deal with winning and loosing etc., so I had a lot to play with.
I immediately thought of James Dean when I read True Riders. What were your influences?
It wasn’t actually the American movie era, but Sci fi. There is an anime called Saber Rider with a sheriff, who rides robotic horse to chases down criminals. There is a particular scene in the first episodes that stuck with me, where the characters initially meet during a race in the desert. This was my main inspiration. I later modified the concept to make it more realistic, setting it in a more familiar era so it would resonate with the audience better.
As for the characters, the protagonist was inspired by one of my earlier creations. His opponent, the rough marauder chief, is a mix of “Shere Khan” from the Disney version of The Jungle Book and the “Pirate Captain Charles Vane” from Black Sails.
The idea that two enemies can be friends is found in a lot of Shōnen manga of course, but also from my childhood as two bullies in kindergarten and elementary school became good friend’s of mine.
How long did it take to complete?
Maybe about two months, from the initial idea to the finished manga. The drawing process took up most of the time. Once I finished True Riders, I immediately moved onto the nest project, as I don’t dwell on finished work. I’m always looking towards the future.
The indispensable, coloured sticky note – where would manga creators be without them??
“I don’t force the concept to fit theme, I make the theme fit the story.”
Talking about the future, what’s in store?
I’m working on a new piece for the next SMA. All three themes’ can easily be combined to make one story, so I’m looking forward to playing with concepts. I don’t force the concept to fit theme, I make the theme fit the story.
Finally, anything you’d like to shout out to the SMAC!ommunity?
I think its very important to keep working and sending them into competitions. Even if you don’t win, every entry is a learning curve.
Thank you Gábor!
Social Media is a huge part of our lives, and fast becoming a crucial tool for creators. It’s a fantastic method of free self-promotion, plus a perfect way to keep in touch with members of SMAC!ommunity around the world! With this in mind, and at the rate Gábor is using SNS, I would not be at all surprised to see this Hungarian mangaka on the best seller lists in no time.
Gabor’s adventure series 5Pallos.
If you’d like to see more of Gábor’s work, follow this link…
DeviantArt gallery – https://cobayanigiri.deviantart.com/
…and for our Hungarian manga fans…
Budapest Comic Festival – http://kepregenyfesztival.blog.hu/
MondoCon, Hungary’s biggest anime event – http://www.mondocon.hu/eng/
SMAC!ommunity, do you want to see your name in lights? Are you ready post, tweet and shout about your achievements? 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…
Twitter – @chris_smac
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