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SMA8 Interview #10 – Daniel Bretas (Excellence Award Winner)

Christopher Tordoff Christopher Tordoff 11/02/2018 22 min read
A personal gift to his daughter ended up earning Daniel Bretas the prestigious SMA8 Excellence Award! Heavily influenced by everything around him, from youthful escapades on building sites to the surreal films of David Lynch, Daniel is constantly looking to subvert the norm through the medium of manga. From film making to creative collaborations, this creative ‘Renaissance Man’ is constantly on the look out for the seeds of creative growth. Just make sure you don’t disturb him while he’s working!  

  Hello Daniel! Congratulations on your Excellence Award win for Tazo!! Thank you. It means a lot, especially as I created Tazo as a gift for my daughter.   ABOUT YOU “We found each other through manga.”   Kicking off, where did you grow up? I grew up here, in this very house in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I have very fond memories of playing on these streets with the same guys, day after day. Though sooner or later, my girlfriend and I will be getting our own apartment, especially now we’ve started a family!   What was it like growing up in Belo Horizonte? I liked the fact I could play out outside anytime of day. There was a construction site at the end of the street where we would just break stuff, you know, boy things. That’s a good memory I have. It’s sad as most of those guys have moved on and I rarely, if at all see them anymore. We just lost touch. The amazing memories of those guys, and our adventures have filtered through into my manga. In fact, Tazo came from one of those memories. Its good to see how our lives have changed.   Indeed, you’re an award winning Mangaka now! Ha! It’s surreal. Not even my parents understand!! “I’ve won an award in Japan.” “How?” “I drew a manga.” “What’s that?”…They can’t even read it as they don’t know how to read manga. But I always get an “ok, congratulations”, which I’m happy with.   Is manga popular in Brazil? Manga is a very niche thing here. I’ve spoken to a lot of guys who read manga and they all say the same thing, Manga opened up a huge world to them. Not just Japanese culture, but anime and gaming as well. Manga is the perfect gateway for these communities. I’ve learned so much since joining the SMA!Community. Namely, to move on from being the huge otaku I was! You have to work through the fanatical feelings when reading manga, and begin to analyze how manga is made. I’ve always wanted to make manga but didn’t know how to start, so talking this through with people in the community provided the tools I needed. I soon began to move on from just being a reader, and eventually got to the point where I understood the manga making process, though I’m constantly learning new things. The people I connected with back then are now my creative work colleagues. We found each other through manga.   What is a typical day when you’re not creating manga? I like playing games, reading a lot, but most of all I like watching movies. I’m also a low budget film maker. Creating comics is like creating movie storyboards, but so much more as they blend with other art forms. I like to create what I see. I like to live a little too, meet up with friends, drink in a bar, but I’m always looking at the world creatively, always coming up with new ideas. Meeting people, exchanging ideas and interacting with the world is vital for a Mangaka.   I agree. It’s also important to have a good work/life balance… Making manga is like creating a movie. A Mangaka is the director, the photographer, all the actors, the whole package! We have to do the full job, piecing it all together by ourselves to successfully illustrate emotions, personality, background sets. It’s very complex, so the ability to observe everything at all times helps to get it right. It’s a heavy burden, but a rewarding one. A blessing and a curse! I try to find a balance, but it’s hard to switch off! It’s like, you’re always pitching ideas to yourself. You’re always trying to blend things together. Its difficult to turn off, but it’s nice when I do.   You’re clearly a movie fan! Which film has had the biggest impact on you? I like to break the narrative in my work, which I find difficult to do when working on SMA entries. I don’t like the narrative so linear, preferring to add atmosphere to tell a story. This doesn’t always work though. Some ideas seem like they are going to work, but fail due to their abstract natures. I’m a Lynch guy, a big fan of David Lynch. He’s the closest we’ve got the greatest living director. Lost Highway changed the way I looked at storytelling. It allowed me to break apart the narrative and allowed me to piece it back together again. That was an important lesson for me, working out how to rebuild the narrative. With all my entries in the SMA, I tired to make them as objective as I possible, but I’m a destructive guy! I like to bring chaos to the narrative. I’m currently adapting one of my comic books into a short film. The manga is so disruptive, like a blend of Black Mirror and Twin Peaks. I want to make the movie as weird and creepy as I can!  

Belo Horizonte, Brazil

  ABOUT MANGA “When I start a manga, I need to finish it…”   What was your first encounter with manga? I discovered anime first, which was hugely popular in Brazil when I was growing up, including Saint Seiya, Dragonball Z and Pokemon. My first contact with manga was Dragonball and Medabotz after watching these shows, but I was so young I didn’t know how to read them. They mostly had a little warning on the cover to read it backwards, but Medabotz didn’t! I just couldn’t make any sense of it. I actually took it back to the store to trade it in for something else. I started reading Magical Teacher Negima! by Akamatsu Ken, which made much more sense once I learned how to read manga. Once we started to get better internet here, a new world opened up to me. My exposure to manga grew daily, discovering Naruto and Death Note in the process. I’m still an avid reader One Piece!   Does your taste in Manga mirror your taste in movies? Yes, but manga can be even creepier! I’ve read some manga that I can’t even begin to describe. With movies, I can discuss easily because we have these vibes and sound references where you feel an instant connection, but not so with manga. I’ve just read Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show and it was mind boggling. It didn’t make any sense to me at all, which was nice because I formed my own connection to the manga, that’s why I think abstract narratives can be better than objective narratives, because we can form our own conclusions.   How do you approach a new manga? When I start a manga, I need to finish it so I have a lot of sleepless nights. I start with the concept, which rarely comes through in the final manga, then I spend two weeks or so getting really into it, with the help of loud music. I tell everyone not to interrupt me when I’m working through an idea because I get easily distracted. When I’m drawing, I like to give myself little rewards. If I finish two pages that day, I’ll watch a movie. Netflix doesn’t make it easy on me! I’ve tried working slowly, but it doesn’t seem to have the same vibe as when I compress it all and work three days solid.   You’ve mentioned music as a vital part of the creation process. What type of music do you like to work to? Sometimes I like soft, calming music, but then I start to get distracted, searching for games I played when I was 10 years old, things like that. Noise music works best, it stops me from overthinking while keeping me focused. Talking Heads and Radiohead are both loud and calming, which works perfectly. Also Sepultura! When I play this band, I just charge through my work.  

Never off the clock! 

  ABOUT SMA8 “SMA isn’t so much about winning an award, but the opportunity to learn something new.”   Tazo is your third entry to SMA. What was your initial reaction when you saw the theme? I’m not such a sporty guy. I enjoy playing soccer more than I do watching it, and I’m not that interested in sport based manga like Slam Dunk, but it was a nice way to bring me out of my comfort zone. Tazo was my way of depicting a dual in a way that I myself would enjoy. I really like Pokemon, but they’re not sports, it’s more “how can they get out of this?”. My friend Max, another masterclass student, suggested I work on some nice characters. I created about 9 or 10, focusing on their costumes, expressions and gave them all these emotional responses during the action scenes. I was thinking about my daughter during the making of Tazo, and I thought it was a nice to blend sport, engaging characters and being a dad. Above all, Tazo is a gift to my daughter.   From your initial idea to actually submitting, how long did it take? I started to seriously think about it around June, where I really started to engage with the concept and work on storyboards. I started drawing in early September, so I had about a month to complete. All the action and changes were done in the last week or so.   Did Tazo fulfill your expectations? I like learning new techniques, so for me, entering SMA isn’t so much about winning an award, but the opportunity to learn something new. In that sense, it did fulfill my expectations. There’s a fantastic TV series in Japan by Urasawa Naoki called Urasawa Naoki no Manben that focuses on how successful Mangaka work. One episode caught my attention, focused on Asano Inio. I was fascinated by his ability to create brilliantly realistic, magical backgrounds. I really wanted to know his technique, but was surprised, and a little to angry to learn he takes photos and edits them to make them look like a manga page! I like experimenting, so I took photos around my neighbourhood and integrated them into Tazo.   So what IS your motivation when creating manga? Well, you got me there! I just get the sense that I have to do it. I found Tazo very difficult to create. My girlfriend was pregnant at the time, so for me to dedicate a little of my time, which, incidentally turned out to be a lot, was a huge deal. But I needed to do it. I’m connected to making manga, even though it gets harder and doesn’t always pay off. It’s for the passion. I’m intrigued by ideas and I need to reach for them. It’s almost like chasing your own tail!   What was the reaction from friends and family when you won? I had an amazing reaction from people on SNS. I have’t been out much because of the baby, but I got a lot of nice compliments from people who read it on Facebook. People don’t expect you to win an award in Japan. Its a good thing, it gets people interested and they hope you can develop your techniques. It gives me an added layer of purpose to carry on making manga.  


  THE FUTURE “I like to create using my senses, feeling things out instinctively.”   It’s a wonderful thing to have excited people eager for your next work! So, what else is in the pipeline? SMA9! I’ve been thinking about concepts these last few days. I’ve found some seeds of ideas,  and then stored them back in my head for future development. I’m not trying to focus too much on these ideas, but its comforting to know they’re there. I’m excited! I might do more than one this time, possibly a collaboration.   Do you prefer working solo or collaborating on manga? Both have merits. Working solo can be harder, and I push myself harder to make the work more complex. But when I work with other people, they tend to ease up the journey. Plus its nice to share the load. I don’t know which one I prefer for SMA, but all my solo efforts are the ones that got noticed.   Is there anything you’d like to shout out to the SMACommunity? Just keep on going. If you feel it, do it. I like to create using my senses, feeling things out instinctively, listen to your inner voice and let your imagine guide your pen. I’d like to thank you guys and the readers for all the support you’ve given me. So lets keep this Audition going!   Thank you Daniel!  

Seriously, DO NOT ENTER!!

  It’s a constant source of fascination to learn a manga creator’s creative process, no two are the same! Thank you for allowing us a glimpse into your weird and wonderful world.   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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Christopher Tordoff

Christopher Tordoff