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SMA8 Interview #4 – Sideburn004 (Grand Prix Winner)

Christopher Tordoff Christopher Tordoff 19/01/2018 17 min read

As the first Russian Grand Prix winner of Silent Manga Audition, Sideburn004 has no doubt awoken a keen interest in manga in her Mother Russia, inspiring countless aspiring creators. With her first stab at success way back in SMA2, this tireless Russian Mangaka entered TWO work’s to SMA8, with the enigmatic Checkmate securing her the top prize. Not too shabby for a girl from a small, innocuous town, lost in the middle of the world’s biggest country!



Sideburn004, Nazdarovya!!!



“Moscow is the heart of Mother Russia and Saint Petersburg is the soul.”


Congratulations on becoming the first Russian Grand Prix winner!!

Thank you!


Where did you grow up?

I’m originally from Izhevsk, a small, industrial town in the heart of Russia. Though I now spend most of my time in Saint Petersburg, I try to visit as much as I can. My town is located close to the Urals, a stunning mountain range dividing the European and Siberian sides of Russia. It’s a small town, but it was home to some famous people, including the weapon designer Mikhail Kalashnikov, and just 100km away was the home of the great Russian composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky. 


Hailing from the birthplace of Tchaikovsky must mean music is in your soul! Do you listen to the great composer when you work?

I’m not so interested in music really as I’m much more of a visual person. That’s why I became a manga artist! I always choose manga over any other form of entertainment because of the perfect combination of picture and text. I find it much more interesting than a text book. 


If a friend from the SMAC!ommunity visited Saint Petersburg, where would you take them?

Saint Petersburg is known as the Cultural Capital of Russia. It’s a city steeped in history and very beautiful to experience, even just exploring the streets. We have palaces and parks, so plenty of magnificent sites to visit. It’s particularly beautiful in summer, where you can walk the streets and river front at night. Though Russia is so much more than Saint Petersburg and Moscow, I do like to think that Moscow is the heart of Mother Russia and Saint Petersburg is the soul.


The Urals, where East meets West.

“Abzakovo, panorama #2” by dr_tr



“Manga emotions are so much more expressive than western comics.”


What was your first encounter with manga?

I love the comics of my childhood. I vividly remember Nika, Russia’s first published manga-style serialization by Russian creator “Bogdan”. It differed from the western comic book style, which is still very popular in Russia, and that interested me greatly. It wasn’t until I started university when I picked up my first manga, Fullmetal Alchemist by Arakawa Hiromu, around the age of 17 or 18. I was immediately struck by the emotions in manga, which are so much more expressive than western comics. That’s why I fell in love with manga.

  Is manga popular in Russia? There was little to no internet back then, so it was difficult accessing manga. We used to swap manga amongst ourselves, from one city to the next, saying “read this manga, it’s really interesting!”. Now the internet has improved in Russia, I’m able to access so much more, including Shonen Jump! I made a lot of friends in the days of trading manga.

Lots of young people are now getting into manga, but this wasn’t always the case. An incident a few years ago, involving Death Note really affected how people viewed manga in Russia. A young girl committed suicide and when the police found a copy of the manga in her room, the authorities wrongly connected the two. There was a huge discussion about manga in Russia at the time, and though manga wasn’t prohibited, it was very hard to access. People lost interest and publishers didn’t want to risk printing manga, but now, since Attack on Titan, Bakuman and One Punch Man, it’s become very popular again. Thankfully, manga has a second life in Russia now.


What challenges do you face when creating manga?

Every step when creating manga requires a lot of challenging work. There are no professional schools of manga in Russia, so I had to study everything myself, with the invaluable help from the SMA editorial videos on YouTube of course! It’s a challenge to find ideas and scenarios, not to mention the level of drawing involved. I love it though. It’s also difficult as I work full-time, but I still manage to secretly draw at work during my breaks!


It must be difficult balancing two jobs, full-time work and manga!

It is, though I make sure my job and my manga don’t influence each other. I finish my job, and start my other job drawing manga. It’s difficult to factor in sleep! I usually draw all night with a few hours sleep squeezed in somewhere.


A testament to 10 years of self-taught Manga success! 



“I thought Checkmate was too dark for SMAC!”


How did you find out about SMA?

I first heard about the Silent Manga Audition on the Russian site “” a few years ago. The site is an amazing manga resource for Russian manga fans, featuring news, competition announcements, study books and manga of course.


What inspired you to create Checkmate?

When I saw the theme, I immediately thought of playing fair with “Death”. The more I developed the idea, the more I thought Checkmate was too dark for SMAC!, so I told myself to develop other ideas. I tried to think of something light and fun, like a sports competition, but nothing came through, and the more the deadline approached, I thought, ok let’s draw what I want to draw.


That was quite an internal struggle! What was the reaction from your friends and family?

My family didn’t believe manga was so important, but once I explained I’d won the top prize in an international competition, they became a lot more interested!


You’ve made it no secret that you want to become a professional Mangaka. What was your family’s reaction to this career choice?

Every time I chat with my Mother, she asks me what I’m doing? I say I’m drawing and she rolls her eyes. The reason I secured a steady career was to assure my parents that I’m safe, but I won’t stop making manga, even if I only get two hours of sleep a night! Manga is like a habit, I need to draw!


When you saw the theme “Fair Play”, what was your initial reaction?

I hated it!! I initially decided not enter this round. But then the idea of Checkmate just wouldn’t go away, I had to make it.


How long did it take complete?

From start to finish, it took around 5 to 7 days. I love working with traditional tools, like pencil, ink and paper, and I can complete the work fast! I love the sound these tools make, and the tactile contact, though I do use digital tools when I have to. It’s hard to find screentone patterns here in Russia, so I have to apply digitally.


Do you enjoy working digitally?

Yes and no…sometimes I draw the entire manga digitally, though it’s hard because I can’t see the whole page. The advantage of traditional methods is that you have more control over what you’re drawing, where to place dialogue etc. Maybe I should get a bigger screen!


Saint Petersburg is quite a cosmopolitan city, are art material easy to come by?

We have no specialist materials available, especially manga tools. I use ordinary paper, readily available here, but buy my instruments online direct from Japan or eBay. It’s easier than hunting around in shops!


You won the Grand Prix, which is an amazing achievement. Did Checkmate fulfill your personal expectations?

Yes! It was a good idea to go with my instinct. But every time I finish a manga, even a few hours later, I find things to change. Should I add or loose a panel? Should I change the emotions?


It’s lucky you went with your instinct on that! Is instinct important in the manga making process?

Very much so, you should learn to rely on your instinct when formulating ideas. You should draw what you feel happy with, this gives the best results.


The nerve centre! 



“Draw more! Every day, every moment, keep drawing.”


What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

As soon as I finished Checkmate, I started work on several other works for various competitions, including SMA9! I’ve started a personal project which I’m very excited about, but more on the that later. I always have projects hovering around in my mind.


How do you manage all these ideas??

With competitions, I just take a stored idea from the shelf in my mind, develop it for the competition and submit. It’s good to have an ordered mind!! Like with Checkmate, some ideas just refuse to go away, no matter how much I try to work on something different.


Is there anything you’d like to shout out to the SMAC!ommunity?

Draw more! Every day, every moment, keep drawing. You’ll improve very quickly. This is the journey of the mangaka, always learning and always working towards improving your skills. Continue to push your boundaries, more than what you are capable of. You’ll soon start seeing the rewards from your hard work. 


Thank you Sideburn004!

It just goes to show that instinct, combined with pushing through your limits is a winning formula…literally! With your philosophy of dedicated drawing, forever learning (that invaluable help can be found if you follow this link!) and a herculean work ethic, we cannot wait to see what you come up with for SMA9!!


Sideburn004’s second entry to SMA8, “Run for Love


Is your gut feeling rumbling? Do you have an idea that just won’t go away? Then 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