From the idyllic coastal city of Nador in Morocco, SMA9 “Excellence Award” winner, Berrag Zakariae sits down with us and tells about his beginnings as a manga creator, his art style, and his future aspirations So, without further ado, pull up your chair, grab a coffee, and read on!
“I just need a table!”
Hello Zakariae! Hows the weather in Morocco this fine day?
Not too hot actually! Very mild and comfortable I must say!
Sounds like my kinda climate! Well, let me just start by saying a huge CONGRATULATIONS on your SMA9 “Excellence Award” win! How does it feel?
Wonderful! Having my work recognized in Japan is one of my biggest dreams so I was overjoyed at the result!
That’s awesome to hear! How exactly did you begin creating manga anyway?
I started drawing at the age of seven by reproducing my favorite comic book characters at the time. By the time I was 12, I had begun creating manga and developing my own style, which eventually culminated in having my work published for the first time in an Arabic magazine some years later when I was 23.
Oh wow! What kind of manga was it?
It was a science-fiction story about a scientist who loses his home world and family, and returns as a cyborg to learn the truth of their fate. I’ve actually created quite a few manga that have robotic fighting like that one over the years!
That sounds pretty interesting! How do you usually go about creating manga?
The first step is to find a solid story. Coming up with one takes a lot of research, reading, and movie watching. I usually think of the opening scene to my manga the moment I start listening to good music actually! Haha! I start by making sketches, before going on to design the characters and their poses. Once I’ve done all of that, I finally start work on the storyboard!
Sounds like a pretty solid plan of attack, Zakariae! Speaking of creating, what is your work environment like? Are you a digital guy, or is an analog approach more your thing?
I actually don’t require a specific environment in which to work – I’m happy to work anywhere that has a table for me to use!
Oh I see! So you work both analog and digitally?
I like to draw my initial drawings by hand using pen and paper, but I always use my old Lenovo Thinkpad x220 when completing my final work! Like I said, I just need a table! Haha!
ABOUT YOUR PLACE
“Most of our manga is in Arabic or French!”
Morocco must be an exciting place to live as manga creator. What’s life like there, and do you have any events that comic enthusiasts can attend?
Morocco is a country that’s full of resources, potential, and culture, but it’s sadly lacking in manga festivals. I live in the city of Nador, which is a beautiful coastal city looking out over the Mediterranean sea. It’s a very comfortable place to live, but life as a manga creator is challenging due to tools, books, and equipment being so hard to find. Theres a few small festivals for young people who like Japanese culture here though, so that’s nice.
I’m happy to hear that Moroccans are showing an interest in Japanese culture too! What manga titles are popular over there right now?
The four main titles are Naruto, One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Attack on Titan.
Those are some major titles! What language are they released in? English?
No, most manga is released over here Arabic or French!
Oh I see! Speaking of comic publications, are there many titles that are locally produced?
Sadly, no. Despite having a fandom over here, there are almost no professional manga artists so we’re yet to have any locally produced comics.
ABOUT YOUR ENTRY
“I decided to go with a story that transcends all age groups and abilities.”
So, let’s talk a bit about your award winning entry. How long did it take for you to create “Race of Generation”?
It took about a month. I work long hours during the day, so my time spent creating manga is somewhat limited to the weekends.
Does it usually take you that long to create a manga of this length?
No, not always. Only when I’m busy with my main job. With my current workload being as it is, I’ll often do a page, or half a page, in the evenings after work. At the weekends I can obviously do more so will often completed 2-3 pages in a day. Naturally, the complexity of what I’m drawing also dictates how long it takes me, but I would say that’s my usual pace.
What was the inspiration for your entry?
When I read the text of the competition carefully, I had the inspiration to make a manga that combines all three themes, so decided to go with a story that transcends all age groups and abilities.
Well, you certainly accomplished that! Was there any significance with the Tiger and Eagle image at the beginning?
Not particularly, haha! I’ve just noticed that throughout my years of reading manga and comic books, it’s fairly common to go with two powerful animals to represent each athlete or team. As such, I did the same thing by choosing two powerful animals like the tiger and the eagle.
I really liked the pained expressions on the faces of the elderly! Did you enjoy drawing those?
Yes they were a lot of fun! Haha! I quite like drawing the suffering on peoples faces because each expression has it’s own story to tell.
Did you scrunch your face up and look at yourself in the mirror when drawing those panels?
I knew it! Hahaha!! I also noticed the people in your manga have a very realistic appearance. How did you draw them like that?
Yeah that’s actually my style of drawing. Each person moves in a unique way depending on their age, body type, and gender. I quite often use movies as reference to assist me in creating the perfect shot for my characters. Actually the most challenging part was keeping all the characters likenesses consistent, especially since they were grimacing so often! Haha!
Speaking of SMA9 entries, which of the other award winning works did you like?
I really liked “Together” by RIZA aL ASSAMI. I liked it because it had a great message, and showed that even a physical handicap can’t stop people from helping each other. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
ABOUT YOUR FUTURE
“I look forward to learning with you all!”
Looking ahead, is there anything you wish you create in the future?
I’m thinking of creating another story from imagination. I have a lot of ideas and concepts in mind right so hopefully I can flesh a few of those out if I can make the time.
Well, I hope you can since we would love to see more of your work! Do you have any aspirations or goals that you hope to achieve by being part of the SMAC! community?
I hope that my fellow creators and readers can enjoy my work and get as much enjoyment from them as I did when drawing them. Who knows, maybe I can even get published alongside my peers someday!
That would be a fine day indeed! Is there anything else you’d like to share with the SMAC! community before leaving?
I just want to say a huge, heartfelt thank you to the entire SMAC! team for giving us all a platform to show the world our skills and talents. I’m constantly inspired and encouraged by the works of my fellow creators and I look forward to learning, and growing together with you all!
Thank you for your kind words Zakariae, we hope to see more of your work soon!
And with that, we bid adieu to our Moroccan award winner as we leave him to peacefully enjoy the beautiful sights of Nador. We don’t know what kind of work he’s planning next, but we do know it’ll be worth the wait! Till next time Zakariae!
As for the rest of you, your time is NOW! What better time to put your manga making skills to the TEST, by entering the exhilarating TRIAL that is the SILENT MANGA AUDITION® EXTRA ROUND FOUR (EX4) for your chance to win cash prizes and see your work on the screen! You have until November 30th to get your entries in, so be sure to mark it on your calendar!
For a closer look at Zakariae’s work, be sure to visit his official facebook page and give it like! Click click!