SMA9 Interview #7 – Daniel Bretas (Excellence Award winner)
Hailing from the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, SMA9 “Excellence Award” winner, Daniel Bretas, takes some time out of his busy day to sit down with us and chat about his award winning entry “ROAR”! Join us as we discuss the inspiration for his entry, his views on manga creation, and his current projects!
Hello there, Daniel! How’s life in Brazil?
Hello there, Brendan! Yes, it’s pretty hot here right now so please excuse my bedraggled appearance!!
Ha! No problem at all! Well, let me just start by saying CONGRATULATIONS on your recent win! How does it feel to win the award??
Thank you very much! It’s pretty overwhelming to win this award twice in a row, I can tell you! I really put myself to task this time, by trying to find a nice, new angle within the framework of the themes. I was also committed to keeping the momentum of my work pace consistent from start to finish, so its really reassuring and motivating to see my work be recognized and awarded once again!
Well, your approach certainly paid off! How did you find the themes for SMA9? Were they easy for you, or did they give you trouble?
I think I had a harder time getting my head around the theme in my earlier entries. I used to have a lot of early concepts, and would start developing them without probing the ideas any further. Couple that with a lack of understanding when it comes to controlling language in manga, not to mention the silent approach, and you end with interesting, but not so strong work. The themes are great at kickstarting the imagination into creating lots of interesting scenarios, but I’ve since learned the importance of letting an idea sink in and take form before committing pen to paper. These are the ones that are worth investing the time and effort in after all!
Wise words indeed! So, what was your inspiration when creating your entry SMA9?
Simply put, I wanted to draw “Onças” (or Jaguars as they’re called in English), but within a broader context. In Brazil, Onças are considered to be a fierce symbol, representing our natural fauna, and rich multi-colored culture. To me, the Onça further stood out as a symbol of motherhood, and was something that came to me in a mix of dreams and desires between myself and the mother of my daughter.
Wow! That’s pretty deep!
Haha! Yeah, I was going through a pretty intense period in my life, both spiritually and instinctively. Becoming a father is something that totally changes your perspective on life, but creating a character that represents my own daughter again was such a pleasant experience for me. She was already born this time around, so it was a lot of fun imagining how she would be in a few years time as she runs amok! Haha! She kinda helped me make full use of the themes too!
I see! So your daughter is perhaps your biggest source of inspiration?
Yeah, I’d say so. Before she came along 11 months ago, much of my work had a darker tone and was definitely a little more edgy. Much of the inspiration for my work still derives from feelings and emotions rather than incidents or places. But now that she is in my life, I tend see much of the world around me through the filter of parenthood these days. I don’t need to search so deep anymore. Things seem to come much more naturally for me now.
How long did it take to create your entry this time?
I think it took around 2 weeks of hands on labor, but as I mentioned earlier, I gave the idea time to grow so that I could figure out everything during the pre-production phase. The guidance I got from the SMAC! editors was also crucial in helping me make the story be seen from different angles. It helped me see the story’s potential before putting pen to paper.
Two weeks is pretty fast! How long does it usually take for you to complete an entry?
Usually longer than that! The reason being that it’s more difficult to focus solely on developing new entries, but when I do get the time it typically takes 2 – 4 weeks depending on the page count of course. Recently I’ve been trying out different aesthetics with regards to page count and production in the hope that fully transitioning to digital can help speed up the process.
Your use of lighting and depth in “ROAR” is fantastic! Did you find it difficult to depict the atmosphere inside the big top circus tent?
Thank you! That was something I really dived into and tried to depict as best as I could.
I always try to challenge myself by revealing something new through each of my works. In this entry the scenery, lighting, and costumes were alongside the Onças themselves in terms of difficulty when I sat down to draw them. Actually, drawing the costumes was a nightmare! Haha That being said, I put in a great deal of research to help me better understand the setting’s background, and to present the circus as a character itself.
Your research definitely made all the difference – It feels so big in that tent!
Actually, I was kinda limited in how I could convey the scale of the circus. I wasn’t able to show the multiple attractions that are usually typical of a circus, or else it would have detracted from the characters. The limited page count also made it hard. What I decided to do instead, was try and focus on the atmosphere within the tent itself by creating a “mise-en-scene” to serve as the main narrative. That helped me keep the story light, while still combining many different elements.
I particularly liked the ring leader character – he looked so sinister! What inspired you when creating his design?
Surprising as this may sound, the inspiration for his design came from bronze and golden age Disney films! They often had sinister characters that would haunt me as a kid, with the villains in The Rescuers, The Sword in the Stone, and Pinocchio being particularly creepy.
Oh I can certainly relate to that! The Horned King from The Black Cauldron scared the crap out of me when I was a kid!
Haha! Yeah, I recently went through a phase of rewatching all the films that scared me when I was a kid, and was surprised to discover that some of them actually still creep me out! I did it so that I can refresh my memory and hopefully prevent my daughter from experiencing the “fears” I did, but it also proved to be a good starting point for constructing my character. In the end I drew upon Stromboli from Pinocchio, and Tony from The Lady and the Tramp as visual references when designing the ring leader. Symbolically speaking, I think his character is the total opposite from the girl in the story so it makes for an interesting contrast.
Interesting choice of reference! Upon revisiting the movies, were there any that seemed different to how you remember?
Actually, yeah! I was never a big fan of it at the time, but going back I was surprised by how good The Hunchback of Notre Dame is. That movie has the perfect balance of good and evil so I will definitely enjoy watching it together with my daughter!
Going back to “ROAR”, I have to say that I really love your use of kakimoji! Do they come easy to you, because It sure looks like it!
As one of the few written words allowed in the work, I think kakimoji serve many purposes. I have learned this over the course of my numerous past entries, and I still feel I have plenty of room for improvement in implementing them. To me, kakimoji are not only sounds, they are graphic elements that guide the flow of the narrative. They form a vital visual aid that not only needs to surpass their simple onomatopoeic function, but they must also resonate with the reader in tangible and intimate way so as distinguish themselves from just written noise.
Hence the choice of title for your entry?
Exactly! One of the reasons I named my entry “ROAR” was not just for the sound or the word itself, but because of the power it contains. I feel it works well as both a title, and as a graphic motif that ties the narrative together during the story’s climax.
I must say I really enjoyed the teamwork at the end, and the onças escaping. I did wonder if they’ll be alright out on there own like that though! What made you decide on ending it in this way?
I think the story works quite well across all three themes, but I think I have a tendency to overthink each one. If there are three themes, focusing on just one would be a smart alternative, but I quite enjoy the challenge of bringing them all together. Looking back, I feel that “teamwork” was probably the more prominent theme in my story, though “respect” and “fairness” both had their moment to shine. All that being said, I feel the ending may be where I came up short…
Oh? How so?
Since SILENT MANGA AUDITION® is a global competition, the story needs to be more universal so that people from all walks of life can understand it. That’s where I might have slipped up a little. I think I might have been too focused on Brazilian landscape with regards to regional zoning and urban planning. Small traveling circuses tend to set up in open, rural areas near rivers, lakes, or forests. As such, should an animal ever escape, they could easily find themselves back in their natural habitat. Of course, people who are unfamiliar with Brazilian geography or who are only familiar with city life might not have made the connection, but I quite like the ending even if it is a bit whimsical. Open endings are a bit of a habit of mine, and with the silent element thrown in too it’s quite a hard hurdle to overcome, but I’m working on improving that area of my work!
Speaking of work, is there anything you’d like to create in the future?
Well, that’s a really open question since I have so much on my plate right now! Haha! I’m currently finishing a short film based on my work “Shut Up and Listen”, as well as working as a freelancer in many different areas within film and design. I also teach drawing classes at Estudio Black Ink, and am working hard to motivate and inspire more young artists to reach out and challenge themselves through SMA too.
Wow, you sound pretty busy! We’re very glad to hear that you’re encouraging other creators to join our competitions though!
Yeah I don’t get much free time these days. Being a father is my main role at the moment, and I love how much it has taught me and helped me grow as a person. Hopefully I can reflect that in everything I do!
I’m sure you will! Is there anything you hope to achieve by being part of our community?
The SMAC community has been really good to me, You guys have probably granted me the biggest showcase my work has ever had! I hope to become an even greater storyteller and artist in the future, and make the most of this spotlight while I can! Furthermore, I hope I can create even more stories and contribute something that can help make the world a better place. Be it a smirk or a teardrop, if it communicates it resonates!
That’s a beautiful sentiment, Daniel! Anything you’d like to share with the SMAC! community before you go?
I might not be the best example, but if you really want to reach out and follow your dream of becoming a professional mangaka or work in illustration, You’ve gotta put your whole self into it – mind and body included! Try to find what drives you, grab it, and don’t let go! Like I said, I might not be the best example, but I might just stand out to others as a role model because, despite being so busy, I still find the time to follow my heart.
Wow, thank you so much for time, Daniel! We can’t wait to see what you come up with next!
Many thanks to you, too! It’s been a pleasure!And with that, we bid a brief farewell to Daniel as we let him get back to his hectic life of parenting and manga creating! Be sure to also check out his site for more Bretas brilliance! 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! That’s not all however, as we have also announced the theme for SMA11 which is “PROMISE”! At any rate, let’s pick up those pens and wow the world! Penmaru and the entire SMAC! editorial team are looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!