Meet the man telling the greatest story with Manga graphic novels

Friday, April 24, 2015

Siku is one of Britain's leading comic book and concept artists, having worked for 2000AD, Marvel UK and COM X. He's also the author and creator of the bestselling The Manga Bible and The Manga Jesus. We found out how Siku uses illustration to inspire and connect with the next generation.

As visuals director of Elixir Studios in London, Siku has been credited on a number of computer games - including Evil Genius, which won IGN's Most Innovative Design award. We asked him about motivation and engaging with fans.

What was your vision for the Manga Bible project?

There aren't many 'authentic' Jesus films out there. There aren't any authentic Jesus graphic novels. In fact, there are no actual Jesus games - at least, I don't know of any.

That's not to say there are no good Jesus stories. Far from it, there have been some great Jesus stories over the last 30 years, but nothing that places us - the viewer - right there in his time and space.

That was why I did the Manga Jesus graphic novel and that's why I'm working on a video game based on the book.

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The 330-page comic will leave you with a sense of what it might have been like to live in first century Palestine. You get to understand aspects of Jewish and Roman politics, the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, the various Herods, eastern weddings, what it feels like to walk from Judea to Galilee, Ancient Near-Eastern palace intrigue.

By presenting the 'story core' of Jesus's salvation plan, I hope to engage young minds so they may go off and explore the issues themselves.

It's the nuances. The smells of grilled meat, smoked fish, fresh Persian rugs and imported oil in the market places... the allure of the magnificent temple glistening in the distance… the geo-political climate that sets the background against which I tell the story of Jesus.


Who did you see as your audience?

Young adults have always been my audience - from around 13 up through to 26. I love the challenge of communicating with that particular demographic, the possibilities for way-out ideas that won't get shot down because of preconceived norms.

You see, I'm part of the 'Generation X' crowd. Everyone else knows what they are about - the baby boomers, the Y generation - but we get to be called 'X' because we don't know what we are, nor what the right questions are.

That's what built the third wave of artists and writers at 2000AD. We were a whole load of X-ers telling the establishment to go do one! I love bringing that buccaneering spirit to young people.

What were your main aims?

Engagement with multi-media savvy minds. How do you talk religion without establishment religion? How do you talk about spirituality without moralising? Rephrasing the whole discourse about history, humanity, salvation, demons and angels and the divine.

It's rephrasing how we talk about what Jesus did, so that we don't use over-familiar words and concepts, but rather new words and concepts to describe our place in that battle.

Re-engaging the fundamental role of story in this mission is crucial. By presenting the 'story core' of Jesus's salvation plan, I hope to inspire young minds to go off and explore the issues themselves.


Why did you decide on manga as a medium?

It all came at a time when manga and anime teetered on the edge of mainstream culture here in Britain and other parts of the West. I watched manga as a child on TV and then explored it in anime as a young adult. I created some characters for an anime influenced video game before being called to develop a manga influenced bible.

Manga influences everything graphic in the West right now. If America influenced world culture post 1950s, then Japan has influenced world culture through manga post 2000s.

What kind of response did you get from your audience?

My audience know not to expect the conventional from me. That's why they're my audience - they like the spin I put on things. From time to time, I have pushed the boat too far - like when I gave Judge Dredd a huge chin. It divided fans, some even issued death threats.

But I was a lot younger then and less careful about upsetting people. I tend to do my subversive stuff with more finesse these days.

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What have you learned from this project?

Doing Jesus is challenging. He's the hero without a flaw. How do you write the story of a hero without a flaw? He's also challenging on another level - that is, he challenges you to be like him. Now, you know you'll never be just like him but he demands that you try.

That's my challenge - to try to do something that I know I can't do, knowing that trying is in itself success.

We're learning all the time about the audience we talk to. The more we know, the more we know we don't know. The only certainty is that we must go with our instincts, what our gut is trying to get out.

If the music gives us goose bumps, it might just give somebody else goose bumps. I think Quincy Jones said something like that.

My audience know not to expect the conventional from me. That's why they're my audience, they like the spin I put on things.

What are you working on at the moment?

Developing a prototype interactive trans-media app based on the book The Manga Jesus. We just concluded work on a superhero graphic novel of the bible.

I'm also developing IP based on a revolutionary bicycle helmet and creating challenging video for my new graphic novel bible study book.

I've also just completed a Judge Anderson cover for 2000AD. I was once a long term Judge Anderson artist and when you spend a long time developing a character, you start to know them in a way that's similar to how you know real people.

Find out more about Siku at his website, The Art of Siku.

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