Friday, August 21, 2020

An Interview with Illustrator Alan Bay - Artist of Sacred Guardians Prequel Comic

Local Red Dot Island illustrator Alan Bay may call himself smallguydoodle on social media, but his artistic talent is anything but small.

He has worked for an extensive list of projects, ranging from high profile game titles like Assassin's Creed, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Romance of Three Kingdoms Online, to comics, cartoons and children's books.

His first printed fantasy-RPG-based comic was a collaboration with Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) and ChuangYi Publishing called ATLAS. The comic still lives as ATLAS REALMS on tapas.

Alan's recently completed comic book entitled SACRED GUARDIANS will be released this month by local publishing company Asiapac Books. It is a prequel origin story written by Aydeel Djoeharie (co-founder of tokuAsia) for an exciting and ambitious tokusatsu live action series project called SACRED GUARDIANS SINGA.

Red Dot Diva is excited to get her hands on SACRED GUARDIANS, so she took the opportunity to ask Alan Bay about his experience working in the different industries as well as nab a couple of teasers for the upcoming comic book.

Red Dot Diva: You have worked for on several popular game projects. What is it like working for game companies as an artist? Is it brutal with all the group collaboration and deadlines you have to meet?
Alan: I have worked in two different companies Koei Tecmo (Koei back then) and Ubisoft, and they have two very different office cultures and work styles. But it's the same working in either company, time is never on our side. It’s never a 9-6 job and will always end up working overtime trying to push for better quality. We always said it was an abuse of passion, but we ended up doing it anyway!

Red Dot Diva: Between being a game artist and a comic book artist, which do you prefer, and why? Is the storytelling process the same?
Alan: I would prefer comic book artist, as story-telling plays a much important role than compared to games. For video games, I feel that game play is the most important thing and a good story sometime might be under-appreciated or just doesn’t work with the game. Creating comic is pretty much boundless, if earning dough isn’t your top priority.

TMNT: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled Opening Video from alan bay on Vimeo.

Red Dot Diva: Your drawings generally depict a "cartoon" style (in a good way!), and I notice you also love having bright, glossy and contrasting colours in your images. Who influenced and continues to influence your art?
Alan: I always hope my drawing and comic bring joy and laughter to the readers, and perhaps also my happy nature that I tend to create more happy vibes drawings. I do been wanting to try different genre like horror and more grim stuff, so that might be something new for me. My childhood manga were DragonballZ, Ranma ½, Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai, DNA². I only got to read western comics while I was in Poly, and my friend recommended BattleChasers, which really blew my mind. I never seen or thought that a western comic can have such stylized and almost manga style, and from then I got to read more comics like Crimson, Danger Girl, Chew, Invincible, etc 
Red Dot Diva: So, how would you describe your own art style?
Alan: I have been doing a lot of children books and boardgames for the last few years, so my current art style is more kiddish and simple. Sometime an art style is kinda break or change, but I always like a challenge and trying different things.

Red Dot Diva: You have been drawing art professionally for a while. Do you feel that your art style has changed through the years? How do you keep yourself up to date, and has there been something new that have you learned in recent times?
Alan: As I've mentioned, I have been doing more children contents for the past few years, so my style tends to be simpler. Partly that’s due to time constrain too, so you will need to find a style that allows you to finish the work in a certain amount of time. Compared to ONCE UPON A SINGAPORE... TRADERS, SACRED GUARDIANS is a more action-packed Shonen comic, so the style is slightly different (I hope!). I always look for new ways to automate and make the process faster, like using customized styles and actions. I also think reading is very important for artists, you are building a world/universe from scratch, the more you know, the easier and believable your story/art will be. You will need to know how weight and gravity works, how light and shadow works, how human anatomy works, etc.. So stay in school kids.

Red Dot Diva: Congrats again to you and Tina Sim for having ONCE UPON A SINGAPORE... TRADERS being named as one of the Finalist for Book of the Year at the Singapore Book Awards 2019. Where were you when you first got the news? 
Alan: Thank you Diva! Sadly, it was announced only a few days before the event itself and I wasn’t able to attend it as I was going overseas. Not many people knew about it because our book was only nominated for this and it wasn’t in the catalogue…. 
Red Dot Diva: Did you feel that you achieved an important milestone after all the hard work you have put in so far?
Alan: It was definitely a big surprise for us, as it was the second time a comic was nominated. (The first was Sonny Liew’s and he won the award, so let’s not talk about that!)
Red Dot Diva: Haha! Sonny has indeed raised the bar for local creators. He's awesome.

Red Dot Diva: How did you get involved with the SACRED GUARDIANS prequel comic for the local tokusatsu project SACRED GUARDIANS SINGA?? ?
Alan: Lingying from Asiapac Books approached me again because I am fast and cheap lol (Just kidding!) I met up with her and the Tokuasia team who wrote the story last October and asked if I am interested to draw the comic. 
Red Dot Diva:Tell us a little about what the comic is about.
Alan:The story is a mythical take on Asia a long time ago, where demons and spirits roam the land, and how Dev the main character, finds the sacred guardians to defeat the evils.

Red Dot Diva: Did you come up with the designs of the characters in SACRED GUARDIANS? What was the process like?
Alan: The original characters were created by Zaki Ragman (which can be found at the end of book) and they were used in the proposal. I re-designed them based off his designs and simplified them so that the look matches the style and genre. They gave me the creativity freedom with their costumes, so I tried to add more Asian flairs with fantasy elements. 

Red Dot Diva: What was the most challenging thing about the SACRED GUARDIANS comic project? 
Alan: The amount of details, especially for the Guardians costumes. And they are five of them! We were still tweaking the story at the beginning of year, and I starting the actual inking and colours back in March. We were targeting a July release back then. Guess the Circuit Breaker helped a bit as I was trapped in my room drawing every day. Besides that, the next most challenging thing was to make sure the story and the action were balanced. Aydeel Djoeharie, who is the writer, and I went through and amended the story a couple of times, and I really appreciate that he was open to suggestions and comments. It is not easy to squeeze everything we wanted to tell into a book, but I think the outcome is pretty promising.

Red Dot Diva: I feel there is a lack of representation of South-East Asian stories on the international stage. What are your opinions about this, and how do you think we could achieve more success worldwide?
Alan: Movies like Parasite, Crazy Rich Asians, Ilo Ilo, and books like The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (Darn it, I mentioned it in the end.) have been well received globally and I think the world are always curious and eager for Asian stories. I feel we should write stories based on our individual experiences, something close to your heart, so even after you stripped off all the fancy graphics and CGI, it is still a genuine story.

Sneak peek page from SACRED GUARDIANS!

Red Dot Diva: So, what’s next after SACRED GUARDIANS? Do you have some more projects that we can look out for? 
Alan: Well, Aydeel does have a lot of ideas for the individual characters in the story, like how their lives were like before all these happened. He has a bigger plan that will cover more countries and myths, which hopefully we will get to tell them in the future.
Red Dot Diva: Ooh! Sounds exciting. Bring it on!


SACRED GUARDIANS is still available for pre-order from Asiapac Books' website. Get your copy here:

It seems that pre-orders will come with a limited-edition postcard. See below for a sneak peek!

To find out more about about Alan Bay, check out his website here:

For more information on SACRED GUARDIANS SINGA -

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