Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Singapore Comic Con (SGCC) 2022 Artist Highlight - Edison Neo, The Brains Behind Martial Arts Comic ‘Snake Claws’

Tick, tick, tick. The clock's ticking down to Singapore Comic Con (SGCC), which will be happening at will return to Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Marina Bay on 10 & 11 December 2022.

Ahhhhh! Mild panic setting in. Red Dot Diva does not feel that she is quite prepared for the pop-culture convention of the year. Are you all set for the comic con already?

For the second installment of the SGCC 2022 Artist Highlight interview series, Red Dot Diva is pleased to introduce local cartoonist Edison Neo. Edison has self-published comics like the martial art rouser SNAKE CLAWS as well as the anthology entitled NO-BRAINER.

After reading SNAKE CLAWS, Red Dot Diva has been kicking herself as to why she has not gotten to know Edison sooner. His artwork and storylines are wildly exuberant, and funny as hell. Well, Red Dot Diva cannot make any more excuses now. This is because she has asked Edison a list of nosy questions, a number of which are about SNAKE CLAWS!

Red Dot Diva (RDD): Hi Edison!! So, when did you start to create and publish your own comics?
Edison: Hi! I have been making and self-publishing my own comics for the past 3 years. I do this in my own free time as I have a full-time job in a completely different industry. I was always a comic reader since young, and I did like to draw, but they were mostly doodles in textbooks during class and stuff of that nature. I only got into drawing seriously much later, 5 years ago, to be exact, when I found out that one could learn things like perspective and anatomy and I wanted to learn how to make comics the proper way.

So, I started creating comics around that time, as I attempted to practice and improve. Somehow I didn't feel much progress just drawing in a sketchbook, but once I tried doing short stories with sequential art, I was more engaged and felt more improvement.

RDD: That's so cool! Did you have a mentor to help you with the process of creating comics? How did you learn and improve on your comic making skills?
Edison: I didn't really have a mentor, although you could say that indirectly, my mentors were the great comic artists and writers who I avidly followed, referenced from and studied. I mostly learnt through trial and error, starting small with a one-page story, then 4/5 pages, then 8 and so on. SNAKE CLAWS was the first time I completed 22 pages, which is the length of a typical comic book issue. The improvement came just from sheer repetition and practice and constantly comparing to the actual published comics and trying to point out what was lacking.

RDD: Your comic series SNAKE CLAWS is a martial arts extravaganza. Were you a Shaw Brothers / Golden Harvest fan? Who is your favourite martial artist?
Edison: Definitely yes, SNAKE CLAWS is a byproduct of Shaw Brothers, Golden Harvest and Stephen Chow movies, not to forget the countless period dramas that were always on television. I’m sure like most Singaporeans, these movies and television shows were ubiquitous and its tropes, cliches and traits are ingrained in our understanding of the genre. Haha, I don't think I can choose a favourite because there's so much good work out there. However I will say that my Mount Rushmore is Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li and Gordon Liu.

RDD: I read your SNAKE CLAWS series, and it was flying barrels of fun. Love the sense of humour – the insanely creative names for the wuxia moves and the nostalgic cheesy marital arts dialogue. The art was so colourful and kinetic. How much research did you do to get the martial arts movements right in those panels?
Edison: Thanks for the kind words! The book really goes overboard with the move names all in the name of fun, so it’s really not based on any actual real moves. Probably 75% of the moves were just made up on the spot to fit the fighting scenes and I just ran along with what worked, e.g. "Snake Devours Chicken Wings" ;) . If you get the collected edition, there’s a glossary of moves at the back and you can tell how nonsensical everything really is.

For the most part, I sketched out and choreographed the fighting moves quite freely, without much structure and based it around who needs to be having the upper hand and what the location of the fight was. For example, for a fight I might give it 4 pages to play out, and then break down the parts in which the momentum should swing back and forth. There was one instance in which I actually did reference a scene from a movie. In Book 4, the Frostbite Immortal, there is a double page spread in which Snake Claws and the old lady are face to face trying to twist each other's arms to get the upper hand. I wanted to get the hand positions right for something like that so thankfully I actually saw a scene in one of the movies (I have forgotten which one) which had that exact sequence. So I paused the video frame by frame to refer to when drawing. Other than that, I don't recall much re-watching, because it would have taken me too long, haha.

In terms of comics inspiration,, I can only think of Dragon Ball Z which was a strong influence, however for western comics, they were few and far between. That was why I wanted to make
SNAKE CLAWS a western style comic with longer and more choreographed fight scenes, instead of a page or two of punches and kicks. However, I do want to mention Defenders #7 from the 2017 run, that has always stuck with me. There is a sequence of about 6-7 pages of a fight between Iron Fist and Elektra and it was one of the most intense fight sequences I've seen in big two comics. Best part about it is that it was wordless, no dialogue at all. I wanted to do that in SNAKE CLAWS but make it the whole issue, haha.

RDD: Other than the art, the other thing that stood out for me in SNAKE CLAWS was the wide range of onomatopoeia that you used. Did you make those noises while drawing them to see how they could best fit into the particular action?
Edison: No, strangely I don’t do that, although I heard many cartoonists do exactly that. I mostly use the onomatopoeia that sounds close to what I think it should sound like, and sometimes they are just added to a panel to balance out the composition.

RDD: I love Snake Claws. I have a thing for villains, and if a villain is written well, I know the story is going to be entertaining. Do you have an all-time favourite villain? Did you model some of the characters in the series based on people you know?
Edison: Thank you :) Wow, that is a really difficult question, haha. In my first draft while thinking about what I could write a story on, it was a bunch of protagonists going to find and defeat Snake Claws. So I wanted to do an origin story for this bunch of protagonists. I ended up finding out that thinking of the backstory for Snake Claws was way more fun than the original idea, so it became focused on Snake Claws in the end. My all-time favourite villain would probably be Magneto from the X-men, although I'm not too sure you can consider him a villain anymore, haha. I guess this balancing aspect of both the good and bad parts of a character shows in Snake Claws, but I did not have an exact character that I drew inspiration from. I just wanted him to be really despicable but still likeable. Very contradictory, and I'm still figuring it out, haha.
RDD: Ahhhh!!! I do love Magneto too. He's one of my top fave comic book characters.

RDD: Two years ago, you were on Daniel Warren Johnson’s online portfolio review. That was pretty awesome. He gave you a lot of practical and useful tips on how to improve the art and story-telling in your draft SNAKE CLAWS comic book panels. After you completed SNAKE CLAWS, did you send him a copy? What were his comments on the finished story?
Edison: Yes, that was a life-changing opportunity. In fact, after the video, I sent him Book 1 and he told me to send him Book 2 when I was done. Not only did he read it but he got on another call with me to go through the entire book. I was really floored by his generosity. Unfortunately he got very busy after that and we haven’t been able to get in touch much. I’ll pass it to him one day, haha.

RDD: How did you get hired for IDW’s FAMILY TIME comic? What was your reaction when you knew you got the gig? How is the project coming along?
Edison: Back when I first started making comics, I worked with a writer, who was getting into the industry as well. After the project, we didn’t have a follow up project but we still kept in touch. Funnily enough, earlier this year, he messaged me and told me that he was working at IDW in the editorial staff and that he saw my portfolio brought up.(I had submitted through another editor before). A few months later, I was approached for the project and was told that the creators of the story liked my portfolio from a bunch of other options, so I was really really fortunate. My reaction was a mix of shock, joy and gratitude, but also, a lot of motivation to get down to work, which is just about to start as they are finalising the script for issue one.

RDD: How do you go about preparing for an artist alley booth at conventions? Please let us know what we can look out for at your booth at the upcoming SGCC.
Edison: Honestly, I’m not too sure, I’m still pretty green myself and this is my first convention as an exhibitor and as a visitor. I signed up for a booth back in 2020 and Covid has delayed it till now. I’ve just been trying to keep things simple for my first time, so I’m just bringing my comics to sell and probably do some sketch commissions. The comics that will be available are of course, SNAKE CLAWS Vol. 1 which consists of Books 1-6 collected into a trade paperback with bonus material at the back.

Also, I have a solo anthology called NO-BRAINER, consisting of different short stories along with chapters of my current sci-fi adventure comic called Thoomgard: Final Mission, which is up to issue 4 right now. This will all be available at the convention too. Plus, I will have a bunch of original art for sale and for perusal, which are the pages from my own work and other work-for-hire projects as well :). I’ll try my best to have some sketch commission slots too, which can be signed up for at the convention, and I’ll see how many I can do in the two days, haha. That is mostly it for me, and I think I will have my hands full for the whole time there.

RDD: Sounds busy enough! I hope lots more readers will get to know about your comics and art. I'll definitely be checking in at your booth during the weekend!
No-Brainer comic by Edison Neo



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