Interview with Beautiful Creatures Manga Artist Cassandra Jean

Beautiful Creatures and Land of Lions Covers by Cassandra Jean

This is Part 1 of my in-depth interview with Cassandra Jean, the talented and prolific artist of MangaMagazine‘s Land of Lions and the artist adapting Beautiful Creatures for Yen Press. 

Tell me about yourself – who are you, how did you get started drawing manga and what is it about manga in particular that you’re drawn to?

Hello! I am Cassandra Jean! Drinker of Gatorade, Eater of Cadbury Creme Eggs, and sidekick to a dog named Yukiko! Basically, I live to create art. How I got started drawing manga… was probably the same as most people. I loved comics when I was a kid, particularly Garfield comics, I even had a Garfield phone, I sort of miss that… but as I got older I discovered the wonderful world of Manga when I picked up Blade of the Immortal. That was probably a little heavy for me for my first voyage into manga-land, but I was really enthralled by the artwork and how deep the stories can be in Manga as opposed to American comic books which seemed so thin in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, American comics are great too, but I just found Manga and Graphic Novels to be more appealing. With the variety of artwork and genres available. I guess that’s what really amazed me the most and drew me in, was the vast variety of genre. I loved reading shojo, but I loved the shounen comics too. And there were so many different and new artists that I couldn’t get enough. And I really wanted to create something like that and be involved with that world.

Yes, the sheer variety of subject matter in manga fascinated me, too! I was completely surprised with the “weight” and seriousness of stories, especially ones made for girls. Magic Knight Rayearth for example, one of my gateway manga, was definitely shojo in style and had female protagonists but the subject matter had serious adventure elements and even had some very tragic twists – not something you could easily find in North American comics.

Were you drawn to this complexity as well? I feel like your work has a lot of humor but also dark themes which make for a dynamic, multifaceted narrative.

I do enjoy how manga can feel like so many genre at once. One Piece for example will have me laughing my ass off one minute, then half a chapter later I will literally be sobbing and crying. Like you said I think that manga genre are much more complex and deep than most American comics. Tegami Bachi is another one of those comics I have to read when no one is around because I may spontaneously burst into tears. Despite all the crying, I think it’s so amazing that these authors can pull these sorts of emotions from me through comics.

I don’t know what to call my work. I guess it technically isn’t comedy for the most part. But I’d hate to cut out humor completely, I love jokes! Sometimes I worry people might find my characters boring because I try to keep them and their emotions more subtle, you know, like a real human being instead of a cartoon character. In Land of Lions, one character Trisha is in love with the main character Faris, I’m hoping over the course of the story to teach the female readers that though she loves him, she can learn to stand on her own two feet and be a powerful woman without relying on him, or chasing after him like a typical “girl in love” that you see in most stories. She may or may not get him in the end. You don’t know! But that isn’t the point in my mind either. To me the more important question is whether she is or isn’t strong enough, so that if she does get her true love, or doesn’t , will she be able to handle herself either way, no matter what?

Who are some of the artists or what are the works that have inspired you? (Manga and non-manga are okay! :)

I’ve always absolutely loved the artwork of Kaori Wakamatsu (aka Graffiti Bunny). Her very solid and flat colors but beautiful line work and compositions have inspired a lot of my illustration work. She doesn’t do comics so I don’t think her name gets around as much as it should, because she really is fantastic. I’m also a huge fan of Rem‘s work, but who isn’t!? She is so talented and she’s always inspired me to keep chugging along with my own comics. I think the first manga I ever picked up was Blade of the Immortal so Hiroaki Samura has also always been a big inspiration to me, his work is so wonderfully different from most other manga artists out that you typically see. Lately, also, ever since I’ve picked up Blue Exorcist I’ve completely adored Kazue Kato‘s style. There’s some kind of deep girl-power well inside of me that get’s excited when I find female artists who totally blow my mind. I admire them most, generally. (Not that I don’t love the fella’s work too, great art is great art no matter who draws it).

Land of Lions Chapter 22 Cover

Oh, that sounds wonderful. I did note your chapter covers for Land of the Lions are composed beautifully with flat colors and with subtle detail. As individual pieces, I think they’re striking and complement the spare nature of your work (if that makes sense). For your comic pages, I do see Blade of the Immortal as an influence because your work is characterized by generous spot blacks and beautiful energetic lineart like Hiroaki Samura’s. However, you’ve definitely made it your own.

Have you always drawn with this style or is it something you eventually came to after experimentation?
That’s too hard to answer. I haven’t always drawn this way, I mean… I learn and grow as an artist every day with every new painting I see. I didn’t sit down one day and think “Today I shall develop a style” it’s just what my work morphed into over time. And I’m sure it will keep changing. Hopefully for the better!

Part 2 will go up on Thursday, May 17! Stay tuned!
Part 2 can now be read here.  

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