Every year, in the countdown to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, we bring you a series of interviews with guests at the event. This “Festival Focus” for 2018 is Ken Niimura, a cartoonist and illustrator based in Tokyo.
His breakthrough in the industry came with the publication of the acclaimed graphic novel, I Kill Giants, earning him and fellow Festival guest, writer Joe Kelly, nominations for the prestigious Eisner Award and winning the International Manga Award in 2012.
I Kill Giants is now a major feature film.
Niimura is also the author of the short story collection Henshin, published originally in Japan by Shogakukan.
His new series, Umami, launched in 2017 though Panel Syndicate.
What are you working on, comics-wise, right now, and when will it be published?
Ken Niimura: I’m working on the eighth chapter of Umami, available now, and on a comic adaptation of the Japanese folk tale Urashima Taro, that will be available in Japan in fall of this year.
Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?
Ken: Certainly I Kill Giants, with Joe Kelly. It’s available everywhere (I hope).
How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)
Ken: I tend to do the most creative work in the mornings, paperwork and e-mails after lunch, and drawing in the evenings.
What’s the best thing about being a comics creator?
Ken: Freedom! And that making them is challenging but also fun.
And the worst?
Ken: Like any freelance jobs, little contact with the outside world.
What most distracts you from getting your work done?
Ken: My phone. That’s why sometimes I come to the studio having left it at home.
Do you think it’s easier or harder for young comic creators to get published today?
Ken: It’s easier, since putting your work online for everyone to read is just one click away. Visibility, and making people actually read it is quite another story though.
Have you ever been to the Lake District before and if so what did you think of it?
Ken: I’ve been once, two years ago. Can’t wait to enjoy the air, the landscape and eat some nice food.
Which one comic creator would you most like to meet, and why?
Ken: As long as they’re fun and eager to chat, basically anyone (that’s most of the guests at the Festival).
How do Festivals and other comics events help creators most, do you think?
Ken: It’s all about meeting with the readers, getting to know their side of the story, and also share miseries and joys with our fellow creators. It’s good to be able to get out of home every once in a while!
What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?
Ken: It’s not exactly the most profitable job, so do it only if you really enjoy the process, if you want to tell something and think this is a good way to communicate. There are other options out there, so it’s all about what fits you best.
What’s your favourite comic right now and where can people get it?
Ken: It’s “Ooyasan to Boku (My landlady and I)” by Taro Yabe, a non-fiction book about the author’s relation with his 80-year old landlady. Only available in Japanese for now, hopefully it’ll be available in english soon!
Ken, thank you very much for your time and we look forward to seeing you in Kendal.
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival will be back in Kendal 12th – 14th October 2018. Tickets for the Festival are on sale now from: www.comicartfestival.com