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Indie Comics Spotlight: Mikhail Sebastian explains why manga are better than comics
Mikhail Sebastian has been hiding in plain sight. Not only was he the first artist recruited by U.S.-based manga company Noir Caesar, but his alter ego Mythallica has an Instagram account that boasts 34,000 followers and some of the most impressive manga-style artwork this side of Japan.
Sebastian showed up on NBA player and Noir Caesar founder Johnny O'Bryant's radar back in 2016 when the artist Kickstarted his interstellar alien adventure Lux Nova, which now boasts two volumes. The shonen manga influence, following in the spirit of Dragon Ball Z and Naruto, comes through in Nova as well as Sebastian's other Noir Caesar work, Sorcerority and Playboy, both of which are drawn and co-written by Sebastian. In addition, the artist also helps develop animation projects with the company.
SYFY WIRE spoke with Sebastian about his influences and why he’d pick manga over comics any day.
We’ve seen your artwork across social media for a while credited as Mythallica. Where did that name come from?
Mikhail Sebastian: Mythallica is a universe I created for myself as a kid. I was one of those kids that had no problem playing all by themselves. I’d create worlds in my head and a ton of imaginary friends to explore those worlds with. Many of those became characters for my current stories.
A lot of my stories are almost as old as I am.
When did you first start drawing?
I started drawing very young on my mom's walls. She wasn't really happy with that, so she put a pencil in my hand and after that I just kind of kept doing it. I stopped for a little while to kind of play sports. I thought I would entertain that avenue for a while, but when I turned 15, I decided I wanted to take it on professionally. And I've been doing it ever since.
You decided to go professional at 15? Who was hiring 15-year-old artists?
Yep. 15. Well, before I started drawing, I wanted to be a veterinarian. So my first professional job actually was at my school doing illustrations of animals. It was a good marriage between the two.
My favorite animal was always the Komodo dragon. I always thought they were really cool.
What did you get into first? Manga or anime?
I was into manga first. Definitely.
What was the first manga that you read and fell in love with?
My favorite was probably the same for a lot of people: Naruto. But my introduction was, of course, Dragon Ball Z, like it was for most [kids in the U.S.], but I didn't know that marriage between anime and the manga until I got to Naruto. That's when I learned that there's a whole expensive industry to it, and ever since then I wanted to be a part of it.
Did you ever think about being a traditional comics creator, or was it always about being a Mangaka for you?
I definitely am a fan of comics. But I can also definitely say that I never wanted to actually work in comics. Only because, as an artist, I always found the aesthetic for manga to be a little bit better. For me, there’s just so much more variety.
I feel like with comics, specifically Western comics, we can kind of get into this format where there's such a strict way you have to draw everything. And unless you draw it that way, a lot of times they don't really entertain you in that industry.
You don't find that strictness in manga and anime? Because there is definitely a look to manga.
I find that strictness in manga for sure, but I think manga leaves the door open for your own stylistic interpretation. Maybe not so much in Japan, because it's more a part of their culture, but I think people who like anime and manga [are] more open-minded about what they like to read, so they don't follow the same guidelines as a comic artist from Marvel who has to draw Spider-Man the same way as everyone else.
I liked the fact that with manga you can kind of put more of your own influence into it.
What manga or anime are you excited about right now? What are you watching?
I’m a huge fan of Megalo Box. It had that classic vibe that is missing in most anime nowadays. And I really liked that.
I also like Darling in the Franxx. I thought that was a really cool concept. It was different, but I'm a big fan of Studio Trigger now. I’ll watch anything they make.
Do your manga drop like a weekly shonen jump?
We do more of a monthly release. We are bi-monthly for most of our titles. My comic though, Sorcerority, it’s a monthly title. So every month you get 30 and 50 pages of new chapters.
Can you give us a little background on Sorcerority?
That story basically follows a group of girls who attend a historically black coven (like a witches' HBCU). The story follows Melanie, there’s history there and a connection to the mysterious circumstances behind her mother's disappearance.
You guys had an incredible Kickstarter for the Primus 7 animated series last year. Are you involved with that as well?
It'll be a series. We're currently still in the production phases of everything we've been working on. For the pilot, we worked with Studio Mir, the studio that did Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. So we've been working with them closely and trying to build up the pilot and get the series in the right direction.
But our series actually that will probably be animated first will be XOGenaSYS, which recently got picked up by a studio. So we're really excited about what we'll be able to do with that title as well.