The Moto Hagio Interview conducted by Matt Thorn (Part Four of Four)

Posted by on March 12th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Previously: Part One, Part TwoPart Three.

From A,A' ©1997 Moto Hagio/Shogakukan, Inc. click to view larger image

Craft

Thorn: Forgive me for suddenly changing the subject again, but I’d like to ask you about page layouts, about how you use a page.

Hagio: All right.

Thorn: The kind of page layouts you and Takemiya did back in those days was very different anything that came before, wasn’t it? Was that a conscious thing?

Hagio: When you say, “anything that came before,” what do you mean?

Thorn: Well, this is an obvious example, but [Suiho Tagawa’s] Norakuro (1931) always had three panels per page, stacked, and each was the same size. Tezuka, and particularly Ishimori, introduced more interesting and dramatic page layouts, but in your early works, each page is composed almost like a single painting.

Hagio: Do you mean a page that consists of a single large panel?

Thorn: Well, for example, this page here.

Hagio: Oh, I see what you mean.

Thorn: In an ordinary boys’ comic, the focus is on the action, and the page is laid out to show the flow of the action. “First this happens, then this happens.” But in a page like this, the flow of the panels has nothing to do with action, does it?

Hagio: Right, it’s the atmosphere that’s important.

Thorn: It’s about the atmosphere and the relationships between the characters. Did you consciously choose this sort of unconventional layout?

Hagio: That’s a good question. Now that you mention it … [Thorn laughs.] I suppose, as I was drawing, I found that bigger images worked better, and I could express what I wanted to better without clear panel divisions. In those days, in girls’ comics, too, you wouldn’t use standard panel divisions in the first or last pages. I think this was a variation on or extension of that. You could also use, say, the bottom half of a two-page spread as a single panel, and divide up the upper half normally. It changed gradually.

Thorn: In the old girls’ comics, back in the 1950s, the artist would sometimes use, say, the left one-third or so of a page for a head-to-toe portrait of a character that had nothing to do with the scene on the page. What’s the word for that?

Hagio: It was a sort of picture for the reader to color in if she wanted to, I think.

Thorn: Did this grow as an extension of that sort of thing?

Hagio: No, when I was young, I found those coloring pictures quite jarring. You’d be absorbed in the story and all of a sudden here’s this big picture that has nothing to do with anything. It was quite annoying. [Laughter.] I mean, I liked the pictures, but I wanted them to put them somewhere else.

Thorn: As I said earlier, we recently had Hideko Mizuno at our university, along with Akira Mochizuki and Sato Tomoe, and the three of them were talking about the early days of postwar girls’ comics. One interesting thing Mizuno said was that she would always work that coloring picture into the scene portrayed on the page.

Hagio: Oh, that’s right. Her comics weren’t jarring in that way. The heroine would be standing there in a dress, maybe with flowers, but it was part of the scene.

Thorn: Was that an influence?

Hagio: Yes, I think it was, because it showed us how to use a large image effectively in a scene.

Thorn: This is great. I’d like to use this one in the magazine.

Hagio: Are you sure? The hand is too small, and for some reasons he’s got two lines on his neck. [Laughter.] But if you want to, feel free.

Joh: Is that the hand of the character in close-up?

Hagio: Apparently.

Joh: Whoa.

Hagio: Whoa indeed. [Laughter.] Scary, isn’t it?

Thorn: This is the sort of thing I bug my students about. “The proportions are off!” [Laughter.]

Hagio: “Work on your draftsmanship!”

Thorn: I’d love to get a scan of this if I could.

Hagio: All right. I’ll scan it and e-mail it to you.

Joh: And maybe she’ll fix that hand. [Laughter.]

Hagio: Right. I’ll send a revised version.

Thorn: [Looking through the original pages of The Heart of Thomas.] This is incredible for me to see these with my own eyes. It’s no exaggeration when I say that this work changed my life.

Hagio: Really?

©1971 Moto Hagio Click to view larger image

Thorn: Yeah, but when I say that to my students, they think, “Oh! So Professor Matt is gay!” “No, it didn’t change my life in that way.” [Laughter.]

Joh: The paper we used in those days was so thin.

Thorn: This was the paper you used for the final work!?

Hagio: Yes. That’s what I used for my first 10 or so stories. That’s the paper they sold at the time. After that, then, we would buy uncut paper and cut it ourselves. Heavier paper, 300 pound weight. We did that a lot.

Thorn: This is the kind off paper my students use for doing roughs. I can’t believe you can ink this kind of paper. Doesn’t the nib catch on the paper?

Hagio: No, but when you use Zip-a-Tone, the X-acto knife goes right through the page. [Laughter.]

Thorn: I would think so.

Hagio: But we didn’t use much Zip-a-Tone in those days.

Joh: These days, they make the Zip-a-Tone so you can scratch it off in exactly the way you want to. Back then, you could only cut it.

Thorn: My students use Zip-a-Tone as a way to cut corners. Not just my students, even the young pros do the same thing. I look at the stuff they publish in girls’ magazines like Ribbon and Nakayoshi these days and think, “You can actually get shoddy work like this published?”

Joh: It’s true. When Yamamoto was still editing, all these young artists would bring him their work to look at, and he would say, “Don’t use Zip-a-Tone! Draw everything yourself!”

Thorn: You couldn’t say that today. On the contrary, the young editors today encourage artists to use more of the stuff, because the readers are used to it.

Joh: Yamamoto wanted them to learn the skills do draw anything. Shadows, too, he would tell them to draw themselves.

Thorn: At Seika, we all tell our students the same thing. First-year students have to submit a piece, at least eight pages long, by the end of their freshman year in order to be allowed to move on to the next year, but they’re not allowed to use any Zip-a-Tone in that.

Joh: Once you’ve learned to do that, that know-how stays with you even if you do use Zip-a-Tone, and it makes a difference. Without that, you could spend 10 years slapping on Zip-a-Tone for shadows without growing at all as an artist.

Thorn: Are there any comics anthology magazines you read regularly these days?

Hagio: I read Feel Young, and Afternoon — for Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Historie. And I read Be-Love, and Kiss — for [Tomoko Ninomiya’s] Nodame Cantabile. And I read Morning. [Laughs.] Come to think of it, these are all magazines the publisher sends me for free.

Thorn: What is the theme of your current story, Otherworld Barbara?

Hagio: I was thinking that I wanted to do something about meat.

Thorn: Meat?

Hagio: Yes, meat. As in meat as food. When I first thought of it, I was thinking of something much shorter. But it turned into a long piece, and the theme became pretty heavy, and I thought, “Eek! What am I going to do with this?” [Laughs.]

Thorn: So you’re reconsidering it?

Hagio: Well, there are about four more episodes, and then it’s done. [The final episode hit the stands in 2005.]

Joh: Human hearts get eaten in this story.

Hagio: I originally had in mind something more fantastic. But it turned out kind of gross.

Joh: What do you expect when you’ve got people eating hearts? [Laughter.]

Hagio: That’s true.

Thorn: I felt like my brain was going to explode after I read the first volume. It’s an incredible story.

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3 Responses to “The Moto Hagio Interview conducted by Matt Thorn (Part Four of Four)”

  1. [...] Matt Thorn’s interview with Moto Hagio from The Comics Journal #269, Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four [...]

  2. [...] really, where, oh where, to start with the begging? Thorn has noted that Moto Hagio’s The Heart of Thomas “changed [his] life,” and it’s a defining work of [...]

  3. [...] of good stuff to read this weekend: Here are parts three and four of Matt Thorn’s interview with Moto Hagio at The Comics Journal, and at the same site, [...]