MrPlutoons interview by Anthony Andujar Jr 11/1/2022
Q1. I first came across your work a few years back when you were working away on the earlier iteration, or I should say, the first version of your short comic, Cold Monster Steel. I wanted to ask as a first question, what started your journey into comics? Who were your primary influences
MP: The thing that started me on my journey to make comics comes from my upbringing of being encouraged to draw, and never losing that joy of being imaginative. I was also encouraged to read, and exposed to a lot of different forms of storytelling including comics, manga, film, and video games. Being surrounded by entertainment as a kid really cultivated my imagination, and with some inner desire to tell my own stories, I pursued outlets or ways to communicate these ideas in my head. I soon realized that comics were the path of least resistance. I didn’t need money, permission, or outside assistance, I could just do it, and I loved it from the get-go.
Q2. As an illustrator, you tend to combine different forms of art from life drawing, digital, to using 3d rendering software such as blender (similar to what Oku does when working on Gantz, Inuyashiki, and Gigant), photoshop, into your work. What were the challenges that came when developing your style through those different skills and tools? Are there any drawbacks and benefits?
MP: The tools I use came about over many years of following different paths that could lead me to a career in visual development for film, games, and animation. The tricks I use were developed by concept artists to generate rapid ideas and iterations that can be communicated with anyone in the production pipeline clearly and effectively. I personally enjoy those processes and didn’t want to abandon any of it even though I was creating art with a different purpose in mind. The process of using photos and 3D to help communicate ideas is effective and efficient, it allows me to focus on the elements that are most enjoyable which is the imaginative side of creating artwork and telling stories. The drawbacks at this moment might be that you can easily get carried away with 3D and photos, if you don’t control the relationships in a composition or spend time cleaning up the original screenshots, It can look gross, like something lost in the uncanny valley. So it does take time and care to make it pleasing to the eyes. Also, techniques like this can alienate certain audiences, but I guess all things have that effect in some way or another on certain groups of individuals. For me personally, it could alienate the entire world and it wouldn’t make a difference because it’s how I like to make pictures, and I’m not making things for any other reason than my own enjoyment.
Q3. When creating your manga, Cold Monster Steel during the first go around, what was the development process like? And how does it differ to the updated version that you’re currently working on?
MP: For the one-shot, the process was very experimental. I was using similar skills, but I wasn’t fully immersed in 3D yet so my abilities were limited with certain aspects. My main goal, other than finishing, was to create a look that would hyper-contrast between elements of my characters and story. I wanted hyperreal backgrounds, to contrast with the cartoony style and humor, I felt the look would insert a visceral mood that would make intense moments more intense, and juxtapose against absurd and funny moments. That hyper-contrast is something I’ve been consciously pursuing since the beginning. A lot of the process was going out to local baseball fields like a location scout on a film shoot, and taking photos on my phone, then chopping those up in photoshop and inserting them into panels. Throughout the process, I got better at this, and discovered more techniques, and would go back and redo pages. Out of 55 pages of the one-shot, I redid about 40 of them before it was finished. These days I spend more time in the planning stages, utilizing the 3D skills I’ve acquired in the couple years since the old days. I build 3D sets like a set for a movie, and I pick and choose camera angles that will best fit the emotion of the story moments. The whole thing is very dynamic, going from 3D to collaging in photos, and then inking on top of everything to make it all fit with the look I’m going for, and to make it look more pleasant and cohesive.
Q4. Prior to creating Cold Monster Steel, were there any other projects that you initially started on first before deciding to move forward with Cold Monster Steel?
MP: Yes that’s a great question. I had spent about a year after the original one-shot developing my skills further and doing some concept artwork as an art mercenary. I approached 2022 with an idea to implement some of these skills I had amassed, by making a short silent one-shot that eventually became a fun little project called DoughBerry Huntsman, which sparked an idea for this supernatural fantasy western I was going to call Cowboy Chimera. While deep in development on that, and to my surpirse I was approached by a publisher to turn Cold Monster Steel into a full-length story with chapters, and when those sort of opportunities come around you have to just go for it.
Q5. You also submitted Cold Monster Steel to the 100th Tezuka Contest. What was that like submitting your book?
MP: Submitting my one-shot to the Tezuka contest was living a dream, just being able to participate in such a renowned and coveted contest was an honor, and felt like walking alongside other legends and heroes who had once gotten their start by entering the contest. Along the way, I made friends who were just like me, with the same interests and goals which is super important on this journey, but most important the contest gave me the reason I need to complete a story from start to finish. I think that is the most valuable thing about the entire experience.
Q6. Although you’ve made this book without a publisher, it was announced that you’re getting a revitalized version of Cold Monster Steel published through WhatNot. What was it like making that announcement at the Anime Expo?
MP: Anime Expo seemed like the appropriate place to be for an announcement like this. The Expo in LA was the same weekend as Denver Fan Expo which was the same time where the big What Not Publishing press release was taking place. I had been completely quiet about the opportunity for months, and this was the first time I had been given permission to speak on the subject. So for me it was a moment to create some momentum and excitement around the stuff I had been sharing on social media up until then.
Q7. What was the process like getting Cold Monster Steel published through WhatNot as your publisher?
MP: It’s still an ongoing process, check back in around this time next year perhaps! haha
I can say that it all had to do with consistently putting my work out there, social media is very powerful and can open unexpected doors just by showing up every day.
Q8. Lucky Loo is the protagonist of Cold Monster Steel and went through a ton of challenges in the original iteration of the book. What are readers going to discover with the newest iteration of Lucky Loo’s adventures? Will this iteration of the book become a long-form series?
MP: This has been the biggest challenge when trying to expand the story. I want to stay true to a lot of the elements laid out in the one-shot, but at the same time, I don’t want to tell the same story, being that I’ve already done that and in my opinion, it was lacking a lot of substance. I think what readers can expect is bigger moments, more dimensional characters, and some amplified elements of techno-fantasy world-building that I’m attempting to weave in here. Also, Lucky Loo might not be the same kid I first introduced to the world in 2020…
Q9. Despite some of the eventual changes that will occur in the newest iteration of your series, what will remain intact from the original one-shot that will carry over into the latest version?
MP: There will still be a sword, monsters, and a giant robot, that’s for sure!!!
Q10. Are there any other projects that readers should keep an eye out for?
MP: I’ve recently started a youtube channel where I’m sharing longer-form video tutorials and process stuff about myself as a creator. My first video going over my entire process using 3D, Photoshop, and Clip Studio is up.