Sean Michael Wilson is a Harvey and Eisner award nominated comic book writer from Scotland, who lives in Japan.
He has had more than a dozen books published with a variety of US, UK and Japanese publishers, including: a comic book version of A Christmas Carol ('Best of 2008’, Sunday Times), AX:alternative manga ( 'Best ten books of 2010’, Publishers Weekly), Parecomic (with an introduction by Noam Chomsky, his first contribution to a book in graphic form). In 2016 his book 'The Faceless Ghost' was nominated for the prestigious Eisner Book Awards, and won a medal in the 2016 'Independent Publisher Book Awards'. In 2017, his book Secrets of the Ninja won an International Manga Award from the Japanese government - he is the first British person to receive this award.
He is currently writing books for big Japanese publisher Kodansha, being the only British writer to do so. In fact, he is the only pro manga writer from Britain who lives in Japan. He has written a unique line of Japanese history/martial arts/Samurai books, including The Book of Five Rings, Hagakure, The 47 Ronin, and a biography of Musashi, with more on the way. For NBM he has written The Story of Lee and Breaking the 10. His main influences remain British and American creators - such as Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Eddie Campbell and Harvey Pekar. He often gives lectures and talks about comics in schools and colleges.
In the light of the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan there are at least two charity benefit books in the making, one from a UK publisher and another that an American man in Japan is organizing. All the money will go, of course, to help relief work for the people in the worst hit areas around Miyake, Iwate and Fukushima.
I have already written a 6 page story to contribute, from my personal point of view as a foreigner living in Japan., with Japanese artist Michiru Morikawa illustrating (she did a fine job on our ‘Yakuza Moon’ book for Kodansha).
As for The Story of Lee, Terry tells me that its selling quite well, which is nice. It’s had quite a lot of reviews now, mostly positive, but with a few points that some reviewers felt needed work. Sounds like my old school report cards! So, ok. I will try harder sir!
Just to extend on what I noted already regarding our recent lecture talk in Glasgow, me, Chie and Paul Gravett, involving pages from THE STORY OF LEE:
I enjoyed that talk – it was odd to have my VOICE only appear back in my home country, while my BODY remained in Japan! But why not… actually its an easy way to take part in such an event, dont have to travel or book any hotel, just switch on the computer and sign into skype! It’s the first time Ive talked in public in Scotland about my books, even though Ive done many lectures now, all over the world!
A lady from the Alumni association of my old university, Glasgow Caledonian University was present, and will write a report about it for their website. Plus they have decided to commission me to make a comic for their magazine about my time in the University – Nice!
Then it was also very nice, just before the talk to get a mail from ILYA, well known British comic book creator of almost 25 years activity. He is, in a way, the godfather of the Story of Lee book, as it first appeared in public in his anthology book ‘Best New Manga, vol 2′. Chie was also in that anthology. So the SOL book is one of the children of this Best New Manga book. Ilya was impressed by The Story of Lee, and told us: “It reads very well, so I wanted to congratulate you. Overall it is very good. Quite a gentle drama – manages to convey the everyday, but also to ring true, and with plenty of cultural detail without overload.”
I came back from Glasgow, where I attended Glasgow Film Festival and talked about manga in general and my work, of course including the Story of Lee, with Paul Gravett and Sean (via Skype!), last night.
At the talk, I showed this image to the audience and explained my working process.
When I create stories by myself, I automatically know who the main characters are and how they act and react. But when I’m working with the writers, in this case Sean, I need to read the script again and again and again, then digest it until I feel familiar with the characters and understand why they act like as the writer wrote. This process is very very important to me and sometimes it takes me quite long time to go through some scripts.
Once I do this part deeply, the rest is easier. When I’m ready and feel like I can see what the characters look like and how they move etc, I naturally start making memos and sketches.
At the stage of a page arrangement, one of the most important things for me is the position of speech bubbles. They will lead the eyes of the readers and make a flow of a page and the entire story. So I am very careful where I put them.
Well, I can explain how I do forever so I’ll stop here.
At Glasgow, the talk was successful and I really enjoyed my stay.
Oh if you are around the area, you can buy a copy of the Story of Lee from Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow while the Film festival is on (and you should have lunch at the CCA cafe since they serve some wonderful meals!).
Back from a week in Tokyo, and a successful week it was (with one surprising exception, that i wont gossip about!).
The manga great that i met there was none other than YOSHIRO TATSUMI, the originator of the mature manga GEKIGA style, way back in the mid 50’s. Myself, Asakawa-san and a couple of other lads conducted a taped conversation, discussing gekiga, manga in general, Tatsumi’s influences and intentions, my own books (including THE STORY OF LEE). It was a very illuminating chat, which will appear in AX Japan in April maybe. This photo is Tatsumi sketching for us – its a dark cafe as you can (not) see.
A real honour to be with Tatsumi-sensei.
And my other business in Tokyo was good too – a lecture in Lakeland college about mature manga,a magazine interview (all mentioning THE STORY OF LEE, of course) and a radio broadcast appearance at the ‘Whisky live’ event,where our 4 big manga pages showing how whisky is made where out on display for the public in Roppongi (art by Akiko Shimojima), and yesterday (barely one hour before i had to leave the catch the plane) my new book with Kodansha International arrived at their offices – YAKUZA MOON, and it looks wonderful (art by Michiru Morikawa). Very happy to see that!
I have been invited to be a ‘creator in residence’ thing on a popular anime/manga website, called ANIME LEAGUE, which has about 20,000 members it seem. And it looks like all of them have posted some questions for me on their forum already!:
The Hong Kong based newspaper ‘The South China Morning Post’ will feature an interview with me (or someone who looks a lot like me anyway) s. I discuss The Story of Lee a lot in that. Of course, because the story is SET in HK! That is coming out the first week of 2011 i think.
I’m looking forward to seeing The Story of Lee book itself – its on the way to me now. This will be my 15th published book so far, but the joy of seeing the finished book is still with me – and hopefully always will be!
My other book ‘Ax:alternative manga’ continues to do really well. I was just listed as UK chain store Forbidden Planet’s best manga of 2010, and critic Deb Aoki noted that no less then TEN critics lists feature it – making it, by her count, the 4th most highly praised book of all manga published this