Ayer Bandung with Ariela Kristantina

Ariela is an accomplished artist who recently started doing some work for Marvel (Death of Wolverine: Logan Legacy #2 and upcoming issues on the new Wolverines title) as well as working on the new series Deep State with Justin Jordan at BOOM! Studios (which had been optioned for TV after just one issue!). Despite her many successes, she remains down-to-earth and friendly (editor's note: And a joy to inter-view!). She currently resides in Jakarta, Indonesia, with her family.
1. We know you are currently based in Indonesia. Tell us a little about how you became a comic book artist. Have you always wanted to be one?
I had always wanted to be one. I think by 11 or 12 years old, I knew I wanted to do comics and never wanted for a second to be a doctor or architect. When I had to choose my major in college, I did think about being a game designer or maybe a concept artist but that profession was not common in Jakarta. Internet was not like what it is now either.
Joker by Ariela Kristantina2. Which artist(s) did you look up to when you were growing up? Who are the artists (both within and outside of comic books) who influenced your style?
When I was growing up, I was big on manga and I still am. Manga still rules the market in Jakarta until now. I grew up with Hiroshi Uno (Captain Kid), Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), Yoko Matsumoto (I owned almost ALL of her horror titles), and of course Suzue Miuchi (Glass Mask). Yoko Matsumoto probably wasn't as famous as Junji Ito but her works are more psychological horror than visually-disturbing-horror. Topeng Kaca (Garasu No Kamen) by Suzue Miuchi is another title that influenced me. The story telling is fantastic and the characterization is spot on.
I never got my hands on American comics when I was growing up. They were expen-sive and rare. Also, I didn't want to wait a month for a 24-page comic too. The only American comics I read were a couple of Witch Blade because they were on sale and Lady Deathstrike.
Unfortunately, I didn't grow up knowing a lot about art -- I am still filling that gap now. My parents are not the artsy type. Like I said, internet was not like what it is now so I got my artistic influence kinda late. I discovered a lot of artists, within and out-side comic art, just a few years ago. I remember at one point in my life, I was mesmerized by Luis Royo, Linda Bergvist, Martha Dahlig, Robert Chang, and a couple of other illustrators, matte/digital painter whose names escape me now. Makoto Shinkai and Shinichiro
Watanabe, at least the movies they were directing, also influence how I see animation and comics.
Alberto Breccia, Sergio Toppi, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jorge Zaffino, Jock, Stuart Immo-nen, Jerome Opena, Esad Ribic, Matteo Scalera, are a few of many artists whose works I admire.
3. Is it true you survive on 4 hours of sleep a day on average? Why do ya do that?
Yes, I sleep mostly 4 hours a day --I do take a nap for an hour during the day though. I do that because I want to work half a day on week-ends to be with my family or to just go out on my own. I love shopping and malls so I need that time out on Saturday or Sunday. With 22 pages a month, there is not much wiggle room during weekdays. Also, I do NOT want to travel around Jakarta on week-days. Traffic is very horrible. So it sort of feels like I do have office hours because my office hours depends on my publishers' office hours.
In the end, sleeping 4 hours during week-days is very useful --especially if I am pulling a double shift (working for Deep State and another title). Besides, my brain has been wired that way since around 2006-2007
Justin Jordan4. You work with Justin Jordan on the Deep State comic series. Brian K Vaughan said that he would like to do more issues of Saga than Robert Kirkman have done Invincible issues. Did Justin and yourself talk about the number of Deep State issues you guys would like to do?
I am not sure I am allowed to explicitly say how many but it's safe to assume that it's going to last a while.
5. Working with Justin Jordan on Deep State: What's it like?
Well, here's the thing: I don't deal directly with Justin. I am mostly communicating with my editors: Eric Harburn and Cameron Chittock who are simply some of the most incredible editors. They give me suggestions and feedback. However, I am VERY sure Justin is also looking at my pages and giving my editors notes about them; he is the writer after all. I really like the dynamic within Deep State team and the way we operate.
6. Do you think that comic book artists should make changes from time to time? Why or why not? What factors should determine changes (if any) should be made?
If you mean by changes in style, that really depends on the artist him/herself. I was taught that comic is like fashion. Sometimes artists need to pay attention to where the trend is going. I'd believe that's right.
I always like to do things differently from title to another. I don't want to be known as ONE kind of artist --I'd like to think that I have some tricks up my sleeve. I believe that every story is different and each needs a different approach. I didn't ink The Logan Legacy the way I did Deep State although I hope that people can still see 'me' in both. I am not overly worried about style as much as I am worried about storytelling. As long as the style supports the storytelling, I'm all for changing style if need be.
7. What about your work would you like to be remembered for? What do you hope to accomplish in the next 5 to 10 years?
Wow, this is a tough one. If I have to choose, I would say I'd like to be remem-bered as a good storyteller over anything else. I would hate to be remembered as an artist who draws pretty pictures but no one understand what's happening on the page :D.
In the next 5 or 10 years, I hope I can do my own creator-owned project, or at least write it with someone, while keep working in superhero comics as well. It's weird but I turn out to like superhero comics more than I thought I would. I used to write my own story when I was still doing manga and I stopped doing so for a while to concentrate more on the drawing skill. I kinda miss writing/telling my stories. Maybe one day, who knows, I would be able to (co)write something for superhero comics? One can hope, can't she?
Elektra by Ariela Kristantina8. What challenges did you face as you were starting out in the comic book industry? How did you overcome them?
I actually had "two phases" of starting out. One, was back in 2005 when I started a studio with many awesome, talented comic artists in Jakarta. I "established" my career with my studio until late 2011. I even have had several books published and some exhibitions --comic art related, of course.
In the end of 2011, I went to the States to get my Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Sequential Art from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Now I am starting out all over again for the second time. This is a fun time for me to be at. I honestly think that every artist needs to feel like they have to be better all the time. I am really lucky that I have the chance to "reset" my mind and my style.
If there are TWO challenges every new artist needs to know, the first is networking and the second is consistency.
With networking, one needs to include culture, habit, and language. Just because someone can write in a language well, whatever it is, it doesn't mean he/she understands the culture and work habit. I am lucky to stay long enough in the States to experience a different work atmosphere while I was there.
The second one is consistency. As a new artist, I know I am struggling with giving the editors what they hope to see based on my portfolio because I am still growing as an artist at the same time. If you're a new artist, your style WILL fluctuate as time goes by before it settles down for a while. Also, on top of that, your portfolio is (mostly) drawn when you are stress-free and you can spend whatever hour you want on them but when you are working on monthly titles, you just don't know what you will face each month; sometimes you get sick, sometimes your family member gets sick, sometimes you have personal problems, etc. However, these can NOT be used as excuses to not do a good job. I try to com-municate my difficulties to my editors while keeping it professional. We obviously need to know where to draw the line -- editors don't want to hear an artist whining every Monday about how her cat is sick.
9. What are your thoughts about the cur-rent state of the comic book industry? Where do you think it is headed to and what are your hopes for the industry?
Another tough question. I try not to have my head wrapped around it too much. From where I stand, every country has its own "current state of the comic book indus-try" and it cannot be generalized. I'd say that nowadays creator-owned projects stand more chance of succeeding than they did several years ago, thanks to internet, kickstarter and social media. Superhero comic publishers need to keep up with younger readers and start developing a "more" factor to superhero story.
What Marvel is doing now with the new Captain America, new Thor, Spider-gwen and Kamala Khan is great; what DC is doing now with Gotham Academy is also great. I am hoping to see more and more like that each year.
X-23 by Ariela Kristantina10. What words of advice would you give to aspiring comic book artists?
Work your ass off but also try to never accept unpaid jobs for the sake of "exposure". I'd rather spend my time on doing sample pages for my portfolio than on an "unpaid job but it will give you exposure" thing. Portfolio and SAMPLE PAGES are important. When an editor asks you to do sample pages, yes, the artist WILL NOT get paid but it's different than unpaid jobs. When a new artist is doing sample pages, it's similar to when an athlete is doing routine laps between competition seasons. It is similar to job interviews a fresh graduate gets when he/she starts looking for jobs.
Ever heard of fresh graduates asking for money from a company for interviews? Never. Same thing; don't expect to get money for your sample pages.
11. What are the comic books you are currently reading that you would recom-mend to your fans?
I am reading B*tch Planet, Goners, Wytches, and All New X-Men. I can't keep up with too many haha. I read some other titles sporadically.
12.What is something that few people know about you that you care to share with your fans in SCC?
Hmm. I am pretty much an open book once you know me .. Maybe the fact that I love good coffee. I am an avid coffee drinker --that being
said, I still go to franchise coffee shops anyway. I won't drink coffee from those places daily but it's nice to sit there, drink tons of coffee on one fine day, and do my thumbnails there.
13. If there's one book I want to work on or to be featured on, what would that be?
I'd say Batman BLACK AND WHITE. It'll be awesome to be featured in it one day. if I do ever get featured in BATMAN Black and White, I'd dedicate it to my father. He's fighting tooth and nail to send me to the States and he always be-lieves in me. I don't think I would win any comics award -- there are just so many great, talented people in comics now--, but being featured in that book would be enough and dedicating it to my father would be my greatest accomplishment.