Finding The Truth Behind What’s Hidden: The Mind Of Sana Takeda

by Tito W. James

At ECCC 2019, I attended a panel featuring several Image Comic creators. One that stood out to me was Sana Takeda, the artist on the Eisner award-winning series, Monstress. During the panel, Takeda spoke Japanese, her native tongue, while using a translator to communicate with the audience.

Takeda first met Monstress’ writer, Marjorie Liu, while working on an X-23 comic for Marvel. Both creators felt that the X-23 comic wasn’t very strong but they enjoyed working together. Liu journeyed out to Japan to meet Takeda in person and pitched her the initial concept for Monstress.

Takeda assumed Liu was just being nice and doubted that anything would actually come together. To Takeda’s surprise, Liu was true to her word and emailed the script of Monstress the following year. Even though each woman didn’t speak the other’s language they were able to communicate. Takeda described it as an intuitive meeting of souls.

When asked about how she was able to balance the multi-tonality of Monstress, Takeda’s response was to draw each character in a way that best communicated their character. If a character was cute they were adorable if a monster was scary they were terrifying.

Takeda confessed that Monstress was an incredibly difficult book for her to draw. Liu would script scenes where characters would enter “the most beautiful bedroom anyone has ever seen.” What does that look like if no one has ever seen it?

Another challenge to working on Monstress was the world’s fusion of art deco architecture with renaissance fashion. Art deco was not Takeda’s forté, so she opted to pull from Asian cultures and her own roots.

For the design of the monsters, Takeda pulled from what frightened her as a child. In Japan, it is common to burn garbage, and as a child the huge plumes of black smoke looked to her like monsters. The smoke coupled with Takeda’s childhood fear of fish-eyes were the core sources of inspiration for the monsters.

In closing, Takeda became philosophical and talked about trying to imagine what fire would look like if it was cold and drawing that image. She spoke about giving objects inverted qualities to see them from a new perspective. Takeda also advocated for drawing not only what you like but what you don’t, and learning why people like that thing. If you look at the world from these unusual angles you can get a better view of the truth that is hidden.

Monstress is available now from Image Comics.

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