(Jiraiya, on left, does not photograph his face. On the right, his famous artwork)
Famed gay manga artist Jiraiya made an appearance at This n’ That Bar in Brooklyn as part of his two week tour while here in America. His appearance coincided with a Drink and Draw event that showcased his collaboration with Massive-Goods.com.
Originally from Sapporo, a northern island in Hokkaido, Japan, Jiraiya spoke about his excitement to be in America. He shared his process on what it takes to make his iconic artwork to a room full of fans and interested patrons.
Initially starting his career in graphic design, it was in the late 90’s that he submitted a piece to famed gay erotic magazine G-men. A new career was born out of this collaboration and Jiraiya has gone on to create a variety of gay manga that has made his work a new standard in the scene.
Jiraiya is known for not showing his face in photographs, so sitting across from him and seeing his face for the first time was like being granted an all access pass. He is a pleasant man who speaks with a gentle affirming tone. He smiles a lot between his explanations in his native tongue. Between him and I is his translator Anne Ishii who is also the co-editor of the Massive anthology that features Jiraiya’s work and whom I interviewed in part 3 of my series on gay manga.
(Jiraya poses with his art in front of his face)
With his photorealistic drawings of big, burly men with hyper masculine features, Jiraiya is no stranger to various publishers. However, it is his new endeavor with Massive-Goods.com, a website that showcases much of his comics and artwork that has brought an opportunity to sit down and speak with the creator about his process, characters, and what his contributions to gay erotic art mean to him and readers.
David Rondinelli: How would you like to see gay comics grow or change inJapan?
Jiraiya: I don’t have any suggestions that anybody should creatively go in any direction or change anything that is totally up to the creators, but if we are talking about manga in general and gay manga we’re moving away from print and doing a lot more digital and unless digital software for reading e-manga gets better, I would really like to see more people buy paper books because I just think they are currently far more superior than digital comics.
DR: Out of all the characters or comics that you’ve drawn, which one would you say is your favorite and why?
Jiraiya: It might not be familiar to people here inAmerica. It hasn’t really crossed over, but there is a character who drives a truck in this short story I wrote called “Where the Wind Blows.” Every character that an artist creates is some manifestation of themselves ultimately, but this is the character that I feel is the least like me. Physically and his personality all of his aspects are very different from me so I’m kind of struck by that character. Even myself I feel attracted to him because he’s so different from me.
(Jiraiya's merchandise at This n' That Bar)
DR: Is there a story or theme that you would like to tackle in the future that you haven’t gotten to?
Jiraiya: I’m somebody who usually acts on his instincts than my desires so when I want to draw something I immediately start drawing it. In that sense, I can’t really think of anything or anybody that I’ve held onto and waited to draw. Everything that I wanted to draw I draw.
DR: When it comes to your drawings, where do you find your source material or references?
Jiraiya: I used to pick up physical magazines and look at them now that’s not so much the case, so bodybuilding magazines, wrestling magazines, Tumblr where you could die from an avalanche of Tumblr images because there are so many to start rifling through them and find materials.
Drawing is absolutely necessary even though photography exists. In my case…the characters in my art are completely divorced from real humanity as you can probably tell from looking. When you look at real humans there’s always something a little bit off like their necks too small or their hands are gross. There is no such as thing as a perfect human if you’re thinking about how you want to depict them in your ideal fantasy. I actually think that’s what make the illustration work, because you can actually complete the person that you’re looking at in the photograph.
DR: What is your drawing process like?
Jiraiya: To explain my drawing process is a little bit complicated because there are so many different ways to start a project and I have so many different kinds of work, but let’s just say for the beginning. My process starts strictly in my head where I draw inside myself the entire story and have this image that I then draft in line work and of course I use reference for really peculiar poses or really specific backgrounds, but principally the images come from my mind.
On the other side of my career is what we all know as the photorealistic pin-up illustrations and for that it would be impossible to conceive of all of that without no reference, but in fact I actually take reference from everything. It’s not just one or two things, I glean information from everything I look at, and so on the upper end of a piece I might use 50 different images as research material for the art. I look at it, I glean from it, and specifically its things like a 45 degree angle of a person’s profile and the way the hand is grasped changes ever so slightly based on your position. Those are the peculiar details I really need photography for.
Once I have the photos rendered in my mind of how it’s going to be positioned. I start with line illustrations just black ink on white paper and I get as detailed as I can in the line work and then I add color blocks to capture things like the corner of the eye or the crease in the hand or the way clothing falls on the body. It requires a lot of different kinds shadow work and edging. I do color blocks for each of those elements to create as realistic a shot as possible.
DR: Do you feel that your comics are opening up more acceptance towards homosexuality in Japanor pushing a stereotype?
Jiraiya: I think it’s both actually. I’ve heard that people have read my comics and said, “Wow Gays don’t just fuck each other and suck dick all day. They actually fall in love and have proper relationships,” but I do also write sex scenes.
(Models posing at the Drink n' Draw)
DR: How does he like being in Americaand are there any American comic books that he likes?
Jiraiya: Americais awesome! I’m having a great time. It’s so different thanJapan, everything is scaled differently. Our sense of size is very different.
Growing up, I actually really loved Spiderman and Steve Ditko. These days I’m really into Alex Ross. I think he’s just unreachably amazing at what he does. He’s like my favorite.