These are unprecedented times, and it was only going to be a matter of time before the comics community responded. Serious: Through the Fog reflects on our experiences of the last six months, and sees what insights we can share and gain. We caught up with Nigel Twumasi, co-founder of mayamada, to speak about the company’s newest manga.
A Place To Hang Your Cape: What is the story of Serious: Through the Fog?
Nigel Twumasi: The story continues from the Serious Volume 1 story which we released towards the end of 2016. Serious is one of the stories set in the mayamada universe and is about a young rabbit named Blake who is from a small town but has big dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
He wants to prove himself to his childhood friend Cassy, so he has to make it in the big city known as “The Jungle”. The story follows his adventures as he learns what it means to chase a dream and overcome challenges to achieve his goal.
Through the Fog will see Blake and his friends totally blindsided when a pandemic takes hold of his world just as things are looking good for them. They have to overcome this new challenge to keep hold of the dreams they’re in the process of making a reality. I want to look at the professional side of their new struggles as well as the personal mental toll on each member of the team.
AP2HYC: When did the idea for the story in Serious come about?
Twumasi: The initial idea for Serious actually came in the very early days of mayamada, around 2012. But it wasn’t until about 2014 that we started working on the first part of the story, and 2016 for the full 120-page volume.
In that time we were able to refine the story, redesign the character and develop our own comic writing skills too! The story is (very) loosely based on our own journey…we wanted to build something with mayamada and along the way had experiences that we used as material for this manga. The need for mentor figures and having to overcome obstacles as two examples.
So Through the Fog continues that theme by taking my experiences over the past six months of the COVID-19 pandemic and having the characters from Serious deal with a similar scenario.
AP2HYC: Why is it important to make a story like this now, especially for children and young adults?
Twumasi: This story certainly wasn’t in the plans at the start of the year! But over the past couple of years, I’ve increasingly felt that we should be making stories with meaningful messages. So as the worst of the pandemic unfolded I thought it was worth putting the previous manga plans on hold to create a story that would say something about the times we’re all in.
It’s been a tough year for everyone…this is such an unprecedented situation and for young people in particular. As well as creating manga, I also work with young people through our comic story workshops so I have a window into the disruption and hardships faced with the early end of the last school year and disruption to summer activities.
So this idea comes from my personal experience through those initial months of the pandemic, lockdown measures and social distancing. In my attempt to maintain some sort of optimistic outlook I wanted to put together a story where the characters in Serious would also have to deal with an unexpected pandemic that hits their world.
As Serious is a manga about people working towards their goals, it made sense to use that as a basis to work through my own thoughts and experiences while producing a manga that could help others focus on positive outcomes and lessons that can still be found in times like this.
Stories are a great way to build empathy in another person’s perspective and convey lessons in an entertaining way, so hopefully I’m able to do that with Through the Fog.
AP2HYC: How have you approached reflecting the world we’re in? Has that been challenging?
Twumasi: I’m still working on the approach to be honest! The months since the pandemic really hit have been some of the toughest and challenging I’ve had from a business perspective as well as personally. Much with what we do as a business has depended on being in the same room as people and to see all of that come to a screeching halt was difficult to deal with.
But there have also been opportunities that either I would not have seen had it not been for the pandemic, or have come as a direct result of it. So I try not to balance and learn from the negatives while working towards the long term positives and keep some kind of forward momentum going.
AP2HYC: For anyone who has read Hot Lunch, what is new and familiar in Serious?
Twumasi: We’ve framed the mayamada universe as an anthropomorphic (animal with human-like features) television network where the stories of the shows are told through the manga-style comics and graphic novels we create.
So Hot Lunch is a different show and story in that same universe. The illustration style will be familiar to those who have read Hot Lunch or our first manga Samurai Chef. The characters and story will be completely new and a chance to experience another type of story from the same creative team.
AP2HYC: Can you tell us a bit about the creative team on Serious?
Twumasi: I’m the co-founder and writer at mayamada, which means I do everything but draw! I created the brand with my friend Lao…he’s no longer involved in the day to day, but did create the Serious story and wrote the volume one manga which I’m now continuing. I work with the amazing illustrator Pinali who brings our stories to life visually, and Lara-Lee who supports the storytelling and editing process for our stories.