Webtoonist interview - Byung Jang <Arma>
Byung Jang | Line
Warming up talk
Q. You have experienced the interview from Webtoon Guide. How were people reacted for the last interview?
My relatives kept searching it and sent me photos of it.
Q. In the previous interview, you told us that you’re doing most of work at a café. Do you still work at a café these days?
Ah, no, it changed. I bought a tablet, a big one, about a year ago. Originally, I had worked with Cintiq Companion at a café or at home, but it became easier to work at home once I got the big equipment. I don’t often work outside, because when I go out, the equipment is uncomfortable and bothersome. So, I work outside only when I make the continuity, and I do the rest of work at home.
Q. You said in the interview at that time that you were not sleeping well because of insomnia. Are you still not sleeping well?
No, it’s same. It’s like a chronic illness for my serialization. I can’t sleep long at a time. When I am not doing serialization, I mean, when I finished a serialization and yet to start a new one, I sleep well. But you know, when I’m on a serial work, I have works to do. When I open my eyes from sleep, I should be sleep again, but when the things to do bothers me I can’t get back to sleep. So, I tend to split sleeping.
- When you’re awake, you must think about work heavily.
It seems I think about the work because of working stress, rather than because I like it. I should do this, I should do that… such thoughts. It’s especially worse when I’m on a serial work… It doesn’t change even if I saved up some manuscript.
Q. Could you recommend us a thing good to relieve sleeplessness, like food or exercise?
Uh… as I’m the one not doing it well… *laugh* If there’s something like that, I’m the one who should get such advice.
- Ah, you really should. I’m sorry for asking you about it… *speechless*
In-depth Interview on the Work
Q. In Dear Boy, you said Minchul Choi was the absolute evil. This time, in Arma, is there such a character who is the absolute evil?
There should be. Because such a character is necessary for the method of development I like.
- Does the method of development you like mean appearance of the absolute evil?
Yes. I don’t like the protagonist giving room for compassion to the antagonist.
Q. You’re working for both writing and drawing again after Dear Boy. Please tell us how you felt when you came to work Dear Boy for the first time and how you feel while now you’re serializing Arma.
Drawing is not very difficult since I’ve been drawing a lot from the time I was a would-be artist, but I felt difficulty in Dear Boy as I started to write the story alone. It seems writing the story is the most difficult part of the whole working process for comics. It’s not a physical work, but for time and for mind, fatigue and stress are too much.
When I was coworking with story writers, my sleeplessness wasn’t this severe. Though time for drawing is physically fixed, when I was not doing well with the continuity, I couldn’t estimate how much time I should use on it. Because of that, I feel burdened for time.
Q. Have you ever stretched out your hand toward something and thought there should be a supernatural ability?
The feelings the protagonist has is basically what I felt myself in my school days. I borrowed my own feelings of that time.
- How do you think about eighth grader syndrome (chūnibyō)?
Frankly speaking, I don’t like the word eighth grader syndrome. We tend to call things as eighth grader syndrome, for even petty things what we once called the feelings. Though I’m also making fun of it and making use of it now, but I don’t like the trend to call things as eighth grader syndrome. As such words become popular, stale and dry expressions are getting increased.
Q. What would you do when you have a power like Jin?
I think I’ll be same as Jin. I wouldn’t know what to do. I’m drawing his actions with thinking that what would I do when I get such a power.
Q. Recently you came to belong to ‘C&C Revolution’ agency. I’m curious on the background or the process how you did it.
I was introduced to it from Narae Lee of Bloody Sweet. When artists meet and talk about their serialization, we came to talk about ‘C&C Revolution’, then I got the contact from Narae Lee and I contacted them first.
Q. From when did you belong to the agency?
From the end of last February. I sent the proposal and they evaluated it, then from the end of February I came to start the serialization.
Q. Is there a merit to belong to an agency?
In the webtoon market, PDs don’t play a role much like they do in the printed book market. Artists are also talking much about the role of the PD. The thing I’m not used to with an agency is, they return a feedback for every episode as I send them the continuity. It seems there’s some printed book industry’s own culture on it. In my case, such a feedback is welcome. And if I finish a manuscript with speech bubbles and give them to the agency, then they do typeset and frame sequencing. It’s also good to share the workload and have a feedback on my work.
Q. As you work with an agency, did the quality of the work improve?
Yes, definitely. When it’s a platform, each PD has their own working style. Even they’re in the same platform, they are much different by their individual style. Some PDs are minute detailed, and some others are a bit easy-going. But the agency does its work with certainty.
Q. What does the title Arma mean?
It means a weapon in Latin. The title was also named by the agency. The working title of it was Darwin. The story was one I had for long. It had been originally a manuscript submitted to Japanese contest, and I was preparing it for Line. I wasn’t coming up with a good title, so I asked the agency.
Q. Is Hana Jin pretending to know nothing about the secret organization, despite she knows everything?
Yes. She knows about them and pretends to know nothing. She’s the most charming character whom I like to draw, so she has many behind stories. I can’t tell you the detail for now. She has much gravity in the story as much as the protagonist has. The story is still in its early stage, but later her story will have amount almost as much as the protagonist’s.
Q. Like it was in Dear Boy, in Arma, there are many descriptions on the protagonist’s psychology. Are those what you put stress on, as you did in Dear Boy?
When I draw, I consider the feelings of characters as the most important. The story goes on from the protagonist’s viewpoint, and what is important to the readers’ immersion is the emotion of the protagonist. I put much effort on it when I draw.
Q. Anything else you take seriously?
The most important thing is fun of each episode. Comparing with the time of Dear Boy, it’s harder now. As Dear Boy had a simple revenge plot, the protagonist’s goal was clearly determined and that was the only thing matters, so whether the development is fast or slow it actually didn’t matter much. But Arma has bigger world scale and it’s more difficult.
Q. There’s the setting the superpowers can’t be used on a human. Is it because humans are special? Or because they are the same species, or it’s an inner problem?
The question you asked me now is the core setting of the webtoon. It applies to all of those who have a superpower. I can’t tell you the reason right now, but I give you a hint: like the title Arma says, those who have superpower become humanity’s weapon.
Q. Can an animal use superpower?
There’s no such setting. And it won’t be.
Q. Compared to other characters, the hairstyle of Ms. Yoo seems to be emphasized with lines more than sides. Is there any specific reason for it?
I like to draw female characters, but I’m not good at it. So, when I draw them they put more effort on it. No specific reason other than that.
Q. How many do you anticipate Arma’s episodes or seasons would be?
I’m not sure about seasons, but it’s planned as full-length. From 100 to 200 episodes, it’ll be good to go with the setting and the story I have in my brain. It seems I can’t tell exactly how many episodes will be, for now. When I was doing Dear Boy, I originally had thought of 20 to 30 episodes, but it was 70 episodes including the spin-off episodes. Considering that experience, it’s harder to tell.
Q. When Jin Lee approaches near an animal, the animal hates his presence. Do animals feel something from him?
They say animals instinctively know the disaster coming. It’s set likewise.
Q. There was a comment saying ‘if Jin works at a pest control company’. If he works at a pest control company, how will it be?
It would be the job for his entire life. He won’t have to worry about starvation. I think the comment was brilliant.
- Any other comments you remember?
Sometimes there are readers who accurately anticipates the storyline. There were even such people only after reading one or two episodes. But actually, they got lots of dislikes. People told them ‘absolutely not that way’. *laugh*
Q. You said writing the story is hard. How about short stories?
I didn’t do a short story yet, but I think it’ll be more difficult. Because its content has to be compressed into less episodes. I think a full-length story is better for me as I can control my pace.
Q. About the superpower, do you have research data for it?
As such powers are not a thing to be historically proven, I didn’t do material research. But a lot of comics for boys are supernatural ability and battle, you know. The comics for boys I’ve read until now are my data collection. The difference comes from why powers are used, how powers are given and used, but the variety itself is work of creation. I didn’t do a special research. But I’m going to refrain from the powers like shooting fires, as they already appeared, like in X-men.
Q. Among the works on the supernatural ability, which work did you enjoy?
There are too many, so I need to think awhile. Because commonly popular works are all about the supernatural ability…
To pick an impressive work, Project ARMS. It’s a bit uncertain to tell Project ARMS a work on the supernatural ability though, it has an extraterritorial existence as well. To some degree it’s also relevant to the supernatural ability. I like the author, and I like the work… It also has the world setting or scenes which are brilliant.
Q. Both in Dear Boy and in Arma, a student is the protagonist.
I like the school story. They say the most of webtoon readers are teenagers, so, a student, who is better to be empathized by the main readers, is better to lead the story. For the webtoon, the school story itself is the best suited.
Q. Approximately how many people have a superpower?
Basically, there’s a regiment of them, but it’s not a scale of military force. At least they are few. The characters to appear with superpowers are, in military force, about a company.
- Is there a possibility of appearance of a foreigner with a superpower?
I’m still thinking on it. As the world gets bigger, it may reach them. It is set that the superpower exists in foreign countries too, but I’m not sure I’m going to draw it or not. Basically, every foreign country has theirs. Because it’s a mutation on the race itself. If I get to draw them, they would appear time to time, but they won’t be on the main storyline.
Yes or No Interview
Q. If I’m born again, I will still draw comics.
No. I should try something else, too. For now, I like the comics the most among the things I like, so my level of satisfaction on this job is high and I like it, but I think if I’m born again, why should I have to do it again. Even now I think how things would be different if I chose a different job. Especially when I’m writing the story.
- If so, which job would you choose?
I like to ride a motorbike as a hobby. I’d like to do a job related to the motorbike, such as fixing it or selling it. Sometimes it comes to my mind that I would be happier if I chose them as a job. As I think of difficulty when I make a continuity, such a thought grows in me for more.
Q. During my work these days, I feel my stamina is halved.
Yes, definitely yes. My health got worse quickly. My immune system became worse, from my late 20s. Now I can tell why a person who has a job of this kind has to work out. Only for this year, when I went to doctor, they said I have spondylolysis to take care, and when I went to them for my elbow, they said I have to take care of that, too… Illness are piling up. Not to mention stamina.
- Do you have a workout or diet for stamina?
Last year I did a workout named Spinning. I have to work out, but I don’t like it very much. These days, as my spine and elbow got worse, I can’t do intense workout. But as long as I have time, I’m trying to go out to watershed nearby and run in there. When I was working with a story writer, I could work out every day, but I came to not go out often, because now I have to write the story, too.
Q. Honestly, my works are the funniest.
No. It’s fun, but it’s not the funniest one.
- The funniest one you read recently?
Recently I’m enjoying reading Sonyeo Sinseon. It’s quite well-made with drawing, directing and the story.
- After being a webtoon artist, what points do you see from a comic work?
When I read comics, I come to see technical things. I mainly see how does it express the atmosphere. In case of Sonyeo Sinseon, I read it because it’s good at what I’m not good at. I want to see how the directing makes the story light despite of the heavy atmosphere. Since I’m not good at it, I usually end up with the heavy atmosphere though I tried to make it light.
- Are you reading many works?
I want to read many works, but I only read a few new works. I try to read as many as I can, but it eventually becomes stress. It would be no problem if I could enjoy reading them, but I end up with seeing how the artist did in there. I came to think I don’t want to read the comics when I’m not working, so I came to do other hobbies.
Q. After 10 years from now, I would have a different job.
Yes. Though it’s yes, I’m thinking hard on it. I think if I could make it myself a long run for 10 or 20 years, as other artists do. It won’t be easy, I guess.
- Would you draw comics as a hobby?
I don’t want to draw as a hobby any more. The time I was drawing Dear Boy for the first time was the only time I drew comics as a hobby, and now it’s too hard to think drawing as a hobby.
Q. When I’m doing overnight, my looks are not that of a human.
Yes. I work overnight mostly. I can’t work well while the Sun is up. While the Sun is up, I feel there’s enough time and I get loose. I tend to be a bit nervous after sunset. I go out to a café after sunset, too. What I only do during the day is, when I meet someone and have a chat with the person while I’m working, maybe? When I work during the day, that’s the case, but mostly I work at night.
Q. I have my own way to relieve stress.
Yes. I have many hobbies. I like to ride a motorbike, I like to go camping, and I like to play billiards. I like to play outdoor.
Some of other artists draws when they’re taking a rest, right? But I’m not like that. When I’m taking a rest, I don’t turn on the computer and I prefer to go out. When I’m outside, I get less stress than staying home because I think less about comics.
- Before you draw comics, did you have many outdoor hobbies?
For riding a motorbike, I’ve been doing it from when I was a high schooler. From before I draw comics, I’ve enjoyed outdoor activities, like going camping with fellow riders.
Q. I’m burdened for my next work.
No. I’m now burdened only for Arma, not for the next work. I’m thinking on which one should be the next one, but I’m not burdened for it. If there is a burden, it’s about if I’m able to start the next work.
Q. Sometimes I want to leave behind all of these.
Yes. Many times. For every time I make a continuity every week, I do. I even think I could die early kind of thoughts.
Interview on working process
Q. What equipment do you use?
I use Cintiq 27QHD as the main equipment, and I use iPad Pro 12.9 for the outdoor use.
- As you use them, how did the efficiency increase?
After I use 27QHD, the efficiency tremendously went up. I bought it because Companion had gone wrong, then the efficiency went up as much as I don’t have to go out to a café. Even I go out, I come back inside soon. I never thought the equipment is important, but now I changed my thought a lot since I got 27.
Q. As we know you’ve been using Manga Studio before, then are you using Clip Studio (an upgraded version of Manga Studio) now?
I changed to Clip Studio. I do with Clip Studio only to the outlining, and I do the coloring with Photoshop. I know some people do the coloring with Clip Studio as well, it was less efficient for me than Photoshop, maybe because I’m not used to it.
Q. You told us in the previous interview that you worked Dear Boy in grayscale because of a sense of color issue, but now you’re doing it in full color. From grayscale to full color, how and what did you prepared?
To serialize in Line Webtoon, full color is mandatory. So, I didn’t have another option. As my sense of color is not good, I am suffering from the coloring even now. I’m receiving many helps from other artists as well. It takes more time than grayscale. Sometimes, designating which colors should be used takes more time than the coloring itself.
- You mentioned that you get helps from other artists. It seems the community of artists helps a lot.
It really does. Every artist has a different strength. Someone is good at drawing, another is good at directing. There are those who are good at know-how, too. By meeting them and working at a place together, I learn such things.
Q. What is your working pattern?
Usually, I’ve been doing it by making a continuity, sketching, outlining, coloring, and editing, but now the editing is done by the agency. So, one to two days to the continuity, and the three steps of the sketching, the outlining, and the coloring are done in about five days. Mostly I use up all seven days of a week. I take a short rest after I finish it.
Q. Do you have a word of advice for would-be webtoon artists?
Recently, the webtoon market is have grown, the job itself is rising as a promising job as well, the industry is developing, and the market pie is also being grown, but you know, there’s bad rumors on it. I think there’s a bubble in the current webtoon industry. For those who still want to do it despite the rumors, the only thing I can tell you is, do your best. I think it’s my best to give you the word of support that you do your best as the circumstance allows you. The ability or the competence are the baseline you have to possess, and on top of that you need luck. It seems the entry barrier got much higher now than the old times.