The Good Asian Image Comics limited series continues with Issue 4 launching in comic shops this week. The noir crime epic is generating so much buzz due to writer Pornsak Pichetshote’s engaging writing and artist Alexandre Tefenkgi’s distinctive style. The limited series marks Tefenkgi’s second Image series, following his work on Outpost Zero.
After voraciously reading the first couple of issues of The Good Asian, we had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Tefenkgi about his work on the book. In this exclusive interview, Tefenkgi offers an inside look into his creative and collaborative process for The Good Asian.
How did you first become involved in working on The Good Asian?
Alexandre Tefenkgi: I was at the New York Comic Con and while in the city, I got to spend time with my friend Cliff Chiang. We talked about life, and I was telling him about being an expat in South-East Asia and how I was in the process of discovering more about my Asian roots. We also talked about work and I told him I was looking for a new cool project. That’s how he introduced me to Pornsak and Will (Dennis, editor). I read the project and I was immediately hooked.
Could you please walk us through your creative process in designing the look and style of The Good Asian? Which elements did Pornsak, Lee, Jeff, and you decide on early on in the process, and which elements did you figure out as you created your pages?
Tefenkgi: The characters’ design was the first visual decision we agreed upon. We wanted the protagonists to feel authentic even though they were stylized. We had to find the balance between them looking cool and visually believable. What we also found important was how to depict the detective eye. We wanted something simple and direct to keep the reader immersed in the story. We composed the panels with a focus hierarchy as the action in the frame comes first and then the detail of the detective, second. This allows to guide the attention of the reader from macro to micro, as a detective would.
How do you approach illustrating a crime comic differently than you would approach illustrating a story from another genre?
Tefenkgi: I always adapt to the project I’m working on. I experiment and find what I can transform in my art to fit the story. For this project I wanted to find the right balance between the tropes of the genre and my own interpretation. For instance, I had to add more black to my art to depict the contrast that is dominant in that genre. I try to synthesize complex visuals while keeping the essence of the time period and the genre. For instance, in Chinatown, I try to keep the authentic atmosphere of the place in the 1930s, but I simplify the architecture and I add some visual props such as lanterns in the street, using their soft light for enhanced contrast and improved fluidity in reading.
The Good Asian has these brilliant action moments with frenetic sequential art, but you also found a way to simultaneously show how Edison is able to process all sorts of clues and important environmental details in the midst of the action through your use of close-ups and highlighted red windows. What creative decisions did you make to achieve the right balance between intense action sequences and letting the reader unravel the mystery through Edison’s eyes?
Tefenkgi: It’s about finding the right rhythm for each sequence. We play with the number of panels and the points of focus. In action sequences, I add more panels to underline the frenetic rhythm, and I balance that with either wide shots or medium shots to slow down the pace. That’s usually in those wider shots that you can see the red square that shows the direction of Hark’s eye. As there are two points of focus in the same frame, it forces the reader to slow down: they have to spend more time looking at the frame to understand the details. In the action frames, I avoid putting too much detail so that the sequences are read faster. That’s how we guide the direction and the rhythm of your attention so that you’re really caught up in the story.
Issue 1 primarily featured a dark film noir color palette, but Issue 2 becomes very colorful, and color begins to define certain locations or moments in time. Did you approach your pages with specific color palettes in mind? How did you approach your pages differently for Issue 2 to allow for colorist Lee Loughridge to be able to pull this off?
Tefenkgi: To be honest, I didn’t have a color palette in mind. In fact, I used to color my own books and think of the colors ahead as I was drawing. But not for this project, as I have complete trust in Lee’s vision and interpretation. It’s hard to explain the visual result other than calling it a total symbiosis between the members of the artistic team. I’ve never met those guys in real life but there’s sort of an unspoken evidence when the pages are being built. The art goes through our different hands, and at each stage, value is added with our unique skills and talent. I see our collaboration like a well-oiled machine creating wonders.
Your pages in Issue 1 feel very boxed in and claustrophobic, with numerous panels per page and frequent character close-ups. As we learn more about the characters and the world of the book in Issue 2, you begin to incorporate larger images, bigger environments, and more splash pages and partial splashes. How do you approach the sizes of your panels and images differently based on how you interpret the different parts of Pornsak’s writing?
Tefenkgi: I’m glad you noticed, it means we did our job! It’s something that we talked about early in the project. We really wanted to play with the claustrophobic feel to translate Hark’s life constraints and dilemma. The more our main character is transforming the more the global structure of the page is changing at the same time.
Without giving away too many secrets, what are some artistic moments you’re proud of in the upcoming issues of The Good Asian that readers will be experiencing soon? How does your style continue to evolve as the book reaches its conclusion?
Tefenkgi: It’d have to be the fight scenes. In my career until now, I hadn’t had the opportunity to create violent fight scenes and I was wondering how I would tackle this challenge with The Good Asian, as there are many during the story. I researched a lot about close combat, action movies and that’s a process I really enjoyed. It wasn’t part of my artistic vocabulary before but I believe the result is not half bad. One of the scenes I’m particularly proud of is in issue 4. It’s a brutal one between Hark and some goons… I won’t say more and let you discover it.
What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?
Tefenkgi: I’ve been learning storyboarding for movies and TV for about a year now. It’s something that I always loved and wanted to explore. I don’t see myself only as a comic book artist but more as a visual storyteller. In the future I would love to be able to navigate between these two mediums.
The Good Asian Issue 4 is in comic shops now. You can read our exclusive interview with writer Pornsak Pichetshote about The Good Asian by clicking this link. Stay tuned to Conskipper for complete coverage of upcoming issues of The Good Asian as soon as it breaks!