PopCultHQ is kicking off 2018 in a new way. Each month, we’ll be selecting Comic Book Creators of the Month and interview them for a spotlight article. For February 2018’s Artist of the Month, we chose illustrator Ariela Kristantina.
In just a handful of years, Ariela’s illustrations have been featured in Marvel, AfterShock Comics, Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, and Dark Horse Comics. She’s also been fortunate to work alongside some of today’s hot writers like Marguerite Bennett, Justin Jordan, and Tim Seeley. Plus she takes on cover art, like she did with the entire series of InseXts. If that doesn’t just scream “in demand,” I don’t know what to tell ya.
Her latest offering is the beautiful new series out this week from Dark Horse entitled Mata Hari, where she’s teamed up with writer Emma Beeby and colorist Pat Masioni. We had the fortunate pleasure in speaking with Ariela about her new miniseries, what the comic scene was like growing up in Indonesia, and a very cool way to get larger publishers to tap into the manga magazine market. So sit back and hear from this incredibly talented artist as we put Ariela Kristantina in the spotlight.
PopCultHQ Spotlight Interview
Artist of the Month – February 2018:
PopCultHQ: How did comic books influence your childhood? What was the defining moment in your life that you knew, from then on, that you wanted to illustrate comic books for a living?
Ariela Kristantina: Growing up in the 90s, manga was flooding Indonesia’s local market. There was a vacuum of local/Indonesian comic production and American/European comics were too expensive to get or the translated ones weren’t as many available as translated manga. Translated manga, on the other hand, were easily found and the cheapest with a wide variety of themes and style. My mother always bought me books to read –I have always loved reading. She started with picture books to novel. I think I’ve never without a book to read on my hand growing up.
There wasn’t really a defining moment in my life that I knew that I wanted to be a comic artist –I’ve been reading comics ever since I could remember. If anything, a group of friends I hung out with when I was in the second or third grade of elementary school encouraged me more to draw comics. One of them drew all the time and she had the most largest manga collection among us, translated or original Japanese manga magazine and the other two “wrote” stories for me to draw but they also gave me a chance to write as well. We kept a book which we circulated among the four of us and we wrote our stories there. We continued where the other left off. It was fascinating because you can never guess how the characters will end up in your stories.
From then on, I guess I’ve never wanted to do anything else but comics.
PopCultHQ: My first exposure to your work was InseXts from AfterShock Comics, of which you were the cover artist for the series as well as the interior artist. The series went 13 issues by time it wrapped up last fall. What did you enjoy most about working on InseXts? Could we (hopefully) see another volume from you and Marguerite Bennett?
Ariela: The most exciting part about working on InSeXts was creating the world and the characters. Marguerite created such rich characters and environment. Before InSeXts, I worked on several Marvel books (The Logan Legacy 2, 3 issues of Wolverines) and Deep State for Boom [Studios] with Justin Jordan. The characters in InSeXts ventured out into a whole new world, full of unknown beasts and creatures. I’ve always had a horror side in me and a gritty style so InSeXts fell right in my alley. InSeXts has two volumes (1-7 and 8-13) but I don’t know if there will be the third volume. I sure hope so! 🙂
PopCultHQ: This week, your new miniseries at Dark Horse entitled ‘Mata Hari’ debuts which, from our advance look, the imagery is simply illustrious with sometimes ornate artwork. How has the transition been going from a Victorian-era look in InseXts to the charming and exotic look of the Javanese princess Mata Hari?
Ariela: Basically, the events in Mata Hari are happening a few decades after InSeXts so the transition hasn’t been jarring at all. Fashion-wise, each era has differences from its predeccesor but around the era/years that are overlapping, I already have a great collection of buildings, furnitures, and wardrobe photo references. There are some specific landmarks and characters I need to do more research on because Mata Hari still, however we approach the comic, deals with historic events so it’s important to be accurate to some extent.
The only thing I REALLY have to do here is to restain a bit of my grittiness. The story we are doing on Mata Hari isn’t solely focused on her exotic and dramatic life. I need to be able to visualize everything clearly. We are trying to capture her as a woman who was wronged, treated unjustly to the end all her life and she was doing what she could to survive that. She’s a fighter, to me –a side of her we don’t get to see often.
In addition, I am half Javanese but I am not/wasn’t really in touch with my culture so it’s interesting to do research about Javanese dances and Batavia/Indonesia in the colonial era. Although Mata Hari isn’t actually a Javanese princess and it’s one of her many “rebirths” in life, I still feel the obligation and responsibility to do this as accurately as possible and present her as one.
PopCultHQ: What are you most excited for fans to see and/or experience in Mata Hari?
Ariela: First and foremost, her life story –told from her perspective. The book is in a form of (fictional) biography and I think it could make all the difference. Visual-wise, my style here is a little bit different than my usual style in my other published works so expect a bit more playful layouts. The color by Pat Masioni also feels different yet very much fits the overall atmosphere of Mata Hari. Our Mata Hari isn’t all about the sexy dancer and the exotic spy.
PopCultHQ: What has been the most important and/or valuable piece of advice you’ve received as an artist in the comic book industry?
Ariela: I can never forget these two since I was told a LOT of it during my time as a sequential art student and in the beginning of my career: do your underdrawing and do more live drawing.
PopCultHQ: On top of Mata Hari, what’s on tap in 2018 for Ariela Kristantina? Any conventions and signing appearances lined up? Projects you can discuss?
Ariela: I live in Indonesia so I can’t go to a lot of conventions. This year, the two which are confirmed are HEROES CON in Charlotte, NC and THOUGHT BUBBLE in Leeds, UK. I am looking into going to NYCC but we’ll see about that :). No signing scheduled yet but I will be staying in New York and visit Savannah/Boston/Denver so if any local comic book store wants to arrange a signing, let me know anytime or people can find me in Heroes/Thought Bubble.
As for some side projects I can discuss, I did a three page comic with Alan Christopher Medina (writer). The title is “Helping Hands” as a part in PUERTO RICO STRONG comic anthology by Lion Forge which will be released in March 2018 with all profits being donated to disaster relief and recovery programs to support Puerto Rico. You can order it through Amazon or ask your local comic book store to order it through Diamond. Also, I am given a chance to participate in the forthcoming WHERE WE LIVE comic anthology by Image Comics. For WHERE WE LIVE, I am working with Mariah McCourt (writer) and Bryan Valenza (color). Proceeds for the anthology will be donated to an existing GoFundMe for the survivors in Vegas. I believe WHERE WE LIVE will be released in May 2018.
I have projects I want to pursue this year with several writers and to compile a sketch/artbook after Mata Hari but nothing I can share for now.
PopCultHQ: If you had the power or ability to make one change in the comic book community or industry, what would it be?
Ariela: Oooh, this is a tricky one. Of all the things I want to see introduced and added is for the bigger companies to try the manga magazine system in Japan. It can be published once a month (or bi-monthly for a start), pairing pro writers with newer artists or pro artists with newer writers, and doing a vote so the readers can rate/vote for the stories they like most each month so every other issue, the stories with least votes can be dropped. The cover for the next coming issue can come from, let’s say, one of the three most voted stories. It will be cool to target a specific age for the magazine too for future publications. You can have teen/young adult/adult categories.
PopCultHQ: Which artist’s work are you currently following/reading/collecting?
Ariela: Currently, I am quite busy so I don’t really read a lot of the newer comics. The latest ones I bought/read/collected is The Sheriff of Babylon, Black Panther, Bitch Planet, and I will pick up any books by Sara Pichelli, Stuart Immonen, and Jerome Opena. I can’t keep up with most superheroes recently but I am hoping to pick up some of them when I visit the states this summer.
Special thanks to Ariela for making time to speak with PopCultHQ.
To find out more about our February Artist of the Month,
be sure to follow Ariela Kristantina online!