Female Creators Project

Female Creators Project: TOFU+BEAST

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I’m TOFU+BEAST, freelance illustrator/comix maker originally from Hawaii, now based on the West Coast. My work can be found here and I’m on twitter here.

What do you do?

How did you get started doing that?

I do both illustration and comics–both of my comics (M-Zero-Oh, It Only Rains Here) are on hiatus, but I’m working on other projects that will be released later this year. Illustration-wise, I like character/mascot design and editorial. I actually really disliked drawing when I was younger (I was very bad at it!), but once I fell in love with comics, I wanted to get better technically. I started drawing seriously in high school and stuck with it ever since.

What was your first comic to create? Why that one? First to read?
I drew Sunday funnies style strips when I was in elementary school, but the first actual comic I made was part of a zine I made with friends in high school. I sold them at a local bookstore, and they actually sold out! I believe we were the only people on my island to do this sort of thing at this time, too. The bookstore, SEED, no longer exists, but I also read first comic that really resonated with me there–Junko Mizuno’s “PURE TRANCE“. She was able to combine a cutesy, almost mascot-like style with pulpy gore and tough-girl characters, which was something I hadn’t really seen before in most manga/comics.

Any current or upcoming projects we can find you on?
I have some really cool projects I’m going to be working on that will be out later this year, but I unfortunately cannot talk too much about them at the time! However, if you like cyberpunk gore, kendo, or pro wrestling, please look out for them!
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Favorite inspiration, collaborators, other professionals you’ve worked with if any?
My inspiration when it comes to comics: Junko Mizuno (PURE TRANCE, Pelu: Fluffy Little Gigalo), Kazuhiko Shimamoto (Blue Blazes, Burning Pen), Shotaro Ishinomori (Kamen Rider), Jane Mai, Taiyo Matsumoto, Gengoroh Tagame, Asumiko Nakamura–that’s actually quite a lot of JPN artists, isn’t it. I’m always looking out for new work–I love seeing artists that can push the limits of style and draw what they like freely. I haven’t worked in “the big leagues” yet. Maybe someday!

Anyone you’d like to collaborate with some day? Why?
Pro Wrestling Guerilla! Let’s draw a comic together! (j/k) Jokes aside, I love collaborating. I would like to work with people who fill the void when it comes to works aimed at female/queer readers–there’s a place for darker/more indulgent things, and there’s plenty of genres that have yet to be fully explored–action comics don’t have to just be cape or shonen style stuff! I want to work with publishers that put out unique stuff, like Sparkler Monthly (online comix/audiobooks/prose aimed at women and LGBTQ readers), and see them grow and dominate the market.

Favorite genre to read? To work in? Are there any you won’t work in?

I like action and mecha, although I’m open to work in any genre. I love a challenge! Most of my work is inspired by or set in Hawaii–I want to educate mainlanders about a place they might have misconceptions about, as well as give people back home something to relate to (and maybe be encouraged to make their own comix as well).

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Have you ever faced adversity/discouragement for being a woman in your field? How did you overcome it?
I’m fairly lucky to work in a field that’s female/queer dominated without being challenged for it–although to be fair, the independent scene I’m in is pretty small. Occasionally there might be grumblings from people who don’t quite understand BL/queer media aimed at women, but it has never bothered me.

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Coolest moment you’ve had as a creator?

This might sound lame, but a while back I got to meet Tsuyoshi Nonaka, a prolific artist who designed the mecha in Mazinkaiser SKL and did a lot of designwork for Kamen Rider and Super Sentai (Power Rangers). He had a panel on the design process for live-action hero shows, and afterwards he critiqued art that anyone had brought to the panel. He gave me the most amount of feedback, said it was “rather unusual, but interesting!” to see a female artist doing tokusatsu action comics, and encouraged me to keep working towards a finished product. It was then that I thought “Ah, so it’s okay if I do action-y, hero-y things and put my own spin on them, even if it’s not what people really expect to see in independent comics from people like me.” Kind of a small realization, but it’s kept me confident in my subject matters of choice.

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How do you think the current comics industry is toward women? What can we do to improve it further and create a safe space?
We can’t keep looking to The Big Two to “set the standard” for what we want to see. If we foster our own communities and encourage all sorts of weird comics that no one else will make, we’ll be able to fill the void that mainstream media can’t.
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What do comics mean to you?
A way to express oneself, a way to share what you enjoy with other people, a way to create with other people, a medium where writing and illustration can work together. Also they’re pretty dang fun, too.

What are you currently reading?
I just finished reading Ararangers Issue #2, by local Hawaii artist Jon J. Murakami. It’s a lighthearted Super Sentai parody with food puns, and has some really funny in-jokes if you’re familiar with local culture!
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Interested in participating in the Female Creators Spotlight project? Use this form! (There’s also a nonbinary version here!)
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