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A Conversation with Lisa Naffziger: Creative Worlds of Comics and Kaiju

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Delve into the imaginative realm of Lisa Naffziger on social media, and you’re greeted with a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues and distinctive designs that captivate the eye. Her artistry revives the icons of classic creature features and infuses her unique creations with an infectious charisma.

Among her creations is the webcomic Taking Back Toku, which chronicles Akiyo Tsuburaya’s journey as a special effects maestro for an underdog cinema house. Her subject matter is a heartfelt homage to Japan’s rich history of monster filmmaking, and it’s evident that Naffziger cherishes this genre. She’s in conversation with Our Culture to discuss her journey as an artist, the muses behind her work, and what future endeavors she anticipates.

It’s a pleasure to have you with us, Lisa! Could you give our audience an introduction to who you are?

It’s wonderful to be here! My name is Lisa Naffziger, and I am an avid comic illustrator and artist whose passion for colossal creatures knows no bounds.

Your style is truly distinctive. How did your journey into art and illustration begin?

Art has been my companion since childhood, acting both as a vehicle for sharing stories and spreading joy. My early days were spent sketching away, my imagination fueled by vibrant ‘90s staples like Lisa Frank and R.L. Stine. My academic pursuits at Savannah College of Art and Design honed my love for narrative art, affording me four incredible years to specialize in comics.

Can you share more about your webcomic, Taking Back Toku?

Taking Back Toku is my labor of love, a kaiju-centric webcomic updated every Tuesday. It threads the tale of a creative single mother trying to rescue her studio by transforming her son’s monstrous pets into movie magic. Intertwined with the thrilling monster encounters are the complex human stories waiting to be unraveled. Just wait – it’s going to be a thrilling journey.

The intimacy and relatable struggles of the characters are something I admire about the series. They grapple with the very challenges we all encounter, but against the backdrop of Japanese monster cinema. What inspired you to strike this balance?

Your words mean a lot! Monster tales are indeed thrilling, but they also serve as a metaphor for deeper, character-centric stories. Films such as The Host and Colossal have shaped my narrative approach, where personal conflicts manifest as behemoth beasts. It’s disheartening when monster films are trivialized as low-budget, mindless entertainment; I feel there’s a lost opportunity for deeper storytelling there.

Is there a character in Taking Back Toku you feel most akin to?

Akiyo and I share many similarities, more than I’d often like to admit. The sense of being overwhelmed and misjudged is something I understand all too well. Nevertheless, we persist and carry our stories with us.

Artwork Covers for Chapters 1-3 of Taking Back Toku.

The idea of Akiyo’s practical effects career seems like a fantasy for many enthusiasts, yet it also harbors its share of stress. In your view as an online artist, is there a misconception regarding the so-called “dream job”?

While the creative process is a privilege, it’s accompanied by the demands and labor of any job. The operational aspects of art-making can be surprisingly taxing. For instance, working through a harsh Michigan winter reminded me that the romanticized ideal of remote work isn’t always a fairytale.

What’s the next chapter for Taking Back Toku?

The digital comic space is electric with interactive engagement, but holding a tangible, printed book is incomparable. My goal is to present Taking Back Toku as a complete graphic novel, hoping it finds a special place in readers’ collections, whether through traditional means or self-publishing.

Looking forward, what projects are you planning?

The project queue always seems to stack up quickly, but right now, I’m juggling wrapping up Taking Back Toku with crafting a YA graphic novel about a girl interviewing monsters and myths, which is quite the adventure.

You’re delving into the world of cryptids, but which enigma captures your fancy the most?

Thanks for asking! The Lore of aquatic cryptids has always fascinated me. Dreams of uncovering the Loch Ness monster still spark my imagination and drive my passion.

How can our readers immerse themselves in your work?

Begin your adventure with the initial chapters of Taking Back Toku at takingbacktoku.tumblr.com. Additionally, my YA crime thriller MINUS may be available in nearby libraries, or you can find it on Amazon, Iron Circus Publishing, and IndieBound. Find me and my latest projects on Twitter and Instagram, and stay tuned for #KaiJune illustrations!

Our gratitude to Lisa Naffziger for this delightful exchange! Discover her extraordinary work through the links above. We eagerly anticipate the evolution of Taking Back Toku and more!

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