KUBO and the Two Strings Fan Art Process

My Kubo fan art using pen, markers and colored pencils.

My Kubo fan art using pen, markers and colored pencils.

A young Japanese boy named Kubo, with his magical shamisen and a monkey companion embark on a journey to find his father’s samurai armor and defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.  Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest stop-motion animated film from Laika studios and is a gorgeous work of art!  Beautifully animated and surprisingly emotional, I was completely taken in by this film.  So much so, that I created fan art. 

My first sketches of Kubo's head.  One looks like a girl and another looks too old.  I had to keep trying!    

My first sketches of Kubo's head.  One looks like a girl and another looks too old.  I had to keep trying!    


After sketching several heads of Kubo for practice, I felt confident enough to try a full body pose.  Using blue pencil first, I sketched out his pose, changed his feet a few times and settled on the final look.  I used Pigma Micron pens, 03 and 05 sizes, to ink over my pencil.  It was fun to use a combination of colored pencils and Copic markers for color. 

The inked version before adding color.  I really wanted the color black added throughout the drawing to add weight and balance.

The inked version before adding color.  I really wanted the color black added throughout the drawing to add weight and balance.


Kubo plays his shamisen and makes origami paper fold on its own into animals and characters that move.  My goal was to capture that first moment when he begins to play and the magic happens. 


If you haven’t seen Kubo and the Two Strings I strongly encourage you to see it!  I wasn’t sure if it was going to be interesting but I enjoy stop-motion animation so I took a chance.  Within the first few minutes, I knew this movie was a masterpiece! 


My only gripe was that they used white actors to play the main characters.  This is supposed to be ancient Japan.  I know Hollywood feels that it needs famous names to draw crowds but it’s sad when you have someone as well known as George Takei playing a background character with two lines. 


As an actor of Japanese descent, he really should have been given a bigger role.  If they plan on distributing it in Japan, I would love to hear what it sounds like with actual Japanese actors doing voice-overs.       


Even with that in mind, Kubo and the Two Strings is such a great film and the artistry of a story told with animation done by hand is too captivating to miss.  Make sure you go see it and tell me what you think!  

Gudetama gets cooked! In a real restaurant?

Surely you’ve heard of Gudetama the egg character from Sanrio, the same company that brought you Hello Kitty.  He whines about not wanting to do anything and his purpose in life is to lie around and wait to be eaten.  He’s all over the internet and television in Japan, with over 650K followers on Twitter and animated shorts on the TBS channel. 


I love this guy and think he's pretty hilarious!  You can imagine my surprise when I was out with my wife shopping in Osaka and came across a restaurant named Cafe Costa Mesa in Namba Parks that was serving special dishes with eggs that look like Gudetama.  I’ll admit, we didn’t have time to eat there but I had to take a few pictures for you. 

Cafe Costa Mesa serving breakfast, desserts and even salad with Gudetama.  Looks like they have merchandise as you walk in. 

Cafe Costa Mesa serving breakfast, desserts and even salad with Gudetama.  Looks like they have merchandise as you walk in. 

Which one would you try? 

Which one would you try? 

Gudetama is Sanrio’s most unmotivated character and has absolutely no energy to move.  The first part of his name, Gude pronounced (goo-deh) is a Japanese onomatopoeia for describing something or someone with no strength.  Tama comes from the word tamago, which means egg. 


Even though he looks like just one character, he actually represents every egg in existence since the age of dinosaurs!  Sometimes you even see two of them lying around making sure to do nothing. 


You can buy merchandise with Gudetama on it like chopsticks, keychains, pens and iPhone cases.  Now, you can go to a restaurant and eat him!  After all, the saying on his Twitter account page is, “I’m only going to be eaten in the end.”  Thanks Cafe Costa Mesa for giving us the opportunity!   

Rio Olympics Tanuki!

Tanuki reaching out to make friends with the Olympic mascot, Vinicius.  Nothing says peace like sharing cookies! 

Tanuki reaching out to make friends with the Olympic mascot, Vinicius.  Nothing says peace like sharing cookies! 

Did you know that the mascot for the 2016 Rio Olympics looks like an animated cartoon character?  His name is Vinicius and they made actual animated shorts with him that played on Brazil's Cartoon Network. 


He looked like a fun character so I tried drawing my version and it didn't turn out half bad.  Vinicius is a combination of animals that you can find in Brazil and full of color to lift your spirits. 

The illustration of Tanuki with a gold medal, excuse me- a chocolate chip cookie medal, was a fun idea my publisher and I came up with.  We wanted to honor the amazing athletes in the Olympics and show the support Fried Chicken and Sushi gives to both the U.S. and Japan. 

Congratulations athletes of the 2016 Olympic games!  Tanuki couldn't decide which country to support so he just went for both.

Congratulations athletes of the 2016 Olympic games!  Tanuki couldn't decide which country to support so he just went for both.

I love everything about the Olympics, the greatest athletes competing and bringing the world together.  My whole family is looking forward to Tokyo hosting it next in 2020!  I'm sure it will be magical.

Little FC&S Coming to an end...

After 2 years of online syndication with Universal Uclick my run of Little Fried Chicken and Sushi comics is coming to an end on my website and at GoComics.com.  I’ve had a ton of fun creating comics for you about American kids living in Japan and now I have enough strips to make two book collections!  The final Little FC&S comic will post on Monday, May 30th 2016.   

As most of you know, I worked on the original Fried Chicken and Sushi webcomic, about my experiences teaching English in Japan, twice a week for four years.  Little FC&S is the spinoff kid version.  Six years total of FC&S comics has been quite an enjoyable ride but it’s time for me to move on.

I feel thankful to have had the chance to tell stories of living as an expat in Japan and meeting my wife.  Also, showing an African-American family living overseas might inspire others and open their minds to the idea that world travel is possible no matter who you are or where you’re from.  This has been a very personal project and I thank you all for joining me on this journey through the years.

My Patreon page will shut down May 31st and you can subscribe to the email list here on my website at www.friedchickenandsushi.com.   You’ll get updates and news about new book collections and projects coming out in the near future. 

I have signed with BluTrinity Comics and they will publish two book collections of Little Fried Chicken and Sushi.  The first book, with over 120 strips, will go on sale next month! 

You can also LIKE the Fried Chicken and Sushi Fan Page on FACEBOOK to stay connected or follow me on TWITTER

Thanks again for your friendship and support! 

All the best,




Here’s Why You Must Visit Japan for New Years!


Happy New Year!  Or, if you were in Japan, you would say “Akemashite omedetōgozaimasu!”  That can be difficult to say- believe me I know- but it conjures up wonderful visions of the magic during this time of year.
If you’re living in Japan right now, you understand what I’m talking about.  I lived in Osaka for two years and go back every summer to visit my wife’s family.  Summer is fine but I really miss the New Year celebrations.  We actually visited for Oshogatsu (New Years) two years ago and it was wonderful to be there for it all again.
New Years in Japan is something I’m sure you would enjoy!  When you visit, make sure to go to a shrine on New Year’s Eve.

They are normally packed with people looking to ring in the New Year with a blessing.  Even with the crowds, entering a shrine in Japan calms you.  People do their best to visit on New Years day or within the first three days of the year. 

What surprised me the most on my first visit were how many things they have for you to do… 

You can say a prayer for health, happiness and prosperity and even get a fortune for the year. You might need someone that can read Japanese to translate your fortune because the little paper you receive is packed full of information.  If it’s a good fortune, you keep the paper.  If it’s bad, you can tie it to a tree in the shrine for better luck.        

The smell of the cold fresh air mixed with food cooked by street vendors like okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza), takoyaki (fried ball of dough with a piece of octopus inside) and dango (round rice dumplings) helps you feel content as you walk through the shrine.   You should take a chance and eat something you’ve never tried before.  One of my favorite foods is yakisoba.  They’re like stir-fried ramen noodles with veggies and pork.  Oishii (delicious)!
Of course, the most important food to eat on New Year’s Eve is toshikoshi soba noodles.  The long thin noodles represent a long and healthy life.  You can go to a restaurant or buy some and make them yourself.  
One of the coolest parts of spending time at the shrine is when the clock strikes twelve.  The shrine will ring a large bell 108 times to get rid of the 108 human sins and worldly desires in the Buddhist belief system.  The bells remind me to stop and think about the year that has passed.  The bell ringing truly helps me feel like any negativity inside of my body is being cleared away.
The first three days of the year are sacred for Japanese people.  They take time off of work and relax at home with family.  Children are given gifts of money called Otoshidama.  The amount they receive can be anywhere from $50-$150!  You can see that it’s a nice chunk of change that can help kids learn about how much to spend and save for their future.  My daughter loved receiving money but I think she was more excited about the envelopes with manga characters on them that they came in. 
If you get a chance to spend time with a Japanese family during Oshogatsu you can enjoy eating traditional cuisine called Osechi Ryori.  The selection of fish and vegetables are beautifully arranged inside of three tier boxes and look like works of art.  You can buy osechi ready made and there’s plenty of food so bring your appetite!
The New Year in Japan is full of food, family and lots of drinking! 
Travel is significantly cheaper compared to other times of the year if you’re flying in from another country.  You can get great deals so look into them and decide where you would like to visit.  Tokyo is fun but of course I’m partial to the Osaka or Kansai region because I have family there.  There’s so much to see in Kansai like the gorgeous historical area of Nara, the city of Kobe and one of my favorite places to visit shrines, Kyoto.

Start planning your trip now!  That way, you can have all year to look forward to the enchanting experience of celebrating the New Year at a shrine in the extraordinary country of Japan!



You will stick out in Japan. Just deal with it!

When you visit Japan you will look like a foreigner.

Sorry.  That’s just the way it is.

Even if you’re Asian, you will sound like a foreigner. 

This can be frustrating and I know that hearing about this can make you scared to visit Japan or any country in Asia.

You don’t want to look different or stand out but you can’t hide it.

Even if you learn to speak Japanese fluently, you will always be considered a foreigner.  You can never truly fit in. 

This is difficult to accept if you’re from North America or Europe where any person can come from another country and become a citizen in a society full of people from different races and backgrounds.   

What can you do if you want to visit or even live in Japan?

Get rid of your need to feel comfortable.

For all humans, being comfortable is a major need in life.  Everything we strive for can come down to our goal of getting, as my daughter likes to say, comfy

Traveling to Japan, or anywhere for that matter, requires that you change your idea of what living comfortably means.

Remember these truths while in Japan:

-Everyone does not live the same way that you do and that is ok!

-You are in the minority; people will stare at you and treat you differently at times.

-You will not understand what people are saying but that’s fine.  Use your eyes and pay attention to what is going on around you.  If your face looks confused, someone might notice and help.  Accept their assistance.  

-People will be fascinated with you and maybe a little scared.

-Japanese people treat foreign visitors very well.  They are normally friendly and excited to see you.    

-If you are living there, it will take some time for them to get used to you so take things slowly.  Keep quiet, smile and behave as politely as possible. 

Many of these seem obvious but it’s amazing what can tick us off over time.  Micro-aggressions can really drive you crazy if you cannot put them in the proper perspective. 

You don’t need to wait until you travel to Asia to open up your thinking.  Do it today when you’re running errands.  Think about how you perceive people of different races.  Are you being fair? 

The more open minded you become, the easier your time in Japan will be.

Best of luck,











The ONE reason you're not traveling the world

You are afraid.

I love to travel but I hate how scary it is.  Going to a place you've never been before and you can't even speak the language... 

Not easy!

One of the reasons I draw Fried Chicken and Sushi is to inspire people to get up off of their butts, conquer their fears and take a trip overseas. 

You gotta see what’s really out there! 

Yes.  It can be expensive. I must admit it can also be frustrating dealing with culture shock in a country you’ve never set foot in. 

The surprise gift of it all is being forced to grow as a person.

As you probably know, personal growth ain’t easy!  There can be a ton of laughter and tears but I know you can do it.  Some of you already are.

 When you read my comics each week I want you to feel the reality of living in Japan (aside from the magical Tanuki).  The ups and downs of travel or living in another country can be full of humor and fun with a bit of sadness thrown in for good measure.  All of this helps open your mind and push you to become more tolerant, patient and aware of who you really are. 

One of my goals is to help you see that anyone can leave their comfort zone, travel very far away and still be a success.  Even if they make a pile of mistakes along the way!

If you’re thinking about taking a trip overseas, start making concrete plans and take consistent action to make it happen.  That might mean saving a little money each month, or researching your dream country online.  Take it one step at a time and you will be enjoying mind-boggling experiences on foreign soil before you know it!

Thanks for joining Karl and his family each week on their adventures in Japan. 

Now, go out and create yours!

Best of luck,


FC&S Comics in the newspaper!

I'm proud to announce that Fried Chicken and Sushi comics will be in print!  The new Laugh-O-Gram comic strip only newspaper features FC&S along with many other amazing syndicated comic strips every week.  It's a dream come true to see my comic in a newspaper, especially right above The Family Circus.  Talk about contrast! ;)  The picture below shows that I'm just a little excited about all of this. 

You can subscribe and get four issues a month delivered to your home by subscribing online at http://www.laughogrampaper.com/

Thanks for being such great fans!  It makes things like this possible.

FC&S Comics moving to Monday updates only (for now?)

Dear my friends and fans,

Money isn’t everything but it sure can help!  My Patreon page is a wonderful way to receive financial support from my true fans.  Many thanks to all of you that are supporting me!  Unfortunately, over the last year, it hasn’t grown as high as I’d hoped it would. 

As much as I hate to admit it, for the little money I’m making drawing FC&S comics, I can’t afford the time to continue posting three times a week.  Therefore, I will be posting one comic strip a week every Monday starting tomorrow.

The strip will still be in color and my plan is to add more panels on a page (5-7 instead of 3-4) so that it’s similar to a Sunday comic.  This way, I can put in more than one gag so you get more laughs, but it doesn’t take much longer to create.  Please leave comments under the comics and let me know what you think about the new format.

I truly appreciate your patronage and I will feel grateful if you choose to supporting my cartooning on PATREON HERE.  If you are already a supporter and would like to raise your monthly pledge or tell friends to become patrons, that would really help!

The Milestone Goals on my Patreon page have changed.  If we can reach them, I can afford to go back to updating two or even three times a week!   

Thank you for being a part of the Fried Chicken and Sushi family and I hope the Monday comic strips will keep you rolling in the aisles with laughter. 

All the best,

Khalid Birdsong  

Visiting the Tallest Tanuki Statues in Japan!

The Land Where Tanuki Statues are Made- Tanuki Mura!

Imagine driving through the mountains,
turning the corner and pulling up to
three of the tallest Tanuki statues you've
ever seen!

That was the awesome, and
pretty hilarious, sight before my eyes
arriving at Tanuki Mura.  It's a magical
place where hundreds of tanuki statues
with different designs and details are
made.  My family was cool enough to go
with me and marvel at all of the happy
Tanuki statues and even make some


Tanuki Mura is in Shiga
prefecture in an area called Koka,
Japan.  It's about a two hour drive north
of Osaka city.  You should check it out! 

If not only to see so many Tanuki in one
place, but to smile and giggle at the
humor of it all.

Yes. I even bought a small Tanuki, even though I have two medium size ones at home.  They say you should look for one with a face that resembles your own.  I didn't find one that really looked like me but, I must say, their selection was incredible!

I was very happy to have gone and it brings a smile to my face every time I think back on it.  Of course, I wore my own Tanuki T-shirt and the employees were, to my delight, very excited to see my FC&S version!  They said it's great that an American is actually using a Tanuki as a character in a comic strip.      

Plan your trip and enjoy the silly fun!  You can find out more about Tanuki Mura online or on their website (mainly in Japanese) here:


Thanks for being a part of my adventure.  Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm not getting paid to promote Tanuki Mura.  I'm just a Tanuki geek that's excited about such an enjoyable place!

All the best,
Khalid Birdsong

My NaNoWriMo blog comic strip letter to Jeff Smith of BONE

Hi everyone!  I was asked by the good folks at the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to write a letter to someone that inspired me to create.  I chose the cartoonist, Jeff Smith, of the BONE series of comics.  I met him a few years ago and didn't get a chance to tell him how important his work was to me.  The comic is below and up on their blog now.  You can check it out HERE.  Enjoy!

Little Fried Chicken and Sushi gets an upgrade!

Hiya!  Welcome to the new and improved Fried Chicken and Sushi website!  Thanks to web designer extraordinaire, Kris Black of Black and Hue we have a site that works wonderfully on your desktop and smart phone!  It will be easier to keep up with Karl and his friends wherever you are. 

To morph this comic from the Classic Fried Chicken and Sushi to the new family style, we changed the format of the comics to vertical instead of the standard horizontal of most strips.  It reads better on a phone and, for me personally, will make it easier to compile into book collections later on. 

The Classic FC&S comics are still here.  Just click on the COMICS tab above and you can access all of the archives organized by month and year published.  I also encourage you to SUBSCRIBE TO RECEIVE FC&S COMICS BY EMAIL HERE.  My plan is to, on top of emailing every comic strip to you each week, making an FC&S newsletter that highlights info about Japan and its Pop Culture as well as news for the comic.  I'll send it out once a month and see how you guys respond.  You've gotta join in! 

Thanks for being an old fan or possibly a new one! 

Khalid Birdsong (Comic Chef)

Classic FCS comes to an end

Classic FCS comes to an end

Love is in the air and classic Fried Chicken and Sushi comic strips are at an end.  Many heartfelt thanks go out to my fans that have been reading this comic adventure loosely based on my experiences living in Japan.  It has been a fun five years filled with humor about travel, love, racism and perception. 

Please continue to join me as we follow Little Karl and his family with Little Fried Chicken and Sushi morphing into regular Fried Chicken and Sushi.  There will be more of what you love about my work but seen from the eyes of children and adults.  The new vertical format will give me more freedom to create interesting layouts and add more adventure.  Thanks for your support!



Read More

NEW vertical style Little FC&S comics

NEW vertical style Little FC&S comics

You can see that the Little Fried Chicken and Sushi comics have changed to a vertical format with two panels on top and one or two at the bottom.  This makes them larger and easier to read on cell phones and any other art sites they're put on.  Plus, and this is the one I really like, it makes them easier to transfer to book form when I compile them together.  They will be one comic per page so 200 comics could equal a 200 page graphic novel for kids and adults.  Similar to what Big Nate and Phoebe and Her Unicorn are doing.  There will be more adding in of Japan related themes to the Little strips as they become the main FC&S comic in the next month.  Give me some comments when you can! 

Read More

Sato's Secret Crush?

Did you think Sato sensei had a crush on Karl?

It makes sense doesn’t it?  She works next to him everyday and gets upset with her husband and in-laws all the time!  For her, it must be nice to come to school and work with a nice foreign man…

A foreign BLACK man.  Ooooh!  Exotic!

As you can tell, more open stories are being closed and questions are getting answered in each strip.  We have about one more month of new Fried Chicken and Sushi strips left.  

How will it end?  Please keep reading to find out!

You can show your love for the hard work I put into each comic by CLICKING HERE NOW and donating $1 a month on my PATREON PAGE!

Many thanks,


Read More

How to let it be...

Karl cannot control his laughter in FCS496 because of the music Sato Sensei plays while he's speaking to the class.  You might think this one is from my silly imagination.  I am embarrassed to say, this comic strip is based on truth!

That's right, this one really happened.  The Japanese teacher of English I was working with at the time thought it would be so nice to play the song, Let It Be by the BEATLES, while I talk to the class about vocabulary words for success.  In my head, this sounded a bit cheezy and I was afraid the class would laugh at me.  If we were in the U.S., they definitely would have! But, since we were in a Japanese Middle School, I figured the students would be busy listening for the vocab words they recognized and not even notice the comedy.  Fortunately, I was right!  Unfortunately, I didn't expect to start laughing...

Not only did I laugh, I was the ONLY ONE LAUGHING!  Everyone, even my co-English teacher, could not understand why.  The sad sound of the music together with my attempt at motivational speaking was a hilarious contrast.  To me, at least. Several times I tried to get it together and finish but I just had to end it and apologize.  I was laughing so much, a few tears came out of my eyes. 

I felt bad for ruining the presentation for the students and my co-teacher but I had to think about it as just one humorous screw up.  My co-teacher was upset a little I think, it's hard to tell with Japanese people sometimes, but my cartoonist way of looking at the ...

Read More

We both received the exact same fortune? True story!

In the latest comic, FCS493, Mai and Karl pick the same O-mikuji fortune while at the shrine and are amazed.  This comic is completely based on truth!  My wife and I went to a shrine on New Year's Eve back during our first year of dating, just like in the comic.  We enjoyed it and I was excited to be out doing something so different than my usual way to spend New Year's Eve...watching TV at home. 

I had never heard of O-mikuji before and so I thought it would be fun to see what my fortune would be.  We payed and then they held out a wooden box, with a hole in it and after shaking it, a stick comes out with a number of our fortune to take from the large collection.  It's difficult to remember if it was considered a very good fortune or somewhat good but I do remember how my wife was shocked that our's were the same.  She kept looking at them and comparing to make sure. 

I didn't think this was such a big deal until she showed me that there are many different parts and a lot of information on one little fortune.  It's impossible to get exactly the same one as someone with you.  They have the general fortune that can be a great blessing, small blessing, and go all the way down to a future curse.  Ours must have been good because if it's bad, you usually fold it up and tie it to a tree in the shrine.  We kept ours!  There are predictions about finding love, job, health and success in great detail.  Even a poem!  EVERYTHING ON OURS WAS THE SAME!  She had never seen this happen before in her life.  When I finally understood how amazing this was, I was in shock too!

My wife and I have been together for over twelve years now and still as happy as can be.  That fortune was truly a sign.  I guess our future is really tied together!   

Who needs Christmas when you can have New Year's Eve?

At least, that's how it felt during the holidays in Japan.  Christmas is a fun date night and a cute day to give your kids a gift from Santa.  No religion necessary!  New Year's Eve and the three days after are the most important days for family celebration in Japan.  I have grown into appreciating New Year's as an important holiday but I still get upset that Japan can adopt the commercial side of Christmas just for fun when very few people are actual Christians and could care less about the birth of Jesus. 

During the next month or so, I'll finally be running Fried Chicken and Sushi comic strips based on Christmas and New Year's!  I've avoided it for four years and now is the time for the holidays to arrive in the world of Karl, J, Tanuki and Mai!  Enjoy and I would love to read your comments about experiencing the holidays in Japan in the comments section under the comic.  If you want to give me a nice gift, you can become a patron HERE ON MY PATREON PAGE!  Happy holidays and thanks for being a fan!

The future of Fried Chicken and Sushi

If you weren't able to be a part of my live TWITTER talk sponsored by GoComics, I wanted to let you know about some changes coming up for FC&S.  My plan is to end the regular Fried Chicken and Sushi comic by this coming April of 2015.  I started the comic in April 2010 so that will mark five years.  You will start to see some of the storylines wrapping up and coming to an end in these next few months.  I hope you enjoy them!  It's been great fun to tell stories inspired by the adventures of me and my friends in Japan but it's time to stop and focus on Little Fried Chicken and Sushi. 

As you know, Little FC&S is syndicated by Universal Uclick and updates Mon., Wed. and Friday on this site and also on GoComics.com.  After April, I will begin creating Little FC&S five times a week, Monday through Friday, in glorious color and still post updates on this site and of course on GoComics.  The comic is new but it's been doing well online and I want to have more time to explore the world and humor.  Little FC&S is more of a family comic strip and that gives me many places to go with the stories and I can have humor about living in Japan coming from a child and adult's perspective.  Drawing it five days a week will give me more opportunities to have storylines that flow smoothly. 

Thank you to those of you who are supporting me with a little tip every month on my PATREON!  I truly appreciate it.  It is surprising to see that I don't have a lot more fans supporting me there but it's helped me to see that most of my fans are casual readers.  Even with that in mind, I plan to put up FC&S themed merchandise for sale in the coming months.  I hope that some of you will be interested in wearing a shirt or having a product inspired by my comics.  Once the regular FC&S comics are done, I will collect them all (probably over 500 strips) into one big FC&S book collection and put in on sale.  If you are a fan, thank you for reading and enjoying my comics!  I hope that you will be willing and able to support my work in the future by buying merchandise or pledging to my Patreon page.  Let me know what you think in the comments and on Facebook and Twitter.