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!  

Fried Chicken and Sushi 359 Karl and Mai's first real date

If you haven't figured it out by now, Mai is based on my wife.  The Cat's out of the bag!  This comic strip is pretty much exactly what we did on our first date together.  It was fun to think back on how nervous I was that evening but also how much fun we had together.  We could relate on so many things, even though we grew up in different countries.  There was also something there that we couldn't explain.  A pretty strong connection that we still have to this day.  The final panel of our Purikura picture is actually taken from the real one that we still have.  We laugh over the phrase "Good Surprise!" every time we look at it.  What were we thinking when writing that?  Perhaps, it was how we felt about finding each other. ;)  There will be a few more comics coming up of our first date so stay tuned.     

Fried Chicken and Sushi 353 J goes to a Manga shop

It really is exciting to walk into a bookstore in Japan and see so much manga!  There's a lot of good manga in Japan but it can be difficult to find because there's SO much there!  You need to spend ages going through titles to find something that is really a powerful combination of story and art.  I guess this is another disappointing reality that J has to face now that he's in Osaka.  Everything isn't perfect in Japan.  I'm not sure how much Japanese J can read so maybe he's just judging the manga by the artistic storytelling.  Friends would tell me about good manga to read and it would save me time at the bookstores.  Did you have a good experience the first time you went to buy manga in Japan? 

Fried Chicken and Sushi 345 J visits Shimamoto

I remember seeing my students EVERYWHERE I went in Shimamoto!  There were times that it was nice, and times when I hated it.  Either way, being the only foreigner in a small town means you don't have much privacy.  Everyone knows when you're out and about.  Put two foreigners together in a small town and you're sure to get some attention.  It's also frustrating when students are trying their best to speak to you in English and you have no idea what they really mean...

Fried Chicken and Sushi 329 J and Beverly's last date

Don't worry, I don't think she means he'll be doomed if he goes to Japan.  Beverly knows how much J loves Japanese culture so she's probably concerned that he'll feel right at home there and never want to come back to America.  I've seen it happen to Americans I know that moved there.  What do you think?  Are you one of those people?

Fried Chicken and Sushi 317 There's a limit to manga variety

Tanuki just needs to realize that a manga about him just wouldn't work!  Actually, it would probably become a huge hit.  I'll give it a thought.  I love the variety of manga out there.  It would be so wonderful if we had that kind of variety in American comics.  Things are getting better now that big publishers like Scholastic are putting out creative comics for kids.  As far as Japanese manga, I just started reading BAKUMAN and I love it!  It's so fun to read about how the manga industry works in Japan and how passionate manga creators are about their art and careers. 

Fried Chicken and Sushi 307 Kobe? Oh, Mai!

Not very smooth, Karl.  Oh, well.  Let's hope that Mai is interested in him.  Kobe is a beautiful city.  It was a little difficult to draw the harbor area but I think it came out looking decent.  If you haven't bought my graphic novel Tales of Tritoria:  YOUNGBLOODS yet, you can buy the entire 200 page digital version on GUMROAD for $3.  If you buy it here, I get more of the money than with Amazon.  You can even pay more for it if you want to help support this comic!  Thank you!  CLICK HERE TO BUY THE DIGITAL COPY OF YOUNGBLOODS

Fried Chicken and Sushi Characters by Jackie Wohlenhaus!

Thanks for the awesome take on my characters, Jackie!  If you love his style as much as I do, you should CLICK HERE and head over to his comic BETWEEN FAILURES and give it a good read.  He has years of archives for you to get into and enjoy.  His comics are a bit more "mature" in some areas compared to mine so you kids out there might need to be careful. 

FCS296 Ryan Accepts Defeat

Admit it.  You wouldn't try to stop Ryan from crying.  We know J is the best man for the job.  Ryan just needs to look in the mirror and repeat positive affirmations to himself over and over again to feel better.  He should know that he's good enough, smart enough and gosh darnit, people like him!  Let's hope he can fully accept the reality of the situation and move on.

Fan Art- Jamie Lynn Lano

Check out this amazing fan art by Jamie Lynn Lano!  Aren't Karl and Tanuki cute?!  She even made Karl look a little awkward.  Just like he is! ;)  You can read her awesome blog about living and working in Japan called LIVING TALL IN JAPAN.  One of my favorite series of posts she writes is about her experience working as an art assistant on the manga Prince of Tennis.  Very interesting reading about how things work in a real manga studio in Japan from the eyes of a foreigner.  Check out the list of those posts here or just click on her fan art above! 

Fried Chicken and Sushi 286 Meeting the Matchmaker

The truth always comes out when you talk to Karl.  Usually, it comes out in a loud and awkward way.  Most of you know that.  I have a feeling you all knew what he was going to say in the last panel before you even read it.  You know Karl well.  Let's hope there will be a woman who will want to get to know him.

Fried Chicken and Sushi 282 The Jokemon battle continues!

I had to give up humor for story but there's plenty of action in this comic page.  Everyone's been upset with J and his stressed out behaviour so it's nice to see him get back to meditating.  Let's hope this will help turn things around for him.  This page was really fun to draw because working in Manga Studio, long pages like this are much easier to create.  The colors were done in Photoshop.  I really wanted it to feel like a Pokemon episode so I gave some of the people in the crowd crazy hair colors like green and orange.  It was difficult to decide what Ninjoggle should be screaming at the end.  At first, I wanted him to just yell "Ninnnnjoooggle!" when Kissup hit him with that powerful blow.  I changed it to "AAAAAH!" so that it would transition well to J waking up and yelling "AH!"  I think it worked out pretty well.  Hope you enjoyed it!  Thanks for reading.

Fried Chicken and Sushi 281 You gotta get it out!

I think that video games can be a great way to get your frustrations out.  Especially, if you're playing one where you get to bash people in the head or shoot something!  Games can get pretty real at times so if you're caught in it, things can get stressful.  Looks like J loves the escape video games provide but they aren't doing much to lower his stress level or increase his focus at work.  Let's hope he thinks deeper about getting back into meditation.

Fried Chicken and Sushi 268 Tattle tale gets paddled on his tale

Throwin' out another plug for my 200 page comic YOUNGBLOODS!  Give it a buy HERE!  Ryan should have known not to try and tattle tale on J and Beverly with no real proof.  Let's hope he learned his lesson.  Of course, the boss is now aware that his employees might be dating so he could start paying more attention.  J better be careful and not get cocky!

Fried Chicken and Sushi 266 The office spy knows all!

Another plug to check out my graphic novel YOUNGBLOODS here!  Vampire gangs in the city, action adventure and pretty good art from yours truly.  Check it out!  Ryan needs to back down don't you think?  I guess he would have something to gain from telling on J and Beverly but is it worth it?  He doesn't even know if they're really dating or not!  J is acting confident but I have a feeling he's worried about the boss finding out.  We shall see...

Fried Chicken and Sushi 265 Having fun as friends?

Dropping another reminder to buy my graphic novel YOUNGBLOODS HERE!  I had a lot of fun selling and signing copies of Youngbloods at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco this past weekend.  Thanks to those of you that dropped by my table!  I love APE and look forward to doing it again next year! 

As far as J and Beverly are concerned, I don't know what they're doing?  There's obviously an attraction between the two of them.  We know J recently broke up with his girlfriend but Beverly hasn't said anything about a boyfriend.  Of course, dating a co-worker also has its challenges.  Hang in there to see what they figure out!

Fried Chicken and Sushi 254 Where's the Cheese?

I was pretty upset when I moved to Japan and discovered only one kind of "cheese" in the grocery store.  The white cheese was in a big brick and shredded or even in white cheese slices.  No other types or styles.  As a cheese lover, it was hard for me to get over the fact that Japanese people weren't demanding more cheese in their grocery stores! 

Fried Chicken and Sushi 253 The Black Samurai Returns

Remember, if you like my comic book art style, read my 200 page graphic novel HERE!  It was fun drawing The Black Samurai again but without hair and in traditional Japanese clothing.  This is how I originally created him so now I feel like we can really get into his adventures.  What will happen if he follows the strange spirit?  Will he be able to free Tanuki?  I hope you're enjoying these comics.  Thanks for reading!