Spotlight

Legendary Beings Ara and Celi – Magical Girls and Angels!

Originally from Puerto Rico, NAAN now resides in the Midwest. Fluent in Spanish and English, she graduated from Iowa State University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics with Russian Studies and a Bachelor’s in German. As of 2018, she also now holds a Master’s in Graphic Design from the same university. She likes Dadaism, mythology/religion readings, linguistics, decorative fonts, 80s new wave, the jpop band globe and Falco of Austria. She is the creator of Legendary Beings Ara & Celi.

She’s also the founder of the ARADIA collective for magical girl comics, dedicated to creating, promoting and archiving comics belonging to the genre (and offshoots such as magical boys and enbys.)”

Synopsis: Legendary Beings Ara & Celi is about a young girl, Miyara, who is chosen to be the successor to a specific line of Angels – headed by none other than Ara–and with it, duties that extend beyond the physical world. Only one problem: Miyara has no desire to do the job! What will happen then, especially with Celi, Ara’s counterpart, is intent on causing chaos in her life?!

Is your comic available in any other languages? If so, what language(s)?
I’ve always hoped to have it one day in Spanish, but alas, time never cooperates. ( *coughs*It is a goal on my Patreon, though *coughs*) One of these years, it’ll happen.

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
Nope, I’m 95% self-taught — I say 95% because I took a course offered by Tom Beland once in Carolina, Puerto Rico, annnnd I don’t remember if it was some years before or after that, but I also took a painting class that my old Tuna group leader (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuna_(music) for context to link) told me about and took with me. Last but not least, in grad school, I took the one comic class my alma mater, Iowa State University (ISU), offered for its undergraduates in the fine arts division.

This is referring to the illustrations / comic art side of things. I graduated with a Master’s in Graphic Design from ISU in 2018, which has partly benefited me with that side of things in comics. In fact, I and an animator friend were told by our typography teacher that an advantage we had over the rest of the students was the fact that we knew how to actually draw. Whoof!

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
Magical Girls — and I have no idea at this rate. A few of my childhood anime and cartoons were from the same genre, and a lot of my interest in drawing came from wanting to draw those designs over and over again. I even tried to do a sequel fancomic for “Card Captor Sakura” and did character designs, wrote a script for one chapter before I got bored, oops.

Looking back on the two series that were a huge influence on “Ara & Celi” from the genre (“Nurse Angel Ririka SOS” the anime and “Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne” the manga), I’d also hazard a guess that interesting or unique elements mixed in a cross-genre method and not being afraid to look at the darkness but not be shock grimdark?

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
Action, adventure, and I guess fantasy? People have classified it like that when I’ve posted pages, which I suppose fits, considering some of its elements. I’ve classified it sometimes as science fantasy, since there will be a couple of things influenced by quantum physics but I’m bad at labeling XD

What was your inspiration for the story?
Oh boy, this could get long!

So around 2000, 2001, on one of my usual visits to my local comic book store, David’s Comic Clan in Rio Piedras, I saw that there were copies of a locally-produced homemade zine for sale next to his cash register. Extremely DIY, everything was computer print-outs pasted together and photocopied. At the time, I did not know it was a zine nor did I know that its contents were a normal thing to do back in the US fandom — though I did make for myself my own fashion zines. (I just didn’t know the term “zines” or about the subculture associated with it.) It had a review of an anime, can’t remember which, and the lyrics to the opening of Sailor Moon Sailor Stars! All in English too, which was definitely *a curiosity* in a Spanish-speaking majority country. And even more curious, it was all by one person! (At least, I remember it was one person. This is almost 20 years ago!) I’m going to butcher her name but I want to say it was Serenity Junción? Junction? From a place called St. Junction? Google Maps is failing me but I know there was a Junción or Junction in there!

Anyway, besides all the above, this self-published zine also had an original story! Very of the 2000s, if you catch my drift, with its usage of angels and demons. I’m not going to remember much of the story itself, despite having devoured it for days afterward at the time, but it had angels, which always fascinated me. Again, almost 20 years and the fact that I still remember this much without having the thing on hand (it’s back home, sadly) is a miracle.

Around this time, I had started doodling a character whose design would remain mostly unchanged but who eventually became Ara, one of the main characters in my comic. I had drawn her from the beginning with wings and I know the DIY story made me think about the idea of twins, instead of just maybe one team or the other team. Of the usual balance of “good” and “evil” –quotes very important– and using two characters who are an angel and a devil, and taking it further with twins. Granted, the reason *why* Ara and Celi are twins are ones that’ll pop up in the comic but they’re extremely different from 2001’s Ara and Celi’s reasons, haha.

Back then, they were just twins, that’s all. Not sisters, just — created twins! Boom! What a genius. (No, I’m not.) And since around this time, I was deep into Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, that was dealing with the same topics of the season, I think I just naturally gravitated towards making a magical girl with my own spin on those same topics. Miyara basically came much later, which I get the feeling is rare in the genre for a main character?

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
Artists: Mio Odagi, CLAMP, Arina Tanemura, Atsuko Ishida, Keiji Gotoh, Rex W. Lindsay.

Writers: Mio Odagi, CLAMP, Rod Serling, Arina Tanemura, Hugo Ball, Brian K. Vaughan

How long does it take you to complete one page?
It…really depends. A good deal of the time, I have to get over personal circumstances to get to work on stuff, so most of this is guesstimate. I do traditional pencils and inks, with lettering and toning being in the digital realm.

On a good day — an extremely good day– where I’m basically left alone with no interruptions, I can pencil about two or three pages, and ink one if I’m not too tired. On an usual day otherwise, I can pencil about one page and a half.

Inking and toning kinda interchange with each other usually, as sometimes I can ink really fast and with good quality, and other times it’s toning that goes by fast for me while I linger on inks. But I’ve been trying to get over the “do it and move on, stop being a perfectionist” deal, because I’m REALLY BAD at this. I’m such an über-perfectionist, it’s one reason why I’ve taken so long with my comic and am only working on the fourth chapter at this rate. So I’ve…actually been doing good on both ends lately with the new mindset. On a really good day, I can ink about 3 pages, tackling different panels or elements on multiple pages at the same time. On an usual day, maybe ink one page but I will make sure it’s a difficult page, so that I’ve worked enough.

Toning, thanks to Clip Studio Paint, takes me like, not much at all. Previously, I would take almost a week or two to tone one page. Nowadays, I can do basic fills and pasting tones in about a day, heck maybe even an hour or two, and then all edits, fixes and additional effects in another day. Seriously, I get mad at time and space because I would have loved to have had CSP even just five years ago.

Lettering takes me from an hour to a day.

So, all in all — previously, possibly two weeks. Nowadays, about…three days to five? It may not seem like much difference but I’ve finished two pages in a week at times with the addition of CSP alone, soooo yeah!

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I am an old boomer in a millennial’s body, so a good deal of the process is still traditional. With my handwritten script, I thumbnail in a sketchbook first. This helps me plan the pages out as they would be in a book, and I constantly rework certain pages by adding post-notes to the thumbnail or using index cards before I decide the chapter’s good enough.

Then I pencil all the pages in non-photo blue, which is a GOD-SEND. I hated erasing my lines merely because my erasing was never that good, I hated having to erase and fix my scans that much, and at some point, my wrist hurt. Take care of your hands, dudes!! So yeah, pencil all the pages with non-photo blue pencils. I use Staedtler, which is one of the “lightest” non-photo blue ones, and then draw over a bit more with better details with Prismacolor or Caran D’Ache. (The latter is the darkest of all 3, in my experience.)

Then I ink with a variety of pens. I have no idea what happened to it but I have a Micron Sakura brush whose tip was mushed to a point where it doesn’t do brush lines but it does this nice sweet effect that I use for things like fire, or fast-moving hair. (I’m gonna be sad when it runs out!) I use Pentel and Kuretake fude pens for special effects or specific lineart, a Pentel brush pen for a character’s hair, calligraphy pens for another character’s hair, and everything else, I use Faber-Castell pens of varying sizes. I’ve been experimenting with the Tachikoma Fountain Pen lately that’s made for manga illustration on other pages, so maybe someday I’ll switch to that but Faber-Castell works amazing for me.

I have a nice EPSON scanner for scanning, so after that, I take the pages into Photoshop, crop them properly. Then I take them into CSP, I use an auto action tool that automatically takes away the blue lines and converts the pages into a bitmap version that’s close enough to my original inks!

I then do the basic lettering in CSP — I know it’s an unpopular –nay, *controversial* take to do it in CSP, but I spent an entire day adjusting the font I use for main dialogue to work in CSP the way it worked in Manga Studio 4 (and a bit influenced by Photoshop), so I’m good with it. Side dialogue, signs, etc., I letter in Photoshop and all SFX is done in Photoshop or Illustrator and adjusted by me, depending on the SFX. I do all this first because it helps me make sure I don’t forget where the text placements were on the page, and also because I can see if I need to make a quick edit or if there’s a part that won’t need to be toned so much. Sometimes, if the bubble is meant to be a special effect itself, it’ll also help me determine how to tone the area around it.

Then I fill in all the basic greys, add in the tones I want to use or plan to tinker with to see what works, and do some digital inks for special effects. Then I go back to Photoshop, clean up the tones, do additional edits with Photoshop-only brushes, edit the greys and stop myself from overloading the pages XD

Save for print, then crop and save for web, and done!

Is your comic a finished work? If not, how long do you think you think it’s going to be when it’s complete? Is there a definitive ending or will you just keep going for as long as possible?
Nope, it’s on hiatus due to me working on the entire fourth chapter before I post. I want to create some sort of buffer, so I can work on the fifth chapter meanwhile. I do this because considering it’s been online for…14 years, and due to the forced hiatus I’ve had to take and some by choice, I’ve only managed to spit out 3 chapters…I’m pretty sure that if I ever reach old age, I’ll just die at my table while working on chapter 15 or something. And I’d like to reach chapter 15 in, I don’t know, five years instead! (This isn’t a matter of not wanting to give up working and move on, like every webcomic advice tells you to. I actually have the opposite problem: I *want* to keep working on it and the universe sends me obstacles every 2-6 months! XD)

There’s also a definite ending. I know what plot points I want to hit before then, but there’s a couple of spaces in there to fill in if I need to — and there’s also space in the comic’s story where, if I want to end it earlier, I can without a problem. But there is a definite ending. I’ll reach it some way, come hell or high water!

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
Hold on, I gotta take out the calculator…hmm…6-7 years? A lot of it was because I never knew webcomics existed, so I was trying to do a lot before sending it to publishers after I graduated university. But first year of uni was when I discovered webcomics 🙂 That said, I already had done about 7 chapters for myself for fun from junior high to high school.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making of your comic? If you could go back in time to the point where you just started making it and give yourself a pep talk, what would you say?
This would be be another long answer, so in lieu of that, please allow me to enter capslock mode and say DON’T EVER START A COMIC WHILE IN UNIVERSITY IN UNDERGRAD IF YOU DON’T HAVE AN ART MAJOR, YOU MORONIC IDIOT for just One Single Piece of Advice.

I mean, there’s more, but a lot of it involves particular private things. It’d be Bummer Town. We’d rather go to Flavor Town.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
Getting to hang out with my children and seeing them live on the page again and again :’)

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Uhhhhhhh, let’s say being interrupted or being in bummed out mode over different things. I force myself to work with the latter, and slowly I get into the groove, though.

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
Oh man, I don’t know if I have a favorite…it really depends on the script. I like writing for Wyda because I can be a bit Puerto Rican through her. She’s in the fourth chapter but a new character, Tanare, I really like writing her because she’s the serious character type but not constipated, if I can be a bit vulgar, hah! I also can imbue her with some of my Deep Thoughts ™ about certain topics like identity and crises involved with that.

I love writing Celi, though. Villains are fun to write, so that might be obvious, haha. But I just like writing her because she knows what she wants and what to do. (Very similar to Miyara.)

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
I actually had a character that was hard to write! It was Miyara’s dad, Fujiro, who I wasn’t able to get a hang on. I wasn’t able to find his voice for a really long time, he was previously just stock dad and I didn’t really want that. It wasn’t until I decided to write a drabble for some fun with him and his wife/Miyara’s mom, Nonka, that I was able to find a voice for him that worked.

Nowadays….hmm…I don’t know. Maybe Hostar, Miyara’s best friend, partly because I can see her voice but I haven’t been able to write much, so she’s still far away from me.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Depends on my mood. Usually Miyara in her Eternal Ara form or Celi.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
She’s in the fourth chapter, but Psyche. Her outfit mostly, haha. It’s that kind of design that’s simple and complicated at the same time!

Where can we find you?
My comic can be read at http://ac.jadinerhinestudios.com, with mirrors on Tapas (https://tapas.io/episode/1422607) and Webtoons (https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/legendary-beings-ara-celi/list?title_no=59422&page=1)!

I also have other comics for people to read! I have short stories under the “Bel Inconnu” banner that you can find at http://belinconnu.jadinerhinestudios.com

I have a project for a fictional band called “Delilah and The Warchicks”, complete with a full album of lyrics and a mini comic that you can read at http://warchicks.jadinerhinestudios.com. I’m currently working and attempting to finish the second mini-comic for it! This one is a true labor of love, and I hope to make more comics for it in the following years.

I’m also working on a pitch, which, if you have a couple of bucks, you can head to my Patreon (http://patreon.com/naan) and sub so you can read ahead of everyone and give feedback!

Aradia Collective site: http://aradiacollective.weebly.com

You can find all my relevant social media links at my Linktree: https://linktr.ee/jadinerhine

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
Please read it, I work very hard on it and I love it a lot, but I never get any comments except once every five years and I really wonder if I’m just that scary lmao. I don’t bite, I’ll just be yelling in joy :’) Also, I was a resident artist for Oulu Comics in Oulu, Finland in 2019 and that’ll be the best experience ever in my life. I was able to exhibit my Ara & Celi pages and see how much people were impressed by them ;_;