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Interviews and Articles | Michael Manning - Eros Zine interview - August 2005 - questions by Thomas Roche

(Note: this interview was originally published along with a group of articles about manga and eroticism in Japan)

Where are the pieces in Inamorata drawn from? Are they chronologically or thematically different than your previous collection Lumenagerie?

The pieces in Inamorata represent roughly ten years worth of work, from 1995 to 2005. Lumenagerie covers the ten years prior to that. I didn't arrange the pieces in either book chronologically though in Inamorata I try to give some of them some temporal context in my liner notes. From one book to the next, I've continued to explore most of my favorite erotic themes - sexual domination, gender bending, human pets, equestrian play - but rather than group them together in specific sections as in Lumengerie, with Inamorata I went for more of an overall flow. The pieces are primarily organized around the people who inspired them, secondarily by theme, thirdly by whether they were color or black and white, etc. There were many things to take into consideration in the layout stage. It was a lot of work, but I'm very happy with the way it came out.

Inamorata has two introductions, by two of the most important writers and educators in the fetish/BDSM world. Midori and Patrick Califia, however, are just two of the writers and scene figures who have acknowledged your work. How did that come to be? Did they approach you, was it the publisher's idea, or did you want their contribution from the get go?

I had them both in mind from the beginning. I don't know Patrick personally as well as I would like to but his writing, "Macho Sluts" in particular, was a big influence on me early on and his non-fiction articles are always brilliant. Midori has been a long-time friend, collaborator, and creative muse. All three of us have spent time in San Francisco - living, creating, and moving in various intersecting social circles. I thought that Patrick and Midori's writings about my work would compliment each other nicely and create a good balance with the section I wrote myself.

Do you feel like you get recognition in the wider art community (particularly comics or sequential art) as much as in the BDSM world? Or are you primarily known as a fetish or erotic artist?

Personally, I find it difficult to assess my position in any of those communities. I think many people in the art scene find my work confusing because the explicit sexual content isn't combined with any sort of overt political stance or irony. For many people in the fetish scene, art is mainly a disposable commodity, subordinate to the fashions and clubbing. They might know of my work in a general sort of way but they rarely acknowledge it as being something of value on it's own merit. I also feel like an outsider in the comix scene since most of those type of events strive to be "family" oriented and take a very mainstream attitude toward sexuality - ie: sex is dirty and shouldn't be acknowledged or else it's a tease leading up to some nice wholesome violence. I always have and always will create my work for myself and my readership which is really too diverse to be pigeonholed into specific scenes.

Your work is often seen as being very influenced by Japanese sequential art. Are there other influences that viewers don't see as often?

I listen to a lot of music while I work. I like electronic/psychedelic sounds, artificially created sonic environments, loud and heavy noise, soft and delicate ambience. I usually include what I'm currently listening to in my livejournal entries. I'm working on a section for my web site that will have suggested soundtracks for my graphic novels.

I also read a lot. I mentioned Patrick's writing earlier. Some other favorite authors of mine are Haruki Murakami, Gene Wolfe, Robert Girardi, J.G. Ballard, Russell Banks, Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith.

Film is also an important influence on my work, though not the type of films that people often think I would like. I don't care for stuff like the Matrix, the Cell, Sky Captain - films that flirt with fetish elements but are ultimately empty exercises in special effects. Even Sin City seemed kind of boring to me. I usually follow the work of certain directors/writers like Michael Winterbottom, Lynn Ramsey, Bernardo Bertollucci, Peter Greenaway, Stephen Frears, Charlie Kaufman. Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone shaped much of my early thoughts about the possibilities of visual storytelling. In the anime genre, I really like Shinichiro Watanabe and Hayao Miyazaki.

Within Japanese sequential art, are there titles or artists that you follow with great interest?

Some manga series that I'm currently following:

Yukito Kishiro's "Battle Angel Alita"
Hiroaki Samura's "Blade of the Immortal"
Mamuro Nagano's "Five Star Stories"
Hiroyuki Utatane's "Seraphic Feather"

Other Japanese artists I like:

Junko Mizuno, Katsuya Terada, the CLAMP collective, Kazuto Nakazawa, Katsuhiro Otomo, Yoshitaka Amano.

Has your work been well received in Japan? Given that that's a culture where "comics" are taken much more seriously than in the US, are you aware of a different perception of your work there?

I really don't know. I've been told that my work is known in the underground fetish scene there but I'm not sure if that's the case with the more general readership of Japanese manga/comix. To date, there hasn't been a Japanese translation of any of my books.

You've mentioned specifically some of the female characters in your art being based on real people. Have there been people on whom you based a character without ever meeting them, and then met that person later?

Some of the characters in my early strips were based on celebrity crushes: Souixsie Sue, Grace Jones, Gong Li, Naomi Campbell. Unfortunately, I haven't ever met any of them. All of the other characters I've drawn who were based on real people are friends of mine.

Has your work been influenced by the development of fetish fashion over the last 10 or 20 years? Did you have substantially different ideas about costuming when you started than you do now?

I don't get much inspiration from the fetish fashion scene though some designers seem happy to borrow from my work without acknowledging it as an influence. One of the only people I can think of who has done consistently interesting work in this area is Jean Paul Gaultier and one of the main reasons I like him so much is because he brings fetish elements into a mainstream fashion setting.

Some of my earliest ideas about fetish fashion came from artists such as John Willie, Eneg, and Guido Crepax - and most of that was pretty standard stuff like thigh-high boots, ball gags, maid's outfits, human pony gear, etc. I was also really interested in punk fashions which incorporated a certain amount of bondage gear, usually more for shock value than erotic. When I began to design the Spider Garden series, stylistically I wanted to move away from European-based modes of dress and incorporate more Asian influences. Many of the outfits in that series are based on traditional Japanese kimono and Chinese cheongsam. My main concern was to take my character's costumes in a more futuristic streamlined direction while retaining a feeling of antiquity (but not retro).

You're also a photographer; how does your photography interact with your other visual art? Do you often use photographs as reference?

My photography is something I do for my own enjoyment and as reference material for my illustration work. I view it mainly as a tool to enable other aspects of my art. Occasionally, I can come up with a photographic image that can stand on it's own. I've included some of these on my web site. Other photographs of mine have appeared on the Cyber Dyke Network's Posteriority site and Reina Aurora's domme site. Photography feels very much like color painting to me - something that I have to approach at my own speed and that I could spend a lifetime exploring.

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