The collapse of the US print manga market in 2009-2010 took opportunities for manga-influenced Western comics down with it, but while printed manga died, other opportunities opened up. Japanese-influenced artists may not have a bookstore category anymore, but they kick ass in the world of web animation and video games, as seen in shows and games like RWBY and Skullgirls. (Of course, the very definition of “Japan-influenced” is in the eye of the beholder: in an interview, Skullgirls composer Michiru Yamane said “When I first saw the game, I was struck by the distinct American comic style.”)
One awesome current artist is Eric “Woof” Muentes, aka @woofycakes. Confession: I work with Eric and hired him to draw illustrations for my forthcoming tabletop game, Mangaka: The Fast & Furious Game of Drawing Comics. But like tons of other people, I saw his art on Twitter and Tumblr first. A 24-year-old artist living in Louisiana, Muentes has a growing follower base for his beautiful color compositions, his sleek character designs, and his JP-game-influenced style. (Some of his favorite games are Mega Man X2, Snowboard Kids 2, Pop’n Music, Arcana Hearts and Bomberman, as well as Phantasy Star Online 2.) His printed work includes several dojinshi, most available only at Comiket in Japan; he’s also done many commissions, such as character sketches and arcade stick art. But his best-known work is for games. He’s done art for several projects for Ludum Dare (the 48-hour video game development competition), as well as for Blue Revolver, a manic retro shooter now available on Steam Greenlight. Mangaka is his first tabletop game work. Follow his work on on Twitter and Tumblr and support his Patreon!
Otaku USA: Your art is great. Do you have formal art or programming schooling? Did you ever consider doing anything other than art/game dev?
Woof: I’m self taught. I’m still exploring and trying things, but I don’t think my interests will ever stray from the arts.
What’s your schedule like? When do you do find you do your best work?
It fluctuates depending on what I need to be doing, but in most cases I’m nocturnal. I can work at any time, but I prefer drawing at night since I can usually go undisturbed.
What’s your work space like?
It’s a mess! Well, a very neat mess. My desk is pretty old and small, I was surprised I was even able to fit two monitors on it. I can do what I need to do here, but it’s a little cumbersome if I need to draw on paper since there’s not much space for anything else.
What do you listen to when you’re drawing? Do you make any music yourself?
A lot of computer music—mainly techno, house, disco, and freeform. I always think about getting into music production, but it’s not an investment I feel I’m ready for yet with these other art projects on my hands.
What do you drink/eat when you’re drawing?
Only water, really. I can’t handle caffeine and I’m not a fan of energy drinks.
What’s your biggest non-work time sink?
Multiplayer games for sure; I’ve been playing a lot of PSO2 and Splatoon recently.
You said on your tumblr that you got into art because you used to play video games with your mom. Would you say games are a bigger influence on your art than anime, manga, etc.?
Definitely. Though beyond games, I can say that a lot of the things I look for in designs and such can be rooted from the media in my childhood, so I usually find myself getting inspiration from things geared toward young adults and children. (I actually didn’t have much interest in drawing until a friend from 1st grade started. Anything he did I wanted to do too, and art just ended up sticking since then. My mom did get me into video games though!)
Color. You’re great at it, and you’ve written lots of great advice to aspiring artists. What are some artists/works whose color has inspired you?
Many friends and many amazing artists I see on social network sites like Twitter and Tumblr. Listing them all would destroy me, so I’ll list some recent stand outs:
• This artist has no name listed, but their palette variation and sense of atmosphere is crazy. (Editor’s Note: You need a pixiv account to view pixiv pages)
• yoyo, her color usage is very pop and lively.
• Chiyoko, their color and vector work is very fun and interesting.
• Yosuke, does some amazing pinup work with neutral colors.
• uturo, another painter who uses neutral colors very well.
When did you first get a Cintiq or Wacom? How long have you been drawing digitally? What are your favorite analog drawing media, if any?
The Cintiq I got around the end of last year, but I’ve been drawing digitally on desktop since around 2004 I believe. I hardly draw with traditional mediums these days, but when I do I stick to mechanical and color pencils, ink, and marker.
Your work is extremely Japanese-influenced. Are there any subtler influences in your work that people might not notice?
A lot of the ideas and imagery in my head come from the music I listen to. Over the years I’ve felt it would be easier for me to keep track of these things by being more direct about it through titles and pop text in my work; it’s given my art a bit of direction I can have fun playing around with.
Have you ever gotten any pushback from anyone for having a Japan-influenced art style?
My art teacher in high school was very open about all kinds of art styles and didn’t mind so long as I followed the assignments correctly. I don’t mind drawing a certain way if I need to, but when it comes to doing my own thing I’d rather focus on what I’m all about.
What’s the local gaming scene like in Louisiana? Do you attend many US conventions?
The only scene I’m aware of is for fighting games, and I actually don’t play locally at all despite being into them competitively. It was pretty small back when I was part of it, but I’d imagine that could be different since fighting games have become less niche over the years. I used to attend AX as an artist, but stopped after I started attending Comiket in 2011.
You’re self-taught in Japanese. When & how did you start learning?
Around 2009 or so, I started drawing with other artists from Pixiv via stickam/paintchat and eventually got fed up with not being able to communicate properly, so I started practicing Japanese via memorization. Twitter, Skype, and online games have definitely helped me the most.
Is there any difference in the type of feedback you get on US and Japanese sites?
They’re both entertaining to read! I do tend to get more random drawing requests in English though, something I wish I got less of.
You’ve exhibited at Comiket! When was the first time? How did you think of it? Did you attend as just a visitor before you exhibited?
My first time was as a circle participant at Summer Comiket in 2011. A Japanese friend once told me that winter and summer Comiket are just two faces of hell, but really Summer is the only one that deserves that title. It’s super hot and humid over there in August, and it only gets worse thanks to the amount of body heat. Winter is a lot more comfortable once you’re actually indoors; I prefer Winter, but I tend to visit Summer more often because that’s when most of my friends are free. I enjoy Comiket a lot, it’s a very straightforward event and I get to draw and sell what I want with other like-minded artists.
As a US artist, how did you get in touch with a Japanese circle?
I’m just active on Pixiv and Twitter. My circle Fancy Feeling is managed by a Japanese friend.
Have you ever exhibited at any other JP conventions like Comitia, etc.?
I’ve never been to other events, but I am interested in attending a few someday.
Tell me about some of your dojins. Are they original or derivative?
My first 4 releases were all adult derivative works, but this Comiket I plan on releasing an original book and hopefully a physical release of our game Blue Revolver in some form.
Do you ever draw comics?
My first Comiket release in 2011 was a comic, but that’s the last time I’ve done anything like that. I was actually dead set on making comics or becoming an animator when I was younger, but these days I have absolutely no interest in either. Nothing against them, there’s just so many other things I’d rather be learning.
Is there any way people outside of Comiket can get your dojinshi?
I don’t have spare physicals, but I do plan on selling them online.
You did the artwork for Blue Revolver, a shooter on Steam Greenlight. Did you also do any of the programming?
For whatever reason this is a common misconception; the programmer for Blue Revolver is my partner Danbo. His work is great!
Pixel art vs. vector art… are you interested in the possibilities of vectors, or are you all about the pixels?
I am, but not for primarily game art. With the direction my illustrations have been taking, I think it would be helpful to get into vectors for projects closer to graphic design.
You’ve got a large cast of original characters who reappear in your art, such as Madeline (the girl with long dark hair). Who was your first, favorite or most fleshed-out OC that you draw?
Valerie, a design from late 2009, is probably the oldest and most fleshed out character that I still draw. Her image has changed considerably since then, and I like to think that it’s just a matter of growing up for her. She was originally made for a mock fighting game, then a platformer, then an RPG, then another platformer, and who knows what else. I’d rather release a game starring her first before I talk about things that could potentially change.
What’s the weirdest reaction you’ve ever gotten to a piece?
On multiple occasions I have gotten messages saying Madeline looks like someone, be it themselves or somebody they know. It’s funny when a friend tells you that he doesn’t like seeing your character because she resembles their mom in her 20s…
You said on tumblr you want to make a 2D platformer. Are you still planning this?
In 2014 I started planning for my own game called “Magic Sky Tower” (you can play the alpha build here), which got put on hiatus after I started collaborating with Danbo. There’s a chance we’ll give the game a new coat of paint as our next project if everything works out.
What do you wanna be doing in 5 years?
Not living in Louisiana. The food here is great, but I’m so far away from my friends!
If you had a clone of yourself, what would you make it spend its time doing?
He can suffer and do my work for me.
If you could enter the Room of Spirit and Time (from DBZ) and spend a year training in one day, what would you train in?
Music production. If I think about it this much, I should probably just get started already…
Where can people watch you stream your art? Do you do it regularly anywhere/anytime, or is it better to wait on tumblr to see an announcement that you’re gonna be on Picarto?
For now, I stream on Picarto. I try to stream once a week, but I don’t follow a schedule. I assume most people just keep track of my activity on the usual social network sites.
This story was originally published in May 2015, but we brought it back because it was cool.