An Interview with Nigel Twumasi

With a dash of dramatic flair, and the subtlety of a bull in a China shop, the Samurai Chef judges his contestants’ dishes with his katana. 

The various Kitches competing for an ultimate victory know their dishes live or die by the blade, and they’ll have to come up with some interesting tactics to defeat the Samurai Chef. 

Nigel Twumasi of publishing house/clothing company mayamada answered a few questions about their newest project, what inspires him to do what he does, and what fans can expect from a story that involves food, samurai swords, and chefs who’ll have to cook up something tasteful and deadly.

Check out the website for the first volume of Samurai Chef and think about supporting them through crowd-funding sources like Kickstarter.

And to whet your appetite even more, check out this Samurai Chef Origins story arc that Nigel sent over.

Can you introduce yourself and give us information on your company, mayamada?

My name is Nigel, one of the two mayamada co-founders and writer of the Samurai Chef comic. mayamada is a story-driven brand inspired by the anime / manga art style. We’re based in London and our company is a creative mix of clothing, comics, and original characters. Everything we do revolves around on a fantasy television network that we’ve created and filled with an all animal cast of characters.

Think Looney Tunes meets Japanese television, and you’ll get the idea.

Can you give us a quick synopsis of Samurai Chef?

Samurai Chef is an action-comedy story with a lot of food. It begins as a simple cooking competition a la Iron Chef, but when the Elite Chefs turn up with special ingredients that turn their dishes into battle-ready opponents, the contest between dish and judge is taken to a whole new level!

The comic is obviously inspired by Japanese manga/anime and cooking shows. How are these elements being used particularly for Samurai Chef, and what are the creators hoping readers will get out of the story?

The entire mayamada universe is inspired by that style of art and personality in the characters and story. It goes through from our comics to our clothing designs. The Samurai Chef is one of the stories within mayamada, and there are others including 11th Hour and Hot Lunch. We’ll be getting into those once the Samurai Chef story is done.

With Samurai Chef, we want readers to have a light-hearted and accessible entry into reading comics and manga. Different mayamada stories will have a different tone and theme, but overall, our aim is to make them accessible so more people can get into comics, manga, and reading in general.

For instance, we’ve taken Samurai Chef to local schools and bookshops, and the reaction has been great. We’re hoping this continues as we produce more stories.

One of the things that really impressed me about the issue was the art, especially the food panels which actually made me hungry. Are the creators foodies or experienced working in kitchens?

We have a great artist on our team by the name of Pinali (@Pinalinet). She has been working with us from the beginning and does the majority of our artwork from t-shirt designs to the website and, of course, the Samurai Chef comic.

To my knowledge, no one in the team has worked in a kitchen! Both myself and my co-founder Lao are somewhat interested in food, though. Lao likes cooking shows, and I like to parody things, so that’s where some of the influences came from.

The Samurai Chef — is he an actual chef? And what is his scoring based on?

I can confirm Samurai Chef can cook although you won’t see it in either volume 1 or 2 or the story. Last year, we created a free prologue comic called Samurai Chef Origins which gives the background into the character and where his skills came from.

The scoring in the show is based on the difficulty Samurai Chef has dispatching a Kitchen’s dish. Over the course of the show/story, the contestants become increasingly clever in how they cook their dishes until Elite Chefs enter the show, and the competition goes up a few notches.

The story seems to revolve more on the individual kitchens working on beating the Samurai Chef at his own game. What can readers expect to find out about the individual teams?

They can expect each Kitchen to bring its own personality to the story. This is seen in the particular dish each [Kitchen] cooks and the way Kitchen members respond to the Samurai Chef and sometimes each other.

You’ll see the personalities from each Kitchen grow stronger as the book progresses and even more so in the second book which will be out this year.

In the later stages of the story, there is more focus on individuals within Kitchens which allows us to shed some light on what happens outside of the show itself.

You’ve used crowd-funding for your projects. Tell us what the experience is like and what you’ve learned in the process. What advice can you give other comic creators looking to self-publish?

We’ve learned that you have to be consistent about getting news of your project out to those that will be interested in it. Friends and family are an important first step, but it’s also important to find those people interested in your project’s particular niche and start speaking with them.

Ideally, this would be done before the project goes live, but it’s essential either way.

You also have to be realistic in setting your funding goal. That means not going too  high that you can’t make the goal and not too low that you can’t afford to fulfill the project if you do get the money.

It can be worrying not knowing if you’ll be funded or not.

As well as the financial side, we’ve learned that is almost as important to use a crowdfunding campaign to raise awareness of your project as it can bring up some unexpected opportunities once it goes live.

After that it’s about being consistent and continuing to find ways to get word of your project out from the first day to the last. There is no guarantee, but it can be done.

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