Interview with Evan, Illustrator of Risky Fairy Tale

by Chih-Chieh Chang,
Despite his young age, Evan (Yi feng) has demonstrated great potential as an illustrator with his “beautifully decadent” art style. Born in Hong Kong in 1982, Evan received his art education in Taiwan, and published a set of tarot cards in 2005 titled “Lunatic Tarots,” featuring his distinctive drawings, which had subverted common images of tarot cards by combining classical and “visual-kei” (ヴィジュアル系) styles. This set of tarot cards has become quite popular among tarot card circles worldwide. In the summer of 2005, Evan took a tour of southern California, notably Anime Expo 2005 and San Diego Comic-Con International 2005. After six months in an isolated studio, Evan has released a new illustration book: Risky Fairy Tales, which has turned five well-known fairy tales (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty) upside-down: Sleeping Beauty in skimpy leather suits, the card soldiers in Wonderland portrayed as a pair of spies, a'la the James Bond movies, and the big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood becomes so handsome that any young girl would beg him to “eat” her.

Why did you choose to reinterpret fairy tales in your new picture book?
Evan (E): There are very few, if any, Taiwanese illustrators who have published picture books using “revolutionized” fairy tales. I picked them because of their familiarity; whoever heard of those five fairy tales has fixed images in their minds, and my new designs of their costumes and arrangements are completely different from the original. I want readers to revolutionize their preoccupied images of fairy tales.

Do you read fairy tales often?
E: In order to draw this set I researched them not only in Taiwanese but also in their original languages. Many small details are lost in translation.

Such as?
E: Some behaviors and character traits. For example, Alice originally has her dress in blue and white, but I changed them to red and black – two natural warning colors, while keeping her face as innocent as possible, with an inverted letter “A” on her face, showing her rebellious nature. I'd take some characteristics of the original characters and interpret those traits anew. Another example is the castle where Sleeping Beauty awaits her prince: the vines with thorns are replaced with steel girders with protruding bolts, and the prince has a leather whip in his right hand. The eyes of Sleeping Beauty have been covered, so she couldn't open her eyes even if she wanted to. They do look “dangerous” (laugh).

MC (Jim Shih, Editor-in-Chief, Kadokawa Media): Most people think fairy tales are just for kids, but many have ignored that there are hidden metaphors beneath the surface. We hope that with the publication of this illustration set we can revise our stereotypical image of fairy tales.
E: I'll also emphasize more on decorative and industrial designs in the future, with bolder palette colors. All those titles will have their respective logos for future designs.

Do you keep questioning the story of fairy tales?
E: The reason I chose to interpret fairy tales in a rather “dangerous” way was that they bear warning messages; some seemingly sweet stories are very dark and heavy. For example, Hansel and Gretel looks like a regular adventure story, but if you think again that their father abandoned them in the forest and then acted like nothing happened after they went through this ordeal. This is definitely not a happy-go-lucky story, as it seems to be.

Why not try Snow White?
E: I might not be able to draw all seven dwarves in a single book (laugh).

There are endless possibilities for your designs to be adapted, such as costume and hardware designs. Furthermore, do you plan to adapt them into manga?
E: I'll pick the most popular characters and form a band for them and their accessories. After that I'll focus more on artistic designs.

Would you like to make them into plot-containing comics?
E: Probably, because that's a good way to interact with readers and is more easily acceptable, but that will cost me much more time, which I don't have right now.

What's the biggest difference between illustrations and manga?
E: An illustration must tell the reader what it wants to say with one single frame; on the other hand, manga can be supplemented by a plot. Methinks both have their merits, although an illustration would be forgotten really fast if it didn't include the smallest detail. After seeing my illustrations for the first time, I want my readers to pick them up again couple days after to discover more of the detail in them.

Will you tour more times abroad?
E: Actually, someone in the US invited me to have a tour this month, but my schedule didn't match theirs. Next year I'll release a designer's art book, which will contain some anime/manga-themed pictures but ultimately will be more like what Range Murata did – incorporating industrial designs into art books. My style is very different from Murata's, though. We have plans to cooperate with furniture designers.

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