It’s been a while since The Beat first interviewed Miyuli, the creator of the hit WEBTOON Original series Morgana and Oz. Our first chat with her was when the print graphic novel edition of Morgana and Oz was announced by WEBTOON/Wattpad’s WEBTOON Unscrolled imprint, along with a first look at the cover art for Morgana and Oz Volume One.

Morgana and Oz coloring book cover, by Miyuli from Walter Foster / Quarto
Morgana and Oz Coloring Book, by Miyuli from Walter Foster / Quarto

Since then, there’s been a few new additions to Miyuli’s work in print. First, the Morgana and Oz Coloring Book, and the Learn to Draw Morgana and Oz books, which hit store shelves earlier in April) from arts and crafts book publisher Walter Foster, along with a special edition available on the WEBTOON store. This is in addition to Miyuli’s two Art Tips books, which have been published in English and in Japanese

With the first volume of the Morgana and Oz graphic novel now available for pre-order before its  August 8 2024 debut, we caught up with Miyuli via email, to learn more about her fantasy adventure series about two teens, one a vampire and the other a witch from rival families. We also got into how Morgana and Oz got picked up as a WEBTOON Originals series, her career, her creative influences, and what it’s like to be working with one of the biggest international digital comics platform. 

DEB AOKI: I’ve been enjoying reading Morgana and Oz on Webtoon – your characters and storytelling are very charming! The story draws you into the two teens’ world, where a vampire gang and a witch family are dealing with a long-standing feud, and how a botched attempt at declaring a truce along with a misfired magic spell sets brings the unlikely pair together.

One thing that stood out right away was how expressive and distinctive the characters are – their personalities shine through from the very first chapters. I noticed in your bio that you have a background in animation – could you share a bit on how this has influenced your webtoon/comics work?

MIYULI: I only studied animation for four years in university, so I don’t have professional experience with it but I’ve always been a passionate enjoyer. During my studies, I’ve been really interested in storyboarding since it’s closest to comic work.

When it comes to animating characters I always liked showing changing emotions and facial expressions, so that might have seeped into my current work as well. I still struggle with drawing subtle emotions but it’s a lot of fun to draw exaggerated squash and stretch sometimes.

expression sheet of Oz and Morgana displaying various emotions and poses
Oz and Morgana’s expressions study by Miyuli

AOKI: What made you decide to take on animation and comics as your professional career? Any defining moment in your life or person, book that made you think, “I want to do this as a professional creator?” 

MIYULI: For some reason I always tended to be interested in making what I like to consume myself, so since early childhood I loved watching cartoons and kept drawing my own versions of the characters. That never stopped, so it naturally ended in me creating my own stories. The most influential animation for me were probably Well, Just You Wait! (Russian cartoon), Disney series like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Chip ‘n Dale and anime like Sailor Moon and One Piece.

AOKI: There isn’t a lot of biographical information about you out there, so forgive me if this seems very basic – but where did you grow up? Where did you go to college or art school? I noticed on your website bio that you went to college in Japan for a while? Could you share a bit about that?

MIYULI: I was born in the capital of Latvia. Back then, I was already drawing a lot even if I didn’t know any artists in my family but the older kids in my neighborhood were very kind to teach me how to draw on the pavement.

I moved to Germany with my parents when I was 7. From there I had a big fascination with both art and languages. Being in a country where you don’t know that language teaches you some things about self-expression and communication.

After high school, I went to study animation at the film university Babelsberg (that area has a very interesting film history). During my university days, I already started self-publishing some of my short comics like Hearts for Sale and dipped my toes in webcomics with Lost Nightmare.

Before starting a new project I decided to go to a language school in Japan for a year after graduating. It was mostly to study the language, but I also went to art conventions and visited some companies and publishers in Tokyo. It was a great experience to finally get more or less fluent in Japanese and connect to more people. Because of the pandemic, I came back to Germany and started working on my WEBTOON webcomic.

AOKI: Where are you based now?

MIYULI: I still live in a small town in central Germany but I do miss the bigger city. If I can manage it between projects I might even go back to Japan for a while.

AOKI: So speaking from an art perspective – are there any particular artists or manga/comics series that have influenced your approach to visual storytelling, either in the past and/or are your current favorites?

MIYULI: There are so many amazing artists and storytellers out there. I get inspired on a daily basis. I was quite obsessed with the work of Katsuhiro Otomo (AKIRA) during my university days. Japanese directors like Akira Kurosawa were also very fascinating to study. When it comes to animation I love a lot of what Studio Trigger (Delicious in Dungeon) makes. The fluidity and energy is very inspiring. Of course, I also adore a ton of Studio Ghibli movies. I was very inspired by a lot of Western animation as well like How To Train Your Dragon and Rise of the Guardians.

When it comes to sequential art I mostly read manga and my biggest inspirations are Naoki Urasawa (Monster), Yusuke Murata (One-Punch Man), Takehiko Inoue (Vagabond). And of course, I’m constantly inspired by my peers. There are a lot of amazing webcomic artists and a ton of fantastic WEBTOON series. Some classics I can always recommend are Your Letter (by Hyeon A Cho), Sweet Home (by Carnby Kim and Youngchan Hwang) and The Boxer (by JH, which is also available in print from Ize Press).

AOKI: There are lots of comics and manga artists out there doing a lot of different types of stories. But what do you think makes your webtoon stories and art different and unique?

Art Tips 2 book by Miyuli
Art Tips Collection vol. 2 by Miyuli (Kudos Editore)

MIYULI: I think I was able to draw in some readers with my characters and their dynamics. I try to keep a simple art style so that production doesn’t get too overwhelming, but I’m not sure how much my art is responsible for keeping my audience interested. I do try my best to make the characters interesting and likable so I hope people enjoy reading about them.

AOKI: I noticed that you have two books of art / drawing techniques tips out – both in Japanese and English. Can you tell me more about these books, and how they came to be?

MIYULI: I’ve been studying art fundamentals for years, but since I’m bad at remembering the basics I started making some reminders for myself or what I refer to these days as “art tips”. I posted some notes on drawing formal wear many years ago, and the positive reception really motivated me to study more. I collected my notes in yearly PDFs that sold quite well and some publishers offered to turn these notes into physical books.

AOKI: What is the #1, most essential art tip you could share with other aspiring comics creators?

MIYULI: I think what helped me the most and what I still struggle with is putting everything you draw into perspective. At least finding the horizon and knowing where the camera is in relation to the object that you are drawing has been crucial to making my art better.

Morgana and Oz volume one cover art.
cover art for volume one

AOKI: What’s the most rewarding thing about being a WEBTOON artist nowadays? And what’s the hardest thing?

MIYULI: The readers are what makes creating my stories so rewarding. Everyone is very sweet and smart in the comments.

The difficult part is keeping up with the weekly deadlines. I keep spending too much time on the art since I want to make everything as pretty as I can but sadly there is not enough time for that. I did try to make some panels extra pretty for the physical books, though.

AOKI: Do you have other comics projects in the works? 

MIYULI: I want to keep making stories in the future but I would like to try out new things. There is nothing concrete yet since the work is very demanding but as soon as I start to write the ending for my WEBTOON I will also flesh out my next project more.

AOKI: You’ve been making comics for several years now — do you have any goals or dreams that you hope to achieve in the next 5 or 10 years?

MIYULI: I would love to reach more people with my work. It would be amazing if I could collaborate with more musicians and animators, too. Mostly, I just hope I will be able to create better stories.

Character designs from Learn to Draw Morgana and Oz by Miyuli (Walter Foster)
Character designs from Learn to Draw Morgana and Oz by Miyuli (Walter Foster)

Working vertically with WEBTOON Originals

AOKI: Is this your first time drawing a vertical scrolling comics series or webtoon? 

MIYULU: Before I started my comic as a WEBTOON Originals artist, I participated in a WEBTOON contest and tried the vertical scrolling format for 5 chapters. The most difficult part was to estimate the space in between the panels. I used to leave too little space, so the phone screen looked too convoluted and some transitions were unintentionally awkward. I think I got a little better with spacing out the panels. I don’t have time to think of how the panels would translate to a physical page so I’m very grateful that I have people who help me with that for the physical edition of my story.

AOKI: How did you get started with Morgana and Oz at WEBTOON? Is it something you pitched to them, or did the editors there approach you, or something in between?

MIYULI: I was approached by WEBTOON after their contest ended. I didn’t win anything but my story got into an anthology on WEBTOON. Since the story was a prequel to my current series, I was asked to work on the actual story of Morgana and Oz and I worked it out with my editor to what it is today.

AOKI: What did it feel like when your first chapters were featured and posted on WEBTOON? Did you get any memorable reactions from readers, other comics creators or WEBTOON editorial staff from those early days?

MIYULI: I was just blown away by the readers and their positive reception. Before the launch, I was quite nervous and worried that people would be disappointed but thankfully a lot of readers enjoyed the launch.

Morgana and Oz story intro, from the Morgana and Oz Coloring Book
Morgana and Oz story intro, from the Morgana and Oz Coloring Book

AOKI: What are you enjoying most about presenting your weekly on WEBTOON? What has been challenging, or a learning experience that you’d like to share with readers / other comics creators?

MIYULI: Readers’ response serves as a weekly motivation to keep working on the story so that has been a great way to keep me focused on my work. When I have a good buffer of chapters done beforehand I can take things a little easier but recently I don’t have that advantage and the weekly deadlines have been quite hard to keep. For the next season of my WEBTOON series, I’ll make sure to have enough buffer episodes again.

AOKI: Many webtoon and manga creators work with assistants or staff to help put out their stories every week. I noticed that in the credits for Morgana and Oz that you have someone who does the flat colors (Elora Illustrations), and work with an editor (Eunice Baik). Can you share a bit about your process – what steps are involved in the process, how you collaborate with the rest of your creative team, and roughly – how long does it take, start to finish to create a chapter of Morgana and Oz?

MIYULI: I usually work out the script with my editors. We discuss the story elements and bounce some ideas around. I’m no good with words, so planning really starts for me in the thumb-nailing phase. My editors give me feedback and I continue with doing clean line-work for the episode.

When that’s done, my awesome assistant Elora does the colour flats for me and I proceed to add shadows and any needed details. The brainstorming and thumb-nailing phase takes a lot of time. There was at least half a year of pre-production needed for Morgana and Oz. While the comic is updating weekly, I have to finish the art within a week which can be pretty tough depending on the content.

AOKI: Congratulations also on the upcoming print edition of Morgana and Oz, and the coloring book as well. Will there be things in both print books that will be special / exclusive to these editions that fans wouldn’t otherwise see if they only read it on WEBTOON?

MIYULI: I have cleaned up and updated a lot of the panels for the printed edition so there should be some fresh new art for the readers. We also added some special content and illustrations which most people might not have seen yet.

from The Morgana and Oz Coloring Book by Miyuli, from Walter Foster / Quarto
From The Morgana and Oz Coloring Book by Miyuli, from Walter Foster / Quarto

Inspirations for Morgana and Oz’s characters and story

AOKI: What were your inspirations for Morgana and Oz? It reminds me of a fairy tale, with some elements of stories like Romeo and Juliet or East Side Story — you know, that star-crossed teen lovers from rival families kind of thing –- but I was wondering if maybe you had other inspirations for this story and characters that you’d like to share with us?

MIYULI: I visually really like the 1980s. Movies like West Side Story or Grease were an inspiration, even though I’ve never actually seen them. My affection for vampires probably comes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer while the family aspect might be inspired by Diana Wynn Jones books. There is probably more that I don’t quite remember anymore.

character and expression sheet of Oz the vampire.
Character sheet of OZ by Miyuli

AOKI: What was your original pitch for Morgana and Oz? Has the story or have the characters changed much compared to your early vision / description for this series? If so, can you provide an example or two of these changes?

MIYULI: The story changed quite a lot. My editor really helped me make it more exciting. At first, Morgana was a young witch on her first job in a mysterious town where she met all kinds of mysterious creatures like vampires and werewolves. She would end up working with Oz and solving magical crimes. That idea ultimately didn’t really have a good ending point, so we shaped it more around the conflict between the witch family and the vampire clan.

AOKI: Out of the characters in Morgana and Oz, do you have a personal favorite, or one that you most enjoy drawing? Why is this character your favorite, or what do you most like about them?

MIYULI: I like the witch doctor Victor, since I probably relate to him the most (an anti-social witch living in the forest). When it comes to drawing I mostly enjoy drawing the vampire boss since he has a deep story and many interesting sides to him. It’s a lot of fun to explore artistically.

AOKI: Let’s talk a bit about Morgana’s relationship with Oz – she seems a little more naive about romance or understanding having romantic feelings towards him, while he blushes a lot more when he’s around her! Why do you think she’s attracted to him / trusts him relatively quickly? 

MIYULI: Because of Morgana’s inability to control her magic, she has been living a pretty sheltered life while never feeling confident in her magic. She also doesn’t have any friends outside her family and humans don’t really like witches either. Nonetheless, she is very sociable and makes friends easily – she just never got the right opportunity before. They started out on the wrong foot but Oz has been slowly showing signs of appreciation and support and Morgana is really receptive to that kindness. She just needs a little bit more time to mature.

another panel of Morgana speaking with Oz who seems displeased.

AOKI: I also thought it was a nice touch that he’s a bit shorter than she is, and that he’s actually roughly the same age as Morgana too.  What do you consider to be Oz’s most endearing or most interesting personality traits? How do you see Morgana influencing him / making him re-think how he’s lived his life up until now?

MIYULI: There’s this concept called “gap moe” where a character’s personality is the opposite of what they look like. Oz is supposed to look like an angry vampire but he’s actually very sweet. I like characters like that. Morgana makes him show his sweet side more and he slowly drops his tough-guy act around her. There are reasons for his toughness which will be revealed in the story.

AOKI: Are there any fun or quirky facts about Morgana or Oz that might not be apparent to readers at first glance?

MIYULI: I would love to talk more about their childhood but it might reveal too much from later chapters. Oz has a really fun relationship with his family and the vampire clan. A lot of Oz’s fashion sense was inspired by his uncle.

Morgana never went to any school and was taught at home. A fun little detail I might not get to mention is that she often talked to the paintings in the witch mansion.

AOKI: The ‘leader’ of the Red Vampire Clan also has secrets of his own, including some hints why the Winterberry witch family is at odds with Oz and his vampire crew. Can you drop any hints on what we might expect to see, as this plot thread unspools in Season 2?

MIYULI: The vampire boss is a few hundred years old and knows an important person from the witch family. Their relationship is where the whole conflict started. What happened between them will be revealed in season 3.

AOKI: Not to put you on the spot – but would you say that you’re around the “middle” of the Morgana and Oz story, near the end, or still at the early stages of the story, with lots more to come?

MIYULI: From the beginning, I planned to make three seasons. I’m more than halfway through season 2 so we’re in the second half of the story now. I’m excited to draw the third and last season.

"Hello" - a little boy with a tail behind a bed
Morgana meets Leo, from Morgana and Oz by Miyuli

AOKI: I’m enjoying the werewolf characters that have entered the story recently! Without any spoilers, can you share any hints about how they might be playing a role in changing or complicating the rivalry and the secrets that keep the vampires and witches at odds with each other?

MIYULI: The werewolves are important for Oz’s story. They also show how different species can positively interact. It has become a trope to include both werewolves and vampires in a story but they’re usually enemies. In my story, the relationship with the werewolf family I introduce is a bit different with the vampires.

AOKI: This series seems to be a natural for an animated adaptation – Is this in the works?

MIYULI: Some scenes have been animated and dubbed by a studio called “trashstudio” which was amazing to see. I would love to see a fully animated series or movie of my story someday.

Learn to Draw Morgana and Oz by Miyuli (Walter Foster)
Learn to Draw Morgana and Oz by Miyuli (Walter Foster)

AOKI: If you had to try to describe Morgana and Oz to a reader who hasn’t checked it out yet, how would you describe it, to try to entice them to give it a try?

MIYULI: I usually just show my character sketches to potential readers. That’s how I got people to check out the comic in the first place. I think the caption on my first concept of Morgana and Oz that I ever posted was simply “a witch with her vampire boyfriend”. What I would add: If you want to see how those two become a couple and how their complicated family situation will resolve, you should check Morgana and Oz on WEBTOON.

AOKI: And finally – is there anything about you or your work that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share with Comics Beat readers? 

MIYULI: Thank you for the fun interview. The questions were really fun to answer!

AOKI: Thank you for your time!

Morgana and Oz Volume One is available for preorder from WEBTOON Unscrolled, with publication scheduled for August 8th, 2024. Morgana and Oz is also serialized on WEBTOON, with new episodes posted every Monday (when its not between seasons, as it is now).

You can also purchase the Morgana and Oz coloring book from Walter Foster, or pick up the special edition available at the WEBTOON store. There’s also the Learn to Draw Morgana and Oz book, also from Walter Foster and available now.

For those interested Miyuli also has two volumes of her “Art Tip collection” books available in English which can be purchased from Gallery Nucleus. There’s also a Japanese version available from Amazon Japan.

Feel free to support Miyuli by following her on Twitter/X at @Miyuliart, by subscribing to her YouTube, or even becoming a patron on her Patreon.

Justin Guerrero wrote the intro for this interview (thank you!). An interview with Miyuli from earlier this year with Avery Kaplan can be read here on The Beat!

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