A little research showed me that I read Amazing Fantasy Vol. 2 #15 before beginning to read Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, but they came within months of each other in 2006 so I quickly recognized Takeshi Miyazawa as a manga-influenced master of many trades. The same year that he co-created scrappy genius Amadeus Cho he also drew a tween romance containing more Peter Parker than Spider-Man. He’s gone on to work in additional genres since then with most of those series still under the Marvel umbrella.
I’ve been excited to see Miyazawa’s career progress with work on various series, a stint on the mega-popular Ms. Marvel, and his many projects with Greg Pak. His latest, Mech Cadet Yu, is a fun robot mech comic perfect for fans eager for more teen adventure stories. Keep reading for our talk about the series, watching Amadeus grow as a character under other creators, East Asian representation, and more about his decade-plus in the comics industry.
UPDATE: Greg Pak, the other co-creator of Amadeus, wrote in to clarify that the character Martin Starr played in the movie was never intended by the filmmakers to be Amadeus. Peter David just named that character Amadeus when he wrote the movie’s novelization, as he explained on Twitter. Greg wants to make sure readers of this interview don’t think that the movie whitewashed the character. Thanks to him for the clarification.
I was interested to learn that you are from Canada, given that your work leans towards manga sensibilities. How did you develop your style?
Yup. Born in Toronto and grew up in a small suburban town called Ajax. Not so small anymore but, at the time, it was mostly cornfields and forests. There wasn’t much to do so I would draw a lot. It helped that my father drew a bit and my older brother was into art as well.
My parents bought manga to help the kids learn Japanese and my older brother started collecting X-Men in middle school. I had the best of both quite early and did my best to copy and mimic my favorite books which set my style.
Your most of your career has been at Marvel, but all of your projects feel unique from each other despite most of them involving superheroes. How do you change things up to match the genre you’re working in?
I don’t feel like I’ve drastically changed how I draw from book to book. Maybe a little? Not consciously, anyway. My life has been about trying new things, challenging myself, and, most importantly, making mistakes. So, through the natural course of improving as an artist, I think the books look incrementally different. I mean, something like Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane had a clear goal to it that I did my best to fit [my style into] but most other projects have been free of guidelines.
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane involved very little on-page superheroics. Did that make keeping the series visually interesting a bigger challenge?
I enjoy working out talking head pages. It’s fun trying to make them interesting and dramatic. I think my early work on Sidekicks with J. Torres put me on a path of emphasizing quiet scenes and character-centric storytelling [that has] always stuck with me.
Can you describe the process of creating Amadeus Cho with Greg Pak in Amazing Fantasy Vol. 2 #15?
It was a long time ago and my memory may be spotty, but I believe it was my second time working with Greg? I can’t remember if I did a fill-in with him on something before that. Not sure if he requested me specifically but it was such an honor being able to design a new character from scratch. Plus, he was Asian! I felt it was a big deal. Greg’s notes are always the right balance of detail and broad ideas that it’s always a pleasure coming up with ideas for him. I think there were, very minor changes but, for the most part, we were happy with the underdog scrappy young genius look. I think it turned out well.
Amadeus has gone so far since then, becoming a permanent fixture in the Marvel Universe. What has it been like watching him spend ten plus years in stories often not drawn by yourself?
It’s like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen in years doing incredible things and you can’t help but root for him. He turned into a Hulk for Pete’s sake! […] It’s a testament to Greg’s writing and his skill at creating long-lasting characters we care about.
You and Greg Pak have been big proponents of East Asian representation in comics. Do you think that representation has improved since Amadeus Cho debuted?
Most definitely. It’s been nice to see not just Asian representation but representation in general take a front seat in media. Having a character you look like and can relate to is something really powerful and opens up more avenues for creative opportunities for everyone. It’s all been very exciting.
An unnamed character played by Martin Starr in 2008’s Incredible Hulk was revealed in the novelization to be Amadeus Cho. What did you think of Amadeus being played by a Caucasian American as opposed to someone of Korean descent?
Oh, I had no idea. Like an easter egg? I think it’s great that the character has elevated to making cameos in movies but disappointing that the commitment wasn’t 100% there. I understand making compromises when handling multi-million dollar projects. It’s part of the business and, plus, this was 10 years ago now. Things were much different back then. I just hope if he ever makes a future appearance, they are able to cast someone Korean. There are so many up-and-coming actors that would do amazing things with the role.
In addition, a character with the same name as Amadeus’ mother appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Did you and Greg know that was coming before the movie debuted?
I had no idea, I’m sorry. These are all really mind-blowing revelations. That’s very cool. I’m not sure if Greg was informed but I’m sure he was happy to see these shoutouts to the character.
Mech Cadet Yu is another great series showcasing a different side of the world. What were your influences as you and Greg were developing the series?
We both love giant robots and Mech Cadet Yu was a culmination of everything robot related we consumed during our childhoods. I’m especially a big fan of classic anime robots and 80’s design and wanted to emphasize that golden era. So, for me, I tried my best to make the book look modern while keeping a firm foot in nostalgia.
How has it been a unique experience working on a creator-owned project at BOOM! after your many years drawing characters made by others for Marvel?
I began my career in creator-owned comics and love the small-scale DIY approach but also love being able to take part in huge projects at Marvel. BOOM!’s business model is the best of both and I’ve really enjoyed the creative freedom while having a great team supporting you all the way. I really never thought it possible to be doing what I’m doing so I feel very fortunate.
Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with a creator or player in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at firstname.lastname@example.org.