Wednesday, November 18, 2009

International Comic Creator and Animator, Svetlana Chmakova, Takes Break From Con Scene

By Amanda Sivan Kaufman

With the release of the second volume of her latest comic series and currently running children’s television series, international hit Svetlana Chmakova has decided to take a break from the convention scene to focus on her work.

Recently appearing during Halloween weekend at Bakuretsu Con, an anime convention held in Colchester, VT, Chmakova said the convention would be one of the last she would attend for a while.

Chmakova specializes in manga, Japanese style comic books, and her latest series Nightschool is currently running in the monthly anthology Yen Plus magazine. The second volume of Nightschool came out on October 27, 2009 and according to Chmakova it is the series she always wanted to write as a teen.

Focusing on the story of Alex Treveney, a special kind of witch known as a weirn, who is trying to find out what happened to her sister whose evidence of existence and memory vanished, Nightschool is described by its creator as being similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer in nature. The series is expected for a minimum of four volumes, the third to be released in April 2010.

While working on Nightschool, Chmakova was also in charge of art for the children’s television series My Life Me, which began airing on Canadian stations Fall 2009. Scouted by her friend J.C. Little to be co-creator of the series, Chmakova called the experience a “learning curve” and said she prefers to work on comics than animation.

She called comics a part of who she is, having first been exposed to a series called Elf Quest back in Russia. After coming to Canada, she settled in Ontario and began going to conventions.

“I really do love animation and it would be nice to do some side projects on my own, which I could and I might,” Chmakova said in a faint Russian accent. “One of the things about animation is that it is incredibly time consuming.”

Born in Moscow, Russia, Chmakova immigrated to Canada at the age of 16 where she eventually got her animation degree. However, upon graduating she said animation job offerings were very low. She dabbled in online comics for Cosmogirl,, and her own purposes and sold her work at conventions in the artist’s alley, where a representative from the Tokyopop manga company discovered her. Eventually, her first published series Dramacon came to be.

Originally intended to be a single volume story, Dramacon’s surprising popularity led to the creation of two more books in the series. The manga is being published in 12 different countries, including Japan.

Dramacon has won the Best Comics of 2005 award, nominations for a Harvey Award in the Best New Series of 2006, special recognition Eisner Award, and making the list of YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Chamkova’s other works include everything from online comics to toy designs, from short stories to animation.

Despite great reception and large fanbases, Chmakova has remained modest in regards to her talent.

“In my head it (her comics) looks like Lord of the Rings, you know, very cinematic, very beautiful backgrounds, and excellent soundtracks. And then what I get is what you see in the books,” she said. “I don’t think I am a bad artist. I’m certainly not amazing, but I certainly have a lot of room to grow and learn.”

With her busy schedule attributing to her lack of availability for future conventions, Chmakova remains in contact with her fans through online forums and her account that she occasionally has time to update.

Chmakova said her “dream job” would be to animate Dramacon and do more books because she has a lot more story to tell, although the reality of doing so is doubtful.

Unlike Nightschool, Dramacon is owned by Tokyopop and she has no direct control over any other productions involving the series.

In the future, however, she said she would like to team up with a writer and create art for a comic series.

“I would actually be very interested to be an artist on a project that is written by another writer,” Chmakova said. “When I write for myself, and I think maybe creators who both write and draw will find this, we go easy on ourselves. You make these compromises for yourself.”

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