An Interview with Marvin W., French Animator and Comic Artist
Interviewed by: Katrina Thomas
3 October 2020
*Changed for clarification.
Marvin W. is a French webcomic creator and is responsible for Humor Me and The Monster Under My Bed. Currently, she lives in Paris, France. In high school, she focused on literature and cinema. Then after high school, she went to an animation school. Now she works in the animation industry as a 2D traditional animator. Her ongoing comic is just a hobby she has kept for the past 5 years or so.
She does mention how her knowledge of working in animation has actually helped her create her comic as it is today. Since it is part of her career finding ways to express certain ideas or emotions through her comic is a bit easier for her compared to others who are new to it. She does also mention that because she works in a very particular department that focuses more on character design she feels that she is lacking at doing backgrounds and dealing with colors.
What made you interested in getting into art and animation?
At first, I didn't want to do art as a job because I was afraid that if it ended up being my breadwinner I would get bored with it. Then I realized there wasn’t anything else I really wanted to do, so I tried it.
I heard about this great animation school in Paris which was apparently really hard to get into, and I just thought to myself “Challenge accepted.”
I didn’t know that you can give life to a character with a voice and then make it move. It was like magic to me and it still feels like magic, even though I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years now.
I was always so scared of that. I always wondered if I did what I loved would I get sick of eventually? So it’s amazing that you are able to keep that magic even after so many years.
Honestly, just go with the flow. The day you get tired of it, you just try something else.
Do you remember what inspired you to make your comic Humor Me?
Actually, I do. In fact, I’ve always been a big fan of manga and Korean dramas, but I’ll talk about the social aspect since it is more relevant to your question.
I have always loved Korean dramas, but I’ve always found it frustrating with how the women are portrayed. The concept and premise were good. At first, she started off as a hardworking character who will talk back to others, but she always ends up being someone who cries all the time and waits for a man to save her. I thought this was so frustrating because the beginning was always so good, and I would become so disappointed.
Then I was like, all fight, I’m just going to try it. Take the same kind of cliches and just put a character that I can relate to in it. That’s why Humor Me is a bit cliche in a lot of aspects, but that was what I was going for. I wanted it that way.
Comics through webtoons do not always go through an editor. For your comics Humor Me and The Monster Under my Bed how did you edit them? Did you edit on your own? If you did, were you able to draw on from your work experiences to edit it?
Humor Me is different in that aspect because it was already a finished product. My short story was also finished before I published it, but when it was featured I got an editor. The editing they did was really minor like mostly some dialogues and speech bubble placements. I was totally free to not take those edits into account. So it was really great. It was nice to bounce back and forth with the editor to make the story better.
For Humor Me my friends would sometimes help edit it, but it was more like ‘so this is the situation, what do you think of it?’ But most of the time I edit it myself. Some scenes were written years in advance, because I thought of it, wrote it down, and came back to it again years later. And sometimes I’m like, no, this doesn’t work anymore. That’s the particularity of writing a story that you post while you make it. In real time you can very easily see that some things you considered not important are in fact very important to the audience.
That's the only thing. It's a bit hard because sometimes you have an idea and you're like, “I should have introduced this like two chapters ago but it's done. I can't do it anymore.”
So Humor Me has been on Webtoon for about four years now, and four years is a really long time. So I was wondering was there ever a moment where you felt discouraged and you wanted to drop the project?
So it's been five years, and to be honest, I never thought I would keep it for so long. But I didn't anticipate that so many people would like it; and it's so motivating to see someone who feels invested in the story. Even just having a shitty day makes me feel better to think, “All right, this is bringing a bit of happiness to some people.”
And yes, sometimes, of course, I've got doubts. I'm like, “the story is going so slowly.” It's so frustrating for everyone and for me. And yes on days i’m feeling tired I usually just take it a page at a time. When I'm feeling motivated and I'm super hyped I either work on this or on the thumbnails, which is the most creative part. When I'm feeling a bit down and tired, I just take a page that has already been made and I just clean it because it's more mechanical and I don't have to put my soul into it. I keep going. I keep working on it. And yeah, that's been like that for five years.
That’s really amazing. For me a long project like that seems like it can be easy to become discouraged and to eventually to drop the project.
Well, if you've got people following your project. It's harder to drop it, because what would I say to them? Right now people are enjoying it, and that’s enough for me.
Do you love all of your characters equally or are there some characters who are specifically made for people to hate?
I don't think I hate any of my characters. That is mainly because I know them really well, and a lot of stuff that you don't know about them yet.
Which character do you enjoy writing scenes for the most?
I’m not sure between Louis and Lucian, but I think I would pick Lucian. Lately, he makes all the scenes completely unexpected. Like we don't really know what's going to happen when they're in a scene. The dialogues always get a turn for the weirder. Lucian is much more expressive and bouncy than most of the other characters. I really enjoy drawing him because he is like a little bowl of sunshine and like a breath of fresh air.
People at first did not like him. Everyone was like, “This is no four year old. He speaks better than me. That's not possible. I'm sorry. You don't know how to write kids.” And then I see the same people like two chapters after that are like, “I love him.” He’s a kid who is very intelligent, but still has a lot of child-like qualities and that contrast is very fun to write.
Why does Charlie continue to go to like a really prestigious school? Sometimes I think about how it might have been easier for her if she went to a regular school where she doesn't have to worry about keeping her grades up while working and taking care of her brother. What motivates her to continue to attend this school?
That's funny because it's a question and I've never asked myself. Like she goes to the school with all of the rich jerks and that’s it, but now that I think about it there are several reasons why. She got the scholarship, the merit scholarship while her dad was still around. (Also she likes to be intellectually challenged.) So when she got the scholarship, she thought that her dad would be around and would end up taking up his responsibilities and she would be able to study and do whatever she needs to make her dreams come true, which didn't happen. She's also the kind of person who avoids conflict and avoids having to do things she doesn't need to do. Like it's her third year in the school and up until that point, she was fine. No one was bullying her or at least they were all ignoring her and she thought it was fine as long as it was working for her. She was like, “all right, I'm going to continue this until I graduate and so on.” I think it kind of represents the last thing she did for herself. So if she gives that up. It's like she's giving up the last thing that is a bit of a…. I don’t know the word in English, but yeah that's something she did for herself. So it's a bit precious, you know.
Sometimes when people write their stories. They include little pieces of themselves within the story. Is there any time within Humor Me or even your short story where we could see little pieces of yourself of your life within the story or characters?
Oh, yes. For example, all of my friends and family who read the story, (who I forced to read the story, I think) they all said the same thing. They said that Charlie is me, especially since, at some point, I actually looked like her. I did not look like her when I designed her but like after a year of drawing her, I changed my glasses, and I cut my hair just like her. I had the same look that she had and I looked exactly like her. It was creepy. I think it’s unavoidable. When you write a character, you can't not put a bit of yourself in them. For example, I also think I've got Charlie's sense of humor- her sarcasm. It would be really hard to write a sense of humor that’s not yours. Actually, I'm not sure it's possible to write a sense of humor unlike your own. There are little pieces of me in all of the characters.
Unlike Charlie though, I never had any problems at school. I know I've never been bullied or anything. But I do have a great relationship with my siblings; and I think that shows a lot in my story. Family, siblings, and friends is something that has always been really important in my life.
I read your short story of The Monster Under the Bed. I really love that story too, especially with the sibling dynamic in that one as well. I was wondering if you would, in the future, be making any other short stories?
Well, I'm not against the idea, because I made that short story since I wasn’t sure if I was able to write a short story. So it was a challenge. As you know, I'm really into character-driven stories and I like slow-developing characters, so I like to take my time to develop their personalities. In the end, the fact that I managed to write a short story was surprising. I feel like if I ever have another idea I would like to try another odd story or another type of story. I would probably try to find time to do it, but right now it's really hard to find time to work on it.
So far I've asked you about humor me and your other short story on web tune, but are there any other comics that you've created already that either aren't published or just published in some other format.
Besides from like a comic I found recently that I made when I was like 14 I am not working on anything besides Humor Me. Right now I’m really concentrating on trying to find a way to get paper copies of my comic available somewhere. I really want to make it available online at some point. I don't know if I ever have another idea for a long-form story. I might try to write a novel, this time because I've always been really interested in novel writing, but that would be in French.