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Fanbase Press Interviews Zachary Sterling on the Release of His Graphic Novel, ‘Punch Up!,’ with Oni Press

The following is an interview with Zachary Sterling regarding the release of his graphic novel, Punch Up!, with Oni Press. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Sterling about his creative experience in bringing the world and characters to life, his approach to applying his own artistic style to the more traditional Shōnen manga visuals, and more!

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of Punch Up! For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the story, how would you describe its premise?

Zachary Sterling: Punch Up! is the story of a Pitch, a young monk with martial arts skills beyond his years, who idolizes an aging prizefighter named Sonny Chan. Their fates become intertwined when they enter the greatest fighting tournament in the world as a team, but each of them has their own reason for working together. Oh, and everything stands in their way, from a crab samurai, a dinosaur man in a domino mask, an eight-armed woman with invisible webs, and everything in between!

BD: How would you describe your creative process in not only bringing these incredible characters to life, but in bringing your own artistic style to the more traditional Shōnen manga visuals?

ZS: The process is an organic one that comes from enjoying so many forms of media. I think there’s an emerging style of visual storytelling coming from my generation of artists that grew up with both amazing Western animation/superhero comics and anime/manga, not to mention amazing hybrids of genres like Teen Titans and anything from the Airbender world. Subconsciously, I think I’m always writing a love letter to everything I grew up watching and reading and that’s how my work comes out the way that it does.


BD: Given your illustrative work across comics and animation, do you feel that your artistic approach varies or that there is a different artistic “toolkit” when working within each medium?

ZS: My toolkit for either is actually surprisingly similar. There’s a real solidarity that comic artists and animation artists have, and I think that’s largely part of the constant problem-solving that both mediums have, especially when it comes to making characters and environments that you want to look super cool but have to also make simple enough to draw over and over again. At the end of the day, they both share a lot of goals: concise visual storytelling being one of the most important ones.

BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Pitch’s story may connect with and impact readers?

ZS: I hope Pitch’s story impacts others to share the same unwavering spirit he does. Throughout the book, Pitch faces so many obstacles. Nobody believes in him, the odds are always stacked against him, and he’s underestimated left and right. A lot of creative endeavors are the same way, but like Pitch, there’s so much you can accomplish if you dig deep, hold on tight, grit your teeth, and don’t let anyone get in the way of your journey. I want my readers to believe that they can do the same thing.

BD: What makes Oni Press the perfect home for this story?

ZS: I’ve been reading comics ever since I was a little kid and when I discovered graphic novels as a teenager, I’ve always known Oni to be a place where artists get to explore some of the wildest world-building in comics. Throughout creating Punch Up!, the majority of feedback I got, even with some of the whackier ideas, was a resounding thumbs-up. From start to finish, Oni just wanted me to tell my story, and that kind of freedom to make the art that I want to make is a rare find.

BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?

ZS: I’ve got a handful of things cooking right now, but I can’t say what they are… yet. 😉 In the meantime, I’ve got another graphic novel called Mabuhay! coming out in October, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Punch Up!?

ZS: The best way to find out more is to get a copy from your favorite comic book shop, bookstore, or online retailer, of course!!! (I’m nothing if not a great salesman.)

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief




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