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Fanbase Press Interviews Jason Kochis on the Release of the Manga-Inspired Comic Book Series, ‘Koji & Maru’

The following is an interview with writer/illustrator Jason Kochis regarding the recent release of his manga-inspired comic book series, Koji & Maru. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Kochis about his creative process in bringing the world and characters to life on the page, what he hopes that readers may take away from the story, and more!

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Koji & Maru!  For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the story’s premise?

Jason Kochis: Thank you! I really appreciate you interviewing me about my manga. Koji & Maru is a fun and heartwarming all-ages tale about a young boy named Koji who is gifted a stuffed toy panda named Maru. To Koji’s amazement, Maru comes to life. Instantly forming a friendship, they embark on a thrilling adventure together. I like to say the story is a mix of Calvin & Hobbes and My Neighbor Totoro.

BD: In balancing the duties of both writer and illustrator, what can you tell us about your creative process in bringing this world and characters to life on the page?

JK: In the past, I have always immersed myself in the world of creating comics, drawing inspiration from real-life experiences and the people around me. When the idea for Koji & Maru came to life, I envisioned a young boy and a panda as the dynamic duo at the heart of the story. Through countless sketches, I honed in on the right designs that captured their essence. Building the world they inhabit involved extensive research on Japan and the specific city backdrop I wanted to portray. Each character’s name was carefully chosen to mirror their unique personality traits, and I added intriguing hidden elements throughout the narrative.

My creative process typically begins with drafting a rough outline and then translating it into thumbnail sketches of the actual comic pages. As I craft these thumbnails, I carefully consider the storytelling flow and the impact of each page turn on the reader. The element of surprise and anticipation of a big reveal keeps the storytelling engaging. After refining and enhancing my sketches, I proceed to transfer them onto the final artboards. Whether redrawing or enlarging and printing my thumbnails in blue ink, efficiency is key in bringing the illustrations to life. Following the penciling stage, I meticulously ink the pages using a brush before scanning them into my computer for digital enhancements such as halftones in Clip Studio Paint and lettering in Adobe Illustrator.

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 Koji and Maru’s story may connect with and impact readers?

JK: I hope everyone really enjoys Koji & Maru. I initially set out to create a story that people of all ages could enjoy, because I saw a lack of manga available for younger audiences. I thought it would be great to introduce younger readers to the world of manga and comics. Along the way, the story sort of naturally developed into being about friendship and family. Hopefully, readers can relate to those themes.

BD: Do you foresee developing additional story arcs for Koji and Maru if given the opportunity?

JK: Yes, definitely! I have grown very fond of both Koji and Maru, so if the book is successful and readers want more, I would like to continue creating more stories for them.

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

JK: I’m currently brainstorming ideas for more Koji & Maru stories and developing another manga project that I can’t really reveal anything about just yet. In the meantime, I’m appearing at anime and comic conventions with copies of the book and other merchandise.

BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Koji & Maru and your other work?

JK: Thanks again for having me! You can find out more about Koji & Maru on my website:

I have digital and print copies of Koji & Maru for sale on my Etsy store:

I also have a Patreon where you can see my entire process of creating Koji & Maru from pencils to inks:

And follow me on Instagram to keep up to date with what conventions I will be appearing at next: www.instagramcom/jasonkochisart/

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief




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