Haining is a talented Taiwanese professional comic artist who is currently making waves with her work on the ‘Spirit World’ series. Introduced during ‘The Lazarus Planet’ event, this captivating series introduces us to a new Chinese hero named Xanthe, whose extraordinary ability allows them to traverse between the realms of the living and the Spirit World.
With an impressive range of artistic skills and an even more impressive portfolio, including collaborations with renowned publishers such as DC Comics, Capstone, Marvel, and more, Haining brings to life a unique world filled with joss paper magic, extraordinary powers, and exciting adventures. In this interview, we will explore Haining’s creative process, inspirations, and the exciting journey of crafting this new and promising series.
Comic Basics: What served as your main artistic influence and inspiration while you were conceptualizing ‘Spirit World’ art? Were there any specific cultural references or inspirations that influenced it?
Haining: My source of artistic inspiration is definitely my life. In Taiwan, different religions surround our daily life. I’ve heard many fascinating or scary religious stories since I was a child. Taiwan is also full of buildings with different Asian cultural styles. All of these make the drawing work easier. I also tried to add some elements of fantasy and sci-fi to make this world more interesting.
How did you approach creating Xanthe and their unique abilities tied to the Spirit World?
Xanthe Zhou is a Spirit Envoy who can travel through the land of life and death. They burn joss paper to bring offerings to the afterlife. When editor Jessica Chen and writer Alysaa Wong told me about these concepts, I immediately thought of Taoism.
Taoist priests build bridges between the living and the dead, much in the same way Xanthe does. So I tried to combine religious elements and fashion for Xanthe – the black and white jacket symbolizes Yin and Yang, the bum bag, and the giant sword apply Chinese style… These are the same as my method of constructing the worldview of Spirit World, where the traditional and modern elements of East Asia and Southeast Asia meet.
What techniques did you use to visually differentiate the Spirit World from other realms depicted in the DC Comics universe?
I tried to make Spirit World look surreal but real at the same time.
The buildings in Spirit World are full of influences from East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures. Buildings of different styles and eras are stacked on top of each other, presenting a peculiar structure. There are all kinds of creatures beyond imagination that are scary and fascinating.
I want to build a world that we have never seen in the DC universe, and Sebastian Cheng’s excellent coloring makes this world even more amazing!
Were there any particular panels or pages in the series that were particularly challenging or rewarding to create? Could you share some details about them?
Everything in this story is challenging and rewarding to create. But my favorite is probably the final page in ‘Lazarus Planet: Dark Fate,’ where we get our first look at what Spirit World will look like. I tried to show everything on one page, and I liked the result very much.
Also, as a horror fan, I really enjoy drawing all the scary moments!
Were there any specific artistic influences or styles that you drew upon to bring the story to life?
I’m heavily influenced by manga, so I like to include lots of screentones in my art.
I also tried to use some special smoke shapes and rough brushes inspired by ink-wash painting to show different magical effects.
Can you share any behind-the-scenes anecdotes or interesting tidbits about the creation of the series?
I put a lot of love into creating every signboard in Spirit World. It had to look interesting enough and fit into our world.
For example, there’s a small vendor selling “青蛙下蛋” in ‘Spirit World’ #2, literally translated as “Eggs laid by frogs,” which sounds scary. In Taiwan, this is a real traditional drink. The main ingredients are sugar water and tapioca pearls. But maybe in Spirit World, it really is made of frog eggs. Who knows!
As an artist, what aspects of the Spirit World storyline and characters were you most excited to explore and bring to life?
Probably…all of them?
I’m honored that I had the opportunity to create a part of the DC Universe. All of these are great experiences. What’s even better is that this world has endless possibilities, and I hope to see more development of these characters in the future.
You’ve also collaborated with Riot Games in terms of creating art, is bringing superheroes to life the same as bringing video game characters? What are some of the key differences?
I’ve been lucky to work with Tan Comics and Riot Games in 2020 on a League of Legends esports comic series. Personally, I find it harder to draw video game champions than superheroes because all their poses and moves in the comics have to match the game. But it still makes me very happy to be able to draw these legendary characters.
Do you have any upcoming projects in the works? If you do, are you free to discuss them?
I do have some projects planned, but I can’t reveal them yet. I look forward to sharing it with you all very soon!