Harbinger Extra: Amy Kim Kibuishi- Interview with the Artist

Follow the Path! 24 incredible illustrators and artists have picked their favorite scenes and characters from HARBINGER to give you a taste of Faye’s world. Each week, in the gallery at the Holbrook Academy website, a new illustration will unlock…

Kel from Harbinger. Artwork by Amy Kim Kibuishi.

SWE: Hi Amy,

I love this introduction to Kel from Harbinger. Can you tell us a little about why you chose to draw him?

Amy: I love to draw handsome men! And I honestly loved Kel’s character, his mystery, his darkness. He’s a great listener with an intense presence that is fun to imagine visually. I also loved that he was a key for Faye to understand herself.

SWE: Wow, you definitely nailed the intense presence part. I love it!

Amy: Thanks! He was so fun to draw.

SWE: So, what sort of stories do you like to read?

Amy: I read all kinds of stories, but my favorites tend to be surreal fantasy born out of unique life experience. A lot of that can be found in YA and children’s lit, books like The Golden Compass, A Wrinkle In Time, and Howl’s Moving Castle. I’m a big believer in the power of fantasy to express those emotions we can’t name.

From Sorcerers and Secretaries by Amy Kim Kibuishi

SWE: You just named all my favorites. Clearly we share a brain. Have you created any stories and worlds of your own?

Amy: Many! My goal is always to sweep people away into another world. I love designing and creating worlds. I love trying to simulate a living soul through writing/drawing.

In Sorcerers & Secretaries, I tried my best to capture a romanticized feeling of living in NYC as a young college student. Most of that was drawn from my post-college life.

In my Flight 4 story, I wanted to write a fable based on my impressions of working in the comic industry. I based a lot of those designs on impressions from visiting my mom’s hometown, Chumunjin, a small fishing town in South Korea.

From "Food from the Sea" by Amy Kim Kibuishi in Flight Volume 4

The biggest world I’ve ever created is the novel I’m working on now. The world design has been layered on top of itself so heavily over the course of eighteen years (!!). It has its own set of religions, its own holidays, architectural style, clothing style, history, social structure, and its own unique type of magic. It even has its own food design! Every character has an epic backstory that could be its own book. For the main novel, I’ve been paring it down to its essential parts to tell a human-scaled story. It’s been my biggest challenge.

SWE: Have you always known you wanted to be a storyteller and an artist?

Amy: I’ve been writing and drawing all of my life, but I suppose I decided to pursue it actively when I attended School of Visual Arts for cartooning. I was a big fan of anime and superhero comics, and wanted to make some of my own.

I make special playlists for every section of my book, depending on what mood I need to be in. They consist of a blend of things -- video game music, movie scores, experimental electronica, natural sound effects, and some pop. I like to write while standing so I'm usually at a bar or kitchen counter. For drawing, it's pretty much the same except I would draw on my big drawing desk at my husband's studio.

SWE: I really admire the way stories are told visually in comics (and picture books too!) I’ve always wished I could do that. What was your favorite part of creating them?

Amy: When I was doing comics, I loved the feeling of seeing my daydreams on paper. Making comics was a way to relive movies in my mind and share them quickly with friends and family. Sometimes I get nostalgic about that instant gratification of showing someone a page I just drew. When writing a novel, it can take years before anyone sees what you’ve done. Deprogramming myself from needing that instant feedback has been tough! You writers have my respect.

SWE: Orangutans or squids?

Amy: I’d rather befriend an orangutan, but I’d rather eat a squid.

SWE: Is there someone you turn to for inspiration?

Amy: It would have to be my husband. He’s the smartest, most talented, most truthful man I know. He’s always there to bounce ideas off of and offer guidance when I get lost. I’m very lucky!

SWE: What sort of work are you doing right now?

Amy: Right now I’m just enjoying my time as a mom, and trying to be a writer. If I don’t write for a day or two I start acting a little crazy. I never got that way about drawing, but for some reason writing is as essential to me as food!

SWE: I totally get that way too when I haven’t written! I’m not fun to be around.

Can you tell us about any of your works-in-progress?

From the world of Amy Kim Kubuishi's novel-in-progress


Amy: I’m finishing up a novel about a girl that falls in love with an alien (The “Rema” project I mentioned above). It’s a story I’ve been working on since I was 13, and it was the webcomic that launched my career in comics. I also have a children’s illustrated chapter book that’s been put aside, but I can’t wait to get back to that, too.

SWE: And now the most important question…Wonder Woman or Supergirl?

Amy: Rogue from X-Men was always my favorite, but the Supergirl movie was cool. I guess Supergirl!

SWE: I’m totally with you on Rogue… but let’s just pretend you didn’t say anything after that;)

Thanks Amy!

For more on Amy Kim Kibuishi, check out her blog, Felaxx’s Gallery!

One thought on “Harbinger Extra: Amy Kim Kibuishi- Interview with the Artist

  • Amy, I love your illustrations, and something you said really struck me: you referred to simulating a living soul through writing/drawing. For some reason the words you used to describe that concept made real to me that mission of being an artist! Thank for for that image. I will keep it always.

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