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Between the Panels: Artist Lynne Yoshii on Planning a Career, the Magic of Manga, and Texting Her Editor from the Emergency Room

“Between the Panels” is a bi-weekly interview series focusing on comic book creators of all experience levels, seeking to examine not just what each individual creates, but how they go about creating it.

As a teenager in Hawaii, Lynne Yoshii did more than just dream about a career in comics — she laid out the concrete steps that would get her there. But even with all of her planning, she couldn’t have known the winding path that lay in store: stops at DC, Marvel, and DC again before the strength of her artwork caught the right attention and blasted her off into the professional sphere.

First, the particulars…

Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): I've pretty much done everything — art, writing, editing, design, lettering, inking, and coloring, but I guess I'm best at illustrating.

Your home base (city/state or just state if you prefer): Brooklyn, NY


Instagram: @protokitty

Twitter: @protokittyart

Recent Projects:

Gotham City Garage (DC}
Inside the Loop (Emet Comics)
Various covers for BOOM!, Dark Horse, and Mana Comics

Fanbase Press Contributor Kevin Sharp: Big question first… Why comics? What is it about this artform itself that you enjoy being part of?

Lynne Yoshii: We’ll have to go back in time. My parents were born in Japan, and they wanted to encourage me to read and speak Japanese, so they indulged me reading anything — which included manga. Every time we went to a Japanese bookstore, I could pick anything I wanted, and that was always a comic.

KS: Do you have a specific memory of when a comic really wowed you?

LY: I was seven years old, reading the story and crying and saying, “What magic is this?” And that’s when I wanted to become a comic book artist.

KS: What were the books you gravitated toward back then?

LY: Doraemon, Unico, Dr. Slump, Neko Neko Fantasia, Tokimeki Tonight, Dragon Ball

I didn’t get into American comics until I was in high school.

KS: Beyond those early dreams, was an illustration-based career part of a larger action plan?

LY: The “official decision” came when I was in high school. I realized that different people drew X-Men and different people drew Spider-Man; it wasn’t one person drawing and writing the entire series like in Japan. So, I actually laid out plans (in secret from my parents) to get to New York and become a comic book artist. I was living in Hawaii at the time, and New York seemed so far away.

KS: But you made it — your entry into the business came as an intern at both DC and Marvel. How did those situations come about?

LY: So, I not only had to be in New York, I had to be in school to get an internship. At the time, there were only two accredited colleges that taught cartooning: SCAD [Savannah College of Art and Design] and the School of Visual Arts in New York. I applied to SVA, got in, and only then told my parents I was going.

I got the DC internship first, for one year in the Bat-office. Then, my last year in school, I interned under Chris Claremont at Marvel. The advice I got at the time was that if I wanted a [permanent] job at Marvel, I needed to physically be there. After graduation, I was doing some odd jobs before Bob Greenberger let me work at Marvel once a week in the copy room… and because I was physically there, I heard about an assistant editor job. I was there for a little less than a year — it was a tumultuous time at Marvel with a lot of employee turnover.

KS: Your heart was on the art side of the business anyway, right, not editorial?

LY: That’s true, but a scary thing happened around that time. I was doing some background art for Damion Scott on Batgirl, drawing continuously, and I developed shooting pains down my arm. I couldn’t hold a pencil for more than ten minutes. That was scary, because even if I wanted to draw comics around that time I couldn’t — that’s why I concentrated on editorial. But then I got physical therapy and got my wonderful Cintiq that allowed me to draw comics again.

KS: From there your next stop was the DC Talent Workshop [in 2016].

LY: I had just started working as full-time corporate artist for a toy company. When I saw the announcement I thought, “They’re never going to do this again when they realize how much work it is, so I better apply now.” I did a three-page Batman story from one of their sample scripts... and I got in, which was awesome!

KS: What was different about the Lynne who came out of the program from the one who went in?

LY: [long pause] I definitely have more confidence. Artists’ egos are so fragile. You need constant validation, and if you have Asian parents, you especially need some kind of certificate that shows you’re worthy in society.

KS: Gotham City Garage [written by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing] was your first published DC work?

LY: I met [editor] Kristy Quinn — who was in charge of Gotham City Garage, DC Bombshells, and other projects — through the Talent Program. She was really nice and liked my artwork. The interesting part is, along with the first script I got from her, I also got a gall bladder infection! I had to text her from the ER that I wasn’t going to make the deadline.

Even today, there’s one particular page that gives me slight PTSD if I look at it. I remember the pain while I was drawing, so I wince anytime I see that page.

KS: What are your favorite art materials to use? Have you gone fully digital since getting the Cintiq?

LY: I haven’t drawn a comic physically since my problem, which has been such a long time. I still do traditional art, too. I work in markers, because I’m such an Adam Hughes fan I want to be like him. Someday, I’d like to challenge myself with watercolors and other media, but as far as making comics, it’s such labor intensive work and there are so many tools available digitally I’d still be working that way no matter what.

KS: When you look back at your earlier art, what stands out to you?

LY: This might sound like a little bit of a bummer, but I have a feeling other artists can relate: Ninety-nine percent of what I create I’m unhappy with at the time. I see all the flaws, how I could’ve done it better. People say it looks fine, and I want to say, “No, she’s only seven and a half heads tall! She should be eight!” Then, months or years pass, and when I look again, I realize [the art] wasn’t so bad.

It wasn’t until I was going to conventions and people were paying me for my art that I thought, “Wait, am I good enough?”

KS: Speaking generally, what do you respond to as a fan when you flip through comic pages?

LY: Good composition. I think that’s the most underrated thing, and the one thing I’m always trying to make sure I get in my own art. An artist telling a story while maintaining composition is really exciting. And it’s not just the artwork itself — it’s color composition, lettering, everyone working together.

KS: Hypothetical time: A publisher is offering you a chance to illustrate a single story featuring any character or team of your choice. Who would you want that chance at?

LY: Sandman, but that’s not possible anymore — at least right now. Aside from that, the Chris Claremont X-Men. Wouldn’t it be nice to come full circle [from my intern days]?

KS: Claremont X-books covers a lot of ground. Who’s on your team for sure?

LY: As long as I get to draw Storm, I’m good. I got into X-Men comics in the '90s, so that team would probably be the most fun to draw.

KS: To keep spreading the love, what’s a comic by someone else that you look at with admiration?

LY: Right now, I think one of the best comics storytellers is Hiromu Arakawa. Everything is solid — her drama, her action, her storytelling. I recommend Fullmetal Alchemist to anyone.

KS: Finally, talk about what you’re working on these days.

LY: Nuclear Power for Fanbase Press [written by Erica Harrell, coming October 2020]. It’s an alternate history, sci-fi, dystopian comic book series about conspiracy, revolution, and women's autonomy over their bodies.

[Author’s Note: You can find more info on Nuclear Power here.  Artwork above.]