Life in comics

DIFFERENT people use different means of recording a memory for posterity’s sake. Some write in journals, and some take photographs.

For Tay Yen Ee, or more commonly known by netizens as Fishball, she sketches her time with her partner in the form of comics.

One thing led to another when she posted them online, and now Tay is internet-famous with her comic series of My Giant Nerd Boyfriend.

Can you tell us when you first started the “My Giant Nerd Boyfriend” series?

I started drawing it before I posted them online. I mainly wanted to record what was going on in my relationship – it was more of something that I wanted to document for myself instead of other people. But then, the main character of this comic – my boyfriend – found out that I was doing all these sketches.

He felt that other people would enjoy them, hence he encouraged me to put them online. That was three years back. Since then, there have been people following the series and enjoying it. I’m really glad that there are people who enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy drawing them.

What does the series revolve around?

It’s basically our slice of life – what happens in our relationship on a daily basis. I didn’t actually think that people would relate to them, but apparently they do! Even if they are the most mundane things. What I draw is inspired by real life situations. I realised that the more realistic it is, the more that they resonate with me.

Tell us, how did you get the opportunity to be a guest artist at Comic Con in New York?

Webtoons, the website where I publish my comic series, invited me for the event. They host my comics online and it was gaining popularity, hence they wanted me to go for Comic Con. It was my first time to the United States and I took the chance. It was quite surprising because I didn’t know that my comic was being read by so many people in the US.

When Webtoons invited you over, how many other comic artists did they invite as well?

They invited four other comic artists who were US citizens. I was the only foreigner. But it was quite a culture shock, to be honest. Americans are really nice, outgoing, and passionate about what they do. It’s quite a contrast with our Asian culture, where we tend to be more introverted. But it was definitely one of the highlights of my career. Not everyone can get the opportunity to be a guest there.

What’s the life of a freelance comic artist like on a daily basis?

It’s not very interesting at all. I usually wake up late (I’m a night owl), have a coffee, and start work. I draw for about four to six hours a day. Other times I brainstorm. I throw ideas around mainly with the boyfriend, as he’s the one who inspired this series after all. He edits my work and gives feedback about them.

What’s the creative process like for “My Giant Nerd Boyfriend”?

I first do the sketches, then I’ll show it to my boyfriend. If it’s okay, I’ll go ahead with the process of inking, colouring, and putting them up online. But if it’s not okay, it usually takes several more edits to make the storyline right. I have to post three a week on Webtoons, which is quite tough especially when you’re stuck for ideas. At times I’d look at my boyfriend and think: “Please do something stupid so I can draw it out!”