An interview with Samurai Chef creator Nigel Twumasi

Posted July 28, 2014 by Sam Liggett in Comic Books

IT geeks and friends, Nigel Twumasi and Lao K, have created something intriguing in their brand Mayamada. They’ve come together to build an interesting manga-inspired world for Western audiences and it’s something wonderful to behold. I got to ask them some questions about their new comic, Samurai Chef Vol. 2, which they are fundraising for on Kickstarter.

Where did the idea for a story about animals competing Iron Chef style come from and  how did it evolve into what it is now?

Our brand is based on a fantasy television network. All the characters are animals and belong to a show on the network. The Samurai Chef is the first one we’re able to give the comic treatment to. The idea came from one of the first brainstorm sessions when deciding stories for our first set of characters. We wanted to put a tongue in cheek twist on the cooking shows we were seeing on TV, taking the idea of contestants’ dishes being challenged by a chef judge to an extreme. That or we were just really hungry at the time.

The Samurai Chef, the book's version of Chairman Kaga.

The Samurai Chef, the book’s version of Chairman Kaga.

What is the main premise behind your company, Mayamada, and how does that tie in with this comic?

We’re a story driven brand influenced by the anime / manga art style, and as well as exposing an element of that culture to a more mainstream audience, our brand is about inspiring positive creativity and imagination. Both myself and my co-founder Lao watched a lot of cartoons growing up and that’s where the television theme came from. The universe we’ve created, the characters and stories are the foundation of the brand so it’s important to us to get them out to fans with comics and other illustrations. Alongside this we always wanted to create unique and interesting clothing with meaning. It’s not just a t-shirt or sweatshirt for the sake of it, but something that represents a particular story and creative outlook. That’s how everything ties in together.The Samurai Chef is one of the stories that make up the mayamada universe and there are others including 11th Hour and Hot Lunch. We’ll be getting into those once the Samurai Chef story is done.

"In short, mayamada is a anime inspired brand set in a fantasy TV network filled with an all-star animal cast. Got it?"

Nigel and Lao hard at work creating the Samurai Chef.

You mentioned that you’ll be “kicking it forward” with some of the proceeds of this campaign, what do you look for when choosing those projects that you’ll be contributing to?

If we’re successfully funded and cover our artwork and print costs, we intend to give 5% of the fund left to another Kickstarter project. It’s something we’d be happy to do to help another project creator in a similar position to ourselves. There are those projects that already have the audience to get funded really quickly and that’s great, but we know the feeling of working extra hard to get people to notice your project and want to see those people succeed too. We’d look for particular creative projects, not necessarily comics, that have an interesting idea and could use the funding.

Are you working with any other companies to create the backer rewards? If you are, who are they and how did you choose them?

The rewards are all created and designed by ourselves, but we work with companies to get things produced and printed etc. The companies we work with to produce the rewards are ones that we have worked with in the past so we have an ongoing relationship and they understand the brand which is important to us. Aside from that, we work with our main artist Pinali, the illustrator for the Samurai Chef comic and most of the artwork that makes up the rewards. We are also working with another artist Mike Oliveras to create the bonus comic Samurai Chef Origins.

Their Kickstarter includes this neato graphic detailing the backer rewards!

Their Kickstarter includes this neato graphic detailing the backer rewards!

What have you brought from some of your other projects to apply to this one, and what do you think you’ll be taking forward from Samurai Chef to later projects?

Our successful Indiegogo campaign for Samurai Chef Volume 1 has helped us to be better organized this time around. For example the story for volume 2 has already been completed which is something we didn’t have for Volume 1 at the time of launch. Once the Samurai Chef story is complete, we’ll move onto other comics with a better understanding of the process. From character creation to writing and pacing etc. Volume 1 was the first comic we ever made. Since then we’ve also produced a short comic, Samurai Chef Origins, plus written and planned out Samurai Chef Volume 2. So future comics will be better for that experience.

Samurai Chef Origins, a bonus comic from Mayamada.

Samurai Chef Origins, a bonus comic from Mayamada.

If you were given the chance to work with established characters, is that something you’d consider or do you prefer to stick with the cast you’ve created?

We’d love to do that! It would be great to mix mayamada characters with other more established ones, whether it be characters from Japanese anime and manga or character here in the west too. We’ll continue building our own characters and stories, but there’s no reason other characters couldn’t mix with ours somehow or vice versa. There a some great examples of it, whether it’s Johnny Cupcakes and the Looney Tunes or Tokidoki and Marvel characters. It’s certainly something we’d look to do. Collaborations would create interesting designs and possibly stories too.

Who is involved in the writing and drawing of the comic?

This comics and our future books will be written by one of the two mayamada co-founders, myself or Lao. We usually start with an outline of a show’s story, then work down to get the plot and characters within that. Because our characters are anthropomorphic we have to look at which animals fit different characters which adds an extra dimension to it. Once that’s done we work with the artist to map out the story into the actual pages of the comic and make sure everything in the story is covered within our page target and the pacing is good. The Samurai Chef in particular was written by myself and illustrated by UK based artist Pinali. She’s produced the artwork for volume 1, our current t-shirt designs and website artwork too. We’ve been working with her for a long time now and she’s great to have on the team. Not only is she a fantastic artist but also understands the mayamada characters well enough to produce great work usually first time.

Pinali, the artist for the book, has already put together a good showing in Volume 1.

Pinali, the artist for the book, has already put together a good showing in Volume 1.

Is there anything you’d like to share with someone working on their first project?

We’ve learned that friends and family are an important first step when getting support for a crowdfunding project by a new creator. A lot of people see projects getting funded multiple times over as think Kickstarter is easy. We fell into this trap initially, but it’s important to understand that most of the time those projects already had a huge fan base of people ready to donate to a Kickstarter or Indiegogo. When you don’t have that, it becomes much more difficult and you have to work extra hard to overcome that challenge and get enough people to see and back a project.  As well friends and family, it’s also important to find those people interested in your project’s particular niche and start speaking with them. Ideally this would be done before the project goes live, but it’s essential either way. After that it’s about being consistent and continuing to find ways to get word of your project out from the first day to the last. There no guarantee but it can be done.


You can check out Mayamada’s website or kickstarter for more information, or get in touch with them on twitter using their favorite hashtag, #foodfight

About the Author

Sam Liggett

Sam enjoys books and coffee (preferably in tandem) as well as card and board games. She lives in an attic and watches Pokemon (nearly) every day with her husband and their tiny human.