Expressive – the manga artist Inga Steinmetz

Inga Steinmetz; © Anton Katzer

The animated series Sailor Moon was the impetus: Inga Steinmetz is one of the most important German ambassadors of Japanese comic-strip art.

Copyright: Inga Steinmetz

Inga Steinmetz’s path to manga art led through the comic book collection of her father. He already had an extensive archive of illustrated stories in the days of the GDR. In this way his daughter, a native East Berliner born in 1983, came into contact with various kinds of comics at an early age. As for many of her fellow comic book artists, what tipped the scales in favour of the manga scene was the German television broadcast of the Japanese animated series Sailor Moon. It made a great impression on the young comic book enthusiast. Soon she began to delve into manga and to start drawing them.

Her own magazine for fans

When German publishers released the first mangas of their own production in the early 2000s, Steinmetz sent in applications and took part in drawing competitions. Success in a competition of the fan fair Connichi earned her her first publication in the scene magazine Shinkan. Some years before, she had already been one of the first manga artists in Germany to send her own comics magazine, a so-called “doujinshi”, to interested readers. It was followed by several shorter internet comics and short stories for independent magazines such as Paper Theatre.

For the anthology of young artists Manga Fieber (i.e., Manga Fever) of the famous comic book publisher Tokyopop, which also published Sailor Moon in the United States, Steinmetz illustrated the short story Stein, Schere, Papier (i.e., Rock, Paper, Scissors). In the same year the educational manga First Love – Safety First, designed by Steinmetz, was published. After this, Tokyopop proposed that she convert Freche Mädchen (i.e., Cheeky Girls), Bianka Minte-König’s successful young people’s book series that has been translated into several languages, into a manga. Between 2008 and 2010, three volumes were published. The series was well-received by fans of the original books and further established the young artist on the German manga market. Steinmetz also contributed a short story to another series from Tokyopop: Grimms Manga presents the fairy-tales of the Brothers Grimm in manga form. For a special volume, for which almost exclusively female German illustrators were engaged, Steinmetz reset the fairy tale “Brother and Sister”. Her next major project was the series Alpha Girl, her first extensive work based on her own idea.

Traditional materials and techniques

In 2013 Steinmetz achieved a place in the international competition “Manga Audition”, in which Japanese editors rated comic strips on the theme of love letters. Steinmetz sees working without a text, relying only on the expressive power of images, as one of her strengths. Her mangas are indeed visually stunning, the facial expressions of her characters impressive. Humour, emotion and suspense come to bear in equal measure. Stylistically, Steinmetz takes her inspiration from Japanese mangas for girls and young women. In her drawing she uses mainly traditional materials and techniques. Illustrations are done using watercolours and coloured markers. She also uses pen and ink. Only the screen tones which are used for the shadows are created on the computer.

Video: “Von Beruf Comiczeichnerin“ (i.e., Profession: Comic book artist)

Steinmetz works as a freelance illustrator. She also represents the German manga scene at international meetings and holds workshops. She regularly demonstrates the art of comic-strip drawing to children and young people in Berlin; for the Goethe-Institut she has also led courses in Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Indonesia and Malaysia. In the summer of 2013 she travelled for two months to South Korea to become better acquainted with the local comic-strip scene. The global perspective is one of her important sources of inspiration: during the stay in Korea she produced numerous drawings.

Michel Decomain
is an editor at Comic Culture Publishers and works as a freelance writer for various publications, including “Der Tagesspiegel”.

Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
April 2014

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