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Under the Sea with Aldin Viray

by Janet Houck

Imagine an alternative world where Napoleon wins the Battle of Waterloo, the French Empire spans the world, and steam technology powers the world at the end of the 19th century. However, Emperor Napoleon IV does not rule the seas unchallenged; Captain Nemo and the crew of the Nautilus II use their futuristic technology against the Empire's steamships while exploring the lost undersea world, while Nemo's handsome dark looks only serves to further their cause.

With the first volume surfacing now at bookstores everywhere, Gomanga.com sits down with Aldin Viray, artist of Captain Nemo.

Thank you for your time! Up to now, you've kept to the shadows, so can you tell us about the man behind the panels? When not drawing, what are your hobbies?

AV: More like the kid behind the panels actually. I usually "keep to the shadows" to avoid having tons of drooling female otaku hanging over my doorstep all the time. Seriously, I'm a very secretive person. I collect and paint a lot of tabletop games like Warhammer during my spare time, which isn't a lot, by the way. I watch a lot of Japanese anime. I play street basketball when I'm with my friends.

How long have you been drawing? Where else can we see your work?

AV: I've been drawing for nearly ten years now. I started at the age of 17 in working for a lot of animation studios in the Philippines. There's a website (www.nopperabo.com) where you could see some of my artworks from way back, plus I did retouch work on a few TOKYOPOP manga titles.

Judging from the character designs in Captain Nemo, you're a big fan of old school manga and anime, with big hair with bangs and sideburns. What are some of your favorite titles, and some of your inspirations when drawing the manga?

AV: I'm a huge Hiroyuki Utatane fan right now. Back then, it was Masamune Shirow and Katsuhiro Otomo. I saw Howl's Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki, and at that precise moment, I knew that was the look I wanted for Nemo.

How did you meet and collaborate with Jason DeAngelis on Captain Nemo? How much input did he have on your artwork and you on the story?

AV: I love Jason's hard work. He really has a way of motivating his people. He oversees basically everything, from design sketches to finished art. I had a lot to say in the plot of the story; Jason is very open-minded. We always agree on mostly everything in terms of character development and storyline. It's like a coming together of minds.

Whose idea were the Jin Roh-inspired soldiers of the Empire?

AV: They were mine. I showed Jason the designs, and he loved it. It's a combination of the 19th and 18th century French infantry uniforms; I just added the gas mask to make them look a little bit more menacing. The armor and helmets change, depending on the type of troops that are accompanying some of the major characters. The first ones, as Jason and I call them, are the "Legionares," mostly shock troops for the Empire. Napoleon has his Elite Imperial guardsmen, and La Rouqe has the more heavily equipped Blackguard.

How much research did you do on details such as the ships, character clothing and underwater wildlife? The world of Captain Nemo feels quite solid and believable.

AV: I did a lot of research on the ships by surfing the net and watching a lot of Victorian-esque movies and animated films. The Nautilus alone had like ten initial designs before Jason and I came up with the final version. Also, each character had a specific look that I wanted them to have, as well as their specific taste in clothing. As for the wildlife, I was a science book illustrator for a few years, so I'm familiar with the different species of fish and their habitats.

Judging from several panels in the first volume and the online omake artwork at Gomanga.com, you enjoy drawing character pinups, especially those of mademoiselle Camille Pierpont and medic Sarah Wakely. Who is your favorite character to draw in the manga?

AV: Sarah and La Rouqe - I like strong individuals. I'm just good at drawing females more than males, so I'm just focusing more on my strong points as an artist.

Are you working on the second volume now? Will we see it early in 2007? What can we expect to see in the continuing adventures of the young Captain Nemo and Camille, and the rest of the crew?

AV: I'm hoping it would be earlier than 2007.Volume one was really just a setup for volume two, focusing a lot on character backgrounds and interactions. Now that we have that pretty much out of the way, we'll be focusing a lot more on action - a lot of swordfights, gun battles, plus the impending Nautilus II/Horrific confrontation. It's going to be a blast.

Any advice for artists looking to break into creating professional-grade manga?

AV: Try focusing on real life drawings first, before doing manga. It'll give a solid foundation to your drawing skills. I know a lot of people that can draw Sailor Moon and can't draw a cow or a truck. Carry a sketchpad wherever you go. Draw the things that you can't draw and improve on them. And finally... Practice. No matter how good you think you are, always think that you're never that good enough.

Finally, describe Captain Nemo and why people should pick it up, in five words or less:

AV: Nemo, like NBA - it's Fantastic!

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