Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DRAMACONgratulations!: With a new manga "Nightschool" and animated series My Life Me, Svetlania Chmakova's star is burning hot!

Russian-raised, Canadian artist, Svetlania Chmakova has been making quite a splash in the manga and comics world for the past several years. She's been nominated for an Eisner and a Harvey award. Publisher's Weekly named Dramacon one of the best comics of 2005. The following year she won a MangaCast Yomi for Best Global Manga of 2006. And in 2007b Dramacon was placed on YALSA's list of the Best Graphic Novels for teens.

According to this interview at, Chmakova faced communication challenges after immigrating to Canada at 16 years old.

...I managed okay--the schools in Russia are paced a little differently so I was further ahead on some subjects than my Canadian classmates of the same age. I was literally falling asleep in math class, because the stuff that was being taught I'd already known for at least a year. But when it came to English, Creative writing, History, etc., things were much more, um... challenging. LOL

In the cultural sense, I adjusted very easily--Canada is a very accepting country with a strong multicultural community and people tend to be very friendly overall. I blended right in.
It seems only natural to me that Chmakova would gravitate toward graphic work to communicate ideas. Comics are truly an international language. the interview goes on to reveal that after graduating from Sheridan College's esteemed classical animation program, she found the animation had "dried up". After attempting to get an illustration career off the ground, Chmakova began to explore comics and fell hopelessly in love with the medium.

This Popimage interview conducted around the release of the second volume of Dramacon explains further:
I still love animation very much and would like to do some, time-permitting. But I've come to realize that I'm a storyteller just as much as I am an artist, so I am not content just drawing. I need to tell stories! The comics medium is perfect for me.
I bought the first Dramacon to try it out and immediately had to have the remaining two. At first, I was taken aback by the soapish quality of the story (I am not the target audience after all!). But soon, I was devouring the book. The storytelling was clear, compelling and drove me forward through the story, speeding me up and slowing me down as needed. The dang thing was so addictive I was itching to buy the next two right away. I contemplated purchasing the hardcover Dramacon collection this Christmas for my niece but one or two scenes forced me to wait until she's a wee bit older.

Chmakova is one busy creator with print and webcomics all over the place like "Chasing Rainbows" at, "Svetlana Wheneverly" at, and "The Adventures of CG" at A list of what's available can be found here at her website,

Svetlania looks happy on her livejournal blog in the
shirt" she "ever owned." Check out:

Chmakova is one the best known North American manga creators. Initially in 2005, she found herself caught up in a backlash against work by OEL (Original english Language), or non-Japanese, creators. Purists have softened their stance since, especially regarding Chmakova, as talent has shone through over preconceptions.

In this terrific Publisher's Weekly interview with
Chmakova and JuYoun Lee, the editor of her new Yen Press series Nightschool, which premieres in Yen's monthly anthology Yen Plus this month, explains part of the initial problem.

One reason for the initial fan rejection of OEL manga was the weakness of some of the early properties, according Yen Press publishing director Kurt Hassler. “People who loved manga but had very little instruction were being given contracts early on, putting out full books without the kind of guidance you need on a professional level.” By contrast, he said, Japanese and Korean editors spend a lot of time working with their creators.
“The biggest reason for doing a monthly magazine in Asia is to let the artist grow,” said JuYoun Lee, the editor of Nightschool and of Yen Plus. “You get more feedback from readers, and you see how the characters get their own power—they go in a different way sometimes from the initial setup of the artist.”
With critical and that elusive commercial success for Dramacon and Nightschool secured, Chmakova has launched several side ventures, including speaking engagements and classes, how-to-draw manga manuals, toy designs and a return to her animation roots as designer and co-creator of the forthcoming Teletoon animated series, My Life Me.

Produced by Canada's Carpe Diem Film & TV and the international media company, TV-Loonland, My Life Me started out small as a glint in producer, director and co-creator J.C. Little's eye.

Little 's boutique animation company, naturally called Little Animation, has quietly built a strong reputation creating animation-filled, creative websites that get across important messages in fun, interactive ways. They've built sites for Dr. Jane Goodall, the English Literacy Foundation, Capoeira For Kids, culminating in the website, Little Animation For Kids (which features great games and teaches kids about the environment) and the Little Earth Charter, a website explaining the UN's Earth Charter.

If you ever felt animation and websites for young kid's were vapid, Little has done her all to prove you wrong. In this interview with Green Living Online, Little explains she was an ad producer who grew tired of selling sugar to kids. A natural next step for Little was developing her own series. After coming up with the original idea, Little brought on board my friend, Cindy Filipenko, freelance writer, story editor and all around classy dame.

I met Cindy years ago when she was the Director of Creative Development at Vancouver's Bardel animation. She was one of the most approachable execs out there. She was about to start story editing Silverwing, the animated series based on Kenneth Oppel's series of fantasy novels. She's also the co-writer (along with Geoff Berner) of the animated holiday special, The Christmas Orange.

Cindy Filipenko and Geoff Berner's
The Christmas Orange.

I caught up with Cindy last week and begged for some of the details of the show's production. With Chmakova rounding out the creative team, the team began development in earnest throughout last year. Cindy was impressed with Chmakova from the start.

"My Life Me was J.C.'s idea. And she brought me in. J.C. also brought Svetlania on board. Svet's design is incredible. She's a real artist. She's so committed. When she's working on the show in Montreal, she works at the director's (Little's) triplex. And if J.C. weren't making casseroles and pulling her away from her desk she'd be there from morning to midnight."

The manga style influenced more than the character designs. The heightened portrayal of character's emotions and actual, black and white comic book panels reveal their hidden thoughts. It looks like the production team's dedication is paying off. According to Cindy...

"My Life Me got lots of attention at Cannes. It was sort of the belle of the ball because it looked so different and hip."

You can check out My Life Me's manga-meets-Archie-Comics look for yourself. has a five-minute trailer. It's bouncy and fun has a lot of info packed into it. This clip was designed to help sell the show to network's so it's also interesting to see how they spend time sharing details of the series' web component.

Want more links?

There's also plenty of info and artistic goodies at Svetlana's website, here.

Svetlana herself has expressed a liking for

And finally, clicking here will take you to an early reaction to the greenlighting of My Life Me.

Beavers Up!

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