James L. Barry is a professional illustrator, who has worked on many projects including Punzel, and The Last Prophet and of course, the Graystripe Warriors manga titles. His website is located at http://www.JLBarry.com. Warrior’s Wish emailed him for an interview. Text copyright Warrior’s Wish, please do not reproduce without permission.

First question, this one we ask everyone of course; have you read all or any of the Warriors books? If yes, what did you think of them? Your favorite book?

Unfortunately I have not had time to read all the Warriors books. I have read the first 6 and would have to say Into the Wild is my favorite simply because it introduces us to the world of Warriors. I also like it because in the manga I was able to draw the first meeting of Rusty and Graypaw from Graystripe’s point of view.

Who is your favourite Warriors character to draw – and who would you most like to draw?

Of course Graystripe was my favorite character to draw because he really came to life in my mind- hopefully that translated to the comics. Now that I am working on Ravenpaw’s story, he would take the number 1 spot! Its been fun to figure out how I can make a black cat have depth and texture in a 2D.

Could you tell us more about the process between you, Tokyopop, Dan Jolley, Harpercollins and Vicky? Do they send you the plans and you make up the script yourself, or is the script all ready and you just have to draw the panels? Or do they simply tell you what to draw and where to add text boxes, where Dan Jolley then adds on the script?

Vicky Holmes comes up with an idea for the story and creates an outline for each manga. From there Dan Jolley turns the outline into a script, developing the action and writing all the dialogue. Each page of the script is broken down into panels with a brief description of the “shot” and who says what piece of dialogue. Dan is really good at giving direction without being too heavy-handed. Sometimes he will suggest a certain angle or close up but most of that is up to me. There are usually 4-5 panels per page but I can add or take away panels as long as I include all the dialogue. Usually I end up adding a couple pages of “action” to each book. I also draw all the word balloons and boxes, taking into consideration how the reader’s eye will move around the page.

Out of the Graystripe trilogy, which one of the three books did you enjoy drawing most? Was there one that was particularly a challenge?

I really enjoyed drawing Warriors Return because by then, I felt quite comfortable with the characters. I specifically remember sketching out the scene after Graystripe is injured and has woken up to meet Diesel. He tries to be “tough” and stand up but Diesel knocks him back down with a tap of his tail. That was the moment I felt Graystripe really came to life for me. I love his expressions on that page! At the same time, drawing all those cars and trucks was quite a challenge.

Do you listen to music when you draw, or do you prefer total silence?

I listen to music on my ipod in the mornings and then turn on NPR around 11. I’ll listen to that or talk radio for the rest of the day.

Millie is a silver tabby in the books, but in the manga she’s a brown tabby. So why is she different in the books? Or did you originally imagine her as a brown tabby?

When I first got the character outlines, Millie was just described as a tabby. Due to the tight schedule, I had to illustrate the first book’s cover before I had even received the script. There are 2 color versions of The Lost Warrior cover- one in daylight and one that is later at night. The editors decided to go with the darker cover so it’s hard to see what color Millie is. However it was already established in my mind that she was a rosy brown tabby. I didn’t find out that she was described as silver until 8 months later when she first appeared in the novels. At that point, I had already drawn and colored the cover of Warriors Refuge where she is obviously a a brown tabby. I asked my editor at Tokyopop if I should change her color but we decided that it would look dull to have two gray cats side by side. So, maybe Millie is a rose tinted silver tabby? Besides, it is a comic and hair/fur is often outrageously colored in manga!

Some fans refer to the style of the Graystripe manga as ‘cutesy’ because it lacked the amount of violence we’re used to in the novels. How would you react to that critique?

I think we are trying to reach a broader audience with the manga than the novels. Too much violence or blood would not be appropriate for new readers. But we do have a couple good cat fights in each manga and I have a blast drawing those action scenes. So hopefully fans of the novels will pick up the manga and enjoy new, visual stories about their favorite cats while young readers can be introduced to the world of warriors with concise text, engaging illustrated characters and exciting stories. And I have to say, Ravenpaw’s story has a lot of different action sequences and some great fights.

Did you ever read any manga or watch any Japanese anime before beginning The Lost Warrior and its succeeding titles? If so, which ones did you watch, and whose style influenced you the most?

My favorite manga is Buddha by Osama Tezuka. Tezuka is considered the father of manga and I have definitely learned a lot about inking from his comics. I like to blow the pages up on my printer so I can study all the crosshatching! He also has a great book called Tezuka School of Animation Vol.2 : Animals in Motion where I learned a lot of tips about drawing cats and dogs.

Other manga I enjoy are Roadsong, Dark Goodbye and Gravitation.

What other art forms or artists influenced your unique drawing style?

I would have to say the animated films of Walt Disney have influenced my drawing style the most. I love 101 Dalmatians, Fantasia, and Little Mermaid. Some of my other influences are Winsor McCay (Little Nemo) and Edward Gorey who does amazing things in black and white. My favorite comic book illustrator is Alan Davis (Excalibur, Clan Destine).

On average, how much time does it take you to draw one normal-sized panel?

I could probably do 1 complete panel (sketching, penciling and inking) in 1-2 hours but its really hard to say because the whole process is broken into stages. I sketch out the entire manga, mostly to determine the layout and movements of each character. My editors look over that, give me any notes and I then pencil each page, cleaning up the drawing, adding detail and fixing anything that looks weird. The editors check those pages and then I am ready to ink on top of the pencils. I have about 6 months to do all of this. Then Lincy Chan adds the gray tones on a computer.

Do you have the first title of the Ravenpaw manga trilogy? One of our forum members met Vicky in Russellville, and she was told it might be “Strangers in the Snow” or something like that.
No one has told me the subtitle and I never thought to ask! I’ve just been working on “Ravenpaw #1”. But I think “Strangers in the Snow” is a perfect title.

Are you allowed to tell us any more new info concerning the Ravenpaw manga? How is the drawing process and characters different from the Graystripe titles?

My drawing skills and understanding of cat anatomy have developed since I first began working on the Lost Warrior, so hopefully the characters look a little more sophisticated overall. Ravenpaw’s attitude and look are totally different than Graystripe- he’s more slender, friendlier and innocent. And since he is a black cat, the process of inking him is different. I also really enjoy drawing Barley, who is kind of a grouch but totally lovable. And then there are the “strangers” who each have interesting characteristics!

Are you planning on doing anymore Warriors manga after Ravenpaw? As far as we know, there aren’t any new mangas after that, but nothings official or certain yet…

I would be thrilled to do another Warriors manga. Its great to be able to take the techniques you learn on one book and apply them to another, hopefully creating something even better. However, I do like drawing people and comics geared towards older readers so I would love to work on any story that catches my interest. I have some of my own projects in development as well.

How far along is the Ravenpaw project right now? Last we heard was in August, when Dan Jolley was revising the script of book 2.

I am in the middle of inking Book 1- the last stage!

That’s about it for this interview; anything else you’d like to tell fans?

Try to enjoy the process of reading a manga or comic. Its supposed to be a totally different experience than reading a novel- you shouldn’t just skim over the words. Try pace yourself according to the illustrations in each panel and how they relate to one another — diving into the details of a location, lingering over an expressive close-up, or jumping from one action shot to another. This applies to all manga and comics. And once you’ve read it, and loaned it to your best friend, go back and read it again, looking for details or subtext that you missed. Really lose yourself in the world we’ve created and then you’ll enjoy comics even more.

I’d also like to take this moment to invite readers to my website- http://www.JLBarry.com. Click on the image of Graystripe and you’ll find original art from the manga, now available for Warriors fans to collect!