Get Graphic: Top Cow's Yishan Li Gets into the 'Swing' of Things
May 09, 2022
Art by Yishan Li
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
For the final week of Women in Comics Month, PREVIEWsworld leaves the U.S. to focus on and highlight a creator abroad. Meet Yishan Li, a professional manga artist currently living in Shanghai. American readers are likely familiar with her work at Dark Horse, DC Comics, and Top Cow. However, thanks to digital technology and online publishing, Yishan's art has stretched beyond national borders. From UK publishers like Titan Comics to Europe's Darguad and Delcourt - Li is an international woman of artistry.
Firstly, who are you and where do you hail from?
Hi! I am Yishan Li, a comic artist living in Shanghai, China. First 20 years of my life I lived in Tianjin, a city near Beijing, China. Then moved to the UK for about 15 years. Now I am living in China again.
How did you get into comic books as a fan?
I got into comics by reading Japanese manga. I used to read it every day and exchange manga with my school friends all the time. Because we couldn’t afford to buy whole series as kids. Each of us would buy a couple of books and exchange them later in order to read the whole thing. Then when I got older, I started to read comics as well. But I have to say I still read more manga than comics. Although not as much as I’d love to because I am so busy all the time now.
How did you get into comic books as a professional?
I always loved drawing since childhood. So when I first started reading manga, I started to draw the characters from my favorite books. My school friends would always want me to draw something for them and that made me want to draw even more. So when I was in high school, I started to just randomly knock on doors of some professional studios. One of them, kindly enough, let me come whenever I liked to do some casual work. I ended up publishing some short stories in Chinese comic magazines with their help. But the point when I really became a full-time comic book artist was when I was in the UK, I went to a comic show and met a publisher called Yaoi Press and ended up publishing a whole graphic novel with them. That was back in 2005! Such a long time ago!
Tell us the story of Swing. What’s it about?
Swing is about a couple who explore their sexual and emotional desires through swinging. It all sounds fun at the beginning but inevitably jealousy and misunderstandings emerge along the way. But they talk, they communicate and they work together to make the relationship last. In the end, it’s about them, as a couple, finding an exciting way of life and love.
What tools do you use to create?
For software, I use Clip Studio Paint. Hardware I use a Wacom Cintiq.
What’s next for you?
There’ll be more books from me and [Swing writer] Matt Hawkins, possibly more Swing books, and a few other titles. Meanwhile, I am working on a comic series called Lesser Evils with AWA, and a webtoon series called Re-possession, with writer Trevor Mueller.
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. He is also the Consumer Marketing Manager for Geppi Family Enterprises. Troy's comics work includes MF DOOM: All Caps, Public Enemy's Apocalpyse '91, the Glyph Award-nominated Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Award-nominated Magic Bullet.