04 Jun Our Storytellers – Michel Mulipola

I’m thrilled to feature Michel Mulipola as the first Pasifika artist in the Our Storytellers Series. He’s an award-winning comic book artist from Auckland, NZ and you’ve seen his work in the BOOM! Studios line of WWE comics, US comic book Headlocked, and in many other book and journal projects. A man of many talents, he’s also a professional wrestler for Impact Pro Wrestling, and a legend Tekken player ranked in the top 12% at EVO in 2018 and winner of the Zowie BenQ EVO2018 Tekken 7 Ladder Tournament.

1.Did you always want to draw comics? What were your favorite comics when you were a kid growing up?

As a kid who fell in love with comics at a young age, I naturally always wanted to draw comics as a job. Some of my favourite comics growing up were X-Men, Rom the Spaceknight, Green Lantern, Batman and the Outsiders and more.

2.Were your parents supportive of your art? Advice for other parents with kids who want to be illustrators or work in comics etc?

My mother has always been supportive of my art. She used to take me to the comic store as a kid so she helped foster this passion. She never put any expectations on what I can do and who I can be so she gave me the freedom to be who I wanted to be. Parents with kids who have dreams, no matter how weird and different they may be, should help nurture that passion. Instill the sense of hard work it will take to make those dreams happen but a parent’s support will mean the world to your children in their pursuits.

3.You do several different things besides illustrating. How do you balance it all?

As well as an illustrator, I am a professional wrestler, sponsored gamer, comic store clerk and more! In terms of finding balance, I have no clue. I don’t have a set routine and timetable for each of these activities, I just kinda do the thing when it needs to be done. Organised chaos.

4.I don’t know many wrestler storytellers! How does being a wrestler complement your art and illustrating career?

Being a professional wrestler has given me a greater insight into the mechanics of the human body – how it moves and reacts to certain situations. This is very handy for action scenes. Also, being a performer in front of a live audience, you also get to understand how people respond and how to manipulate them through your actions. This knowledge adds to the way I tell stories in other mediums as well as how I market myself and my work.

5.If you could tell your younger comic book artist self anything, what would it be? Advice?

If I could tell my aspiring young comic artist self anything, it’s that you actually made this shit happen, man! As for advice, I’d tell him to get good at handing in assignments because the freelance life is full of assignments you get paid for.

6.How many hours a day do you work on your art? Whats a typical day for you?

The hours I work on my art vary from day to day. Some days are filled with full on intense drawing, others with wrestling business, meetings, school visits, running errands and video games. There’s no real typical day for me, it’s just a hodge podge of all the activities I find myself partaking in. I have no routine hahaha.

7.Tell us about your most latest illustrating project.

I am currently working on the latest volume of the Headlocked graphic novel series. Headlocked is the project which got my work noticed internationally. It is a story about an aspiring wrestler who drops out of college to follow his dreams but finds that the wrestling business can be pretty shady. I love working on this story as a lot of my experiences as a professional wrestler adds a depth and firsthand knowledge about the inner workings of the business. A lot of times I am illustrating
things I’ve gone through myself within the story.

8.What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The most difficult part of the artistic process is the self doubt. You’re always thinking your work isn’t good enough and that leads to procrastination. I’ve been guilty of it many times. But that is part and parcel of the artist’s journey, finding ways beyond the obstructions in your path and in doing so growing as an artist and a person.

9.Why do you think its important for Pasifika people to be able to see themselves in comic books and stories?

It is very important for Pasifika and other ‘outsider’ communities to tell their stories and to see themselves in those stories too. Seeing that others have lived an experience like your own gives comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Variety and
diversity present new storytelling opportunities beyond the homogeneous whitebread world presented for centuries.

10.You visit a lot of schools as a Duffy Books Ambassador, you meet a lot of young people. What’ do you enjoy most about the school visits?

I am a proud Duffy Books in Homes Role Model and it is one of the things I absolutely love to do. Being able to share my story as a Samoan comic book artist/pro wrestler/gamer from South Auckland is fantastic and I hope to inspire young kids like me
to go and chase those wacky dreams. I try to be the person I wished I had growing up letting me know it was ok to do this stuff. As an artist, I have a slideshow full of images and artwork which keep the kids hooked into my story. It’s much cooler to show your art than just stand there and talk. Over the years, I have visited around 100 schools and over 15,000 students in my travels.

11.What would be your DREAM project to work on?

As a huge Green Lantern fan, my dream project would be to draw Green Lantern in an official DC comic book. In general, being able to illustrate a comic book for Marvel or DC is definitely dream project material but at the moment, I’m thoroughly enjoying living the dream of just being able to draw comics for a living.

You can find out more about Michel and his work, as well as his next events, at his site The Bloody Samoan

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