It looks like she’s had computer problems. Webtoons are, unlike traditional black and white manga, drawn and fully colored using a drawing tablet connected to the desktop computer or laptop, which obviously has all the tools she needs to draw and paint. So it’s no laughing matter at all—she cannot make any progress with her serialized comic even if she wants to. Ssamba has then decided to resume her work on 17 Aug.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO,” I screamed inside my head when I found out. That’s more than a month of not seeing any Seol-a X Norae yuri goodness. My goodness.
For the past six months, I have been up-to-date with the series, never missing a week without reading a fresh update. I have developed dependency on it. The series was like my weekly coffee, except that I don’t drink coffee—let alone weekly.
My first reaction in this case was surprise, followed by a tinge of grief. Generally, it was a slight feeling of sadness. It was briefly relieved by the compilation of illustrations Ssamba has done so far—from the conceptual drawings to fully colored cover pages. But immediately after scrolling through the last strip, my heart was filled with that bit of sadness again.
Slight sadness. Of course, as any other fan would normally react, I’d feel pretty bad if something I always looked forward to would suddenly disappear and for an indefinite period.
Truth be told, I am not totally, extremely upset with this news. I cannot and do not want to complain. There’s a part of me that understands and forgives the author for whatever troubles she might have run into. The part of me that recognizes that I’m only a fan. Not that a fan (or fans) has zero importance for or influence over the success of an author. But just because I’m a fan, it absolutely does not mean that I am entitled to everything about the author or her works. I’m a consumer but—more importantly—Ssamba is the artist.
She’s the creator. I may be paying her some KRW by faithfully reading her works on Comico, but I cannot dictate what and when she should write and draw. With honest admiration comes respect. And I have a great deal of respect towards the author of a work I truly love.
The artist draws and writes not just for the fans she strives to reach, but also for herself. She does not create the works solely for others to see, but also for her self-satisfaction, evaluation, and growth. The artist, too, is the spectator and critic of her own work. Knowing that she is not in the best condition to publicize her usual output, she acknowledges that it would not be the best for her fans.
Ssamba alluded to her health problems, too. She even advised her readers to be watchful of their well-being. This reminds me a lot of the other mangakas’ cases. Most of the reasons, if not all, cited by the publishers as reasons for their writers and illustrators’ breaks are health-related. The breaks could take several weeks or months, but in worse cases they may even take some years.
Hoshino Katsura resumes the admired D.Gray-Man in the new Shounen JUMP magazine, JUMP SQ.Crown, after being on hiatus. According to reports, she’s regularly had breaks since January 2013 because of illnesses and injuries of the mangaka. And not so long ago, Fujiwara Cocoa died because of an undisclosed illness. At the age of 31, she left her readers behind in this world, never seeing the next chapters of her newly serialized manga and will always be reminiscing on how her lovely stories and art have touched and inspired their lives. Inu X Boku SS was a very pretty and enjoyable show. I even read the manga and am a proud witness to her gorgeous art. I still can’t believe that the very person who penned it is now gone.
It’s not like death and illnesses are a new thing, even in this industry. But they aren’t often talked about. Needless to say, bad health and death are unpleasant subjects to discuss.
All of this leads me to question things, though.
If we think about it–hell, even if we don’t at all–mangaka are humans, too. We might have unknowingly worshipped them, putting these real people on the high, idealized seats in society.
“They are amazing storytellers.”
“They are gifted artists!”
“They are god!”
It’s time to check our delusions about them and realize once again that they are simply humans. They don’t earn that much to make them millionaires unless they’re best-selling authors—a feat not easy to achieve. It’s totally not easy, when it’s not just about talent or ability. But it’s also childish to think that money is everything that makes the person happy. And that mangaka don’t run into problems aside from health and computer troubles. They have their own lives—we all do—and to live means to find yourself in the midst of adversities from time to time.
Like I said, mangaka make a living by crafting their fantastic stories into drawings. To draw consistently under a regular schedule (be it weekly, monthly, bi-monthly) is, for us outsiders, an unimaginably professional and rigid routine. As Bakuman showed us, mangaka even have to sacrifice their sleep and (some of their) social life in order to meet their impending deadlines while keeping things cool, exciting, and awesome for their readers. All for the sake of rankings, in the hope to avoid the Death Axe, or shall we flatly call it Death Scythe?2 Sooner or later, some of them would have to write 「完」(The End) instead of「つづく」(to be continued), rendering them jobless until they work themselves to death to come up with a sworn better story and even god-tier art. Not only to gain satisfaction from their masterpiece as artists, but also to have some bills on their ever-emptying wallets.
Again, I find myself in a spiral of questions.
Are mangaka put under unnecessary pressures? Is the industry too harsh for them—especially for their health—but they can only go with the flow because it’s their primary source of income, if not only their passion and calling? Are their fans causing more harm than good? (This may be a good topic for another time) Don’t they experience writer’s block and creative burnout? Is that “… to research materials, etc.” one- or two-liner hiatus announcement that we see on the bottom of the last page of the chapter merely a cover-up on what are really happening behind the scenes? To deal with the never-ending stress from never-ending demand from the industry and consumers, do the mangaka succumb to alcoholic drinks in an attempt to drown their problems or too much drugs to help them sleep in the night? Do they have a solid support system to help them whenever they feel mentally lost or unwanted?
All those questions remain unanswered at the moment. If anything, I really don’t want to easily dismiss one source of conflict in Can’t See Can’t Hear But Love as something trivial.
Apparently, a reader and a self-proclaimed fan has many things she doesn’t know. The reality behind each page, panel, screentone , effect, ink shading, whiteout, and draft may be harsher than we know, or think we already know.