Manson reflects on an individualized college experience which helped them learn more about storytelling, animation, and illustration.
“At Stamps, I had the experience to lead my own creative projects. I could build my own track,” Manson said. “There’s also so many students from different backgrounds who come together. You can walk into the next room and they’re doing something totally different from you. It’s just helpful because I feel like all art mediums can inspire one another. They’re all connected.”
One course that made a difference in Manson’s career was an independent study with professor Heidi Kumao, where they made an animated short about a transgender superhero. Representing diversity through is a priority for Manson, who is a non-binary and Black artist.
“It’s important to tell the stories of the underrepresented and I think art, comics and cartoons are a great medium,” Manson said.
This significance is represented with portrayals in Manson’s comic.
“In ‘Autumn, the Protector of Lumaria,’ I show a happy, vibrant, and really silly little Black girl. There can be stereotypes of Black girls and women being really aggressive and overbearing, but Autumn is energetic and just like any other girl,” Manson said.
Manson says that comics were an attractive medium for their art because of how accessible they are. A wide audience can access and publish the stories for free on hosting platforms.
“I always liked storytelling, and for me, comics are sort of a natural extension of visual storytelling. You don’t need software or animation. Anybody can make a comic, and it doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be stick figures,” Manson said. “It’s an art form that a lot of people can participate in. They allow you to tell whatever stories you want.”
While Manson currently uploads their work on platforms like Webtoon, their passion started as a toddler when they became inspired by cartoons such as Blue’s Clues.
“I used to take big stacks of paper, fold them together, and then staple the edges to make a little book for myself,” Manson said. “I would make little stories about the shows that I was watching. I’ve really always been making comic books.”
From there, Manson went everywhere with a sketchbook, drawing cars, people in restaurants, and television shows. Manson often “escaped into their own imagination” when drawing to ground themself.
Manson was also inspired by the entertainment industry as a member of the Stamps in Color and the Michigan Animation Club student organizations. In early 2020, Manson traveled to Los Angeles with Stamps in Color, where they visited DreamWorks and Hulu to meet with professionals in the field.
Even post-graduation, Manson is connected to the university’s network of artists and entrepreneurs. They are currently working with Plucky Comics, a new company founded by alums of the University of Michigan Ross Business School. Through the company, Manson is creating comics about Black LGBTQIA+ historical figures.
When asked about how they would describe their art style, which exudes bright colors and fantastical elements, Manson used one thematic word: kindness. Through their accessible stories with inspiring heroes of all backgrounds, the mission is clear.
“I hope I can touch people by telling stories that teach kindness, being kind to yourself and others, and being more empathetic to people,” Manson said. “Storytelling is a great way to introduce people to new ideas and new perspectives.”
You can keep up with Manson and their work by following their Instagram.
Story by Katelyn Stuck.