Krystle Kuan is well known among the Malaysian indie comic scene as the creator of Wolf Brothers.
What was once a simple comic strip is now a household brand in its own right! How did Krystle manage to turn her comic into a brand?
Over the course of 15 years, Krystle has fleshed out her manga into all sorts of merchandise such as plush toys, postcards, stickers, and more.
Eksentrika speaks to the comic artist to yield the learnings she’s found in her journey towards creating Wolf Brothers and formulating its brand concept.
Hi, Eksentrika! Haha yeah, it’s already been 15 years since I first made my Wolf Brothers Manga and still counting.
Okay, it’s really a long story – my family members were artists in the past and I’m the only, self-taught comic artist. When I was 11, I was a very shy girl with autism, and I had no friends.
I had a lot of ideas to draw with over 20 comics with my pencil, ink pen, and colour pencils based on popular manga and series at that time; Sailormoon, My Little Pony, Kimba The White Lion, etc… Sadly, I couldn’t finish them all and they were all halfway incomplete stories. The good thing is, I made friends because they liked my drawings.
Overall, I love wolves and anime from the ’90s. I was inspired by Balto movies, White Fang, The Lion King, Houshin Engi, Weiss Kreuz, etc. I love to make stories about half-human and half-wolf characters who save people from danger.
From 2002 to 2006 – I studied at the multimedia college, Cosmopoint, and learned to use software to draw and colour. I created my original manga called Rudy The Wolf Boy which is a complete short story but I realized it was targeted at young readers and my art style was not very good…
When I first joined an art community online called DeviantART in Aug 2006, with my username Krystlekmy, I met many artists there and I learned to love their great drawings. My first idol artist friend online named TC-chan is from Indonesia. We share the same interests, and we were big fans of the popular Playstation game, Devil May Cry 3. It gave me the inspiration to draw more.
In Oct 2006, I started to make a new original manga about twin brothers Travis and Carlos, both are half-human and half-wolf, born from their wolf father and human mother, they hide their identities and are destined to take over their father’s place. I named them the Wolf Brothers. Also, my Wolf Brothers characters are part of my real personality.
Since Wolf Brothers came to life on DeviantART, I submitted my drawing to The Star, Otakuzone in Feb 2007, and 30 anime conventions in Malaysia. I was surprised that Wolf Brothers gained popularity and attracted readers, leading me to sell some of my comics to fans from Malaysia and abroad. They made Wolf Brothers fan art and fanfic for me. Now I’m still working on it, although I hardly finish them due to my busy life. My fans can wait and be patient for a while.
Sure! You see, all my comics have been drawn by me alone, however, the main problem is my English grammar. I used to ask my father to help check my English copy from time to time because he used to be an artist a long time ago.
My American friend, Erix19 from DeviantART was among the first to buy my Wolf Brothers Vol.1 manga. She shared that my English was a problem and kindly offered to help since she is experienced in writing good fan-fiction. I’m very grateful to have her on my team. I usually email her my comic pages, and she checks and corrects the grammar. Erix19 and I have been working together since Wolf Brothers’ first debut for over 15 years.
I used to have 2 Beta Editors and Background Artists, but they also have busy schedules these days.
Art Commissions – Since 2010, I have been doing art commissions and comic commissions for clients. I can draw cartoons, anime, game characters, characters of people. To date, I’ve drawn over 200 works and I’m still accepting commissions.
Comic Dub Team – I recently joined Mario x Equestria Girls: Dimensional Crisis Comic with many great voice actors and comic artists from overseas. The writer/voice actor, MarioKartGamerDude commissions me for a fan comic page on YouTube. I have fun drawing cartoon characters and crossover comics.
Animator – I used to work as an animator at an animation company back in 2011-2013. I quit that job due to personal reasons but I can still animate my own characters, Wolf Brothers, and others for my Youtube channel. Here’s my best animation, the Wolf Brothers Intro.
Fursuit Maker (My interview in 2017) – In March 2016, I used to sew fursuits or animal cosplay for my clients. I wore my own fursuit as a wolf character for fun at anime conventions. It makes people smile and they enjoy taking photos with me. In Dec 2020, when the pandemic started, I stopped making fursuits as the cost for materials became too expensive.
Plushie Maker – Since Oct 2018, I have worked on over 30 plushies, 4 keychains, and 3 pouches for clients and myself. I enjoy making plushies as a hobby. Recently, I made my Wolf Brothers’ cousin, Fred’s plushie.
Well, it’s not very easy and it’s tiring. A few years ago, I was drawing comics every day, from daybreak to midnight. It took one year to finish my Wolf Brothers manga book.
Today, it’s much slower progress; I haven’t had a proper job for 6 years now, and the situation was worse during the pandemic. My days are filled doing house chores while looking after my father by myself, working on commission arts, comics, and plushies for clients.
I recently made my own timetable, with a ‘things to-do list and note. It helps me to be on track: 1-3 hours for drawing comics, 1-3 hours for drawing commissions, 1-3 hours for making plushie commissions, and so on.
My target is 1-5 comic pages per month. It depends on my health, time, and mood. You can check me out drawing live on YouTube to ascertain how long I usually take.
Most of my fans find my comics fascinating. Then comes my merchandise which I usually make at home by myself.
I remember I first watched an anime DVD called Comic Party in 2001. It was about art, anime, cosplay, comic conventions in Japan. I wanted to be like one of those artists and sell their comics to fans.
I first heard about Comic Fiesta 2007 in Malaysia and met new artist friends, Crest Team who self-published their comics. I told myself that I wanted to be just like them.
When my dream came true, I managed to sell my Wolf Brothers comics, fan comics, merchandise, and live commissions at conventions, meet new artist friends, fans, and cosplays. I was nervous at first but in the end, it’s a really amazing experience.
Since the lockdown, all conventions pivoted to online marketing. But for me, I really don’t know how to do that. So right now I’m focusing my attention to publish my new comic first.
That said, people can still purchase my Wolf Brothers manga and other comics at Lulu. The Lulu team will print my comics into book form, send them to customers and I’ll earn some royalties.
For Malaysians, my comics are available on Shopee, Carousell, and Facebook Marketplace.
Fighting Scenes: Fighting scenes are the most challenging so far. It’s hard to imagine fighting scenes like Jackie Chan. I usually watch movies and videos for references and try to plan out the fights between characters on paper until I’m satisfied with the final result.
Different art styles: I have been drawing different art styles for many years – Anime, My Little Pony, The Lion King, Super Mario Brothers, Transformers, Sonic the Hedgehog, etc. At first, it was hard, I only started feeling the fun to draw it later on. Practice makes perfect. My weakness is the semi-realistic style and robots. I can draw them but it’s not very easy and it takes me many hours to perfect, haha.
Anatomy and Poses: It’s really hard to think about how to draw different poses, especially for hands. I use my SHF figuarts (Anime figure toys) as a reference to draw characters by taking pictures of them. I also study anatomy tutorials from other artists.
Background: I can draw background drawing in comics but it’s hard to colour the background in anime style. So I learned how to colour the backgrounds slowly. They’re not perfect but I still can do them.
Drawing for free: I have been struggling with many people asking me to draw something for free. I hope people will understand how hard it is for an artist to earn a living.
I draw my art with a creative mind, express myself and commit to my passion every day to avoid procrastination. Sometimes when I can’t draw well due to my mood swings or bad health, I would take a break and get back on track when I feel better. I consider this to be a milestone.
Improved my art skill. My art style has evolved over time, especially the anime eyes.
Some new ideas I want to try in the future:
Wolf Brothers and Sonic The Hedgehog crossover fan comic – I have already finished all sketched pages and I’m looking to complete it in 2021.
Wolf Brothers 3 Manga – My editor friend, Erix19 has a plan for Wolf Brothers 3 so I could modify her story into manga/comics.
Wolf Rookie 2 Manga – Wolf Rookie is also popular because it featured Fred, a cousin of the Wolf Brothers, and fans love him very much.
“Draw with Me” video for my YouTube channel. I have seen artists whose “draw with me” YouTube become popular as many find them relaxing and fun.
I want to share my comics, art, and animation with people on the internet and hope that people will support me with donations and commissions for my well-being. This is a work in progress.
Finally, I want to be remembered for my art, comics, plushies, and animations which I hope will serve as inspiration and enjoyment.
All images in this feature were supplied by Krystle Kuan.