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Fang Yi Li delves into the darkness of LINEAGE

Join Interviews Editor, Andrew Irvin, in a chat with indie horror comic creator, Fang Yi Li. With titles like The Tale of Ziwei in her portfolio, Lineage now joins Beauty and Butterfly Tears on her website. For fans of striking, detailed imagery and gripping horror, enjoy this exploration of Lineage #1!


COMIC BOOK YETI: Fang, thanks for sending over Lineage #1 for Comic Book Yeti to check out, and congratulations on a successful Kickstarter campaign! Now that it’s wrapped up, how many issues do you have in mind for the title to run? Do you have the full narrative arc planned out, and when did you start working on this story?

FYL: I plan to do at least six issues, and the whole story will be open-ended, so the more, the better in the future, I think. The entire story will revolve around different characters and storylines set in Chinatown. I've been conceptualizing and writing this story for many years now. It all began when I read numerous horror short stories online, and coincidentally, I was touring Chinatown in New York for the first time. The desire to create a related story and the inspiration struck me instantly.

CBY: It's nice how things coalesce sometimes with the right inspiration. There are also a number of familiar elements from a variety of horror stories intermeshed within this first issue, some of which come to mind from other comics, as well as films, stories, and folklore (you mention Silent Hill, Ringu, The Others, The Conjuring, etc. on the Kickstarter campaign page). Can you share some of your primary inspirations in terms of storytelling in the horror genre? 

FYL: I, myself am an enthusiast of deep horror films. Horror is an intoxicating genre of film. I still remember the shock that movies like The Others, the magical world of Silent Hill, the entangled characters and storyline in The Conjuring, and reminisce of the nightmares Ringu brought me. The elements I love in these movies are the origin of my creation, Lineage. Especially when I discovered that there were few Chinese-themed stories in these types of movies. I am from China, and there are many legendary tales, folklore, and horror stories that align perfectly with the genre. However, the horror movies that can be released in theaters in this country lack the terror found in Western movies. Therefore, I personally prefer to create content that combines my own culture as a tribute to the horror genre that I love.

CBY: Ah, yes - I was working on a ghost story for the Chinese market with a writing partner, and we were told it wouldn't make it past the censors. You mentioned an interest in meeting Western horror audiences halfway with this spooky introduction to Chinese traditions. In particular, what is the scariest story out of Chinese folklore that you can share with our readers?

FYL: One of the most famous ancient Chinese folklore is called Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, and many of its stories have been adapted into classic movies. If you enjoy Chinese cinema, you should be able to find related stories online. There are some beautiful tales of romance between humans and ghosts, as well as stories that uphold universal values by punishing evil and promoting goodness. My personal favorite is the story of Painted Skin, where a female ghost uses the technique of borrowing human skin to attain beauty, deceiving men and absorbing their vitality. The idea of someone you love being just a ghost disguised under human skin is quite intriguing to think about, haha!

CBY: It's a gnarly idea, for sure. On the topic of your art, I'd like to take note of the fine line work you’ve delivered in the inking, and the vibrant colors you’ve chosen throughout. There’s a look to the features I’m trying to place amongst other artists, so I’m keen to know, moving from the narrative inspirations to the visual; who are your favorite artists (comic and otherwise) that fed into your style for this title?

FYL: I grew up watching Japanese anime, so my style is deeply influenced by Japanese manga and the way stories are elaborated. My favorite manga artists when I was young were CLAMP and Masashi Kishimoto. I had little exposure to Western comics when I was young, but occasionally, the Batman series, which I saw in comic books and fantasy magazine columns, always fascinated me and deeply influenced my drawing style. Alex Ross, Greg Capullo, and J.H. Williams III are my favorite comic book artists. When I went to France for signings, I really liked some European comic book artists with impressive drawing skills, and I discovered the diversity of comic book styles.

CBY: The European tradition is something I need to better explore. Continuing on a conversation about the art, can you tell our readers a bit about your illustrating tools and techniques? This book is all your creation - what did the work flow process look like for you? Do you start with penciling the whole thing, then inking, etc., or do you take it to completion one page at a time?

FYL: When I was creating the first issue of Lineage, I was still quite traditional. I used traditional hand-drawn penciling and inking lines on paper, then scanned them into the computer for processing and coloring in Photoshop. However, I found this process to be very slow. Since moving to the U.S, except for commissions requiring tools, all my other comic work has been drawn in digitally. This way, I'm not limited by space constraints for original papers in my living space. Currently, my favorite software is Sai for line work and coloring, with Clip Studio Paint as a supplement, and Photoshop for effects processing. I prefer to complete character drawings before working on backgrounds. This allows characters and backgrounds to be separate layers, making it easier for adjustments later on. Therefore, I usually spend time drawing all the characters before moving on to the backgrounds. I try to achieve a pace of one page per day, but sometimes complex backgrounds can take extra time.

CBY: Interesting - Sai is a new one to me. You also mentioned this was your third self-published project in the U.S. after Butterfly Tears and Beauty - can you share a bit more about your previous work, how Lineage differs, and what you may have learned from your previous publications that you’re incorporating into this project?

FYL: From the black-and-white images, you can see that Butterfly Tears is one of my earlier works with a Japanese manga style. It's a collection of romantic and melancholic love stories, spanning over 100 pages, with LGBTQ themes. It's suitable for readers of all ages. Currently, I'm adding 20 new pages to it and preparing to distribute it through publishing. It will be published by FairSquare Comics.

The first publication of Beauty was in a French erotic anthology called Yin and Yang. The story originated from my desire to reinterpret classical historical figures, sparking the idea to continue this series. Erotic comic stories available on the market are typically narrated from a male perspective. I wanted to retell the stories of famous historical beauties from my own understanding, but from a female perspective. Starting with China's most famous Four Beauties, I have already completed the other three stories. While I am writing the story of the Lineage series, I am working on drawing the second story in this series.

If Butterfly Tears marks the beginning of my exploration of innocent love, Beauty is about the process of sexual growth, and Lineage delves into themes of marriage and family. In the near future, I'm considering creating a cyberpunk-style science fiction story, perhaps centered around the exploration of death. I hope these stories will form a complete circle of understanding in my life and that sharing them with everyone will be enjoyable.

Regarding crowdfunding, I am still in the learning process. During this time, I have received a lot of advice from friends. These three projects are very personal to me. In the future crowdfunding stages, I may consider inviting more friends to join and collaborate together.

CBY: It sounds like you've put a lot of consideration into coverage of complementary themes with your various projects. You’ve decided to partner with Comix Well Spring as your printer for Lineage. What did the selection process look like for a home to print this title, and how did Comix Well Spring end up convincing you they were the right choice?

FYL: When I was working on Beauty, a friend recommended this printing company platform. Many friends who participate in comic conventions have collaborated with them, and most of my friends from publishing houses like mine also choose them. They can provide suitable print quantities for us during conventions, and their high-quality printing and affordable prices are reasons why I chose them. They can be a mainstay for supplying independent publishers. So, when I crowdfunded Lineage, again, I continued to choose their services.

CBY: You’ve offered a ton of different art rewards, with backers on nearly every tier - there are a lot of custom commissions involved. What illustrations are you most excited about completing as part of the reward fulfillment process?

FYL: Because I have many ongoing projects, crowdfunding and comic conventions are my only opportunities to accept commissioned artwork. I enjoy creating commissioned artwork at home and at conventions differently because I can dedicate more time and energy to the details of the artwork at home. Unlike the many NSFW and sexy commissioned artworks for Beauty, for the Lineage crowdfunding campaign, I opened up the option for larger-sized artwork suitable for two characters. What's most interesting is that besides some requests from readers for commissioned artworks featuring popular character fandoms, there are also some quite private commissioned artworks, the content of which I cannot publicly disclose. However, each commissioned artwork completed at home is a piece I put more effort into creating!

CBY: It's good to hear the process is providing you with an enduring source of fulfillment. Noting that you’ve handled every aspect of this publication yourself, when the opportunity for collaboration arises, can you share any other projects you'd like to work on in the future?

FYL:Yes, because I complete each project independently, it consumes a lot of my time. Actually, I don't particularly enjoy the coloring step in the drawing process. I have considered collaborating with others, especially since I also write stories quite slowly. So, as I come into contact with more suitable friends and as the development of more projects arises, I will consider opportunities to collaborate with more suitable people.

This year, I've been participating in comic conventions while also running booths in different states. In the future, I hope to improve the efficiency of both my storytelling and artwork by collaborating with more people.

CBY: Fang, thank you for joining us today! If you’ve got any portfolio, publication, or social media links you’d like to share, now is the time! What should everyone make sure they catch after reading Lineage #1?

FYL: The story of Lineage #2  is currently in progress, while I am working on the second story of Beauty. If you're interested in my other works, you can purchase them through my Etsy or check out my website. Follow me on Instagram for updates on comic conventions—I might appear in your city. Of course, any form of support will be my motivation to continue my creation! Thank you for reading my works and for your appreciation.

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