Daniel Wong had to take a step back when told Image Collections in Streetsville promoted him as being the next big thing in the comic book industry in advance of the store’s annual Free Comic Book Day.
“I’m not really big on the hype,” Wong said at his booth, outside of Image Collections, which has been participating in Free Comic Book Day, the first Saturday in May, since 2001. “I just like doing what I do, which is draw. For me the satisfaction comes from that, not necessarily the celebrity end.”
Wong, who has been a Streetsville resident for 20 years, is enjoying the thrill of having his art work produced in an e-Book fantasy comic series called Riftworld Legends. It is based on a short film about a wizard and a journalist, written and produced by Jonathan Williams. It later developed into an eight-episode TV web series produced by the CBC.
When limited funding prevented the series from continuing, a government grant allowed the producers to turn Riftworld Legends into an e-Book series for 10 issues. The first book debuted publicly in February and there has been a new issue coming out each month since. Wong was pleasantly surprised when contacted to do the art work for the series.
“Somehow they found me,” he said. “I’m just a hired gun. I was contracted to do the art work and I went searching to find out what (the series) was about. It was cool because this wasn’t a mainstream comic. It wasn’t superheroes. It was just a fantasy story. I’m more into that type of comic than drawing superheroes.”
He says the experience has been “pretty grueling” developing material far in advance of the release. He began in February 2017. The first book was completed three months later. So far, he has completed six issues.
“The biggest challenge is I’m working with guys who are not in the comic book industry,” he said. “They are coming from the film industry. Their experiences are entirely different. There were challenges with scheduling and what they and the publisher expected because you’ve got three parties – the creator, the artist and the publisher. We had to work through the typical challenges of everyone learning how everybody else works.”
The series is available on Comixology, Amazon, Google, Apple and Kobo.
“We’ve been getting good feedback,” he said. “People love the story and the artwork. I think the biggest challenge with any independent book is getting the audience to pick it up, look at it and read it. If we can get more readers, I think it’s got a good chance of being successful.”
It’s been an interesting journey for Wong, who goes by the pen name Oshuoki, which is the Japanese pronunciation of his Chinese name. He studied to become an electrical engineer at the University of Waterloo and did that as a career for about 14 years. He morphed into a full-time artist 10 years ago, when the company he was working for was sold to a competitor and he and other employees were given a decent severance package.
“That made it easy for me to transition (into becoming a full-time artist), otherwise I may not have made that choice,” he said.
He had dabbled in art in high school, similar to many kids, but with no intention of making that a career.
“I re-taught myself how to draw,” he said. “I didn’t want to wonder if I could draw and do art because it’s a bit of a passion. It is definitely a big risk. Art is a really tough field to make a career out of. There’s a lot of competition out there in the Toronto area.”
Wong is frequently selling his work at Comicon events and the annual Bread And Honey Festival in Streetsville.
“How do I define myself?” he asked rhetorically. “I’m kind of a jack-of-all-trades.”
Photo: Comic book artist Daniel Wong of Streetsville is receiving acclaim for his work. Perry Lefko photo