Hypnotic halos and spiraling disks grip the eye in unrelenting focus while minimal lightning bolts and sharp silhouettes reinforce the energy and patterned layouts. A fit woman with fiery black hair spins and whirls over stark obsidian and ivory shapes. This is BLACKSUN, a manga being developed by Thai illustrator Suzu. The work draws on obscure manga genres, Art Deco references, and Egyptian motifs to create a hypnotic and immediate style that’s both mysterious and direct.
Suzu, whose real name is Supakarn Masunthasuwan, grew up with a fascination for manga like many other kids throughout Asia, and she quietly harbored a goal of studying the art form in Japan one day. “It was always a pipe dream though, I never took it seriously,” she says. Her fascination with the culture seeped into her drawings, and her earlier work tended to explore Japanese references more than the Thai surroundings she grew up around. “I was quite a shut-in and a bit of a manga nerd, so I was probably more exposed to Japanese culture than Thai.”
When Suzu discovered a grant that allowed her to study in Kyoto, those early fantasies became a reality. “Now that I live here, I just go out and experience this wealth of tradition firsthand,” she says. She was also exposed to less commercial styles of manga, like the ero-guro genre that combines sexual imagery with heavy gore, which has had a significant influence on the work she’s currently creating. Maruo Suehiro is an icon of the scene and his ability to contrast beauty and stillness with violence and cruelty sparked new worlds in her imagination. “A lot of the stuff he depicts is very graphic, so it’s definitely not for everyone. His works push me to improve my line art and inspire me to be more playful with visual metaphors in my own.”
Suzu’s commercial work tends to be a bit more playful and explores more color ranges, but her main personal focus is the BLACKSUN manga, which is still in a short pitching stage but that she hopes to turn into a full-length with 80-100 pages. It revolves around a pole dancer who seems able to transfix the masses as if she were a deity. At the moment it’s a series of sketches and single pages, but even these are gripping. “You can pack lots of details into a single image that contains hints of a story, or it could just be a simple, moody scene that conveys an emotion,” she says.
The focus is a result of Suzu’s personal interest in pole dancing, which she began training in during COVID. “I find the strength, grace, and confidence that these dancers possess magnetizing. As a hobbyist dancer myself I find freedom in the movement,” she explains. “I was far beyond unfit and anxious until I threw myself into a class one day and fell in love with it. So naturally I want to make a project that’s related to it in some way. It’s also a great excuse to draw beautiful shapes and practice anatomy.”