Women’s History Month: Kamome Shirahama by Bruno Aquina

Born to a pair of artists, a designer Father and a Mom who used to paint, Shirahama was exposed to art from a very young age. She was encouraged by her parents via museum visits and art TV Shows and therefore she took on a keen interest for western art. 

Kamome Shirahama graduated from the Tokyo University of Fine arts. She is a renowned Illustrator and Mangaka with over 50 credited comic covers she’s done for Marvel, Star Wars, DC, and Image comics. She is probably most famous for her ongoing manga ¨Witch Hat Atelier¨ being published in the U.S by Kodansha Comics.

Shirahama has countless Nominations and Awards, most recently in 2020 when Witch Hat Atelier was awarded with an Eisner and a Harvey Award for Best U.S Edition of International Material and Best Manga respectively.

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The enigma of the Sorceress

After Following Ms. Shirahama on Social Media for a couple of years now and while doing research for this piece I couldn’t ground her to a birthdate or an specific age all I could find was her work. I’m under the impression she’s a very private person and while I´ve found pictures of her face, I do not feel comfortable sharing. But I would like to warn you that when you google search Ms. Shirahama, you’re welcomed by the face of Rian Gonzalez, another Great Artist with a vastly different style and while I´d like to think this might be a goof, I can’t even begin to fathom how irresponsible this is. It sucks that as a woman in the industry, whether it’s unintentional or not, women are often seen as interchangeable. We must do better than this. It takes no effort to look this up and do actual research and not replicate it constantly.

What I can and will show you instead are some pictures of Kamome’s desk which are straight out a witch’s country house. It’s glorious the amount of materials and media she works into her pieces, including both traditionally and digitally. Ms. Kamome really sells us on the idea that she herself is a magical being and the true performative aspect of the witch aesthetic. These are all taken from her instagram

The Magical Craft of Kamome Shirahama, Sorceress Supreme.  

While Manga Style is not foreign to western audiences with globalization and whatnot, there’s a special something to Ms. Shirahama as an artist whose work I can only describe as a magical experience, a witchcraft so carefully casted, her hands and preferred art tool perfectly in synch, as all stars align and she delivers beautiful illustrations. It’s only fitting her first credited work in the industry back in 2015 is Ultimate End #4 variant cover featuring Dr. Strange. 

I’d like to think about her, just whooshing her hands, reciting from an ancient book and PRESTO, the piece is done. She’s also the writer of ¨Witch Hat Atelier¨ the manga that gets us close and personal with Ms. Shirahama’s work process and experience as an artist. If you consider yourself to be a creative person, no matter which art form you express yourself into – Cooking, Dancing, Writing, etc. – I highly recommend you give the manga a read. Not only is every panel is in the style of a painting, Kamome immerses us into a world of magic where every single detail is perfectly thought out. Through the guise of a fairytale aimed for young readers and the eyes of the Main Character, Coco, a young girl who early on discovers that magic is not only for those born with it, we learn magic is within everyone and practice makes perfect.

Throughout the story, art and magic are one and the same, not as an analogy but quite literally. The characters have to draw the spells in any medium they choose. The finer the spell is drawn the more powerful it becomes. It’s a love letter to everyone who has ever felt intimidated by a craft and not feeling good enough to excel in it.

It is through her Pop up shop, and her involvement in the collected editions around the world we can see the care and profound love she has for the printed medium and the constant sharing of said love to her fans and readers..

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey

Comics is a medium where you are exposed to primarily superhero characters. You relate to them and you decide to follow their endless journey exposing yourself to countless artists and writers and through this even more characters and the cycle continues because more times than not every ¨the end¨ is accompanied by a ¨for now.” A character’s essence mostly stays the same while the writers and artists change, sometimes even becoming the real life villains of our hero’s journey. Happily that wasn’t the case with Shirahama’s Batgirl. Following my favorite DC Team, The Birds of Prey, is how I first encountered Shirahama, through her variant covers for the title. I just had to follow her work, trying to arrive early to my LCS to get every cover I could.

All the way to her most recent work, a Batman Black and White cover, Shirahama has improved with each piece while also working and expanding her aforementioned acclaimed manga that even has an spin off series (created by somebody else) while also developing another work of her own, Eniale & Dewiela, which seems much more wacky and I can’t wait to get a translation.  

To my eyes, Ms. Shirahama has opened the gateway again to incredible artists in the industry like Peach Momoko who is quickly becoming a giant with her marvelous covers and her now released X-men: Demon Days, which has her commanding both writing and drawing duties. While Shirahama might seem to have a lot on her plate right now I’d love to see her some day soon in the interiors of any Western Comic with her art fully colored.

It might as well be my new to tradition while writing that I leave you guys with a glimpse of my collection and journey with Ms. Shirahama, who has truly inspired me to pursue my art dreams and has taught me so many things. With the most important thing being: Perfection is but what you make of it, Unachievable for some, maybe…. But with practice and a lot of faith in magic something wicked this way comes. 

This Postcard might be the closest I’ll get to her actual signature and it reads: ¨Hello to all readers! I hope you have a lot of fun while reading Atelier of Witch Hat¨ Signed by Kamome Shirahama.

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