Vincent Kao (The Kao), the creator of the acclaimed webcomic Magical Boy, talks about the upcoming graphic novel adaptation (January 2022) and his creative process.
I first read Magical Boy back in February. Max comes to terms with his gender identity as a trans man while figuring out his magical destiny. His mother insists that he’s a descendant of the Goddess Aurora and must protect the world from the Devoid (Aurora’s adversary). But Max wants to be his own hero. His mother’s rejection and the jeers of the Devoid’s minions contribute to his dysphoria and depression.
Stories like Magical Boy matter not just for its LGBTQ+ representation (trans boys and men in this case), but also for its empowering message about forging your own destiny.
I am so excited to present to you The Kao, the creator of this wonderful and uplifting webcomic, now being adapted as a graphic novel from Scholastic.
The Geekiary: Thank you for being here. I love Magical Boy so much, and it’s a pleasure to have the chance to interview you. Let’s start by introducing yourself!
The Kao: Hello! My name is Vincent Kao, and I go by “The Kao” online for works like Mondo Mango and Magical Boy on Tapas. I’ve been drawing since I was little, graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts for Illustration at Columbia College in Chicago, and have continued to make comics for fun and as a career.
TG: Thank you for creating Magical Boy. I’m sure you’ve already heard how the webcomic has resonated for so many, especially trans boys and trans men, but its existence is important. It’s a magical girl story that turns its common tropes over its head. I’d like to know about your creative process. How has Magical Boy come about for you?
TK: Magical Boy was born from the simple idea and desire of wanting more trans representation in the media. I then incorporated my love for anime, such as Sailor Moon, to create this unique take on the magical girl genre. From there it was all about taking things one step at a time to create the characters, the lore, and overall story plot. I used references from other magical girl shows as inspiration and then incorporated my own take on each outfit. I also used my hometown in the Chicago north suburbs as reference for the neighborhood as well as nature for the many different creatures.
TG: I admire how you handle Max’s coming out and then embracing himself later on. His mother insists that he’s a woman because of his destiny. The monsters mock him, insisting that he’s not a man. As a transmasc person, those parts hit way too close to home. I’m happy to see Max learning to accept himself and become his own magical boy. I’m curious about the process of creating his character. How did you do it, and so well, too?
TK: Thank you! Max is a lot like me in a way–he’s very stubborn while also suffering from a lot of self-doubt. I had amazing friends who helped me gain confidence in myself, much like Max’s friends do for him. So, there’s a couple incidents where I drew upon my own experiences as a queer individual to develop Max.
However, I also know that no two experiences are the same, and I wanted to make sure that I was making Max’s experience as authentic and relatable as I could. I spent a lot of time doing research by talking to my friends in the trans community, and by also watching YouTube vlogs by transmen who bravely shared their stories online. I’m so glad that Max’s character has resonated with so many people.
TG: What are your favorite TV shows, movies, books, etc.? Anything that inspired Magical Boy?
TK: I was into all of the ’90s to early 2000s anime series like Pokémon, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z and later, Fullmetal Alchemist, Naruto, Cowboy Bebop (I didn’t watch this until I was a little bit older), and so on. I believe that all of these shows inspired how I created Magical Boy to an extent, but I was definitely most influenced by Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, I would say. My current favorites are One Punch Man and Demon Slayer. I also enjoyed Avatar: The Last Airbender and Castlevania.
TG: Are you planning or working on future projects?
TK: Yes, I’m actually working on a personal crowdfunded project right now. It’s still in the early stages but essentially, I am working to create an anthology book featuring 16 trans and non-binary artists who will be sharing their personal journey through comics! We hope to launch later this month, in July 2021, and I will be posting links on my website and social media when it goes live. I hope everyone will check it out and help support these amazing artists!
For more great webcomic recommendations, check out our Wednesday Webcomics archives!
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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