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The Fool shows a child or youth, while the Magician depicts an all powerful adept. Just as the Fool showed us the price of eternal innocence, so this Magician gives us the fearsomeness of taking on responsibility. If the Major Arcana represents the Fool’s journey, the Magician is the first thing the Fool encounters.

It Takes A Wizard” is one of the must-have manga for your bookshelf. You won’t be able to find this title with any  of the Japanese publishers, because it’s an Ameri-manga (あまりマンガ?) from Seven Seas Entertainment. The publisher of original manga-style comics paired a German writer Thomas R Hart together with a Singaporean manga artist Sean Lam (林宝华) for this epic tome.

It Takes A Wizard – by Thomas R. Hart and Sean Lam

“It Takes A Wizard” unfolds in a post-apocalyptic New York City. Manhattan had become a rogue state, at war with the rest of USA. Everett Winterthorn, the sorcerer Midnight King, had made his base in NYC. He plans to conquer the world with his army of trolls, goblins, imps, ghoul and harpies.  Isaac Silverberg, Winterthorn’s former apprentice, could be the only hope.

This single-volume manga is 480-pages long, and is a hot-seller since it rolled off the press in July this year. The title flew off the shelves at the local Borders (sold out!), and Kinokuniya is still waiting for their stock. This is Sean’s maiden work and it certainly took more than magic for the Singaporean comics artist to complete this project.

Sean’s artwork is remarkable for a rookie.

“It Takes A Wizard” interior lineart by Sean Lam

It’s not far-fetched to compare Sean’s art to those done by Japanese manga artists – both past and present. I can imagine Sean’s artwork being serialised in Kodansha’s “Afternoon” or any of the established manga magazines – especially those that appeal to the seinen (青年) group.

Kuro Yanagi – Sean Lam’s character design

Sean’s style is inspired by the manga artists of the late 80s and 90s – and there’s a strong old-school vibe coming from the “organic” strokes of ink.

Sean got into comics during primary school, starting with superhero titles from Marvel and DC . By the time he got to secondary school, he discovered manga and Hong Kong comics. The seminal titles “Dragonball”, “Dr Slump”,”City Hunter” and “Saint Seiya” were part of his formative years. He  fell in love with manga’s dramatic storyboarding and intricate lineart. Presently, Sean does not limit his taste to any genre, but reads widely and draw inspiration from many sources.

Sean Lam, 31, is a full-time independent comic artist. Inspired by comics, Sean began practicing art at a young age. He continued his education at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) to hone his talent in visual arts. But back in the 90s, the comics industry here was non-existent so he found job as an illustrator in the advertising industry. Yet, he didn’t give up on his dream and continued making comics on his own time.

Sean’s winning  entry for AXN Anime Character Design circa 2002

On his own, Sean submitted artwork for competitions and had also met potential businesses that might publish his work. Yet, opportunities in the local scene was not forthcoming. Three years ago, driven by his passion and with encouragement from his wife, Sean moved on from his career from being an art director to a full-time comics artist.

Sean’s break came when he submitted his pitch to Seven Seas Entertainment, which was then looking for manga artists to work on their original properties.”It Takes A Wizard” was meant to be only 180-pages long  but it came to 480-pages when it was published, almost thrice the original length!! The book took Sean two-and-a-half years to complete.

192pp Bakuman tankoubon vs 480pp “It Takes A Wizard” tradepaper back

“It Takes A Wizard” is Sean’s crucible – this was his first piece of work. Fortunately, this manga wasn’t serialised as a periodical i.e. published in weekly/monthly chapters - so he wasn’t under the crushing pressure of tight deadlines. But the downside was – he couldn’t see the fruit of his labours until two years later; along the way, he wasn’t able to receive critique from readers. His only feedback came from the editor and writer.

Sean worked alone, and had no assistants or any ‘professional’ tools to help him.

Sean’s work station

Sean works ‘unplugged’ – he pencils directly onto A4-sized inkjet paper and inks his lineart with humble ball-point pens (G-pens are expensive and messy). He uses an improvised self-made lightbox to trace over his draft. He would then digitise his finished art with a scanner before sending it to the editor for review. If there’s any corrections are needed, it would not be simple case of clicking the ‘un-do’ button.

Pilot Super Gel ballpoint pen and manga white paint

Sean believes that its not the tools, but the length of hours in practice and keen observation of the everyday life that makes the difference. One can still make wonderful art with the most simple tools. You can start doing comics on a modest budget.

Improvised Light Box

Blue ink – draft; Black ink – final

When Sean began, he could only put out about 20 pages of finished artwork per week. By the second year, he could go up to 30 pages per week.

There were times when Sean felt like giving up – but his passion get him going. He shared that the most important thing for an artist, is that the effort must come from the heart. Sean’s story on how he became a comics artist, and his struggle to complete his first work – would make good materials for a shonen manga. Yet, this story is still being written. Where will this manga take him? Will he submit his personal works and win recognition at Kondasha’s 4th Morning International Comic Competition?

Meanwhile, Sean is working on another project from Seven Seas Entertainment. At the same time, he is also developing his own original story. Sean needs assistants on this adventure. For those interested to walk this journey with him, you may email  your biography together with your portfolio to [seanlamcomic (at)]

“It Takes A Wizard” may be a digest-sized book but it’s more than a  pocketful of goodness. It’s a promising gem from a Singaporean artist. The book will be available at Kinokuniya, priced at S$22.48.  and it’s the right kind of reading material for year-end holiday season

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