Catching up with Tania del Rio - Sabrina and More

Catching up with Tania del Rio

More than a month ago, we ran a series of features on TokyoPop in the aftermath of the company’s restructuring exercise. A number of Original English Language (OEL)/global manga creators were interviewed, including Lindsay Cibos, co-creator of Peach Fuzz, who revealed that she was “working as a penciler on the monthly comic series, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, published by Archie Comics,” based on Tania del Rio’s scripts.

For the uninitiated, Archie Comics and del Rio gave Sabrina Spellman and co. the shojo manga makeover in 2004. Even now, it doesn’t look like it’s just a passing pop culture fad or craze for Sabrina the Teenage Witch series.

When contacted by Newsarama, del Rio confirmed that she has no plans to leave the title just yet. “Yeah, Lindsay is drawing the next few issues of Sabrina, but I will be drawing issues #99 and #100 which will conclude the “Four Blades” storyline,” she explained. “I had been drawing Sabrina for four years straight and when I moved from NY to LA, it was a bit of a difficult transition and I needed a bit of a break which is where Lindsay and guest artist Chad Thomas came in to fill in for some issues. Chad did a great job on the three-part “Salem's Secret” arc, and Lindsay is drawing stories from the main story arc. Her art really fits Sabrina well and I'm glad she's part of the creative team! Of course, I continue to write Sabrina (and to be honest, writing is my favorite part of the comic-making process).

Del Rio started on Sabrina with back-up stories in issue #57 before she went on to write and draw the main stroy, "Spellfreeze", starting from the next issue. Since then, she’s told stories about Sabrina embracing the dark side and becoming Sabrina the evil witch, the love triangle between Sabrina, Harvey and Shinji, and many other stories.

“I've enjoyed so much of the process,” she said. “[I have fun] developing the characters and getting to know them. I had an overall idea of where the story would lead, but sometimes, even I would be surprised with a sudden idea that would change things from where I thought they were headed, so in many ways, it was exciting for me to see the story evolve. I think my favorite issue remains #69, which was sort of the original seed of the “Four Blades” storyline. I think at that moment, I realized the potential Sabrina had for a deeper storyline, while still staying true to teenage drama like school and relationships. I also really liked issue #71 where Sabrina and Llandra journeyed together to the Floating Island to see the Mana Tree. I always like stories that revolve around the joys of friendship and discovery. More recently, I enjoyed #88 where Harvey has his memory erased. I get a lot of questions about whether it will ever be restored... all I can say is wait and see! I'm really looking forward to the conclusion of the “Four Blades” storyline in #99 and #100 and I'm eager to see what the characters will get into next!”

So, yeah, what can fans of the series look forward to as the milestone 100th issue approaches? What's in store for Sabrina, Harvey, Shinji, and denizens of the mortal and magic realms? “There will be a big battle, and the true enemy will be revealed,” she said. “Sides will be taken, and the kids will have to use their wits and everything they've learned to keep ahead. Luckily they'll gain some important allies as the battle approaches. Sadly, one of the characters won't make it. But that's all I'll say for now!”

Other than Sabrina the Teenage Witch, del Rio is also working on several new projects. One of which is a new OEL/global manga series for TokyoPop. “I recently signed on with TokyoPop to write and draw a two-volume book about Quinceañeras (the coming-of-age ceremony for Latino girls). I had signed the contract just before the big shakeup at TokyoPop, but from what I've been told, my books haven't been cut. The basic concept was about Quinceañeras, and editor Bryce Coleman had a rough idea of what the story should entail. So we brainstormed together and came up with a synopsis which was then formally pitched - and approved.

“Originally, last year, I signed on to do a single volume which was supposed to have been released this year,” she continued. “I got as far as scripting the entire book and completing all the thumbnails. But then Bryce was promoted to a different department and Lillian Diaz-Pryzbl took over as my editor and told me that the plan was now to split the one volume into two, to give more room for the story. I had just agreed to the new contract when the shakeup took place at TokyoPop, so now things have been a little crazy. At first I wasn't sure my project made the cut, but then I've also been told that the series is intended to be printed. It has been quite a journey!

Even though she was one of TokyoPop’s Rising Stars of Manga contest winners in 2003 with her story, “Lovesketch,” which appeared in vol. 2 of the anthology, unlike her peers, she has never created/developed a project for the publisher. Until now, that is. “I've always wanted to do a book for TokyoPop, ever since having my work appear in Rising Stars of Manga Volume 2, and I've always had this feeling that TokyoPop wanted to work with me, if the right project came along. I've maintained a good relationship with them over the years and pitched several projects, none of which gelled. It did get a little frustrating after a few attempts and I began to lose interest. But, about a year ago, they approached me directly with a concept that they already had - they just wanted me to come up with the script and art.

“I'm currently in the process of working with my new editor Lillian Diaz-Pryzbl to flesh out and strengthen my original story idea even more. She has a lot of good points and suggestions that will help me really dig into the story and characters. I hope to wrap up the scripting soon and will jump into the art after that but due to my work on Sabrina I told them I wouldn't have time to ink and tone the book, so someone else will be hired to take care of that.”

As for other projects? “I've also been busy with my personal projects: Dollar Dreadfuls, which my husband and I debuted at MoCCA last year. They are fun and escapist short stories (with illustrated covers and some illustrated interiors) inspired by the Penny Dreadfuls and Dime Novels of the late 1800's/early 1900's.

”We just launched our online store, www.thebazaarium.com, where people can purchase our Dollar Dreadfuls and my husband's Silhouette Masterpiece Theatres.

”I'm also currently redesigning my website for my webcomic, My Poorly Drawn Life, and will be selling a 450-page trade of the stories along with bonus material, while I update the site with new stories each week after the relaunch.

”I forgot to mention that I'll be writing some new Katy Keene stories for Archie Comics. The artist will be Anna-Maria Cool, who has a great style, perfect for Katy Keene's world of fashion and adventure. Each issue will be standalone, yet together they'll form a four-story arc of her adventures in modeling.”

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