Mauricio de Sousa
How was your childhood? When and how did you get interested in drawing?
I was always doodling with colored pencils and paper my father gave me. When I was three, I was strolling in the city alone every day, when San Paulo was still peaceful. One day during one of these explorations, I found a magazine dumped on the street. The issue was torn up, and the front cover was missing. However, I was mesmerized by the magazines' illustrations. It was a comic book I never saw before.
It was an illustration with a rabbit hero adorned with a cape accompanied by some animals and dwarves. When I showed it to my mother, she explained to me that the magazine was a comic. She read a few pages to me immediately. After I begged her to read more, she read some more! And from then on, she read to me a little bit every day. The comic was about a colorful super rabbit hero called Hoppy the Marvel Bunny - I was so glued to it!
My father noticed my interest in comics and got me back a new issue every time he went out. My mother taught me how to read so that she could get back to doing her housework without my interference. I learned to read in around 3-4 months. Although I was only a child, I tried my best to imitate the colorful pictures and characters using the crayons my father had given me.
I was very young, but I still remember that when I was four, I told my parents that when I grew up, I wanted to draw a story with dolls in it.
What elements influence your works?
My stories are influenced by all that I experience, feel, and learn in life. Observing my friends and their pranks when I was a child is greatly reflected in my work. When I became an adult and had daughters and sons, I learned a lot from them. Some of my main characters were inspired by them. I used to observe them and draw them as they were in my comics. My eldest daughter, Mariangela, she became a character when she was still crawling. The same thing happened with my second daughter, Monica (who had a short temper and wouldn't let go of her stuffed rabbit), and with my third daughter, Magali (who was a big eater and would eat up her favorite fruit, watermelons in a second).
Including my grandchildren, I now have 10 children.
In addition, there are 400 other characters inspired by people outside my family that appear in the stories created in my studio. We have always paid attention to the way our characters behave - Whether it is morally correct, the grammar of the lines, etc. I think that is the reason our stories have been so popular for 60 years. The stories we created have been loved by three generations. My studio is fun, and I’m very happy with it. What made me happier is that my comic helped children with reading and writing in the same way my mother did when I was a little kid.
We heard that you have a long and deep connection with Japan. What was the trigger that connected you to Japan?
I lived in Mogi das Cruzes, a city in the countryside of San Paulo, where many Japanese people were living in my childhood. Half of my classmates were second-generation Japanese Brazilians. I made lifelong friends in that environment. I would go to my friend's house and be treated to Japanese food and sing Japanese nursery rhymes with my friends as we played. Japan was always near me. I learned to respect Japanese habits and customs and dreamed of visiting Japan someday.
As my studio gradually grew, a deal was made with North American comics distributor United Features Syndicate. They distributed my work to newspapers in various countries, which led me to plan my first visit to Japan. It started as a panel comic but evolved into a weekly color page. The adorable character featured there, a kind-hearted little dinosaur named Horacio, caught the eye of a major Japanese company, and a contract was closed. The company was Sanrio, widely known for the Hello Kitty.
That's how I built my relationship with Japan over 50 years ago.
When I was working on "Horacio" in Japan, Takeda Alice, a female artist from my studio, came to Japan to help me finish the project. I visited Sanrio and would meet my mentor Mr. Tsuji Shintaro every time I revisited Japan after that. Mr. Tsuji was the president of the Sanrio corporation until recently.
My exchanges with Japanese big names didn't end with Sanrio.
I met and became good friends with Mr. Osamu Tezuka, "The God of Manga" when he visited San Paulo for the Japan foundation's exchange program. Mr. Tezuka is the creator of some of the most recognizable characters in the manga world, including Astro Boy, Kimba the white lion, Princess Knight, etc.
The Japan Foundation invited him to Brazil as a part of an exchange program. It was a wonderful gathering of Mr. Tezuka, myself, and many Brazilian cartoonists.
At one point when I met him, we made a promise that we would collaborate on a project about environmental protection in the Amazon and that we would feature each other's characters in it. We published some magazines for this purpose. On the Brazilian side, Turma da Mônica Jovem (Monica Adventures) joined this crossover adventure. Unfortunately, Mr. Tezuka passed away, so this project could not be continued. I started rethinking the environment protection project after meeting with his son, Mr. Makoto Tezuka.
To further reach out to Japan, we opened an office (like the one we have in Brazil) based in Tokyo in 2019 to expand our business to other Asian countries.
Earlier this year, "Monica Toys" started broadcasting in Japan. How do you feel about it?
I felt that my dream had come true. Manga artists all over the world are hoping to see their works animated on Japanese TV. The comics will be ready soon, and other merchandise will be available in Japan. Picture books have already been released in Japan. It would be wonderful if we could publish a manga version of Turma da Mônica (Monica & Friends)...
About Copic: What do you think about Copic markers?
The quality of COPIC products is known throughout the world. They are perfect for young artists striving to develop their skills to create new art and characters, and they are also an ideal tool to convey the same positive and fun message that we have been delivering to our readers for over 60 years.
Speaking of years of activity, I mentioned one of my studio artists, Takeda Alice, at the beginning of this interview. She is the one who supported me when I was working on my manga in Japan. As a matter of fact, that trip to Japan was the beginning of our relationship, and we got to know each other better. Our marriage has lasted for more than 50 years now, and we have been blessed with three wonderful children and a lovely grandson.
What do you think of the new Copic Monica Toy set?
COPIC sent me a catalog and asked me to choose five colors from their color lineup, so I consulted my wife, the art director of Mauricio de Sousa Productions. She is very knowledgeable about the most used marker colors in our studio.
This time, I chose colors that I thought would be exciting for young people and children who I hope will use Copic markers, and the result is so great. Also, "Monica Toys" line arts are included in this set.
At last, do you have something to share with the younger Brazilian and Japanese people who wants to become a comic artist like you?
It is pleasing to transfer on paper your feelings from the tip of the pen. Showing and sharing the creations with your family and friends is satisfying. The happiest artist is the one who is drawing!
Limited-edition product "MÔNICA TOY SET" now available
We would like to inform you that we are going to release a new product, Copic Ciao × Mauricio MÔNICA TOY SET.
The set is a product made in collaboration with Brazilian cartoonist, Mauricio de Sousa, and is scheduled to be released in Brazil in the fall of 2021.
The set includes 5 Copic Ciao markers, with which you will be able to draw cute characters from the popular animation series ’Mônica Toy’, one Copic Multiliner, 5 line art sheets and a special sticker.
It is a perfect present for both ’Mônica Toy’ fans and Copic beginners.