Shiga was born and raised in Oakland. His love and loyalty to the town shines through in his comics. We see the influence of Oakland across his comics, most of which are set in different parts of Oakland or fantastical versions of Oakland. His art mediums are comic creations and animation. He is currently based in Oakland.
Shiga has been a huge part of the comics scene in Oakland. Through publishing, he has impacted the rise of comics in the Bay Area. Being Asian-American, Shiga makes it a point to create comics that increase Asian representation. In a recent interview with Shiga, he emphasized the importance of telling Asian narratives as someone who identifies with this community. His comics speak about topics including depression and family dynamics and growing up in the Oakland community while exploring the intersectionality of Asian-American culture.
Shiga graduated with a mathematics degree from UC Berkeley. He attended an arts magnet school from kindergarten till ninth grade. After graduating from college, he started meeting with other local cartoonists and began hosting drawing nights at his house. He called these events Art Night. These nights consisted of workshopping and critiquing each other’s work. Other famous comic artists, such as Gene Luen Yang and Derik Kirk Kim would organize these work spaces. For a while as a bachelor, Shiga worked at the Oakland Public Library and occasionally created comics for a newspaper called Youth Outlook and even had an original strip published in the Examiner. After he connected with Dylan Williams, founder of Sparkplug publishing, he started to become a famous indie cartoonist.
The year everything changed was in 2008 when Shiga started to sign to publishing companies. He had been an amateur for about 10 years. He wanted to become a professional, to move out of the amateur sphere and spearhead his career. Larger publishers were starting to notice that comics were selling really well. His first book advance was for a choose-your-own adventure children’s book. His early works Fleep and Double Happiness were a success.
- A lot of his haunts include the homes of the peers. Going over to each other’s homes allowed him and his peers to get feedback on their work. One of Shiga’s favorite haunts in Oakland to draw or draw by is Lake Merritt. The lake comes up in a lot of the settings in his comics. He has drawn inspiration by fleshing out ideas for his next comics or simply by observing the characters that come and go by the lake. Lake Merritt gained its name in 1874, named after Samuel B. Merritt. Merritt had assumed control over the lake’s shoreline alongside his colleagues from the Oakland Waterfront Company. Since then, the lake has become a place of union and creativity, and we see this through Shiga’s work as well.
- He has also drawn inspiration from his neighborhood around International. Before International was regarded as such, it was named East 14th Street. When discussing with Shiga his hotspots on International he specifically regards it as East 14th. Many who were born and raised in Oakland are adamant about calling International East 14th Street. It is a defense against the waves of gentrification that are now pushing out brown and black communities. Shiga mentions the gentrification of parts of East 14th and often recalls his animations to keep narratives prior to gentrification alive.
- Chinatown was a haunt that was also influential to Shiga’s comic creations. Chinatown emerged in Oakland during the 1850s after a surge of Chinese immigrants started coming to California. Due to multiple forced relocations and violence against Asian immigrants, what is known to be the heart of Chinatown today took a while to settle. Today Chinatown is home to a variety of Asian communities (Laotian, Vietnamese, Samoan, Cantonese, etc.). Shiga’s work centers around the Asian-American experience, and Chinatown, along with its history, continues to influence his comic narratives.
~ by Michelle Rodriguez ~
Click on this link to be directed to his website.