One of the biggest artists of recent memory at Marvel comics, Peach Momoko has established quite the popular reputation. She won an Eisner award for best cover artist in 2021. Then, as part of Marvel’s rising-talent Stormbreakers class of 2020, Momoko had released Marvel’s Demon Days, a popular comic book series set in the artist’s own Momoko-verse, blending Marvel superheroes with Japanese folklore and traditions (such as featuring The Hulk as an Oni).
Known for her love of anime and Studio Ghibli, Momoko’s signature style is what sets her apart. Many of her early pieces feature very wide-eyed yet stoic faced young girls. Heroines with a strange sense of hauntedness behind them. Visuals as equal parts compelling as they are dark and mysterious.
“She isn’t really after depicting cute or beautiful visuals. She’s more interested in the mentality and inner-beauty/darkness of these girls going through their adolescence. Their youth…” said Yo Mutsu, Peach’s art manager and husband in a recent interview on Marvel’s Voices. “She likes to depict those inner-emotions with almost no facial expressions. Very plain. But you can tell in their eyes… You can just tell their emotions.”
Her partner in crime, Peach has been married to Yo Mutsu for over a decade. Moving in with him in Portland, Oregon back in 2010. It was around this time when the artist first came to the United States. But, about one year into living here, Momoko experienced her first jolt of culture shock. Which was harrowing to experience, yet also, sort of the catalyst that inspired her to create art.
The resulting work that followed would be where Peach Momoko would find her signature style. Her consumption of Japanese influences and culture, crafted from her longing sense of home (the artist moved back to Japan in 2013), gave wind to an art career that’s kept her sailing forward as one of the biggest breakthrough artists today.
Given all this, I always personally often wondered if her nickname of Peach Momoko originated from some some sort of historic appreciation of Japanese anime or folklore. Particularly, Hayao Miyazaki’s classic-hit Princess Mononoke, or even, the lore of Momotaro. Also known as the tale of Peachboy, as it seemed rather fitting. I was, however, absolutely wrong, as corrected over an e-mail exchange.
“Peach Momoko is my illustrator pseudonym. It has nothing to do with Princess Mononoke or Momotaro,” corrected Momoko when asked about it. “I just came up with this name in school goofing around with friends and just came to being attached to it.”
Peach is also known for her unique usage of watercolors. Which requires a lot more time, space, and attention to detail. It’s not exactly an expedited choice for modern comics creators who often rely on digital approaches due to the nature of crunch work these days.
Yet somehow, the talented artist makes it work. As a result, Peach Momoko’s covers have become highly coveted works of art. Those signature watercolors, shapely designs, and incredibly expressive eyes have become sort of a Peach Momoko trademark. You can tell almost immediately when one’s a Peach Momoko piece, regardless of that task or subject at hand, because the artist has made her mark with a very distinct and signature style and design.
“I do not have one favorite character because I am happy with all of my designs!” said Momoko regarding which one of her works she felt most proud of. “I feel like I am able to find just the right characteristics of both Yokai and Marvel characters.”
Indeed, seeing how Peach established her career was a unique trajectory having started as a simple passion in middle school with designing fashion and clothes. Designs were something Momoko enjoyed and always dreamed about doing.
Surprisingly, much of Peach’s early work delves into the usage of anatomy combining identity and the adolescence of change. In a different life, Peach Momoko would have been a tattoo artist. Which sort of makes sense given the similarities between watercolors and tattoo art.
“I was actually never a tattooist. I was just in the process of learning. I gave myself a milestone of by age 30, if I don’t make a living in art (not just in comics but any form of art that I can express), that I would apprentice under a tattooist,” said Momoko regarding her history with ink. “But before 30 I felt comfortable with my comic career that I kept going in this route.”
It was around the Winter 2013 and Spring 2014 issues of Girls and Corpses magazine where Momoko finally caught her big break early in her career. The owner of the publication, Robert Steven Rhine, had taken Peach Momoko to her first major convention at Comikaze. It was there, where she met at editor at Heavy Metal, and through networking, was able to partake in the 40th-anniversary art exhibition in the summer of 2017.
She then met with the acclaimed comics writer Grant Morrison, then Editor-In-Chief of Heavy Metal, along with others at the magazine, who were able to pick up some short stories written and illustrated by her. The resulting short features appearing in issues 288 and 290, which of course would later, grab the attention of all the big publishers including Marvel. Still, today however, the artist considers herself an artist over a writer, first and foremost. Regarding the process of what it’s like to find your art style, Momoko shared:
“I just drew every day. But also went to museums, read art books, comic books, manga, anime, CG animation, etc. And looked and studied at all different styles of art. But mainly, I just enjoy drawing!”
Peach Momoko made her first-ever podcast appearance on a recent episode of Marvel’s Voices where she talks about her history, style, and sort of her approach to art, much of which I’ve detailed so far in this piece. Though I directly sourced to this episode of the podcast if you’d like to know more. She also, just recently, made her first-ever NYCC appearances leading to a pretty recent controversy initially covered by ReedPop’s own Popverse.
According to testimonies regarding happened, Peach Momoko was allowing for up to 10 items to be signed absolutely free for those who visited the table. An incredibly nice gesture for her fans by all means. The problem, unfortunately, was that there were no restrictions for fans to re-line up at the back of the line causing one of the worst traffic jams at the convention, and unfortunately, for collectors abusing her generosity. Essentially swarming her booth at artist alley. Initial reports even stated that a fight broke out. The artist was so overwhelmed that both Peach and her husband were forced to leave the signing booth…
“Peach had her earphones on zoning out at that time, but suddenly I heard some violent yelling and that is when Peach heard it over her earphones as well. The security [guards] went over to calm the person down, and that is when I went over as well to talk to them, and to tell them that they are no longer welcome to Peach’s signing,” confirmed Mutsu in an e-mail exchange between Popverse. “Unfortunately by that time, Peach got overwhelmed and scared and started to blame herself for creating this problem because of her presence, she couldn’t breathe properly so had to hide herself under the table. She was also shocked to see people would fight and argue over a signature.”
I should stress that I was actually in attendance Sunday as well covering the convention for The Workprint. Surprisingly, I also ran into Peach Momoko and Yo Mutsu pretty far away from their artist alley spot, though not too distant from the Marvel booth. I did however, choose not to engage with the couple given what happened, my own language barrier, and the fact that I knew this interview was happening online anyway.
I would be remiss not to mention that so much of the recent Peach Momoko promotions at the moment are focused on Demon Wars, the artist’s sequel to the acclaimed series Demon Days and a popular adaptation of Marvel’s Civil War story. Yes, the same one featured in the 2016 movie, and in Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance 2, for any gamers out there.
The past two years, the Momoko-verse has done an excellent job adapting Marvel heroes with stunning Japanese folklore redesigns. Written and drawn by Momoko, the series focuses on the journey of Mariko Yashida, a woman who was often portrayed as Wolverine’s romantic interest, though in a very funny turn of events for this comic series: is Wolverine’s pet owner (as Logan has been reimagined as Yashida’s trusted doggie-companion).
In DEMON WARS: IRON SAMURAI, Momoko set the tone in a world that’s as equal parts fairy tale as it is demonic nightmare. It’s a stark yet lightly colorful environment that blends the best of both traditional comics, but also, some hints of manga techniques. Its second part, DEMON WARS: DOWN IN FLAMES, will apparently see the Civil War story finally collide with story elements from another legendary Marvel Comics storyline: the Phoenix Saga.
“I always write the story as I think of Marvel characters to fit the Yokai role. And for this issue I wanted to introduce Hi No Tori (Fire Bird) because it represents life and destruction (one of the themes of Demon Wars) and felt Jean Grey (Phoenix) was the perfect fit for the role,” Momoko explained in a Marvel press release. “Magik also had the perfect characteristics of a particular punkish oni so that is why I chose Magik to be in my Momoko-verse as well. I really enjoyed illustrating Phoenix and Magik’s relationship and using mainly fire for them to communicate. I actually wasn’t familiar with the Phoenix Force stories so it was interesting finding out more as I researched.”
DEMON WARS: SHIELD OF JUSTICE #1Written by PEACH MOMOKOArt and Cover by PEACH MOMOKOCo-scripted by ZACK DAVISSON On Sale 11/16
DEMON WARS: DOWN IN FLAMES #1Written by PEACH MOMOKOArt and Cover by PEACH MOMOKOCo-scripted by ZACK DAVISSON On Sale 2/1