An Essay by Tomer Hanuka

October 11, 2021

1989, Israel.

My twin brother Asaf and myself are sitting at a theater, watching Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. We’re completely wrapped in it. Most resonating are the ESPers – a group of prematurely-aged psychic children. Their leader, Masaru, floats around in a protective glass bubble. The government locked them in isolation for decades, fearing a leak. Tragically, for all their incredible potential, they literally never got to grow up.

1999, New York.

During my last year of college, I started self-publishing comics: Bipolar with Asaf and an anthology titled Meathaus with my SVA buddies. I grew up reading comics and was enamored with the flat and graphic quality of the art. Yet, for the more ‘serious’ professional world, I’ve presented the painterly work I’ve created in school. It didn’t occur to me then, that this was a false dichotomy. The ‘comics’ drawings I’ve created using digital tools were considered inferior, but the experience felt like an authentic expression of something far more personal.

2000, New York.

I’ve just graduated from The School of Visual Arts in NYC. I work at a factory in Queens, and then at a startup downtown. I wasn’t born here, and my ability to stay is hinging on landing an Artist Visa, which requires getting published. My senior portfolio of patchy acrylics isn’t catching fire. Then the internet bubble bursts and the startup I was working for sheds eighty employees, myself included.

2001, New York.

It’s opening night at The Society of Illustrators for the annual exhibition. Those self-published comics covers miraculously make it to the show, and are awarded the gold and silver medals. High on the possibility of turning my boat around, I approached the New Yorker magazine art director. She’s friendly and quickly brushes me off with ‘I’ll call you on Monday’. But then she does. A tiny window opens in the invisible wall. I slip through it and run as fast as I can.

2021, New York.

In the past twenty years, I’ve explored a variety of formats, using illustration as the driving engine of the narrative. From film posters to animation, comics, and magazines to feature films. The drawn image still has the same hold on me it had when watching Akira for the first time. NFTs can potentially offer a new set of possibilities and structures, that can empower creators in an array of frontiers. I don’t know yet what’s on the other side. It’s another invisible wall, and that crack you see right in front of you– that’s a window.

Tomer Hanuka

New York-based illustrator Tomer Hanuka has worked on the Oscar-nominated animated doc Waltz with Bashir and created covers for The New Yorker and The National Geographic.

Most recently he worked in visual development with Netflix and Sony, for live-action and animated projects.

Hanuka’s work has been exhibited at the British Design Museum and won multiple industry awards, including Gold medals from The Society of Illustrators and The Society of Publication Designers.

A monograph of his work titled Overkill was published in 2012.

The Divine, a graphic novel he co-created was published in 2015 and made The New York Times bestseller list, was nominated for a Hugo, and won the International Manga Award. Publisher’s Weekly described it as "Heady, hellacious, and phantasmagoric".
Michael Rubin