From Martial Arts to Manga: A Conversation with J.R. De Bard

Since its release, Underground has been racking up impressive sales numbers, and believe it or not, it even experienced a temporary sell out on Amazon. Can you imagine? Moreover, JR De Bard made a triumphant return in the latest installment of Saturday PM Issue #21.

Karim dawns the cover of this issue – the artwork perfectly captures the gritty and stylized essence of JR’s comeback. Not only does this issue feature the entire first chapter of Underground Vol. 1, but it also treats us to a captivating interview between our esteemed writer Alexis Stokes and JR, delving into his recent release. We’ve included a small snippet for you below. Don’t miss out! Take a look!


Saturday PM: Welcome! Please introduce yourself to the audience Don’t pull any punches, if you don’t mind. *pun intended*

JR De Bard: Hey! I’m J.R. De Bard, the writer, and artist behind Underground.  When I’m not working on my manga, I practice martial arts.  I’m a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.  I’ve practiced mostly WT, the Taekwondo you would see in the Olympics, but I actually started with ITF Taekwon-Do.  Apart from that, I’ve done some Muay Thai, Hapkido, boxing, and even a bit of Ninjutsu.  That last one was really just for kicks.

Saturday PM: What inspired you to create Underground? What’s the backstory behind the main character?

JR De Bard: I’ve always enjoyed fighting games like Street Fighter, Tekken, Dead or Alive, and Mortal Kombat.  Tekken is actually a particular favorite of mine.  I’m not any good or anything, but I like seeing how the different characters represent these different fighting styles.  Having practiced some myself, I thought it’d be cool to make a manga series that reflected that.  It’d be exciting to see how these fighters with their own styles would match up. The main character, Karim, has his base in Taekwon-Do, the style I feel I’m most familiar with. As he continues to fight in the underground, he has to learn and develop techniques to cover up for the limitations as a Taekwon-Do practitioner, but also allow him to better utilize his strengths.  On top of that, his first encounter with an underground fighter leaves him with an injury that serves to handicap him in future fights.  All this will kind of play a part in him forging his own mixed martial art style over time.

Saturday PM: Are you involved in any underground fighting? Promise we won’t call the cops. When planning the scenes that have educational moments in them how do you make it digestable for the reader? Promise we won’t call the cops. Lol.

JR De Bard: Please don’t call the cops! Haha! No, I haven’t participated in any underground fighting.  The most I’ve done is fought off some guys trying to mug me. I’ve participated in a few martial arts competitions too, did some beating up, and have gotten beaten up.  I guess you could say I use these as learning experiences to put into my manga.  When it comes to the more “educational scenes” I feel my approach varies depending on what I’m trying to get across.  There’s a scene in the first chapter for example where I use a whole page to demonstrate an armbar without any dialogue, instead trying to draw the movement and positioning.  Other scenes, I may be trying to depict the fight anatomy to show why a certain technique is effective, and that usually requires a bit more dialogue.

Check out the full Interview in Saturday PM Issue #21 HERE


Also don’t forget to pick up UNDERGROUND VOL. 1 OUT NOW! HERE

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