Ready to dive into a fantasy world that reintroduces everything we think we know about a genre? Look no further than Brandon Chen‘s fantasy WEBTOON series Just a Goblin. Goblin inventor Nog has spent days and nights trying to uncover the answer to a century-wide question. Why do adventurers slaughter monsters for sport, body parts and linens? The series takes readers on a perilous quest as Nog and his best friend, Gubble, set out for answers. We recently had the chance to chat with Chen about the series, his creative process and life as a WEBTOON creator.

Just a Goblin update every Thursday and can be read here!

Brandon Chen Interview

Julia Roth: We love a good fantasy WEBTOON series, especially ones that turn the genre on its head. What made you want to bring Just a Goblin to life?

Brandon Chen: Well, first, I always found the isekai and dungeon fantasy narratives to be quite interesting. I’ve seen a few narratives where the story is flipped from the perspective of a monster, but usually, those are power fantasies. I wondered what it would be like to have a shonen fantasy from the perspective of a monster that broke free from those tropes.

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Also, during Covid, there was a lot of segregation in the United States. Whether it was BLM or attacks on Asian Americans, it felt like a very intense and divided time. I actually had an experience in New York during the beginning of Covid that felt like I was being attacked for who I was. Interestingly enough, I thought that was a great way to tie my feelings into a series that I thought might also be entertaining.

Just a Goblin is all about world peace and perseverance, but it’s also about showing the story from the perspective of a creature that is always villainized in fantasy narratives by following a goblin main character who is much more than what he seems on the outside.

Still from WEBTOON original series Just a Goblin of a fighter on fire.

Just a Goblin WEBTOON Original Series.

JR: What kind of research did you do for the series?

I would say the research for Just a Goblin followed three things:

First, obviously, System Fantasy. One of my co-creators, Jksmanga, is quite a popular system fantasy writer, so he was able to give me a lot of pointers when it came to scripting the narrative. I’d read probably 30 or so of these system fantasy series (which is nothing compared to some readers), so I wanted to get the tropes down while also not falling victim to the box that genre might forge.

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Second, I had to do a lot of research on shonen-action. Luckily, most of my series are shonen-action, but I’m always researching how we can better depict action in Just a Goblin. Whether it’s Nog throwing a punch and using five panels to do so or Nog yelling about his dream, I study pretty heavily how it’s depicted in Shonen manga and try to make that shine in my writing.

Finally, there is a big historical fiction element. So, I study characters, moments and events from history that usually have to do with racism, colonialism/imperialism, and sometimes even darker topics that have happened throughout history.

JR: We are getting ready to head into season two. How much do you have planned out, or are you taking things chapter by chapter?

BC: We actually have a general plan for multiple seasons. Whether those get green-lit is somewhat contingent on the success of the series (please read Just a Goblin on WEBTOON!). But for Season 2, I have the season beats written out ahead of production. My scripts are usually a few ahead of art production as well. I try not to go too far ahead because sometimes adjustments in the art or good feedback from editorial/readers can actually impact some minor things I do with future scripts.

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JR: Who is your favorite character to draw?

BC: I’m the writer for this series, but if I had to guess for Inuupen, it would probably be either Vulgor (from Just a Goblin Season 2) or Gubble!

JR: Can you give us a peek into your creative process?

BC: My creative process, with relation to Just a Goblin, is that I will come up with an idea for what’s going to happen in the season. I’ll work with Jksmanga, Inuupen and Spencer (our WEBTOON editor) to make sure all is good. Then, I’ll write out the general beats of what will happen in each episode through that season.

Still from WEBTOON Original series Just a Goblin of someone punching.

Just a Goblin WEBTOON Original Series.

As for the actual script, I tend to detail exactly what happens in each panel—down to the perspective that the artist may consider drawing. Now, Inu and I have worked together long enough that he can deviate from my panel scripts, and I totally trust him. I also have many manga/webcomic/television references to help give visual cues/references for Inu if he needs them.

I also tend to be involved in the storyboard review and final review levels, so I give feedback on those sections. Because we serialize weekly, I do not give that much intensive feedback. But for my other serializations, I am involved at every stage of production.

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JR: Aside from Just a Goblin, you also have Samurai no Tora on WEBTOON. How is balancing both series?

BC: I actually write/produce somewhere around 10 series at the moment, so those two are actually pretty chill. Just a Goblin is easy to write and Inu executes pretty fast. Samurai no Tora‘s Josesartcave and I have known each other since I was in high school. Actually, I commissioned him when I was writing one of my novels. So, almost a decade later, we’re still collaborating, so I have a lot of faith in him as well.

Interestingly enough, writing multiple series has always come naturally to me. Even as a kid, when I was writing novels, I would also be writing multiple novels and stories at the same time just because I could never sit still with one narrative. I believe it’s my natural instinct to want to touch and develop many stories at once.

JR: What do you do in your downtime when you aren’t creating? How do you balance work and personal life?

BC: What downtime? Just kidding. Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of sports and spending time with my friends in New York City. I travel when I can to work remotely from different places. I believe that becoming a better writer is not just about creating but also about experiencing. You can only create what you have input into yourself. If you experience and see more, naturally, my ability to create actually expands. At least, that’s how I justify taking breaks.

Still from WEBTOON Original series Just a Goblin with Nog and fellow goblins excited about an invention working.

Just a Goblin WEBTOON Original Series.

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I find work-life balance difficult. Usually, if I don’t make plans, I will just work. That’s usually how it goes. But I love what I do, and if given free time, I would write and create anyway. For many years, all of my free time went into writing and creating. Now, it’s just spent with friends and family.

JR: What future plans do you have with WEBTOON? Are there other stories brewing in your brain?

BC: Yep! I have a slate of projects coming out with WEBTOON. The ones I can announce are Double Kill, which is essentially Bleach meets John Wick, which I am doing with Umair Ali, a talented artist and old friend. The second series is Angel Wings, a fantasy drama based on Dante’s Inferno. For this series, I am working with an experienced mangaka named Comipa, who has many years in the anime and manga industry.

Most recently, Just a Goblin has announced the development of another series in the same world, Blood System. I will be focused on Just a Goblin, where my co-creator, Jksmanga, will be taking the helm on Blood System. Then, of course, there are many more secrets brewing in the shadows.

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JR: What advice do you have for creators looking to dive into the world of WEBTOON?

BC: You improve by doing, truly! I wrote novels for myself for years and published dozens of manga one-shots and comics. There is no better teacher than creating the story yourself, getting feedback from readers, and then creating the next thing.

Oh, and also learn how to market yourself. That’s so important and underrated.

JR: What WEBTOON series are on your must-read list?

BC: I really like Jungle Juice. The coloring style is really beautiful, but it also has a very shonen-vibe that almost feels like it would work as a manga, too, which I like. Most of my stories and narratives are actually quite manga-esque, so I tend to lean towards concepts of that nature.

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