Dilraj Mann lives in east London and draws comics and illustrations that reflect the multi-racial, polyglot culture that surrounds him. If he’d been born 30 years earlier he’d have been featured in the Face Magazine by now.

Dalston Monsterzz is his debut graphic novel and it’s a smart, noisy, kaleidoscopic swirl of gangs and girls, great shirts and the odd monster (as you might expect from that title). If your favourite manga artist listened to grime … Then he’d probably still not be anything like Dilraj. But the comparison points you vaguely in the right direction.

We spoke to the cartoonist about his life, loves and the best places to hang out in east London.

Dilraj, introduce yourself. Tell us three things you want the world to know about yourself.

Hi, I’m Dilraj Mann. I’m an illustrator and comic artist. I hope to tell stories with fresh characters and plots that move people and push the medium of comics forwards. I breakdance like a king.

What is your own comic book history?

I’ve self-published a few zines which have then gone on to be published by some small international publishers and I’ve also done short stories for several anthologies from publishers such as Kus and Image comics. Dalston Monsterzz is my first long-form book. I grew up reading comics and always loved Love and Rockets, Akira (anything by Katsuhiro Otomo),  Acme Novelty Library, Bone, Stray Bullets and more recently it’s been stuff from publishers like Nobrow (ahem, publisher of Dalston Monsterzz) and also Breakdown Press, Peow Studios and First Second. I really like what Shortbox is doing.

The Herald:

How would you sum up Dalston Monsterzz?

You know when you’re a teen and you’re best friend suddenly gets a girlfriend and then hangs out with her ALL. THE. TIME. And you feel left out and left behind and his gf seems SO, SO cool. It’s about that… Oh, and the girlfriend has a pet monster. Adventure ensues.

What is the most monstrous thing you’ve ever seen in east London anyway? 

Saturday nighters on a Sunday morning.

If you had your own gang what would they be called and how would it spend its time? 

Imperial Rock Force. We’d steal cardboard from the back of supermarkets and then take it to a nearby car park and then practice windmills on it whilst blaring mixtapes on a stereo and then the police would come and we’d all run off like mice. And then we’d do it again the next day …

Who are your heroes?

Charles Schulz, Otomo, Bowie, Prince, Frank Ocean, Taiyo Matsumoto, Zaha Hadid, William Golding, David Mazzuchelli, George Lucas, Arundhati Roy, Afrika Bambaataa, Stephen King, Banksy, Keith Jarrett. 

Who are your influences?

ATM Camille Walala, Jaime Hernandez, David Hockney, Alessandro Michele, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Benji B and any new music that moves me to move.

What’s next on the horizon?

I have a bunch of stories that I really want to tell so I’m going to get moving on those. I’ve just done the official T-shirt for Thought Bubble festival in Leeds and I’m just finishing the artwork for a new print.

Is this a good time for comics?

Yes. There are a load of new publishers that I’ve already mentioned and a huge scene that’s distinct from the superhero comics that were prevalent. It really is a matter of telling the stories that you want to read and getting them out there.

Are you happy?

Yes because Dalston Monsterzz is OUT. And no because I see all the things I could improve in it…

The Herald:

What are you wearing today?

Cut off denim shorts, Keine Liebe T-shirt and top by Domestic Death.

What’s your perfect night out?

Hackney Wick or Dalston, hanging out with some people, Aaron, Cooper, Danny, Lol, grabbing some food, dance at Deviation or Nightslugs club night, more food, sleep.

Dalston Monsterzz, by Dilraj Mann, is published by Nobrow, priced £14.99.