Mariko Tamaki (born 1975) is a Canadian artist and writer. She is known for her graphic novels Skim, Emiko Superstar, and This One Summer, and for several prose works of fiction and non-fiction. In 2016 she began writing for both Marvel and DC Comics. She has twice been named a runner-up for the Michael L. Printz Award.
Mariko Tamaki was born in Toronto, Ontario. She is of Japanese and Jewish descent.
Mariko attended Havergal College, an all girls’ secondary school. She studied English literature at McGill University, graduating in 1994.
Tamaki has worked as a writer and performance artist in Toronto, including with Keith Cole’s Cheap Queers and in the performance group Pretty Porky & Pissed Off with Joanne Huffa, Allyson Mitchell, Abi Slone, Tracy Tidgwell and Zoe Whittall.
Tamaki published the novel Cover Me in 2000. It is a “poignant story about an adolescent coping with depression”. Told in a series of flashbacks, it is about a teenager dealing with cutting and feeling like an outsider in school.
Skim, a collaboration with her cousin Jillian Tamaki, published in 2008 by Groundwood Books, is a graphic novel about a teenage girl and her romantic feelings towards her female teacher; the reciprocity of those feelings remains unclear in the text. The other central story is about the suicide of a classmate’s ex-boyfriend who may have been gay. The text is fundamentally “about living in the moments of wrenching transition …[and] the conflicting need to belong and desire to resist”. Tamaki says she did not set out to “make a statement about queerness and youth”: “Skim’s in love, and kisses a woman, but heck, she’s just a kid. She could go on to kiss many people in her future – some of them might be dudes, who knows? I think Skim is more a statement about youth, and the variety of strange experiences that can encapsulate.” According to one reviewer, “the expressionistic fluidity of the black and white illustrations serves the purpose of pages of prose”; there is little plot and spare dialogue. Tamaki writes that artists such as Hergé, Igort and Vittorio Giardino as well as Asian art had an influence on her style but her storytelling was rooted in American comics like Daniel Clowes, Chester Brown, and Will Eisner. Skim was originally developed as a short play for Nightwood Theatre.
Emiko Superstar, Tamaki’s second graphic novel and first with illustrator Steve Rolston, is about a young woman who feels trapped in her suburban life. It was inspired by performance art and Girlspit, an open mic night event in Montreal. The protagonist is inspired to try performance art after visiting such a space. As one review says, “this is a story about finding oneself, one’s voice, and one’s true character amidst the trappings of counter-culture fame”.
In 2014 Tamaki again collaborated with Jillian Tamaki, on the graphic novel This One Summer, published by Groundwood Books.
In 2016 it was announced that Tamaki would be writing a new She-Hulk series for Marvel Comics, and the mini-series Supergirl: Being Super for DC Comics.
In 2017 she began writing novel adaptations of the Lumberjanes comic series.
Tamaki’s graphic novel collaboration with artist Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me was released in May 2019 by First Second Books. Freddy’s rocky relationship with Laura leaves her heartbroken and neglectful of her true friends. In this queer coming-of-age story, Freddy learns to let go of a toxic relationship and value the people in her life who make her a better person.
In November 2019, Tamaki came back to Marvel for a four-part mini-series called Spider-Man & Venom: Double Trouble. Tamaki’s graphic novel I Am Not Starfire was released on 10 August 2021 as part of the YA original graphic novel series from DC Comics. Yoshi Yoshitani will be providing art for the standalone story, which centers Teen Titans legend Starfire’s daughter Mandy Koriand’r, who plans on “moving to France to escape the family spotlight and not go to college” despite her famous mother’s protestations.
In January 2021, as part of DC’s Future State event, Tamaki and artist Dan Mora collaborated on Dark Detective with colors by Jordie Bellaire. The series ran for four issues from January to February. In March, Tamaki, Mora, and Bellaire became the new creative team for Detective Comics beginning with #1034. According to Comic Book Resources (CBR), Tamaki’s appointment as the writer of Detective Comics makes her the first female lead-writer of the title’s publication history.
[Latest Update: May 26, 2022]