ARTIST KLENDA V FINDS BEAUTY AND HUMANITY IN THE ULTRAS
The Ultraman fan community is a very special place. It’s one of nostalgia, theories, events, art, and a mutual appreciation for the deeper philosophy of the Ultraman universe. One of the people who contributes greatly to the community is artist Klenda, aka @Klenda_V on Twitter.
Klenda began her journey as many have; by growing up watching the 1966 classic Ultraman series. After having lost touch with the franchise over the years, she was reintroduced as an adult by her brother who gave her a copy of Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends The Movie, which featured Ultraman Zero, after a trip to Japan. The nostalgia engrossed her and during the pandemic, Klenda immersed herself into Ultraman Taiga, which had been running weekly on the Ultraman Official channel on YouTube.
Klenda was touched by the sentiment of Ultraman. She had grown tired of the grittiness and moral ambiguity of many western superheroes and felt that Ultraman represented the honor of upholding morals with gratitude.
“The thing about Ultraman is that it’s really a love story,” Klenda smiled. “The Ultras love humanity despite the humans’ apathy, negligence, and hopelessness. Despite everything they always choose to connect.”
Klenda especially expressed admiration for Ultraman Nexus. “It shows us what hope can look like in a world that has given up.” A theme we both agreed is extremely pertinent in the current state of the world.
With her background in fine arts and her affinity for comic books, Klenda has developed a unique and refined creative style. Her work is unique and stands apart from other Ultraman fan art because of the almost romantic and at times familial nature to her design choices. Klenda gives us glimpses into the home life of Ultras, embracing their children, going on dates. She sometimes Tweets that she could watch a whole series about the relationships of the Ultras, set entirely in the Land of Light.
Geometrically pleasing psychedelic scenes, vibrant tableaux, portraits that capture the stoicism of Ultraman himself—Klenda definitely has range, but all her pieces share a mesmerizing intensity.
“Ultraman is supposed to be beautiful. I want to represent that beauty, that’s what I hope to do in my work.”
While she does take plenty of inspiration from 1990s - 2000s era Ultraman series such as Tiga, Gaia, Max, Nexus, and Agul, one of her recent inspirations has been Takahiko Waki who designed Absolute Tartarus’ suit for the more recent Ultra Galaxy Fight series.
In fact, Klenda found herself slipping through the looking glass in December of 2021 during the Ultraman Connection Live: Holiday Special. In the middle of the livestream event, the Absolutians invaded Tsuburaya Productions’ Tokyo studio, and Absolute Tartarus began directly addressing fan messsages. I asked her to tell us what happened.
“For context: as soon as Tartarus was announced to be answering questions, the comment section went crazy; people asking Tartarus what gym he went to, what beauty regime he kept, etc. I thought, ‘surely he wouldn’t answer one of THESE,’ and joined in with ‘Why are you so handsome?’
“At which point they selected the question, to which he replied: ‘Ohohohoh, Klenda…Klenda. You have potential. Someone like you, must feel lonely on this planet, full of Land of Light believers. You, are always welcome, in the Kingdom.’
“Firstly, thank you Walter Roberts for ruining my life. Second, that might be the most surreal moment of my life. It took a while to process that part of Ultraman—something I’ve been watching since before my memory begins—had reached out and poked me, specifically. It was awesome, it definitely made me more invested in Tartarus as a character and a villain, and I’m pretty sure I’m now legally obligated to go visit a live Tartarus show and take a photo with him."
“I dearly wish I had a recording of the rest of this encounter; his other answers were also amazing, including him attempting to read out a keyboard-smash. It was a great time and that alone was more than worth the price of admission!”
One of Klenda’s other favorite Ultra-muses is Zoffy because of how iconic his suit is.
“I think a good way to tell how well a character is designed is if a child can draw it and you can tell who it is. If a child drew Zoffy, you’d know right away.”
When asked if there was any other reason, she connected to Zoffy, Klenda admitted she was raised in a large family and relates to the different bonds Zoffy has with each of the Ultra Brothers. She felt represented by his ability to tap into various parts of himself to help his siblings respectively.
However, Klenda isn’t the only one who developed this kind of kinship with Ultraman. Through posting her work, Klenda came in touch with fellow fan artists and writers and has become a part of a thriving Ultraman fan community, many of whom are also women. They use Twitter and Discord to discuss their pressing questions, dissect the mythology of the franchise, and display their fan art.
“Over the 56 years that it’s been around, Ultraman has been so internally consistent. It keeps to its core principles of compassion, mercy, and hope. No matter what iteration of Ultraman you watch, it’s coming from a foundation of love.”
As of now, Klenda doesn’t sell prints of her work, but she does take private commissions and she can be reached on twitter @Klenda_V and her website Klenda-V-Portfolio.carrd.co.