“The Classic Ten-Year Overnight Success”: On Peach Momoko’s Long Journey to the Top

One day in 2019, writer/translator Zack Davisson wandered into a Seattle comic shop, Comics Dungeon. This was right around Emerald City Comic Con, the city’s largest comic book convention, which meant there was a deluge of writers, artists, and beyond in town. For a local comic book creator such as himself, Davisson was used to drop-bys like this. He’d often stop to chat with visiting pals, whether it was at the convention itself or events around town. That’s what he was doing that day. A couple of friends were signing at that shop, and he was eager to see them in action. There was only one problem, though.

There weren’t any fans at this signing.

That was the last time Davisson saw his friend — artist Peach Momoko — at an event like this. 27 And in the five years since, Momoko’s circumstances have changed ever so slightly. The person who was then a budding comic book creator sitting through a quiet signing has since become an Eisner Award winning cover artist, a top selling cartoonist, and someone whose signature is so desirable it can actually inspire fisticuffs. Today, Momoko is one of the true giants in the direct market side of the comic book industry, 28 and someone who generates about as much excitement as any creator in the business, at least according to those who know best.

“Peach is absolutely a top tier artist that moves books,” said Steve Anderson, the owner of the Maryland and Virginia-based comic shop chain, Third Eye Comics. 29 “She’s in the same category as artists like Alex Ross, Artgerm, Gabriele Dell’Otto, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Skottie Young where her work will move a book alone with a cover.”

“Peach Momoko is one of a handful of artists that moves the needle for our customers for variant or ratio covers,” noted Christina Merkler, the owner of mail order comics retailer Discount Comic Book Service, or DCBS. 30 “We have customers that will buy anything that Peach does because the art is the most important part of their purchase, especially when it comes to covers.”

Momoko has become a surefire sale in a market often bereft of them, someone whose work always astounds — even when there’s an incredible amount of it. Her efforts on Ultimate X-Men, one of the four titles in Marvel’s recent relaunch of its parallel universe, have helped it become a top seller, one that inspires passion and conversation in all directions. The belief for many is that this rise happened quickly, with the cartoonist experiencing a whirlwind ascent that’s rare for the industry.

That’s the idea, at least. It’s one many believe to be true. 31 But as that signing demonstrated, Momoko hasn’t always been the star she is today. It’s been a long journey to the top, something Davisson knows all too well.

“I was talking to some people at Emerald City Comic Con this year, and they were like, ‘I’d love to meet Peach Momoko.’ I was like, ‘Were you here a couple years back?’ ‘Yeah, of course.’ ‘You probably walked by her booth 20 times and never even noticed she was there,’” Davisson said. “She’s been here all this time. You just didn’t know who she was.”

“She’s the classic 10-year overnight success.”


In some ways, it’s been the adventure of her lifetime, something she’s been building to since her earliest days in Japan. Momoko — which is a pseudonym she created for herself back in school 32 — has always been surrounded by art. Her family was filled with painters, photographers, and journalists, particularly on her father’s side. Despite the bevy of artistic options presented to her, though, she always knew what she wanted for herself.

“My true love has always been drawing,” Momoko told me. 33 “I don’t know what connected me (to it) or why, but I just always drew. I didn’t really think I had any other choice but to draw.”

Growing up in Japan as part of an art-focused family was a boon to her development. She believes “that whatever I saw and lived when I was a child has a lot to do with the current me, as an artist and storyteller.” Whether that was being exposed to Studio Ghibli early on — she described the animation studio as something that “resides in my brain, heart, and blood, rent-free” — or constantly browsing whatever books, encyclopedias, or manga she could get her hands on, Momoko gravitated towards art in an almost compulsive way.

“Learning about different art and styles and genre is very important because I take in art to clarify my approach and how I want to express myself,” Momoko explained.

Art from Atsushi Kaneko’s Soil

While certain people — like Atsushi Kaneko, a Japanese manga artist whose “images of female fighters” inspired and energized Momoko 34 — helped motivate her, make no mistake about it: Momoko was always destined to be an artist. It wasn’t a choice.

It was just reality for her.

“Honestly, I didn’t really care to investigate what else I wanted to do professionally but in the art world,” Momoko told me.

The only question was how that art would manifest itself. Going to art school helped crystallize one element of that. That was when she realized she specifically wanted to draw people. The cartoonist “always loved people watching” as well as fashion and studying character reference sheets from movies and video games, and that affinity for people became an emphasis for her art. It’s just how her mind works. But when she began as an artist, she wasn’t aimed at comics. At least not yet.

“I don’t think she was trying to make it in comics,” Davisson said. “I think she was trying to make it as an artist.

“And I would say that those are two entirely different things.”

Peach Momoko’s art for Girls and Corpses magazine

In the period before she made her way into comics — this was the late aughts — Momoko did a little bit of everything. Gallery shows. Murals. T-shirts. She even edited and did illustrations for a pornographic magazine. She was doing more work in America during this stretch, and that’s when she first did illustrations for Girls and Corpses magazine. While that might not sound like a major moment for those unaware of that publication, it was a crucial one for Momoko.

“Girls and Corpses introduced me to the world of comics and comic conventions,” Momoko said. “So, I do believe it was a very important first step in my comic career.”

These efforts in its Winter 2013 and Spring 2014 issues were her first real comic work, and they led to the owner of Girls and Corpses, Robert Rhine, inviting her to Comikaze back in 2015. It was at this comic convention in California when her path to comics truly began.

“Going to a comic convention really taught me comic and commission culture. During my first few years of attending conventions, I was still busy working on commissions and had fun seeing so many different requests and the smiles they brought to people,” Momoko said. “I decided to do more and more comic conventions, and I knew I didn’t want to focus my career just on attending shows and doing commissions. Although I did not really know how to approach publishers, I felt (that) eventually timing and opportunity (would) meet.”

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  1. Cartoonist Brian Fies was the other person signing that day. Also, Momoko emphasized that fans did show up earlier on in the signing.

  2. The part comprised of comic shops.

  3. Which is one of the largest and fastest growing comic shop chains in the country.

  4. DCBS is one of, if not the, largest accounts in the entirety of the direct market.

  5. I know because I was once one of them.

  6. When asked about it, she simply said she likes the name, and enjoys having a “unique name that is catchy and easy to remember.”

  7. Through her manager/husband Yo Mutsu.

  8. A quote from him did as well. He said, “‘You can cut any panel from my book and frame it,’” something she’s carried with her ever since.

  9. Cartoonist Brian Fies was the other person signing that day. Also, Momoko emphasized that fans did show up earlier on in the signing.

  10. The part comprised of comic shops.

  11. Which is one of the largest and fastest growing comic shop chains in the country.

  12. DCBS is one of, if not the, largest accounts in the entirety of the direct market.

  13. I know because I was once one of them.

  14. When asked about it, she simply said she likes the name, and enjoys having a “unique name that is catchy and easy to remember.”

  15. Through her manager/husband Yo Mutsu.

  16. A quote from him did as well. He said, “‘You can cut any panel from my book and frame it,’” something she’s carried with her ever since.

  17. Her favorite type of horror imagery? Anything that involves eyes. I asked her specifically about her affinity for eyes and she had a lot to say, telling me, “We are surrounded by eyes every day, but when there are numerous eyes looking at you, I think that creates a strong and unnerving situation.”

  18. Davisson wonders how people would react to “unfiltered Peach Momoko,” if only because how intense it is. Clearly writer James Tynion IV did as well, as he told me that he tried to reprint some of her earlier work in Razorblades: The Horror Magazine but was ultimately unable to.

  19. He told me that the only time he’s seen her not draw is when they’re on an airplane, and even then, she’ll still draw if it has good enough lighting and enough space.

  20. Based on my count, at least.

  21. This includes “virgin” variants, which are the same cover art but with no titling or anything. Also, I am bad at counting and honestly had a hard time keeping track of just how many there really were. My actual count was 224 but I’m not fully confident in that number.

  22. It was clear that meeting fans is one of Momoko’s favorite things.

  23. Something she felt very bad about, and took to Instagram to address.

  24. The artist put it as, “I was offered covers…a lot of covers,” which was the only time she ever used an ellipsis.

  25. Here’s a quick example of that. Davisson shared that he had been asked to tone a story down. “I got a note from Marvel saying, ‘Zack, can you do something about this? We can’t have Venom eat a baby.’

  26. That’s The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Yokai: Ghosts, Demons, Monsters and Other Mythical Creatures from Japan.

  27. Cartoonist Brian Fies was the other person signing that day. Also, Momoko emphasized that fans did show up earlier on in the signing.

  28. The part comprised of comic shops.

  29. Which is one of the largest and fastest growing comic shop chains in the country.

  30. DCBS is one of, if not the, largest accounts in the entirety of the direct market.

  31. I know because I was once one of them.

  32. When asked about it, she simply said she likes the name, and enjoys having a “unique name that is catchy and easy to remember.”

  33. Through her manager/husband Yo Mutsu.

  34. A quote from him did as well. He said, “‘You can cut any panel from my book and frame it,’” something she’s carried with her ever since.