Tomer (L) and Asaf (R) Hanuka have become internationally celebrated illustrators. Tomer (L) and Asaf (R) Hanuka have become internationally celebrated illustrators. Asaf and Tomer Hanuka have become internationally celebrated illustrators. (Photo: PIERRE DUFFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Twins take graphic novel world by storm

Hanuka brothers riding high with release of new graphic novel, 'The Divine.'

Twin brothers Asaf and Tomer Hanuka have been enthralled by comics since they were little boys growing up in Tel Aviv, Israel.

"Tomer and I used to copy frames from issues we got, like X-Men or Spiderman," Asaf told From The Grapevine.

That love nurtured them through adolescence and into adulthood. Today Tomer has made a name for himself by contributing illustrations to such publications as The New Yorker, and for his album and book cover art. Asaf has also contributed illustrations to big media publications and to the film "Waltz with Bashir."

But it's a recent bestselling graphic novel, "The Divine," done in collaboration, that's raising their profile to new heights.

Asaf and Tomer Hanuka's "The Divine" has become a bestseller.Asaf and Tomer Hanuka's 'The Divine' has become a bestseller. (Photo: Asaf Hanuka)

"The Divine" tells the story of Mark, a contractor who finds himself in the depths of the Burmese forest surrounded by mysterious, and some would say magical, children.

Such was the anticipation for the new novel, which was written with friend Boaz Lavie, that when it was made available for pre-order it sold out in just two days.

The pair welcome the success, especially because they don't often get the opportunity to work together. Instead, much of their time is spent working on individual projects more suited to their own particular interests.

"Obviously we are influenced by each other. We share a studio and we see each other work. We're interested in similar things. But there are still a lot of differences. For example, Tomer has this great series of film posters he's done on Stanley Kubrick [films] and it's not something that interests me. And I do a strip once a week about my life in Tel Aviv that's not really of interest to him."

But, he added, "It's really cool and fun to collaborate and work together on stuff from time to time."

The strip Asaf refers to is "The Realist," a weekly illustrated anecdote of life in Tel Aviv that he does for an Israeli newspaper.

xxAsaf produces a weekly comic strip called 'The Realist.' (Photo: Asaf Hanuka)

While clearly indebted to the idiosyncracies of his hometown, it's another city from which Asaf initially drew inspiration.

"In the '70s, New York became such an icon for me because it was illustrated in all the Spiderman comics, and you could imagine Spiderman jumping from the roof of a building in New York, and it always had this water tower and all these very particular aesthetics," Asaf explained.

"I always thought Tel Aviv deserved to be illustrated, too. It has a lot of particular stuff. The architecture is pretty specific, so I really wanted to make Tel Aviv a character like New York," he added.

Asaf has come to be known for his own particular style. "Art directors refer to me as the comics guy. I'm the guy who draws comics. This is my aesthetics. This is my language," he said.

The same could be said of Tomer, who released a collection of his illustrations in 2011 under the title, "Overkill."

A collection of Tomer's work published under the title "Overkill," came out in 2012. A collection of Tomer's work published under the title 'Overkill,' came out in 2012. (Photo: Amazon)

All of this begs the question: Does rivalry play a part in the relationship?

"Since we're twins – we have been twins forever, since we were born," Asaf said, laughing, "we've gotten used to working side by side. I don't think there's a competition, we're too old for that, and the real competition is always against yourself, really, trying to be better than what you are."

If success is any measure, continue to improve they do. But success isn't the only marker of improvement. It's also about the knowledge that comes with hard work, and applying it to the craft.

"With experience, I've learned that to make an interesting illustration is not really to make a pretty drawing but to find something interesting to say no matter what the subject is."

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