Samurai’s Blood is collected into trade paperback from Image Comics this week. Three teenage samurai must defend their family honor and take revenge on the evil force threatening their clan. Writer Owen Wiseman joins us for an interview about this six-issue Edo Period adventure.
We understand you had a unique introduction to Japanese culture at a young age.
Indeed I did.
I was accidentally put into a Japanese class in the 7th grade, and the sensei convinced me to stay for a week.
He told us about the samurai and showed us Kurosawa’s Ran. Fifteen years later, here I am. It wasn’t all quite that simple, of course. I started studying a lot of philosophy—or tetsugaku, one of my favorite Japanese words—in college, and I drifted toward the Eastern traditions.
Samurai’s Blood is a hero’s journey, yet does not focus on one hero but three young samurai. Was this a challenge to write?
OWEN: It was difficult to balance, but a trio is a classic story construction as well. I consider it Katashi’s story most of all, but each of the characters represent a different aspect of the story’s central dilemma, which is: What does one do when the requirements of the Way conflict with the needs of the world?
Can one break the Way to avoid pain? To stay alive? To get vengeance?
These are all questions and tests of the will, and that was the whole idea, because will is the most important virtue of the samurai. Loyalty is the most important act, but will is the most important virtue.
What kind of emotions can one expect to feel while reading Samurai’s Blood?
Excitement and tension, first of all! Ideas are great, but then we get to the story, and I think what Nam Kim and the other artists have done speaks for itself. They’ve taken my ideas and my scripts and created a fast-paced story of vengeance with plenty of awesome fights and moments along the way. Then at some point, hopefully, they’ll feel exultation.
Why focus on the early Edo period specifically?
Early Edo period is one of the most interesting 50-year periods that has ever taken place in any nation on earth.
The cultural, political, and ideological changes that took place during the period from, say, 1595-1645, are absolutely startling.
The entire society remade itself, and the whole thing is given an incredible gravitas by our knowledge that the new system, indeed the new ruling family, would last in near-total isolation for almost three centuries.
You’ve successfully woven together themes of betrayal, revenge, redemption and honor in the book. Which character has the most to teach us?
I can’t pick one! They all teach different things. I guess I’ll cop out and say that really, what I’m trying to teach people can only be appreciated by looking at the story as a whole.
Nam Kim’s dynamic fight scenes, costumes and architecture are knockout amazing. I’m sure his reference work was very important to the authentic feel of the book. How was working with Nam?
Working with Nam, Matt Dalton, Sakti Yuwono, and Josh Aitken, as well as Dave Elliott, our editor, was a pleasure from beginning to end. They all made the book what it is, and I think every one of them has a bright future. But I think Nam Kim is gonna be a star. The guy is a machine, a total professional, and I don’t have to tell you about his talent. Even if you think my ideas are stupid, buy the book for his art.
…And Jo Chen (Buffy Seasons 8-9) provided some beautiful covers!
We were really lucky to get her. Credit that to her own benevolence, the fact that she supported the idea of the book, and a nifty bit of work by Dave, our editor.
Let’s talk comic market! You publish prose Samurai’s Blood stories on your blog, and encourage interaction on Facebook and Twitter. How is this feedback helping you sell your book?
I write the prose stuff just because I love doing that, and I want people to enjoy it. When I get enough of them, I may sell a small, well-formatted collection for a buck or two on e-reader, but I’m definitely going to keep writing them and putting them on SamuraisBlood.com, because they let me keep working in this world with no overhead. In fact, I’m going to post another story today.
An entertainment product of any kind without a Facebook and a Twitter is kind of a joke at this point.
I’m on Twitter: @OGWiseman, and I just have fun with it so it doesn’t feel like work.
Let’s get personal! Are you a practicing Buddhist? What is your favorite Akira Kurosawa film?
I don’t consider myself a Buddhist, though I have great respect for those traditions.
If anything, I’m a practicing Samurai, which sounds like a joke but is not. I take those ideas very seriously, and I try to put them into practice, as much as is possible, on a daily basis.
My favorite Kurosawa film is Ran. It’s not too many people who make their greatest film last, but he was one, in my opinion. But there are so many great ones in his filmography. The guy was remixing Shakespeare for film long before remixing was even a thing. Throne of Blood is a magnificent achievement, though it lacks the scope of Ran. I could go on for an hour. Why aren’t there more Kurosawa film festivals?
What’s the next project from you, besides the terrific support material on your Samurai’s Blood website?
The Fires of Avalon is another historically oriented book, this one set in a mythologized Britain at the end of the 10th century. We don’t have a release date as yet, but here’s the link to check it out: Facebook.com/BenaroyaPublishing.
BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE! CHECK OUT LEAGUEPODCAST HERE. THEY HOST THE 3RD ANNUAL LEAGUEPODCAST BOSTON COMIC-CON AFTER PARTY ON SAT. APRIL 21 AT MCGREEVY’S.
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