Image Comics is being taken over by samurai and vampires.
That’s the story coming out of Comic-Con International: San Diego and the Image Comics Show panel Friday, as a new ongoing series pitting vampire versus samurai was announced. Shinku, by writer Ron Marz (Witchblade, Green Lantern) and Lee Moder (Painkiller Jane, Dragon Prince), tells the store of an epic confrontation between two feuding Japanese clans – one vampire, one human – and the modern day high-noon showdown with the last surviving human and an underground army of vampires.
Although it’s first full issue isn’t set to debut until Spring 2011, Shinku was first glimpsed with an “ashcan” Marz & Moder released last year during the convention season, which is still available via Westfield Comics. Newsarama covered Shinku back then during its early days, and we return to the title upon the news that its been greenlit as an ongoing series at Image Comics. For more, we talked with Ron Marz by phone about the project.
Newsarama: Ron, can you run down for us the story of Shinku?
Ron Marz: The real short version of it is that it’s a modern day vampire story set in Japan. The story itself takes place mostly in the present, but there will be some flashbacks to feudal Japan. Shinku is about the war between two feuding samurai clans --- one of which happens to be a vampire clan. The vampires have existed all this time, and currently run a lot of Japanese society behind the scenes. The main character is a woman who is the last surviving member of the samurai clan that opposed the vampires – and it’s her responsibility to wipe them out.
Nrama: Is Shinku her name?
Marz: It’s not her birth name, no, but it’s the name she takes up when she takes up this responsibility. I’m told that Shinku can mean ‘deep crimson’ in Japanese, as well as ‘hardship.’
Nrama: Vampires are a hot thing in pop culture right now, but your vampires here seem less glittery and more monster-y. What can you tell us about the vampires in Shinku?
Marz: They don’t sparkle. At all. The vampires in Shinku are for the most part evil bastards who revel in their natural state. This idea has been rolling around in my head for a number of years, back to when ‘twilight’ was just a description for a time of day. This isn’t a reaction to Twilight, although I have to say that I’m not really big on that interpretation of vampires. I’m more of an old school fan – vampires are the bad guys. There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about them.
Nrama: Shinku takes place in Japan, a place you’ve visited several times in comics like in Samurai: Heaven & Earth and The Path. What’s your attraction to Japan? Have you had the opportunity to visit there in person?
Marz: No, I’ve never been there, so someone should invite me. It’s a society that’s always fascinated me though, particularly the samurai aspects. Both visually and historically, Japan holds a lot of interest for me.While this story is set in a contemporary Japanese city – Tokyo, to be exact – the roots go back to the classic Edo period of the samurai. This story really grew an image that popped into mind: a large-scale samurai battle taking place in a field under a full moon, and one of the samurai armies happened to be vampires. Once I had that, the story itself grew pretty organically.
Nrama: Shinku has been talked about for some time – Newsarama even covered it when it was an ashcan last year. What’s it like to finally get it into print, at Image no less?
Marz: Well, I’ve done creator-owned stuff before -- Samurai: Heaven & Earth at Dark Horse and Dragon Prince at Top Cow. Obviously I’m enthusiastic about doing any sort of creator-owned work – it’s like dessert after a meal of work-for-hire that pays the bills. That’s not to say that work-for-hire work isn’t enjoyable; I’m really having a ball with everything I’m writing. But there’s a certain spark that comes from doing work that’s all yours, and you’re creating everything from the ground up. I’m very happy to have Shinku at Image, which is really the number one choice for creator-owned work.
Nrama: How’d you get connected with Lee Moder, who’s drawing the series?
Marz: Lee Moder’s been a buddy of mine for years, and we’ve worked together on a number of books, including Dragon Prince. We talked over the concept, and we were both enthusiastic about doing it. So we decided to get some pages done and see where it went from there. Last year we had enough done that we decided to print up an ashcan for the Baltimore Con. Although we only printed a couple hundred, one of them ended up in the hands of Image’s Eric Stephenson, who expressed interest in it. We ultimately worked out the deal, and the book will be a monthly, color series, starting in the spring of 2011.
Nrama: Will anything from that ashcan show up in the Shinku series itself?
Marz: The pages in the ashcan will end up being the first nine pages of the full-length Shinku #1. It won’t debut until early next year, so we’re going to go back and lavish some more attention on it. It’s also going to be in full color this time, thanks to Mike Atiyeh.
Nrama: Mike’s a familiar face with you – I always associate you and him with your CrossGen days.
Marz: Yeah, Mike’s been one of my closer friends over the years – and he’s a terrific colorist to boot. I really asked him out of courtesy, because I honestly thought he’d be too busy with his other books to fit something else into his schedule, but he jumped in enthusiastically. Between Mike, Lee and our inker, Matthew Waite, I couldn’t ask for a better team.