After a 16-year hiatus, Ninja Boy is finally coming back.
Tied up in copyright limbo since the first volume was published in 2001, Ninja Boy is being relaunched by the original creators, Ale Garza and Allen Warner, who raised the funding on Kickstarter. The two initially sold the idea of Ninja Boy as an animation pitch 17 years ago, and they eventually worked with Jim Lee's WildStorm imprint to turn it into a comic book. And they've been wanting to do a second volume ever since.
This second volume of Ninja Boy will launch with an oversized 30-page issue that Garza is hoping to have ready in October. And although the Kickstarter campaign is technically over, Garza is offering the same incentive "tiers" to anyone interested in getting in on the deals. And eventually, all comic fans can get their hands on the book when he publishes it through Diamond Comic Distributors after a launch at New York Comic Con in October.
Newsarama talked to Garza about the challenges of bring back Ninja Boy while getting some preview art for fans.
Newsarama: Ale, you've succeeded in bringing back Ninja Boy after all these years! What took so long? Was it because you had to get it from - it was WildStorm, right?
Garza: Yeah, it's kind of been in DC's ownership limbo for the past 16, 17 years. And I've been freelance for the past decade, pretty much. So it was years and years of bugging them to get the rights back.
And then last year, finally, after I did Get Jiro! for Vertigo, they basically told me I could have the rights back.
Ever since that's happened, we've been retooling it and getting it back together to re-release the second volume.
Nrama: Let's start with the concept, for people who might not be familiar with the book. This is a ninja story, but you've kind of put your own tweaks on it, haven't you?
Garza: Yeah, it's a classic hero's tale, featuring ninjas, obviously, but it's also got a fantasy feel to it. And it's influenced a lot by hip hop, since we're very into Wu Tang Clan and stuff like that.
So there are a lot of unique twists.
The second volume is more akin to a Kill Bill series, because if you read the first one, you know that everything went bad at the end and pretty much everybody was thought to be dead.
So the second volume, since it's called "Life After Death" - I mean, the main character Nakio and his sidekick Sake have been dead all this time, but we come to find out that they weren't actually dead and they've been planning their revenge.
Nrama: How would you describe the artistic approach you're taking with the second volume?
Garza: Well, compared to the first volume, I think I've gotten to be a better artist - it's just one of those things that I think in time, like everybody involved, we've all improved our crafts.
I was influenced by artists like Joe Madureira and J. Scott Campbell, but over time, I mean, I've worked in the business 22 years, I've developed my abilities.
The art is very influenced by fantasy stuff like Game of Thrones and The Neverending Story - stuff like that. Big creatures, big monsters, bright and colorful. The stuff Guy Major did on the first volume was great. But it's been 17 years and things have advanced, and the stuff Luis Guerrero is doing on the second volume is definitely a beast all its own.
Nrama: Let's go back to the genesis of Ninja Boy. This was something you and Allen came up with together, right? Did I hear it was originally a TV concept?
Garza: Yeah, we came up with Ninja Boy, jeez, it's already been 17 years. I did it after I did EVE Protomecha for Top Cow way back in the day. Then we decided we wanted to do something ninja-based.
At the time, we were pitching shows for animation. And we had actually created Ninja Boy and we sold it to Kids WB back in 2000 or 2001 – it was right before 9/11 happened; I know that.
So we had sold that. And then at the time, we had been in Southern California, and I had had a history at WildStorm. But at that point I was working freelance. But I went down there and had a meeting with Jim Lee, and he was very interested in publishing it and making it into a book.
We actually didn't have any plans to make it into a book, but once we realized we could, we did.
So initially, it was six issues through WildStorm, under their Eastern influence line they did years back.
Nrama: Can you pick up Volume 2 without reading Volume 1?
Garza: Yeah. It stands on its own. People who read Volume 1 will be privy to Easter egg stuff that are picked up from the first volume.
Nrama: Will you re-release the first volume?
Garza: Yeah, we're releasing it digitally first. Then depending on how well the second volume does, we'll most likely reprint the first volume collected along with the second volume.
That was one of our basic tiers on Kickstarter was to get the whole PDF of the first volume.
But we definitely have plans. If it does extremely well, I have a plan to remaster the first volume and re-color it and soup it up to make it match the current volume we're working on now, since a lot of things have changed in the past 17 years. You can really jazz things up, even in that amount of time. Like, the computer coloring technique have advanced pretty far since them.
Nrama: And even if someone missed the Kickstarter, it'll be available to all?
Garza: We plan on soliciting it through Diamond. Some of the covers will only be available through the Kickstarter. But we intend to have this comic book available for everyone.
The Kickstarter was to help me finance publishing and printing it. So if anybody's interested in any of the tiers from the Kickstarter, they can still contact me and I can set them up with any of the deals that were available through the Kickstarter. They can contact me through the Kickstarter, or through Instagram or Facebook - I'm pretty easy to find online.
Nrama: Do you have ideas for a third volume, and even more?
Garza: Well of course, eventually, I'm hoping that people really enjoy the story in these six issues and come back to it for more and more. But we need to get orders for that first issue. The Kickstarter was just to fund that first issue and get us running and started through the rest of the series.
I have a lot of faith that, once it gets started, it'll carry itself through the six issues.
After that, we have another creator-owned book, Maiden Age, that will be tying into that universe.
We basically have three six-issue series that we're planning to create, like, a trilogy with a universe of characters that Allen and I have been kicking around for decades since we were in kindergarten.
But we've got to get these six issues out first. We're hoping to have a big release for it at New York Comic Con. These are all things I've never dealt with before, dealing with the publishing side of things - it's a whole different way to deal with deadlines. But I'm publishing and printing up the books on my own, so I'll have the issues ready to buy at New York Comic Con.