One of the announcements from Devil’s Due at WizardWorld: Chicago caught some fans off guard – the publisher had acquired the rights to Vampire Hunter D from Digital Manga Publishing. Instead of just repackaging the original stories though, Devil’s Due will create new stories in a Western style about the character created by Hideyuki Kikuchi.
We spoke with Devil’s Due President Josh Blaylock for more about the deal and what readers can expect to see.
Newsarama: Josh, what got this deal rolling in the first place, and with whom did it originate?
Josh Blaylock: A few months ago DMP contacted me about another yet unannounced project, and it got us talking. Somehow Vampire Hunter D came up, and I expressed how cool I always thought it would be to play with that character.
NRAMA: What's the attraction of Vampire Hunter D for you and Devil's Due?
JB: He's just plain cool. He has a great backdrop, a nice simple set of rules to follow, and a heavy emphasis on action. I always appreciated the simplicity of Vampire Hunter D amongst what appear to be very complicated villains. He is complicated deep down, and countless years old, but he's never going to tell you anything about it. When it comes to the bad guys it doesn't matter how long they've been around, how grand of a noble vampire they may be, D's coming in and kicking the Nobility Vampire nation's ass.
NRAMA: Break down the idea of what you're producing here - these will be original, American stories, right? Not adaptations or "Americanizations" of existing Vampire Hunter D stories?
JB: Correct. They will be original Vampire Hunter D stories, but drawn in a more American style and read more an American comic - and not only meaning it's from left to right, but the subtle nuances that differentiate the feel of reading a manga from reading another comic. D will still be the same mysterious, broody character as always, it's still millennia in the future, and the Nobility will still be making life hell for humans everywhere on Earth. And yes, he'll still have the talking hand.
NRAMA: Since you probably just lost some people who aren’t familiar with the character there, before we go any further, broad stroke the title character and his world for those who may not be that familiar with it. Who is he and what's his deal?
JB: Vampire Hunter D is a lone figure wandering the landscape in a vampire infested future. I'm talking way in the future, by about 10,000 years. Humans destroyed the Earth in our own time, and opened the door for Vampires and Demons to rule once more. Now humans live together in small villages just trying to survive. D is a half human / half vampire (in this mythos they can breed), who is determined to let his human side win. I'd go as far as to say the modern interpretation of Blade borrows heavily from D, or at least has a lot of similarities. Never explained is a talking mouth on his hand that has some unusual powers, and his cybernetic horse.
NRAMA: Of all properties, why do you think that Vampire Hunter D will be able to make the journey to a Western story - complete with Western art and storytelling?
JB: Other than what I've already said, it's hard to explain. It just 'does', you know? From the reactions we've been getting from people, I'm happy to say it seems we're onto something. Of course you're going to have the manga purists who wish us a thousand torturous deaths at the hands of a vampire clan for daring to tamper with a classic, but when they see the respect we handle it with, most of them will appreciate what we're doing. More importantly, many people who would have never picked up a D title before, but fondly remember the anime will.
NRAMA: What kind of creators –and feel free to announce them if you'd like - do you get to handle this translation of a character into a different culture?
JB: Nothing to announce at this time, but definitely someone capable of handling this gritty, sexy landscape, and someone who understands the characters. They have to have had an appreciation for the anime and/or comics as well.
NRAMA: In your view, what makes Vampire Hunter D unique such that when he does come to an American audience via American creators, he doesn't just turn into, say, Blade, or any member of Buffy's pantheon? I guess the larger questions is what challenges are there in maintaining the character's integrity when you're transplanting the character into a different culture for a different audience?
JB: D's not grounded in our world. He's not grounded in a past version of our world. And yes, it's the future, but Kikuchi's future is so out there that it's unlike anything we've seen. Here you are in the year 12,000, but there are people running around in classic Victorian and gothic clothing thanks to the influence of centuries old vampires. The demons and monsters doing the vampires bidding also add an element completely unique to the world. We're not going to lose any of this. We'll definitely be inspired by the Japanese design of everything, which can't not show through no matter how much we bring a Western feel to it.
NRAMA: What kind of oversight does Kikuchi have with this version?
JB: He is being very hands off, approving the "big ideas" and overall progress through Digital Manga. He was all about the idea from what I've been told, and is flattered to see others interpret his character, even though not many have done it before.
NRAMA: When are you looking at launching, and what's this first arc about?
JB: Right now this is set for a Winter '08 release, but we're making sure to find the right talent first. We're talking to people, but no decisions have been made.
NRAMA: Anything you can say about future plans for the series?
JB: Just that I hope this appeals to everyone as much as it does to us, and that there will be more on the way if that happens!