In the upcoming illustrated novel Shinjuku, a retired Special Forces soldier has entered the seedy world of bounty hunting – and one of his first jobs is saving his own sister. Set in a futuristic 2020 in Shinjuku Tokyo, Shinjuku follows Daniel Legend as he descends into the depths of Tokyo to find his lost sibling and comes head-to-head with not just one underworld, but two: the criminal and the supernatural. What starts as a personal quest turns into something that could impact the world.
Legendary illustrator Yoshitaka Amano (Vampire Hunter D, Sandman: The Dream Hunters) is partnering with writer Mink for this illustrated novel – Amano's first in over a decade.
For Mink, this is the latest in a string of comics that included 13 Chambers and Paolo Parente's Dust. But Mink is more than a comics' newcomer, he's an accomplished filmmaker who was just announced as the director of a new Mortal Kombat film. In recent years, he's been a part of Quentin Tarantino and Lawrence Bender's A Band Apart shingle, and has been shooting music videos and commercials.
Mixing crime and science fiction, this illustrated novel shows a new side of Amano and a new writing talent in Mink. Dark Horse has advance-solicited the hardcover with a release date of Spring 2010, and we talked with Mink for more on this project.
Newsarama: So Mink, can you tell us about Shinjuku?
Mink: Shinjuku is sci-noir (Science Fiction-Crime Noir) project I have been developing for many years set in the not to distant future. It started as a short story I wrote just for fun while I was working In Tokyo directing a film in 2005-2006. I lived in the Shinjuku area and became enchanted with the city and its transitory multi-cultural population. It is very special place with a mystical quality and a street culture that resonated with me having worked so many years in LA.
It's also is the entertainment center of Tokyo so for all things Japanese it was quite a spot for with everything from a video game that awards winners a real live crab in to a bar built inside the stomach of whale. It also seemed to have far less westerners than places made famous like Roppongi or the Ginza so it pushed me to localize myself to the culture faster. I even have a favorite haunt I have named Dano's only because it is a three-seat restaurant owned by a guy I named Dano who has an affinity for grilled squid, Stevie Ray Vaughn records, and Japanese Vodka.
When I returned to the states I kept developing the story on my own as a side project till one day lightening struck. Shinjuku became the West meets East story of Daniel Legend who traveled to Tokyo to save his sister and accidentally saved the world.
Nrama: Tell readers about Daniel Legend.
Mink: Daniel is the hero of the story and the center of the Shinjuku world. He is an American in his 30's raised in a foster home living and working in Los Angeles. His occupation is a bounty hunter or in my story a "Scout."
Scouts in the story are an elite international force set up in 2016 under a UN mandate in response to a shortage of law enforcement globally. In order to become a Scout an individual must have been in military or police service for no less than eight years and exemplified their position in all areas. They also undergo rigorous testing in all psychological and physical areas because they are a legitimized regulated mercenary force. Daniel in the story is a do-the-job, no-nonsense guy molded after many creative influences of mine. He is a man that every guy would like to be and every woman would like to spend an evening with trying to understand his past and cope with his ever-changing present.
Nrama: What were your goals when you first started putting the ideas for Shinjuku together?
Mink: My goals originally were to get a story I thought could have some legs with a very stylized art and design approach. They story went through multiple revisions. I think after twenty or so full revisions I got something interesting. I then began to approach what would it look like.
Nrama: Did your time living in Shinjuku influence a lot of what would become the visuals for this illustrated novel?
Mink Yes. I knew one thing it had to contain the actual physical properties one experiences on the streets of Shinjuku which is the quality of light juxtaposed against the structural and graphic design. Tokyo is not short on lighted signage and Shinjuku at times feels like Vegas on steroids in that sense. This creates an illusion of moving light at night that is unique to only this city. The city also looks completely different in daylight which also is interesting.
I then wanted to cross this with some of the traditional Japanese Demon stories and traditional Japanese art techniques. Sounds like a lot to chew but that is what I was peddling. So that being said and not wanting manga I was very limited and who might be able to understand where I was going with it visually. West meets East with a new art technique does not come easily to most.
Nrama: That's an art challenge, but luckily you got Yoshitaka Amano aboard. How'd you manage that feat?
Mink: I had always been a massive fan of Amano. To me his work transcends commercial art into the world of the current modern masters. He is included in the names of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Klimt, Rothko or Hockney. I am so honored he agreed to do this project.
The original thought of approaching him came from that I became aware he sometimes would do covers. In my travels I also had found a book called M which was published in Germany. It contained a small series of paintings he had done that was very different from his Final Fantasy work, oil painting or Vampire Hunter D work. It contained mostly straight line art done in hi-contrast black, white and red on large aluminum panels. I had been using it as inspiration for what I was doing anyway. I think most people who knew his work would not believe it was Amano.
So having the long shot idea he might do a cover, I was fortunate enough through a series of wonderful circumstances and great mutual friends to get a few minutes of his and his business manger Yoshi at a social event. Keep in mind I had my doubts and most of my peers in the industry, Japanese and Western, all said he will never do it. So clinging to my M book idea I shook his hand and introduced myself. I think he was shocked I knew the M book more than my name was Mink, but being so polite he stopped his other conversations and addressed me. We talked for a few minutes about general things and then I had the courage to ask him was he ever be interested in doing new work for books. He is so soft spoken and thoughtful in his words. He said he had not done a much in years as he had been doing his gallery work mostly but he would consider it.
So here I am at the crossroads with an art master with pieces in the MET saying he would consider it. Was he being polite? Were my peers right? So being fearless and having little to loose I began to discuss the city of Shinjuku and my time spent there. I also had brought a few photographs with me of the quality of light in the city and its visual effect it had on me and the story. Well the rest is history. He not only did the cover but he drew 150 images and we have two more series in the works.
Nrama: We'll be looking forward to those. Branching out you’re your own background, I read up on you and realized you’ve been working for Quentin Tarantino’s production company since 2002. Can you tell us what you’re working on there?
Mink: This is another how did that happen? In 2002 I had been working in the industry for many years grinding it out and at a party I ran into a friend who was one of the partners of A Band Apart. In passing I said to him so "When are you going to sign me?" as a joke. A few weeks later I was shooting since then I have been working on and off with the extended ABA family and developing material with Lawrence Bender in film and television. Lawrence has been a generous friend and influence in my career now for many years. I owe him a lot. He is a big fan of Shinjuku and 13 Chambers, one of my other books.