After capping his 70-issue run Witchblade and totally tearing apart the Top Cow universe in Artifacts, writer Ron Marz is now focusing his efforts on spilling buckets of blood in his new horror/martial arts series Shinku with artist Lee Moder from Image Comics.
Shinku is the epic story of one samurai’s war against a clan of vampires, as she tries to eradicate every last blood-sucker on the planet. The solicitations for this book summarized it best with, “If you’re looking for vampires that sparkle … this ain’t it.” Shinku is a vampire story with balls and it brings back the gritty, stomach turning horror that has been missing from other vampire titles on shelves.
Ron sat down with Bloody-Disgusting to discuss the genesis of Shinku, the pitfalls of creator owned titles in today’s market and how the series is the antidote to the current vampire trends happening in comics.
RM: In all honesty, the seed of the idea came from a Vampirella story I was going to pitch years ago about Vampirella teaming up a Japanese vampire hunter. That story never even got pitched because the editor I wanted to work with left the company. So the concept went back into the slush pile in my brain, and eventually came out again as this samurai/vampire hunter story … sans Vampirella, obviously.
With the success of Twilight, True Blood, and 30 Days of Night the market for vampires is at an all-time high and oversaturated. How is Shinku different from your run-of-the-mill vampire romance story?
RM: Well, for starters, Shinku doesn’t suck like Twilight does. Obviously I’m being a little flippant here, but Shinku is me telling my version of a vampire story. The general Shinku concept was in place long before Twilight became a thing, or True Blood hit HBO. I was actually a little reticent to do Shinku now just because there’s such a vampire surge at the moment, and you never want to seem like you’re jumping on the bandwagon. But Shinku is in a lot of ways the anti-Twilight because our vampires are most definitely monsters who prey upon humanity, rather than cuddling with them. If anything, Shinku puts vampires back in the roll of unapologetic bad guys.
Japanese culture and the medieval samurai period play a big part in the back-story for Shinku, how much reserach goes into that part of the book? Will it ever take a step back and re-visit that era for a story arc?
RM: Obviously I’ve done samurai-themed books before, with The Path at CrossGen and Samurai: Heaven and Earth, my creator-owned book at Dark Horse. So the period is very familiar to me already and my shelves have a stack of research books on them. I’d love to do a period chapter of Shinku, or maybe a one-shot, set in the feudal past.
Is Shinku an ongoing series or a series of mini-series?
RM: The plan is ongoing, with consecutive numbering, rather than a series of mini-series. Issue #3 just came out after a delay due to some health concerns in the family of one of the creative team members. Issue #4 will be out January 4, with issue #5 finishing the arc shortly thereafter. So we’re looking at first quarter 2012 for the TPB.
RM: It’s hugely important for a creator-owned book to ship on time, because so many of them don’t. It’s a key to sustaining a title over the long haul. But you also have to realize that the vast majority of creator-owned books are done for free. There’s no page rate up front for anybody on the team, and unless the sales are there, there’s not much on the back end either. We were faced with a situation where unexpected events in the life of our colorist, some fairly serious medical issues in his family, contributed to our delay. Nobody likes a book to be late, least of all me, but sometimes acts of God intervene in your life. We made the decision to wait, because our creative team is a family, and you hang together when you’re a family. Because of who is working on it, Shinku has a specific look and feel, a look and feel we want to preserve. It wouldn’t be the same without any one of the creative pieces. All we could do is apologize to the fans, let them know what was going on, and hope they stick with us.
You’ve been very outspoken about the need for creator owned comics and the need for them in the today’s marketplace. How hard is it right now for a creator-owned series to survive in the marketplace and how do you combat retailers and fan mentality to only support titles from Marvel/DC or only superhero titles?
RM: I don’t think it’s really a question of combating that mentality. That’s too much of an antagonistic term for me, considering we’re all in this together. Obviously it’s hard for creator-owned books, or even any books that aren’t Big Two superheroes, to gain a foothold. Buying habits are ingrained for both retailers and readers, and it’s not easy to break those patterns. There’s no one answer. The best you can do is do your book, make it the best book you can make it, and try to get it into people’s hands. The audience is much more likely to pick up the new Batman or X-Men spinoff title, so your book has to be that much better than that material. Believe me, I realize comics are an expensive habit, so publishers and creators have to do everything they can to give the audience its money’s worth. We have to offer alternative programming to the networks, like HBO or FX.
As an independent creator is it more important to embrace digital comics and sites like Comixology/Graphicly?
RM: I’m convinced digital comics are the future, especially for independent books. We need material to be accessible to as wide a range of readers as possible, and digital is the way to do that. For lack of a better analogy, digital can be the modern-day newsstand, as long as we offer a diversity of product for a diverse audience. Shinku is available on both Comixology and Graphicly.
How much of an impact does illegal downloads have on books like Shinku and have you seen it have a direct impact?
RM: Something like that is very hard to quantify. Certainly not every illegal download equates to a lost sale. Still, comics are a niche market. Creator-owned comics are a niche of a niche. I can’t tell you what direct impact illegal downloading has on a book’s sales. But I can tell you illegally downloading comics, and most especially creator-owned comics, is an incredibly shitty thing to do. Every sale is important. If you’re downloading creator-owned comics, you’re stealing from people who are most often working for FREE already. Yes, free content is a great way to reach an audience. But that decision should belong to the owners of the material, not some guy with a scanner and too much time on his hands.
You were part of the DC New 52 re-launch writing Voodoo, which I thought was one of the best series of the entire re-launch, and have since been replaced by DC citing they wanted to go in a different direction with the book. How disheartening was it to hear the news and do you think the initial online controversy surrounding the first issue had anything to do with your dismissal?
RM: I honestly can’t give you a reason, because I was never given a reason beyond “different direction.” I liked the book, and I loved working with the art team of Sami Basri and Jessica Kholinne. I liked that we were doing a book that was something different, with a morally-ambiguous protagonist and antagonist. That’s the direction that was approved when I took on the series, but I guess somewhere along the line, DC decided that’s not what it wanted. That’s their prerogative. So I’ll just say thanks for the four issues we completed, and wish everyone well.
Shinku #4 Is Available Now! Check The preview here