Interview: Writer Owen Wiseman Tells Us What’s In ‘Samurai’s Blood’

Writer Owen Wiseman is new to the comic industry, and is pretty excited about the release of his first series, Samurai’s Blood, with art by Nam Kim through Benaroya Publishing via Image Comics.

From the synopsis:

In an era when lineage defined you, three teenagers must make their way through the world hiding their identities in order to find their destinies. As their village burns behind them, they are headed for a city they’d heard about only in stories. The three young samurai must now struggle to stay alive and take vengeance on the evil usurper who has destroyed the rest of their clan and the only world they’d ever known. Will they rise on the tides of vengeance, or they will they fall on the swords of fate?

Wiseman, a screenplay and prose writer, recently spoke to MTV Geek via e-mail about the experience of getting his series published, his inspirations, and what too look forward to in future installments of Samurai’s Blood.

MTV Geek: What was the genesis for the story?

Owen Wiseman Well, first, several centuries ago, the Edo period began with the ascent of Tokugawa Ieyasu to the position of Shogun… No, just kidding, I won’t go back quite that far. My friend and creative partner Mike Benaroya came to me several years ago with the idea for this story and the outlines of these characters. As soon as he finished talking, I knew we really had something special. The rest is history…and a whole lot of bleary nights of mind-bending work.

Geek: When did your fascination with samurai and the bushido code begin?

OW: This is literally true: It began when I got mistakenly put into a Japanese class in 7th grade. The sensei convinced me to stay for a week, and after that week I was in love. We learned all about the history and culture of Japan, and I even wrote a report on the exact time period that I’m now writing about! That’s why, when Mike came to me, I could see it all in my head. He had the story but I had the world already, not just from years of studying culture, but from studying Eastern philosophy extensively in college.

Geek: What was some other samurai fiction that influenced the story?

OW: Certainly the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa and Yoji Yamada, among others. Those movies entranced me when I was young and they still do to this day. Awesome samurai manga like Blade of the Immortal, Usagi Yojimbo, and Lone Wolf and Cub were also influences, but part of what I wanted to do with Samurai’s Blood was to move away from what those series had done. I’ll never do better than Usagi, but I like to think that I’ve treated the samurai and their struggle in a more realistic, more emotional way.

Geek:Who are some of the major characters we should be looking out for in the book?

OW: The three main heroes are Katashi, Jun, and Mayuko. Sanjo Junichi (Jun) is the final heir of the Sanjo Clan after their family is betrayed and destroyed. Sanjo Mayuko, his sister, is his only living relative. They start our story in the tiny mountain village they call home. Kajiro Katashi is the son of their village blacksmith, a fighter of unparalleled skill who wants desperately to rise to the ranks of samurai. The entire story swirls around these three as they seek to stay alive, take their vengeance, and restore the Sanjo Clan to its rightful place.

Geek: This is your first comics work. What’s the creative process been like?

OW: It’s always a struggle to put something together, but Samurai’s Blood has been relatively painless. I’ve already got all six scripts finished for this miniseries, so we won’t have any delays in release or anything. That’s important to me, because I know as a fan how frustrating it is to wait for a book and try to stay interested. The main challenge I faced in scripting was fitting everything in. I tend to write long anyway, and there is a TON of story here, so many interesting things I want to show people, that I definitely had to leave some stuff out that I would have liked to get in there. Perhaps there will need to be more issues to come…

Geek: How did Nam Kim join the project as your artist?

OW: For locating the inimitable Nam Kim all credit must fall to Dave Elliott, the Benaroya Publishing Editor-in-Chief. He’s been in comics for two decades, knows everybody, and matched us up. Actually, to be more specific, he gave me a set of options, and the moment I saw Nam’s portfolio, I knew we had a match.

Geek What’s your collaboration with him been like?

OW: It’s been a dream. Part of what has made the scripting easy is my confidence in Nam’s ability to capture what I have in mind, and improve the parts that need improving. He and I email on a daily basis, and have become quite good friends in the process of creating Samurai’s Blood. I’ve felt the same confidence and ease with my other collaborators also: Matt Dalton, our Inker, who works directly with Nam, Sakti Yuwono at IFS, who did our colors, and our letterer, Josh Aitken.

Geek: What’s working with Benaroya and Image been like so far?

OW: Again, it’s been really great. I’ve felt absolute creative freedom from both entities to just tell the story. They’ve both been great, on board with everything I wanted to do, and I’m proud to say that, as a result, what’s in these books is EXACTLY what I wanted to be in there.

Geek: Could you tell us about some big moments in upcoming issues?

OW: Well, it’s pretty tightly plotted, and I definitely don’t want to give any spoilers, but here’s one thing I can say: Before they can get to their main revenge mission, our trio of heroes will have to figure out how to survive in this world, without the safety of their familiar little village to fall back on. This will involve quite a bit of swordfighting and dueling, especially on Katashi’s part. So a lot of the biggest moments, especially early on, are these great swordfights where Katashi has to fight older, more experienced samurai on Jun’s orders. Those fights were really fun to create, and I think the fans will enjoy them. We’ll also, however, have lots of character moments between this makeshift little family. Their world has completely collapsed, and each of them will have to discover on their own just who they are in this new world.

Geek: What else are you working on?

I’ve always got as many irons in the fire as possible. The most relevant thing is that I’m now working on another miniseries for Image and Benaroya, which will be out later this year. It’s called The Fires of Avalon, and it concerns the true love of two Dark Ages peasants, whose fate takes them into the path of a terrible king and his minions, as well as a Viking horde and many other dangers. It’s not terribly comics-related, but I’ve also placed a piece in the latest issue of Slake magazine, which is an LA literary journal, sort of LA’s answer to The New Yorker. Anyone who wants to check it out can find it through their website. (www.slake.la)

Samurai’s Blood #1 is on shelves now.

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