Exclusive: The Creators Of 'Cyborg 009' Take Us From Process To Page

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Shotaro Ishinomori's "Cyborg 009" is back with an all-new English-language comic from Archaia, co-written by F.J. DeSanto and Bradley Cramp. The 60's manga would later spawn multiple animated series and feature films (most recently last year's "009: Re Cyborg"). But this is your chance to discover the characters of "Cyborg 009" from the very beginning.

Today, the book's publisher is releasing "Cyborg 009: Chapter 000," a one dollar comic introducing you to the nine ordinary humans forced into become cyborg weapons--and we've got a preview featuring commentary from the book's writers, artists, and editor Stephen Christy.

F.J. DeSanto (co-writer): I grew up with “Cyborg 009” and own all of the original manga from Japan as well the Ishinomori’s other classics like “Kikaider” and “Skullman.” I was fortunate to develop a relationship with Ishimori Pro in Japan and I was able to convince them that a new graphic novel could be a great way to introduce these amazing characters to a new generation of fans. I wrote the story with Brad [Cramp] because I knew he would know how to take what was special about the original property and give it a real depth. Honestly, Archaia was the only publisher I spoke to because I knew everyone there with go above and beyond the call of duty to create something unique. I was confident [editor-in-chief] Stephen [Christy] would assemble a top-notch team for this project, but I never imagined just how incredible it would turn out. He’s like the great manager who knows how to get the best out of all of his players, including us. I can’t wait for the world to see this.

Cyborg009cols150dpi_v1Marcus To (illustrator): I’ve known about “Cyborg 009” through friends who are fans but it was not until this project that I learned about the immense love and history behind Ishinomori’s creations. When I was contacted to work on this book, I was so excited. It was an honor to be a part of such an amazing project with very talented teammates. I believe we did something special with the inspiration of the legendary Shotaro Ishinomori’s vision.

Ian Herring (colorist): I was introduced to “Cyborg 009” with this project. Once Marcus shared his initial drawings with me I went looking for more material to better understand the series. The graphic nature of the cyborg’s costumes and the range of personalities immediately appealed to me. The more I saw of the series’ history I realized what a great creation “Cyborg 009” is and am thrilled to have been a part of it.

Deron Bennett (letterer): I’m a HUGE Ishinomori fan, so working on “Cyborg 009” is an absolute joy. I came into lettering by way of manga and was part of the original production team that worked on “Cyborg 009” when it was first localized here in the U.S. Years later, I was asked to handle the lettering for “009,” “Kikaider,” and “Skullman” for digital distribution. They say the third time is the charm and it certainly was—this book is nothing short of incredible.

Stephen Christy (editor): It’s so rare to have one of those projects where every single person on the creative team is united in a single vision, and the vision of this book was to bring to life and pay tribute to this incredible manga property that all of us came to love, and personally even more than that to create the kind of superhero book that I loved when I was a kid, which we’ve never had the chance to do before at Archaia.

The revelation of this book is the combo of Marcus To and Ian Herring on art duties. Like his studio mate Ramón Pérez before him, Marcus stepped out of the Marvel/DC sphere, and when given the time and support to shine, he took his art game to an entirely different level. And after seeing Ian get nominated for an Eisner Award for his work on our last book together, “Tale of Sand,” I truly believe that with this he cements his place as one of the best new colorists in the industry. I can’t say enough good things about the work these two did on this graphic novel.

I should also mention that Deron Bennett (also Eisner-nominated for “Tale of Sand”) went through and hand lettered EVERY SINGLE SOUND EFFECT in this book, unheard of in today’s world.

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Bradley Cramp (co-writer): For each of the cyborg characters, we wanted to create an individual backstory that was deeply rooted in the original manga, yet also updated slightly to fit within our modern-day approach to the overall story. In some cases we embellished the character’s backstory to help clarify motivation and provide more dramatic tension to their plight (both internal and external). In the case of [Cyborg 001] Ivan Whisky, for example, we felt it was very important to understand the “why” behind his father’s experimentation on his own baby, so we devised the idea of a desperate man trying to save his only son from an incurable disease. This also allowed us to layer another subplot between Ivan and his father that pays off nicely by the story’s end.

To: For this page I really wanted to let Ian shine. In this flashback sequence, I felt I needed to be more open on my end, meaning less detail and shading to allow Ian’s colors to bring out the panels as well as to set them apart from each other.

Herring: This was the last of the three flashback pages I worked on. The idea behind them was to give a good contrast between the past and present. The memories are painted with Marcus’s pencils while the character pinups are in line with the rest of the book. Mostly I played with lighting and a more monotone approach to push this difference.

Bennett: The character bio page was a little tricky. I wanted to make the lettering fit with the rest of the book, but also have a special look for the each of the captions. For the voice-overs, I sampled the red of the costumes and used a pixelized effect around the edges. To differentiate each character, I used a small digital font in the upper corner, identifying the cyborg’s number. (Astute readers will notice that each number has the same amount of pixels immediately surrounding it!)

I hate covering up Marcus’s beautiful art, so I took down the opacity on the bio captions and let some of the underlying image show through. I wanted the font here to feel more like a computerized readout, so I opted to go with a more block-like font.

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Cramp: Throughout the story we wanted to create some nice, private moments between [Cyborg 009] Joe and [Cyborg 003] Francoise that helped develop their relationship and hint at a possible love interest. They’re both conflicted over their cybernetic powers and are trying to come to terms with their new “life” as a cyborg. For this particular scene, we liked getting Joe and Francoise out of the bunker and above ground so we could see them against the military boneyard spread out in the background—the juxtaposition of the future weapons of war versus the rusting, decaying ones of the past.

To: Before we even started drawing, I spoke with [editor] Stephen [Christy] and [co-writer] F.J. about the feel of the story, and we both talked a lot about pushing the emotional scenes to really make the reader understand the inner conflict of Joe and how he has to rethink what he perceives of his life and his place in the world. I believe this page helps convey the tone we wanted in having the reader understand Joe’s motivation and to care about what he does in the rest of the story.

Herring: This was the first scene where we pushed the star paintings that appear further into the book. Marcus left the backgrounds open for me to play with and generally I wanted to have more color than a typical night scene to help push the mood. For the backgrounds I pictured old sci-fi novel covers and various gaming concept art. They always created fantastic scenes by pushing the colors of the stars and galaxies.

Bennett: In general, I took my lettering cues from my work in manga. For localization projects, letterers usually have all of the artwork, SFX, and ballooning already in place from the foreign publisher. I wanted to mimic that tradition, so I chose to hand-draw each of the balloons and sound effects. I only left the actual dialogue to digital lettering. Okay, there are three instances of digital sound effects, but that’s it! I promise.

The main dialogue font was the same one used in the initial run of “Cyborg 009.” My goal was to remain authentic and give the fans something to appreciate. The funny part about it is that it almost looks like a totally different font in this book than it does in the source material. You’ll also notice another font face from the “Kikaider” run that I used for some of the burst balloons. I wanted to add all of these little touches to stay true to the original, but also define the piece in its own way.

Christy: This is one of my favorite pages in the book and this really shows how much Marcus gets not only the characters but also all of the emotion that goes into this scene. Joe is the brooding young kid in all of us, and Francoise is kindness personified. This is an example of the broad-strokes, pop storytelling that FJ and Brad brought to the book that makes it read so well.

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DeSanto: Joe returns to Tokyo, hoping escape the horrible things that have happened to him. The falling cherry blossoms (which we also see in the opening scene of the book) triggers a lost memory that would perhaps give him the opportunity to reconnect with someone from his past. We’ve fleshed out a backstory for Joe because we wanted raise his personal stakes and give his arc more dramatic weight.

To: This was a tricky page, since there are no panels. I really leaned on Ian’s skills to help lead the eye of the reader to where I wanted. When I read what F.J. and Bradley wrote as a description to this page, I was a bit nervous because they more or less left me to my own vision. I took that as a sign of confidence in my skills and it allowed me to try some things with this page, from the heavy shadows to the dream sequence colors.

Herring: Marcus draws amazing cityscapes. I think we both pictured a lot of neon with Tokyo and I looked for ways to blend that into this page that has no panel borders. The cherry blossoms are calling back to the first page and some more texture was worked onto Joe to help push this. Normally the characters were kept free of texture throughout the book so we could keep the animated look.

Bennett: Marcus is an excellent storyteller. This is a great example of how to do silent pages the right way. I could go on and on about his incredible skill at illustrating, but his prowess lies in more than just drawing a cool-looking picture. It’s the character expressions, emotion, body language—it all tells the story without any bit of text needed—and that’s what I love about a good sequential artist.

Ian’s work here is spectacular. He sets the tone with the perfect color choices and schemes. From page to page, he gets just the right mood. Whether it’s a soft memory sequence like the upper image seen here or a dynamic action shot, Ian is spot on with his palette. You’ve got to appreciate the subtle effects that he puts on a page as well. Ian’s a master at the craft and does brilliant work.

I can’t say enough about the creative team on this book. The best part is that we were an actual team. Most of the time in comics, each person works on their separate part and rarely has interaction with each other. From the start, we communicated with each other, got feedback, and used all of our talents in unison. FJ, Bradley, Marcus, Ian, Jon, Stephen, and I formed own super team and it worked.

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Cramp: Before we’d even started a story outline, one of the things we knew we absolutely wanted to include from the original manga was the oppositely charged cybernetic twins. They’re just such a great concept for villains and further illustrate Ishimori’s genius as a creator. The twins also provide an excellent opportunity for Joe and Francoise to work together in a fight sequence that proves to be a genuine bonding moment between them, with each having to truly utilize their powers for the first time.

To: Working on this entire scene with 0010 was really fun. I watched the old anime episodes as well as read the manga to try to really get the right feel for Joe’s first test of his powers as well as the 0010 cyborg’s looks and style. With the powers that 0010 has, I felt the need to show the energy build-up in their costumes as well as the electricity surging around him shown in the colors as well as a more stylized look to push for a more “alien” feel.

Herring: Our editor had the idea to push the Tron-feeling with 0010. We went heavier on the blacks and tried to show the light being sucked out of the scene. I wanted to show that 0010 is living energy so his eyes and parts of his suit glow from within.

Bennett: The sound effects were fun to do. I wanted to avoid having the effects stand out or looking alien to the book. Again, I took my cue from the source material and decided to draw the effects on my own.

It was a process and I had to wear more hats than I’m used to as a letterer. I essentially had to sketch an effect, ink it, and color each one as if I were an artist, inker, and colorist. The objective was to make it work with Marcus’s line work and Ian’s colors. I used whatever Marcus had laid down as the basis of my design. If there was an electric wave, I matched the style to that and colored the effect using Ian’s color scheme. Most of the stuff I have blending into the existing art or hiding just beneath it. I think integrating the effects into the page like that was really effective for “Cyborg 009” and gives it a unique look from other books out there.

The "Cyborg 009: Chapter 000" dollar preview issue is available today from Archaia.

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