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Doing It For The Children: Worley talks “TigerFist”

by  in Comic News Comment
Doing It For The Children: Worley talks “TigerFist”
“The Forest King”

If Harry Potter has proven anything it’s that kids actually do like reading books. The young readers market is a growing business and Komikwerks is looking to get in on the action. Next year the publisher will launch a line of young readers books for kids ages 10 – 14. Most of the books contributors have either backgrounds in or connections to the comics industry. The list so far includes:

  • “The Legend of TigerFist” written by Rob M. Worley (“Young Ancient One”) with illustrations by Ken Lashley (“X-Men,” “GI Joe”)
  • “The Forest King” written by Dan Mishkin with illustrations by Tom Mandrake (both of “Creeps” fame, “Specter,” “Blue Devil”)
  • “Dragonblood” written by Christopher E. Long (“Easy Way”) with illustrations by Dan Norton (“X-Men,” “Medal of Honor”)
  • “Anubis Tapestry” written and illustrated by Pixar artist Bruce Zick (“Atlas,” “Terminal Point” – Dark Horse)
  • “Children of Olympus” written by Louise Simonson (“PowerPack”) and illustrated Colleen Doran (“A Distant Soil,” “Orbiter”)
  • “Thunder Riders” written by John Helfers (“Tom Clancy’s Net Force”) and illustrated by Joe Corroney (“Star Wars”)
  • “What I Did on my Hypergalactic Interstellar Summer Vacation” written by Adam Beechen (“JLU Animated” writer as well as “The Batman” animated TV show)
  • “The Sam Hain Journals” by Budd Lewis (Warren, Creepy writer)
  • “Blacks Loch” by Dan Mishkin and illustrated by Thomas Perkins (“The Batman” animated series)
  • “Astro Aces” written by Marsha Griffin (Story Editor on “Spider-Man” and “Juniper Lee”)
  • “WonderWorld” written by David, Annette and Ben O’Dell (“Dark Crystal 1& 2”) and illustrated by Keith Giffen (“Defenders”)
  • “The Sisters McGee” written by Jon Bresman (writer of the “Art of Star Wars: Episode One”)

Komikwerks plans to unveil the books at this week’s Comic-Con International in San Diego at their booth, #5439-5440. We caught up with one of their creators, long time CBR friend Rob Worley, to learn more about his book “TigerFist” and how he got involved in writing a young readers book.

“TigerFist”

Worley said that “TigerFist” got its start as a short comic in Shannon Denton’s “Actionopolis” anthology published by Antarctic Press in 2001 about a westerner trained by Tibetan monks running afoul of a Lovecraftian cult. “Flash forward to 2003, I was writing ‘Young Ancient One‘ and Shannon asked if he could read the scripts,” Worley told CBR News. “That led to me working on a spec screenplay based on another one of Shannon’s concepts, which was to be a very American action movie, but steeped in Eastern mythology and pop-culture. I began work on that property and the treatment included an element of this Asian street gang called ‘the Tiger Fist gang.’

“Shannon got excited about the homage and we started talking about the spin-off movie, which would focus on this kid who ran with the Tiger Fist gang and had a heritage that connected him to a chain of heroes leading back to ancient times. It was kind of ridiculous because we were talking about the spin-off from a movie which wasn’t even past the treatment stage yet. And it still isn’t, two years later, sad to say. That’s a whole other frustrating story.

“But ‘TigerFist’ stuck with us and we kept talking about it,” continued Worley. “When Shannon and his Komikwerk’s partner Patrick Coyle decided to get into the young readers book market, our ‘TigerFist’ ideas became a prime candidate for the new line of books.”

“TigerFist” takes place in the city of Los Perdidos “…which is a very strange place indeed,” according to Worley. The city is a contemporary one, but it’s falling apart. It’s located in the middle of a barren desert, a desolate place, but people actually do live in this very run down city as if it were completely normal. “The strangest thing about Los Perdidos is: there are no families,” said Worley. “There are children, but they live in foster homes, which are terrible and frightening. The brave ones live on the streets and run in crews.

“That’s where we find our hero, Conner, a fourteen year old boy who runs with a gang called the Misfits. Conner is about to discover that there’s something special about him. Conner doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to travel into the heart of the darkness that eats away at Los Perdidos.”

Worley and Denton are both huge fans of Asian culture and pop culture, which heavily inspired the story in “TigerFirst.” Films like “The Storm Riders” or “Hero” were also big influences. “Particularly, we like the martial arts and the ass kicking,” said Worley.

“One twist is, the heroic back story that Conner is linked to actually intersects with many cultures, so Conner will be exploring all of those. The primary cultures touched on in the first book are African and Chinese.

“I’m always influenced by movies,” continued Worley. “Jeunet’s ‘City of Lost Children’ really made me understand the idea of the setting as a character in the story, and the setting of Los Perdidos is so important to this story. There’s a bit of Walter Hill’s ‘The Warrirors,’ in that the crews that run the streets of Los Perdidos are kids who still have a sense of make believe.”

Each book, including “TigerFist,” will be accompanied by a series of illustrations. Joining Worley on “TigerFist” is artist Ken Lashley. At the moment they’re still working out how Ken will choose what to illustrate. Worley said he has gone through the manuscript and called out elements he thought would be good candidates for Lashley, but at the moment they’re still working out the process. “I can’t wait to see what Ken does. The stuff he and the “Draxhall Jump” crew does is uniformly amazing.”

Worley said the challenge of writing a young readers book is what attracted him to the project. “I hadn’t written extensive prose fiction in quite a long time,” said Worley. “Most of my recent writing has been screenplays, comics and news articles for the web. So it was a chance to do something new and different.

“I have to admit it was also nice to work on something where there are fewer moving parts. Screenwriting has to be the most failure-prone forms of writing for someone starting out. Every wannabe screenwriter has a drawer full of spec scripts that haven’t gotten out there. Comics can be frustrating too, as I experienced first hand with ‘Young Ancient One.’

“With a book, it’s basically me and the editor, who also happens to be the publisher in this case. There are no more links up the food chain after that. Nobody to throw up a brick wall when you think you’re in the home stretch.”

As Worley mentioned, “Young Ancient One” only saw one issue published, which was part of the prematurely cancelled Epic line at Marvel Comics. In addition to “TigerFist,” Worley’s also working on an “Advent Rising” comic at 360ep and says there are some marked difference working on both projects.

“Working on ‘Advent Rising’ has been a great, collaborative learning experience,” said Worley. “We’re working that book sort of old school Stan and Jack style, so there’s a lot of back and forth with me, the layout artist Arthur Dela Cruz, the editors Teresa Focarile and Bill Jemas, the finish artist Cliff Richards. It’s really fun because there are so many ideas going around and the whole thing seems really comfortable for everyone.

“‘TigerFist’ was more of the solitary writer’s journey, although Shannon was involved early on, and then again after the first draft. Now I get to sit back and watch Ken Lashley do his amazing magic on these ideas that have been in my head. That is awesome.

“It’s strange though, because while I’ve had the least amount of success with screenwriting, I feel the most comfortable with that format and I enjoy envisioning the things that could be done with film, that perhaps aren’t as exciting in other media. (Ask [“Young Ancient One” artist] Andy Kuhn how much fun it was to convey the idea of someone who could freeze time, when every panel in a comic book is a moment of frozen time…it’s more fun in a movie). So, I can’t wait to see what happens when one of those stories clears all the hurdles.”

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