To say there area a lot of cooks in the “Blood Red Dragon” kitchen would be an understatement. The series is based on Japanese pop megastar Yoshiki who met Stan Lee at a party once. The two hit it off and Lee soon had a story in mind based on Yoshiki’s life. Lee then contacted Todd McFarlane to help put the comic itself together. That involved getting “Spawn” writer Jonathan Goff and former video game insider to script the series and artist Carlo Soriano to handle the pencils.
The November-launching comic from the consortium that is Image Comics and Todd McFarlane Productions, endows Yoshiki with mystic powers to help him fend off the evil forces of Oblivion. CBR News spoke with Goff about how the comic version of Yoshiki will differ from the actual one, whether Stan Lee will play Satan and working with some of the biggest names in popular culture.
CBR News: Blood Red Dragon was created by Stan Lee, developed by Todd McFarlane and features Japanese pop star Yoshiki. Did you have a lot of contact with those heavy hitters as you wrote the actual comic?
Jon Goff: Stan, Yoshiki and Todd have a hand in each step of the creative process. Stan and Yoshiki are the catalyst for the whole project. From their initial conversations Stan put together a treatment that established the groundwork for the story. This included a pretty thorough outline for the basic origin of the Blood Red Dragon and the threats he would face, as well as some very specific story beats that served as the foundation for some of the action set pieces. From there, Stan contacted Todd about developing the book further, with the express intent that Todd would help guide the visual sense and presentation of the story. Yoshiki, for his part, oversees the whole project, not only to ensure the end product will serve to tell a story he feels he can stand behind creatively, but also personally, since he is, in fact, the main character.
At each step in the creative process Stan, Yoshiki and Todd allowed Carlo Soriano, the artist, and I to take the information provided in Stan’s initial treatment and numerous conversations we’d have and run with it. This includes my interpretation of the story and how I saw it breaking down over the course of a four-issue arc, the character design and the overall aesthetic. As each piece was ready to be moved forward — art, detailed plots, scripting — Stan, Yoshiki and Todd would review and provide feedback to ensure the final product would be in keeping with what had originally been envisioned, as well as adding their own creative input to the new elements developed by myself and Carlo.
The process was extremely collaborative across the board, including some very open discussions as we hammered out various elements of the story and/or visuals.
â€¨How did you wind up writing the project? Did working on “Spawn” with Todd lead to this job?
I’ve worked with Todd in various creative capacities over the past eight years, so, yeah, that relationship opened the door to working on “Blood Red Dragon,” no doubt. Working with the new “Spawn” creative team has been my first prolonged comic experience, and the success we’re having in crafting a narrative that is in line with Todd’s vision of what a monthly “Spawn” experience should be, I think, played into Todd’s confidence in bringing me onto the “Blood Red Dragon” team.
Even while I was working with Todd for McFarlane Toys and Todd McFarlane Entertainment, I made no secret of my love for comics and would occasionally add my two cents to those creative discussions. My end goal was always to end up working in comics, but I’ve had the pleasure of being sidetracked by some pretty amazing opportunities along way and have only just recently been able to turn my full focus toward building a library of comic book work.
How much of the plot was laid out when you came on board?
Stan had developed the big picture idea with Yoshiki and basically established the framework from which the four issues would be constructed in the form of his treatment, as mentioned. I was given Stan’s treatment and allowed to expand upon it as I built out the beat-by-beat breakdown of each issue. Basically, I handled the plotting/pacing of the individual issues, with feedback from both Stan and Yoshiki, but the seed of the story had already been planted in their own creative discussions prior to me coming on board.
â€¨What can you tell us about the version of Yoshiki that appears in the comic?
The Yoshiki of “Blood Red Dragon” is, like his real world counterpart, an international musical icon. The comic book version is at a point in his career where he’s ready to launch this massive world tour and sort of cement himself in the pantheon of rock immortality. As a character, the fame and wealth he gains through his music is more a byproduct of his drive to create, as opposed to “fame and fortune” as an actual life goal. He knows full well music has the power to move a person, to touch their spirit in a way that can be comforting, uplifting, and he actively seeks to share his gift with the world, while using the spoils of his good fortune as a humanitarian.
All of that, however, is simply the backdrop to the larger story, as Yoshiki, the confident, driven musician, is only half of our main character. The other half is Yoshiki, the confused, fledgling hero with powers far beyond his understanding and ability to control, also known as the Blood Red Dragon. It will take some time for Yoshiki to come to grips with his destiny, and he’s going to have to learn on the fly, because a dark army from another realm of existence is pretty much set on handing Blood Red Dragon his ass, and they’re not going to wait around for Yoshiki to get comfortable in his new skin. The question then becomes, can this man who just might have everything, risk it all to stand against odds that look to be damn near impossible? I’m guessing he will, but the journey he takes will lead him to a whole new existence — one that might be cast in darker shadows than he realizes.
What else can you say about this dark army poised on worldwide domination with a mad on for the Blood Red Dragon?
Oblivion, in comic book terms, is the “big bad” that threatens the annihilation of reality thus pushing our hero into action. Their deeper story unfolds over the course of the issues, but at their most basic, Oblivion is an advanced race of mostly humanoid creatures seeking to unmake reality so that it may be re-made in their own image. The driving force behind their motivations started as vengeance — for what, I’m not saying — but has morphed over countless years into raw hatred for all life that is not Oblivion-born. Unfortunately for our bad guys an ancient power stands ready to manifest itself and oppose their wicked plans. This power lives within the creative heart of the human spirit. It is art. It is music. It is expression in its many forms. But only one being per generation can unlock its power. Enter: Yoshiki, and his transformation into the Blood Red Dragon.
â€¨Music obviously plays a pretty big part in the comic, was that a difficult element to capture considering you’re working with a visual medium?
Music is absolutely a big part of the comic, as it serves as the catalyst for Yoshiki’s transformation into the Blood Red Dragon.
Obviously, music plays a large part in Yoshiki’s life, and without it this project wouldn’t exist, so any re-imagining of Yoshiki as a comic book hero should not only pay tribute to his prolific career, but should embrace it. From Yoshiki and Stan’s earliest conversations, music was going to serve an important role in the story. Yoshiki even produced an original piece specifically for “Blood Red Dragon” that was included in the preview issue at Comic-Con International: San Diego.
In the story, Yoshiki’s character plays a specific tune — Yoshiki’s new BRD theme — in order to unlock the powers of the Dragon and become a hero. That melody is a constant throughout the story as Yoshiki must play it in some fashion in order to transform into the Blood Red Dragon. Without the song, there is no BRD, so aside from the various music-themed moments and motivations for the human side of our hero, music serves a key purpose in the bigger picture of our hero’s journey.
â€¨Was it intimidating writing a comic based on an actual person?
Writing a comic based on a living, breathing human being, not to mention one as internationally recognized and beloved as Yoshiki, is a unique experience. I don’t know that it was intimidating, per se, but I was very aware when crafting story moments and especially when scripting, of the fact that as fictional and fantastical as this story was going to be, at its heart we had to convey the ideals, passion and humanity of a very real person. I didn’t want the Yoshiki of the “Blood Red Dragon” to be [a] carbon copy of the man — this isn’t a biography. However, it was important that Yoshiki’s spirit be very visible at the heart of the character. The end product is a hybrid of the man and an archetypal comic book hero struggling with the on-set of the fantastic.
Stan Lee appeared as Satan in one of Yoshiki’s videos. Will he be showing up in the comic in a similar role?
Stan Lee as Satan? No. We aren’t really playing around with real world mythologies here, but instead creating our own.
Both Stan and Todd do pop up briefly in the #0 issue, though. It’s only a quick one panel cameo, but Carlo really wanted to have a bit of fun with the fact that both Stan and Todd have done the cameo-thing in various comic book films; Stan with all of his incredible appearances in the Marvel films and Todd in “Spawn.”
â€¨You have a wealth of experience in the video game world. How has working on games like “Halo” influenced how you attack a comic?
This is a great question with a fairly big answer that speaks to advancing technology, a hunger to innovate, aggressive competition that is both internally and externally driven and much more, but the one thing I take away from the video game industry that I feel is missing form comics and just might be the easiest ingredient to put back into the mix is the fact that this should be fun — comics should be fun. As a general rule, when people think about comic books and the value they bring to their lives, they should first and foremost think about how much fun it is to pop open those 22 pages and escape into a world without limits.
“Blood Red Dragon” by Yoshiki, Stan Lee, Todd McFarlane, Jon Goff and Carlo Soriano flies into comic shops November 2.