Keeping with the Halloween theme here on Manga Island, I’m bringing you an all supernatural (and mostly monster) extravaganza. Not only did I get a pre-release interview with Hanzo Stienbach, but I’m also bringing you my Halloween recommendations with more than a few tricks and treats! Besides the usual monsters stomping around the island, there are a few you may or may not have heard of or read about, and Calling Manga Island is here to bring it to you.
I first saw “A Midnight Opera” on Tokyopop’s website and I was admittedly jealous Hanzo was getting to do metal manga, and his art style was out of sight. I had the chance to meet him at Comic-Con International in San Diego this year and found out he is a super cool guy. Being a metalhead and musician myself (I had to crank it to 11 to write the column this month) we hit it off and I couldn’t wait to see how “A Midnight Opera” would turn out. I’ve been keeping up with it, and I think that fans of horror, “Darkstalkers,” “Guilty Gear,” all forms of action manga and anime, this one is for you. No magical girls with cutesy eyes, no high school angst, just pure undead power, cool bands and monster, monster, monster, monster. If you have a metal head, Goth, or monster fighting game loving friend who hasn’t read much manga, pass them this one! But, perhaps I should let Hanzo speak for himself:
To start out, what is the story of “A Midnight Opera,” in a nutshell?
It’s about 2 undead brothers, as well as a legion of undead, who for centuries have been fighting for their right to live among the humans, but they soon realize that the biggest threat is one of their own.
Cool, so tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into comics. What are some of the things you read growing up that influenced you? What’s your background in comics?
I started drawing at the age of 10, specifically I started drawing Manga at the age of 10 and I haven’t stopped since. “DragonBall” was one of my first influences; it was the very first manga I ever bought. As time passed, I realized that my style was taking shape. As far as backgrounds in comics go, I have none. I’ve never been taught how to draw; I’ve never been to art school, mostly due to financial reasons.
There are two things that influence me, the first one being horror movies, I’m a horror fanatic, especially the older ones, the movies from the 80’s. Back when they didn’t use any CGI and managed to scare the hell out of people with actual special effects. My favorite horror movie is “An American in Werewolf in London,” by the way.
My second influence is Heavy Metal; I couldn’t survive a single day without Metal. It’s like oxygen to me. Heavy Metal is most definitely a very big part of me.
So, we’ve learned about how you got started, but how did working with Tokyopop come about?
I thought to myself that I wouldn’t bother with the Rising Stars of Manga contest and just submit my story as well as six sequential pages along with it. I think that was the only way to submit your work at first. It took a while for them to reply, but they eventually did and they liked my work.
Do you watch much anime/read much manga these days, if so, what are some of your favorites?
Yes and Ja! (which means yes in German.) Again like horror movies, I like older anime actually. Anime like “Violence Jack,” “Devilman,” “Project-Ako,” “Monster City,” etc.(Urotsukidoji is one of my personal favorites– it’s probably the coolest hentai ever.)
My favorite Anime would have to be “Devilman,” the concept is just amazing. I admire go Nagai’s work so much. I love “The Guyver,” “Ninja Scroll,” “Crayon ShinChan” (the most hilarious series I have ever seen, everyone should check it out!), the list goes on cause there are simply too many. My favorite manga would have to be “Koroshiya Ichi.” It’s got the craziest characters ever and it’s probably the first time I actually felt sick to my stomach while reading a manga…yes, it’s that good!
Obviously, “A Midnight Opera” has a lot of musical ties (which we’ve talked about), what are some of your musical influences? What do you listen to while you are creating?
Great question, Yngwie Malmsteen would have to be my main influence while working on “A Midnight Opera”; it’s a Gothic Horror story, and so the best kind of metal that comes to mind is Neo-Classical metal. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Neo-Classical metal, simply think of Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, etc basically classical masterpieces turned into heavy metal.
Depending on what’s happening with the story while I’m drawing, I listen to a band that fits that scene well. For example, if there’s a fight going on in the story, I crank up some Power Metal Judas Priest style!
There’s just way too many bands I listen to while working, the most obvious one I listen to is Yngwie Malmsteen, but otherwise I listen to some Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Blind Guardian, At Vance, Hibria and plenty more…Tony, I’m pretty sure you can relate;)
Absolutely. So, is this your first published work?
Yes, it’s my first published work and I am very proud of it. It turned out to be quite an exciting book. Luis Reyes, my editor, helped out a lot, so I’m giving him a lot of credit.
Your style is very flowing and dynamic. Certainly it appears you’ve learned a lot from your own love of manga. Is this your normal style or did you have to adapt at all to make it work for Tokyopop?
It’s actually my normal style. They were very pleased with my style, they said it’s very easy on the eyes, which is exactly what I intended to do. I want it to look manga but with a very European vibe.
I’ve shown some artists and manga fans the art for “A Midnight Opera” and there have been some comparisons to the art in games like “DarkStalkers” and “Guilty Gear.” What do you think about those comparisons?
Hmm, that’s interesting. I never thought of that. It’s flattering really; I love both games very much, so I’m not complaining. “Guilty Gear X” is one my all time favorite games,. You should check out the soundtrack, Metal to the Max!
What do you think of the whole “Is this Manga?” debate?
Manga is international; anyone can just pick up a manga, look at the pictures, and understand the story a little. Everyone has his/her own opinion on how a manga should look like. Artwork is the first thing people tend to focus on and how the panels are laid out. There’s no definite manga look, which is why manga is so personal in a way. It’s a really tough question; I won’t have a straight answer. To each his/her own.
Talk to us a bit about what some of the ups and downs of working with a big publisher may be and how has it been working with Tokyopop?
Working with Tokyopop is fabulous, and I’m really happy with the way things are going. The editors actually care about the books and care about their creators. Everyone’s willing to help out whenever help is needed and those people know how to party! I honestly can’t come up with anything bad at the moment. It really is pleasant to work with the people there, and “so far so good” is all I can say..
When you’re not doing comics, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Ah…I do some shredding with my axe! I play with my electric guitar till my fingers bleed! And while I’m feeling faint, cause of all the loss of blood, I play videogames…that too is a very important part of my life. And, of course, party once in a while.
What are your goals as a comics artist? Where would you like to take your work? And do you have any dream projects you would like to work on?
Great question. My dream is to unite comics (or manga) and Heavy Metal. It’s a distant dream, but I’m gonna work hard on that. There’s actually a metal band I know who’s helping me out with that. So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and my chin up.
What’s next for you?
I have several projects ahead of me; I’ll be teaming up with David Hine for the next book, his story, my art. It’s going to be awesome! Check out “A Midnight Opera,” it’s definitely something else. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Well, that about wraps it up. Any final notes for the fans?
Hail to all fellow Metalheads out there!
Thanks a ton, Hanzo. Here’s hoping that Metal and comic combine to make “A Midnight Opera” a success.
And now, on to my Halloween recommendations. I’ve been reading a lot of Horror lately (research for the column right.. Right?? Riiggghhhtt!) and the following (in no particular order) are my picks for a well rounded manga Halloween season:
“Death Note” story by Tsugumi Ohba art by Takeshi Obata (of “Hikaru no Go” fame)
This book really deserves its own review, but I wanted to put in my Halloween recommendations anyway. “Death Note” note tells the tale of a boy who finds the notebook of a death god (a Shinigami), granting him the ability to kill anyone by writing their name down in the book and picturing their face. It’s a chilling morality tale that unfolds with political intrigue, gritty detective drama, and a chilling premise. If you could become a god of death yourself, what choices would you make. The art is fantastic, and the way the story unfolds would not let me put the book down. It’s now in the Shonen Jump Advanced line and so it’s cheaper than most manga out there as well. A definite A++ in my book.
Publisher: Viz Rating: Older Teen
“Spiral” by Sakura Mizuki
Continuing the “Ring” saga “Spiral” is a creepy cool book with more twists and turns on the premise. If you still dig Asian horror films and manga, this one continues the tradition. I prefer the “Tomie” series myself, but Dark Horse has given us some great “Ring” manga and this one is no exception, a great book to get your “Ring” fix.
Publisher: Dark Horse Rating: Older Teen
“Priest” by Min-Woo Hyung
From Korea comes the tale of an undead priest who fights the unrelenting undead in the old American West. If you dig “Hellsing” and “Vampire Hunter D,” you’ll probably dig Priest as well. Fans of the American “Jonah Hex: Six Gun Mojo” miniseries, might get a jump start on their manhwa appreciation with this title. I’m a huge fan of supernatural old west tales, and this is one of my favorites. It’s a pretty long series, so be warned if you get hooked. I dig Hyung’s stark angular style and the tale has kept my interest for quite a while.
Publisher: Tokyopop Rating: Older Teen 16+
“The Skull Man” by Kazuhiko Shimamoto originally created by Shotaro Ishinomori
Originally created by one of my favorite manga-ka, the original “The Skull Man” was the impetus for “Kamen Rider.” This is a classic that I originally picked up when Tokyopop was still putting out stapled comic books (at least for the first volume of Skull Man). It has monsters, death, resurrection, crazy costumes, more monsters, fire and mayhem everywhere. The storytelling is rather dense and sometimes it takes some re-reading, but I really enjoy the craziness and intensity of “The Skull Man” an unappreciated gem in my opinion.
Publisher: Tokyopop Rating: Teen 13+
“War on Flesh” by Justin Boring, Greg Hildebrandt, and Tim Smith 3
If you are looking for your zombie fix and are into the OEL line of comics, “War on Flesh” is a cool take on the zombie premise, and it goes back to the original voodoo roots and rites that spawned the zombie legends. While the art is definitely more American in style than some of the other OEL books, it’s fresh and different enough to remain interesting. The creators are also cool people as well. And, hey, it’s ZOMBIES!!!
Publisher: Tokyopop Rating: Older Teen 16+
“Sugar Sugar Rune” by Moyoco Anno
And what would Halloween be without sugary sweet candy. One for the kids or the child in all of us, “Sugar Sugar Rune” is a light hearted tale of love and friendship between two young witches vying to be Queen of the magic world. Carmel appley sweet, and full of all the things that make magical girl stories what they are, “Sugar Sugar Rune” is the Halloween manga you can hand out to the youngsters in their plastic Trick-or-Treat pumpkins. While it’s not entirely G rated, (it deals with love and school drama), it is definitely a great alternative to the usual ghastly ghouls and decaying flesh. Once again Del Rey includes copious notes and some extras (Del Rey is really getting it right in my book) in the back, along with honorific explanations and nice production values.
Publisher: Del Rey Rating: Y age 10+
Here’s to a great Halloween. I hope that yours is full of more treats than tricks, and that the monsters that go bump in the night are only on your TV screen or monitor (unless you’re into that sort of thing). Beware the werewolves, vampires, and zombies, and don’t pick up any strange notebooks. We want you back here next time for the next visit to Manga Island!
Links of interest:
Tony Salvaggio has been a fan of anime and manga from an early age. He has been an animator in the video games industry and is currently co-writing an original graphic novel for Tokyopop, PSY-COMM (which should hit stores on the 8th of Nov.!). He regularly hosts anime and Japanese related shows in Austin and his passion for all things anime and manga related is only excelled by his quest to become King of the Monsters.