Debuting this April from Image Comics is "Bastard Samurai" a new three issue series spearheaded by "Powers" artist Michael Avon Oeming. If nothing else about this book captures your interest, it's a sure thing the title will raise an eyebrow.
Oeming describes the book on his Web site as follows: "Jiro is a student of the KoZu Sword School, an underground training camp in midtown Manhattan that takes in orphans and twists and transforms them into Bushido warriors. The Yakuza use these kids in death matches staged across the city rooftops where Japanese businessmen gamble heavily on the always-fatal outcome. This killing life is all Jiro has ever known. But a rendezvous with fate is about to change all of that."
Got your interest? It should.
The first thing that we wanted to know more about was the title, so we went to Oeming and asked him for the story behind the title of this book.
"I was thinking of a bastard child at the time," Oeming told CBR News. "A bastard child is born out of wedlock, so he's considered 'illegitimate' in older times. That's what we have here in 'Bastard Samurai ' - an illegitimate Samurai, a fake, a fraud. The Samurai and Bushido Code are so much more than the Martial Arts aspect. Its about education, philosophy and morality.
"I wanted to express a belief I have about humanity in 'Bastard Samurai.' That we are from a violent lineage- we are hunters and survivors. Times have changed, but our urges haven't. Today, we need to focus those natural drives into something productive, like sports, or as we see here, martial arts. 'Bastard Samurai' is pretty visceral and appeals to our more animalistic side. I think denying that side is as dangerous as acting on it... almost.
"We'll discover a hidden world in our modern times, a step back into our primal past. Blood for entertainment."
The influences for this comic come from a variety of cinematic sources, many you may see in the book and most of which you've probably experienced first hand: Akira Kurasawa's cinematic masterpieces, martial arts and Hong Kong films plus the "Highlander" film, which spawned multiple sequels and television shows and enjoys a strong cult following, were all influences cited by Oeming.
"I love swords and the images of men fighting with swords in a modern setting. Its hard to find a reason for that to happen, though! Especially when someone can just use a gun and end it. It doesn't take much talent to fire a gun. So there were visuals I wanted to execute, and very slowly, the story fell into place."
Oeming also offered a selection of films that specifically inspired the creation and feel of "Bastard Samurai."
"Lots of Hong Kong films like Wong Kar Wie's 'Fallen Angels.' I got into that from writer Brett Lewis when we did 'Bulletproof Monk.' The look of Tsui Harks films play a big part as well as the general coolness and style of Hong Kong films."Click to enlarge.
Originally "Bastard Samurai" was to be handled entirely by Oeming, but due to his busy schedule handling the art chores on "Powers" among other projects. it became clear that if he wanted to produce this comic anywhere in the near future he'd have to bring people in to assist.
"Kesly Shannon is doing breakdowns and colors. He's amazing. One of the most talented people I know. I really hope this book brings some industry attention to him.
"I've known writer Miles Gunter for a few years, and we had been developing another project for some time. When this came up, I knew his wild sense of the world would bring a special life to the book. I predict Miles will become a major writer in comics, given the right breaks.
"All I had was plot and some character motivation. But Miles gave them true character, gave them life and made the other characters alive so the world would breathe and feel real. Its like I gave him Frankenstein's Monster, and he jolted it to life!"
Fans of Oeming's know he's got his hands full right now. Mike handles the artistic chores on "Hammer of the Gods" with Mark Wheatley published through Insight Studios Group. And for fans who want more HOTG, it's on the way.
"Next we do a two issue mini, to introduce more of the 'Hammer' world, then we follow up with a big 6-8 issue color story that might start at the end of this year. I'll probably do two or three other 'Hammer' minis after that, and bring it to a conclusion.
And how are things going on the book he works on with Brian Bendis, "Powers?"
"Great! We just did our best story arc yet, 'Supergroup.' The train is moving strong, its the main thing on my plate and its what keeps me happy and sane! We'll keep doing the book for a few more years at least.
Oeming tells us that while Powers #17 just came out he's currently working on issues #20 and #21