#2. Cover art byBill Sienkiewicz
Last week saw release of the first issue of Marvel's "Elektra: The Hand," a new five issue mini-series written by Akira Yoshida with art by Christian "The Red Star" Gossett and covers by Bill Sienkiewicz, artist of the ground breaking "Elektra: Assassin" mini-series. CBR News caught up with series editor MacKenzie Cadenhead and Gossett to learn more about the series, its origins and a look at issue two out next month.
"The focus of the series is definitely on the origin of The Hand, the ninja clan that trained Elektra," Gossett told CBR News. "We learn the ancient tale through her eyes. I'm the world's worst spy, meaning it's tough for me to keep my mouth shut, so before I get myself into trouble, I think I'll direct you to the editor, Mackenzie Cadenhead."
"This series is, essentially, the origin story of the ninja assassin group The Hand that we know from the Elektra mythos," editor Mackenzie Cadenhead told CBR News, picking up where Gossett left off. "It is a about how intentions (arguably good, if misguided) become corrupt. The series follows Kagenobu Yoshioka's creation of The Hand (born of a violent event in his childhood) as a body that seeks to remove the foreign influence he sees infecting his homeland. The series also links the development of the Hand and its members to Elektra and the spirit of the Walking Death."
Cadenhead explained that "Elektra: The Hand" was born from an idea writer Akira Yoshida had come up with ages ago.
"Akira was interested in telling the story of the Hand and setting it in Feudal Japan - to link its evolution to Japan's complicated past when it changed its isolationist policy to welcome the foreign community," explained Cadenhead. "Because Elektra is a foreigner (and a woman, no less) who was given access to the secret ninja society, it seemed a great opportunity to explore this complexity in a larger historical context. That, and we wanted to do a kick-ass ninja saga with exciting fight sequences, tragic romance and blood, blood, blood (rating-appropriate, of course)!"
Yoshida was a few issues into the "Thor: Son of Asgard" series when he pitched the idea for "Elektra: The Hand" to Cadenhead. The two began development on the series and Marvel EIC Joe Quesada offered a few notes of his own, particularly the link to Elektra, and the series took off from there. The only remaining decision was that of an artist.
"[Editor] C.B. Cebulski suggested Chris and Akira and I both breathed a sigh of relief. Chris's work on this series is incredible - a perfect fit. He organically understands the sparse world of this story - clean and unadorned, but by no means simplified. His work is incredibly complex in its simplicity. And it's amazing how Akira has begun writing for Chris's style. They very much compliment one another.
"Not to mention Jim Cheung has given us an extraordinary prologue and epilogue. Along with Bill Sienkiewicz on covers (all five of which have to be seen to be believed), Jonathan Glapion giving us perfectly textured inks and Guru eFX outdoing themselves with mood enriching colors, you can say I am a very lucky editor."
As Cadenhead mentioned, Gossett was brought into the project by fellow editor C.B. Cebulski. Gossett was looking for a Marvel job and told Cebulski about his familiarity with feudal Japan (as an aside, Gossett's favorite director is famed Japanese film maker Akira Kurosawa). The fit was a natural one. This is Gossett's first full work for Marvel outside of a promotional Spider-Man comic he did a few years back that was scripted, but not plotted, by Brian Bendis.
"I don't know a single comics creator that wouldn't want to have a shot on their first Marvel book, honestly," said Gossett. "Underneath whatever preferences or idiosyncracies a comics creator might have; most of us, I think, if given the opportunity, would feel compelled to take it."
A while back Gossett made a business trip to New York City, his birthplace, and did something he's always wanted to do: visit the Marvel office.
"Having been an independent publisher, and having suffered the slings and arrows that all indy's face, I couldn't wait to set my eyes on one of the big two's operations. I also visited Wizard HQ to show off 'The Red Star' videogame demo, which was a good time. Love 'em or hate 'em, it doesn't matter. These are key places of the industry that you have to visit, if given the chance. Maybe not, I don't know, but I've got a kind of journalistic curiosity. I like to explore context."
A quick note about "The Red Star" video game that Gossett mentioned. The game had been scheduled to be released by Acclaim this month, but with their recent bankruptcy filing, things are very much up in the air.
When Gossett came on the scene a few years back with the series "The Red Star," his own star began to rise dramatically. The series featured computer-designed artwork that was unlike anything else in mainstream comics. The production process for "The Red Star" was unique. Gossett would illustrate pieces of the story, which would late be handed off to a 3D modeler and colorist who'd begin constructing the final pages while Gossett oversaw each step of the process. With "Elektra: The Hand," Gossett isn't employing that same system, instead illustrating in the traditional style.
"I approached Marvel about doing a traditionally drawn series, since Marvel readers love all of the tried and true creative solutions that have made Marvel what it is today. They like quality stuff, presented in the Marvel Style.
"'The Red Star' is made much like an animated series or videogame. We create 3D environments and vehicles, then create scenes with these elements, then populate the scenes with pencil drawings of characters. All of the elements are composted in Photoshop, and voila. The reason we did it this way was because of the depth and cinematic style that it gave to us. We've created over 1,500 3D models for 'The Red Star' universe. That's more than a lot of videogames. The results are wonderful as far as we're concerned, but they also take a lot of time and a lot of money. We would've had to build an entirely new set of models for 'The Hand,' since most of the story takes place in ancient Japan. I think they would've looked awesome, but time is a cruel master. Maybe I'll talk to Marvel about doing some promotional pieces of 'The Hand' in The Red Star style. That would actually be practical. Hmmmm..."
The future for "The Red Star" series is up in the air for the moment. The realities of independent publishing have forced Team Red Star to put the series on hiatus for now. On the other hand, "Tales of the Red Star," a spin-off series announced in 2003, will see publication. Gossett says the story written by Geoff Johns with art by Jet Henderson is in the final stages right now.
"It's a story about censorship in the press and how our minds are programmed by our governments and how we fail to realize it," said Gossett. "Total Red Star stuff."
Outside of comics, Gossett is hard at work for Peter Jackson's WETA Workshop, those technical wizards behind the special effects for the "Lord of the Rings" films. Jackson's next film is the much-discussed remake of the classic "King Kong" and Gossett has a hand in the production himself.
"The only thing I can legally say is that Richard Taylor and his artists at WETA, WETA digital, and Peter Jackson are putting as much passion, mad devotion and love of detail into 'Kong' as they did on the 'Lord of the Rings.' I was there for a month's work, and it was obvious in the first few minutes of my first day. I had to come back to Southern California for San Diego Comicon (it was a big show for us this year, as we had 'The Red Star' videogame on display at the booth) but will return to New Zealand for another tour of duty on 'Kong' sometime before the end of the year.
"I met Richard Taylor and Tania Roger (the founders of WETA Workshop) almost three years ago, during a trip to Bill Geradts' amazing pop culture show Armaggedon. I was fanatically in love with what they'd accomplished on 'Fellowship of the Ring.' I wasn't prepared at all for what was to come. It turned out that several of the designers who'd worked on that film had received the copies of 'The Red Star' I'd sent by way of my good friend Jon Gillard, who works at the world renowned masters of the tabletop battlefield, Games Workshop. Games Workshop was working closely with WETA on some licensed LOTR games, and so Jon brought our books on one of his trips.
"'The Red Star' had preceded our arrival, and it was a hit in the workshop. It was one of the most wonderful moments in my professional career, to work so hard to make comics unlike anyone else had ever done technologically, and to have that effort appreciated by artists who had made a fantasy film unlike any that had ever come before it. I'm still in a daze over it, really. Like so many people out there who love both film, and fantasy, 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy (although I've never read the books, mind you) was a film experience I'd waited a very long time for. Then to have these brilliant craftspeople appreciate what I'm doing? It's an indescribable kind of affirmation."