"Lone Wolf and Cub" is arguably one of the most influential Japanese comic to make it to the West. Beginning in 1970, writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima's series told the story of a lone samurai and his young son battling their way through a hostile medieval Japan. In 1987, Dark Horse Comics began releasing an English translated version of the series with covers by Frank Miller, introdugin an entire generation of comics fans to manga.
2002 saw the release of "Lone Wolf 2100," a reimagining of the series in a post-apocalyptic setting in lieu of medieval Japan, which focused on Daisy and Itto, her father's former bodyguard. Now, Dark Horse has announced "Lone Wolf 2100: Chase the Setting Sun," a follow-up miniseries from writer Eric Heisserer and penciler Miguel Sepulveda. CBR spoke with Heisserer about how he came to be a part of this take on the classic title, his approach to apocalyptic fiction, and placing world-saving responsibility on the shoulders of a child.
CBR News: How would you sum up Lone Wolf 2100 series? What's your elevator pitch for the series?
Eric Heisserer: In short, "Lone Wolf 2100: Chase the Setting Sun" is about a warrior android charged with protecting a little girl who's the key to reversing a virus that's transformed two-thirds of the world's population. But most of the world has already decided that a cure is "too little too late," and has already committed to wiping out the infected and starting over with the survivors. So the last thing people in power want to consider is that little Daisy could have saved the lives of millions of souls that have already been written off and killed. It gets at the psychology of when someone decides to stop caring about another human being. What goes into that decision, and can it ever be reversed?
What's your prior experience with "Lone Wolf?" Were you a fan?
I'd read the original books years ago, and happened upon Mike Kennedy's "Lone Wolf 2100" last year when I saw the omnibus at a comic store. Loved them all, never thought I'd be writing for these characters, so I'm thrilled.
What are the major returning elements of previous "Lone Wolf" series in terms of characters or themes?
I believe Itto and Daisy are the cornerstones of the series in any incarnation. Beyond that, I didn't want to intrude on another writer's characters or story, although I tip my hat to the previous "Lone Wolf 2100" series in a few places.
This transformed population -- are they zombies? Mutants? Are they still recognizable as humans, or even sentient?
They are mutants called "thrall." At first blush, they are monstrous, but hopefully readers will see how they behave differently in different situations. The main thrust of the thrall is how they can return to human form if given Daisy's cure. I think Sepulveda has done a good job of characterizing them in the early issues.
How much is Miguel Sepulveda bringing to the story, in terms of narrative and characterization? Has his art affected what you write, or how you write it?
Sepulveda is one of these artists who's best when you give him some basic fight choreography and some inspirational cinematic references and then let his mind and his pen run wild. His fight sequences are amazing, and I'm still catching details in his full-page work. Once I saw how much time and thought he puts into the full-page art, I made sure to work in more of them into future issues.
Post apocalyptic fiction is big right now. What other genre works did you draw on for this series besides the originals?
This miniseries lives in that post-apocalyptic world but what I wanted to explore was more of what's happening now, so I didn't lean on genre works as much as articles and contemporary nonfiction, like: Japanese children and the immense social and societal pressure to excel in academics, and how that's related to the suicide rate of children ages 7-15. Then there is some fascinating documentary work about how an ex-convict has little hope in ever being accepted into society because he/she will always be seen as a criminal. We don't believe in rehabilitation very much as a society, and that has a ripple effect. Same goes with persecuted people in the LGBT community and sufferers of mental illness. At some point, a percentage of our culture will simply write off these people as "monsters."
Something that stayed with me for a long time was a "Harper's" article about what happens to a young child when they feel the weight of the future on their shoulders. I read a collection of suicide notes from Japanese schoolchildren that has haunted me for years. And in a way, Daisy faces a similar pressure -- she is the key to mankind's future, either a small percentage of us survive, or millions more are saved by her alone, but as a little girl she has no real power or authority to make those decisions about whom to trust and where to go, she just knows everyone is either jealous of her, counting on her, or disappointed by her. So there's a line of dialogue by her in issue three that I paraphrased from a Japanese boy's suicide note. She says, "I am six years old, and I am already tired." She doesn't want to be important, she just wants to be a kid. But she doesn't get that life.
Lots of fiction ("Harry Potter," "Narnia," "Hunger Games") uses young kids as hero protagonists. Do you feel like you're pushing back on the idea of the world-saving kid?
Yeah, YA titles naturally put kids as the hero. The interesting thing about "Lone Wolf & Cub" is that the kid is the stakes character, and doesn't drive the narrative like Itto does. In some incarnations, Daisy never speaks a word. I wanted to play with the idea of a girl who knows she's important, but doesn't get to make the critical decisions because she's too young to deal with that burden.