NYCC: Stan Lee Talks "Ultimo"

Shonen Jump's press-only panel took place on Friday afternoon at the New York Comic Con, where Stan Lee talked about his Japanese collaboration. Mark Weidenbaum, editor of Shonen Jump!, was on hand to introduce Stan Lee, Takinora Osada (and interpreter Yukie Kurohara) and Viz editor Joel Enos.

"Jump Square" was published today in Japan, which featured the first episode of Stan Lee and Hiroyuki Takei's "Ultimo."

"My name is Stan Lee," and everybody cheers. "You all didn't know I was so fluent in Japanese...and neither did I." He joked that the project came from a friendly challenge.

"I'm glad I'm not an American comic publisher, because if I had to compete with this I'd go out and get drunk," Lee said. He also hyped that "Ultimo" would "descend" on us in a big way.

Osada-san said he is honored to work with Stan Lee, and Takei is a great artist.

Weidenbaum said that Shonen Jump! will publish "Ultimo" in English in the US. "We're participating in a manga just as it is hitting Japan, which is very exciting for us."

Joel Enos will edit the series, but no date was announced.

In response to a question about Japanese response to "Ultimo," Osada-san said that "many Japanese press are already paying attention to Mr. Takei's work, and that new manga becomes more popular by word of mouth." He added that the issue was just released today, "so it's a big festival by now."

Lee said that, unlike American comics, manga does not always look exactly as he writes it. Takei "takes what I write and tells the story in his own style, in the manga style." "When we do the story in English, I will put my words on the story that he describes, and he will be surprised because it's not quite what he expects!"

Weidenbaum mentioned Lee's use of caption boxes, which are not commonly used in the same way in manga. Osada-san described Takei's method of adapting the boxes. "This sort of box narration is not used in Japanese manga so much," he said, "so we always tried to see the best way to tell the story."

"Ultimo" will be serialized monthly in Japan.

"The nature of my involvement is somewhat different than in the past," Lee said. He sent a concept to Japan, where it was modified, and this went back and forth several times. "It's going to be a very interesting melding of the two styles, and the two stories."

Previously, "Yu-gi-oh GX" was Viz's manga serialized in the US closest to the Japanese release. This came out before the Japanese TPB, and Viz is aiming for a similar role out.

"I tried to come up with something totally new and different," Lee said, indicating that he did not refer to any manga as a guide to the format and media.

Describing the story of "Ultimo," Osada-san said that the story is based on two rival androids, and that anything that looks human has a sould.

"I hope this will be so successful that we create a Japanese/American combine to produce these things," Lee said. He also said he would want to be involved in any future anime, and also "the movie that's bigger than 'Spider-man," and "when you can't walk down the street without seeing Ultimo!"

At this point, it is not certain whether "Ultimo" will debut in "Shonen Jump!" or as trades. "The magazine is the priority," Weidenbaum said, but noted that there was already a lot of content in "Jump."

Lee said that Takei's involvement was the decision of the Japanese publisher. "I was probably thrown at him, too," he said.

Asked about the pacing of manga, which normally has a finite run, as opposed to American comics "which can go on forever," Lee said there is an ending in mind but he hopes "Ultimo" is successful enough to go on forever.

Osada-san said the ending is up to the characters. "If the characters do everything they want to do, that is the happy ending for the whole manga."

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