Start with some explosive martial arts. Add in a group of international and diverse characters. Sprinkle in some humor, with a helping of killer artwork inspired by the video games, and you've got a recipe for success. Add in some cute girls in short skirts and you've got one of this summer's surprise hits, "Street Fighter Legends: Sakura." Selling out almost instantly at the publisher level, this "Street Fighter" spin-off series struck a chord with fans, focusing on Sakura, the disciple of "Street Fighter" star Ryu. With the series' second issue hitting stores soon, CBR News sat down with series writer Ken Siu-Chong and artist Omar Dogan to learn all about the series from Udon Comics, including how it all began.
"Erik [Ko, Chief Of Operations at Udon] and I were thinking of starting up a spin-off Street Fighter mini-series and we decided it'd be interesting to see what Sakura had been up to since leaving Ryu to go on his training journey," Siu-Chong told CBR News. "I really missed having Sakura's comic relief in the main book, so we quickly chose to take the plunge and make the series a comedy-driven, light-hearted book to give a change of pace from the main story. With that in mind, we knew Omar's style would fit the book perfectly, so we got together with him and brainstormed a rough storyline. Boom. 'SF Legends: Sakura' was born!"
The star of the series, Sakura, is your typical high school student, if a martial arts obsessed girl was typical at your high school. As Ryu's self professed #1 fan, she's obsessed with being as good as him, and is joined by a cast of interesting characters. "She's pretty much the archetypal Japanese schoolgirl that can also kicks ass, so she's extremely recognizable. Like Ryu, she's become iconic. Dan is the energizer bunny of the Street Figher universe," said Siu-Chong of Sakura and her castmate. "He was a student under the same master as Ryu and Ken, but was kicked out because of his vengeful heart, pride and lack of ability. But what he lacks in fighting ability, he makes up in his infinite self-confidence that keeps him going, despite losing again, again and again."
Adapting the dynamic video game style of "Street Fighter" into comic book form isn't an easy task, and Dogan is focused on not only bringing that style to life, but also making it easy on the eyes. "I didn't want to over power the viewer with too much heavy shading or articulation for the character rendering," explained the artist. "Instead, I sunk all that detail mainly into the backgrounds and setting in order to recreate the feel and look of Tokyo where this book is staged.
"As for inspiration, I use the art books from Street Fighter in order to get the majority or the feeling for the book. If you look at all the art the Capcom artists have created, you'll find a lot of jokes and humour in their art. In and effort to make it as authentic as possible, I try to stay very close to the feel of that concept art."
When the "Sakura" book was announced, some fans thought it might be completely over the top, as were the "Cheapshots" back up tales in "Street Fighter," which also featured Dan and Sakura. As the first issue of "Street Fighter Legends: Sakura" showed fans, the adventures of the titular teen may not be all humor, but there's still a lot of laughs to go around. "We wanted to make it as different from the main series as possibly without alienating any fans," said Siu-Chong of the series, which he maintains will be very light and humorous. "So while Dan is one of the most tragic characters in videogame history, don't expect to see the series take a sudden dramatic tone or become serious like the ongoing series. Just hang on for the ride and hopefully we'll make you laugh a little along the way!
"We knew from the get-go that telling a really bouncy, lighthearted Sakura story just wouldn't fit in the main story - it would've been too uneven. Creating a separate mini-series allowed us to cram it full of all the jokes and wackiness we could without it directly taking away from the serious storyline of the ongoing series. There's no way we could have gotten away with things like Sakura doing pro-wrestling moves or have Dan rolling away for no apparent reason if we were in the main story!"
Omar Dogan is probably a new name to you, but the young Canadian spent many years honing his skills as an animator in Sheridan College and then worked on "Darkminds" at Dreamwave. "I have been waiting for a book like this to work on for such a long time," explained Dogan, who has worked for Udon for six years. "I truly enjoy being on this book, and it doesn't feel like work at all. It is depressing that so many titles out there are all serious or dark or negative. I consider this book to be a complete abandonment of this all too common subject matter, and I am honoured to be part of an effort to provide something different.. I have worked on everything from DC to Marvel books and merchandise, but by far my favourite titles to have worked on are those related to Capcom. I have been drawing Street Fighter characters since the mid 90's in my spare time for fun, so to actually have a chance to do a series with one of my favorite characters is a dream come true."
Fans of the Street Fighter video games - and there are a lot of fans - need not worry about the games' mythology being ignored, in both the writing and the art. "While we do take some creative liberties, Udon's always taken an extremely respectful approach to the source material," explained Siu-Chong. "While there are definitely differences between the books and the games, I'm pretty proud of how we've remained true to the characters, even with the slight tweaks. So far fans have been pretty happy with any changes/amalgamations we've made since they've been pretty consistent and make sense within the Street Fighter Universe."
Both men love working with each other, citing their similar creative approaches and passion for the Street Fighter universe, but that's not all that's putting a smile on their face. The aforementioned sell-out of "Street Fighter Legends: Sakura" #1 might have been a surprise to some out there, but Siu-Chong admitted that he knew it was possible. "Deep down, I truly did believe that this series had the potential to do well if readers gave it a chance," said the scribe. "I knew it was a risk making a comedic Street Fighter series, but I felt there was some really good potential to not only bring something fun to the regular Street Fighter fans, but draw in new fans who might not otherwise pick up the ongoing series, especially the more hardcore anime/manga and female demographics. I'm just so thankful for all the support the series has been receiving. To everyone who picked up the book, Thank You!"
Added Dogan, "I thank God for any and all success. We did put our best effort into this book, and didn't want it to be just something else on the shelf. We all hope that our ideas will be loved by the masses of fans and that they will appreciate us in our attempt to do justice to the series. However, when this actually happens one can only be truly thankful that the arrow hit the mark."
Such success begs the question of a sequel, and though nothing is planned, both creators would love to move forward with such a project. "I don't think an ongoing would be quite feasible, but another Legends mini would be a great! We also have a bunch of other Legends ideas we're thinking of (some serious, some comedic), and hopefully, with the support of the fans, we'll be able to continue making them!" revealed Siu-Chong.
If you'd like to see a sequel, Dogan urges fans to come out and keep supporting the series. "It's true there is nothing solid yet for a sequel, but that is not to say that we aren't pitching ideas across the table at dinner and laughing riotously," said the artist. "As far as I am concerned, I would love to keep working on it, but like everything we do, it needs fan support!
For those already reading the series, you want to know what's next, right? "Sakura vs. Karin, a Rainbow Mika and Sakura tag-team match, a hotdog-eating contest, and lots and lots of pain for Dan," teased Siu-Chong.
Dogan smiled and added, "Poor Dan….poor Dan!"