A relative newcomer on the scene, Studio 407 has been publishing an eclectic line of highly-produced comics united by an Asian fusion aesthetic. CBR News spoke with Managing Director Alex Leung about the first two years of Studio 407 and what to expect in 2009.
Leung founded Studio 407 in 2006, building off his experience in the film industry. "I was often tasked with finding comic book material and content from Asia," he told CBR. "Being a huge fan of comic books myself, it seemed a natural progression for me to start Studio 407.
"We kind of see ourselves as a writer-driven comic book company with an emphasis on concept and story, mixed with an East meets West approach," Leung continued. "The east/west element may not always be clearly evident, but it definitely has an influence on many of the books we do. In some ways you could say we're an 'Asian Vertigo,' as many of our titles have a bit of an edge to them, although not all of them are geared toward adults. We also have some all ages and YA titles in the mix as well. Like Dark Horse and Oni, we have a fairly eclectic line-up of titles that span almost every kind of genre from horror and super heroes to historical epics.
"Our horror titles seem to have come out first so it may seem like we specialize in horror, and without a doubt its one of our favorite genres to play in, but we're company of storytellers at heart and we're not interested in focusing on just one genre. We're definitely gearing up to do more online comics and will probably do an exclusive of some sort with MySpace."
Leung described "Tiger and Crane," one of three current Studio 407 titles, as "a martial arts action adventure about China's greatest martial arts folk hero, the Black Tiger, teaming up with America's greatest spy to hunt down an ancient Chinese artifact before the Japanese find it." "You could say it's Indiana Jones with kung fu," the publisher said.
"Night and Fog" takes place on an island where the inhabitants have been changed into monsters who evolve to survive otherwise-mortal injuries, becoming increasingly vicious with each adaptation. "It's very much in the vein of the classic '80s John Carpenter films, particularly 'The Fog' and 'The Thing,' Leung said.
"The third book is 'Hybrid,' which is a 'creature feature'-type story with elements of 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' and 'Alien,' about four college students who come across a mysterious fishing trawler, and then become hunted by a horrific creature borne from environmental abuse that lives on the ship." A film version is currently in production with Myriad Pictures.
"Golem," a modern take on the Jewish legend set in Sarajevo in 1992, will also debut in December from creators Scott Barkman, Jeff Le, and Mark Louie Vuycankiat.
Another series reimagining the boundaries of religion is "Helix," which debuts in March. Written by Denis Faye with art by Stefano Cardoselli, "Helix" stars "a cocky, chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome" who must evict the devil from an entire possessed congregation. "Having difficulty completing the exorcism of such a large entity, he tries to use a short cut by using the 'the Devil's Door' built in old churches (and used in baptisms and communions to 'let the Devil out')," Leung explained. "The plan backfires when an eclipse reverses the process and instead of sucking them out of the church he actually lets in thousands more, forcing him to absorb them into himself. By trapping them in his glass eye, he becomes endowed with the collective power of the demons, but he is also heavily influenced by them as he tries to use their evil power in the service of good."
Other upcoming titles from Studio 407 will include both internally developed and creator-owned projects. "We have 'The Night Projectionist' by Robert Heske and Diago Yapura, which is a modern day gothic vampire story that blends classic Hammer films with 'Scream,'" Leung said. "That's about a group of moviegoers trapped in a theatre with a vampire" Another series, "The Havoc Brigade" by Neal Marshall Stevens ("13 Ghosts," "Hellraiser") and Jon Bosco, is also on the horizon.
"We also have two new all ages books that we are very excited about," Leung told CBR. "One is called 'The Spark,' by Martin Renard and Nahuel Cozman, which is about four people who are bestowed with incredible powers to protect the world, and one of them doesn't want to use his powers but for very good reasons. The other is called 'Wham,' which is kind of hard to describe because of its originality, but suffice to say it is mystery, sci-fi, super-hero book that crosses 'Shazam' with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, if it's possible to imagine such a combination without seeing it."
Studio 407 has ambitious plans for the future. Explained Leung, "We have some books with Simone Bianchi ('Astonishing X-men') in the works. We are also doing some books with Stefano Cardoselli ('2000AD,' 'Heavy Metal') and Jon Bosco ('Nightwing,' 'Heroes for Hire'). We are also talking to Atsushi Kaneko ('Bambi and her Pink Gun') about picking up one of his manga titles as well. We also have deal pending with one of the biggest manga artists in China, but we can't say who it quite yet."
Studio 407 has also agreed to release several trade paperbacks through an agreement with Italian publisher Pavesio, including "Last Travel Inc." "Ego Sum" and "Termite Bianca."
Previews of many Studio 407 titles are available at www.studio-407.com.