Yoshitaka Amano talks "Hero"

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American comic book readers probably best know Yoshitaka Amano from his collaboration with Neil Gaiman on " Sandman: The Dream Hunters" or his "Elektra & Wolverine: The Redeemer." Actually, they've probably had the most exposure to Amano's work from his character designs on the "Final Fantasy" video game series.

This July, Boom! Studios is releasing the first chapter in Amano's latest creation, "Hero." The story follows a man without a past as he searches for his beloved and rediscovers himself. The journey crosses both globe and time (chapter one is "From New York to Paris"), with full-page illustrations by Amano.

CBR News caught up with Amano, who'll be making an appearance at Comic-Con International in San Diego at the end of this month. He'll be signing at the Boom! Studios and Dark Horse Comics booths.

Is Hero your first personal project? What's your favorite thing about it?

Yes, it is. Since, it's my own, I really enjoyed the freedom of leading it to whatever direction or putting together the elements I'm interested in. Each volume will have different elements leading you through the maze of imagination. The first volume is the entrance to the world of "Hero."

Where did the idea come from?

I've been always interested in myths. All myths have a certain reality at its core. Many artists in the past have created great paintings/murals, and stories. I wanted to make my own version.

Since this first volume is the reader's entryway into the world of "Hero," did you feel any pressure to make it accessible? Did you think of anything then decide to hold off on it for a later volume or did you not censor your ideas at all?

I feel very happy that it's finally starting. No pressure at all.

In the early stages, "Hero" was a series of random images centered on a common theme, then it was constructed into sequences to create a more coherent story. So, yes, some parts are oriented into later volumes, but it's not like I held it off for whatever reasons.

You first exhibited the character in an art gallery in 1999. How do you feel about work being part of both the art world and the illustrated story world?

It started when a guy from an art gallery saw some drawings I was doing just for my own fun. He's very much interested in showing them at his gallery. Those were small sumi-e drawings on paper, so I made some large aluminum paintings on a similar principle for the show. It is something I can work on without limiting myself on a story line and I enjoy that freedom.

You've found success in both the art world and the comic book world. Obviously the two are very different. Has it been difficult?

For me, they are not that different. I do what I want to do and things develop into different styles and formats.

"Hero" evolved from personal work. Is it still as free or do you have more specific goals for it now?

The characters and stories sometimes develop their own life in the midst of a story, and they can lead me into an unexpected stage. It was 1999 when I first conceived the idea of "Hero" and it's already 2006 now! So, no, my idea and my view of Hero's world hasn't been changed from its original stage, but some of the details and the process of reaching there have changed and can still change.

As the story moves across time and place, do you think there is a global, eternal concept of heroism or does it change culturally and through time?

I think the heroism is a universal thing. Human nature didn't change much by time or by culture.

What are some of the differences between doing something of your own like "Hero" something that's work-for-hire?

Beside what I mentioned in the answer to your first question, nobody sets the time limit while I was conceptualizing it. So that was a blessing. It's slightly different now though, because I have to work on the publishing schedule! (laugh)

You're best known -- at least to American comic book readers -- for your watercolors and inks. Are these your preferred techniques?

I've been working with watercolor and ink for nearly 40 years of my professional life. So, yes, I'd say that's my preferred technique.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Moreau, Van Gogh, Egon Schilre, Dali, Warhol, Utamaro, Neal Adams, etc., etc. There are too many!

Who's your favorite character in "Hero?"

Well, of course, Hero himself is my main character, but the partnering female character is very, very important.

What do you hope readers will get from the book?

"Hero" is not some super hero with super powers. There's a hero in all of you, in your heart.

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