UDON's "Street Fighter" universe expands in March with the release of "Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki," a four-issue mini-series written by Jim Zubkavich and illustrated by Omar Dogan. Dogan has provided art for previous "Legends" series and created the animation background for "Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix" for Playstation Network and Xbox Live, while Zubkavich will be the first writer other than Ken Siu-Chong to write an UDON "Street Fighter" series, though he has contributed a backup story to the current "Street Fighter II Turbo" series. Variant covers will feature artwork by "Empowered" creator Adam Warren, "Buffy Season 8" cover artist Jo Chen and others. CBR News caught up with Zubkavich and Dogan to discuss the new series and Ibuki's place within the "Street Fighter" mythos.
Ibuki, an energetic teen ninja who debuted in the "Street Fighter III" series of games, stands apart from characters like Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, and Bison, who share a history to varying degrees and are regular participants in the Street Fighter tournaments. "Ibuki is one of the few Street Fighter characters who sort of operates in her own stream," Zubkavich said. "She's not a traveling hardened warrior who has a long history with other Street Fighter characters or a master of her field of martial arts. She's a young and extremely talented ninja who is just beginning to see a larger world of responsibilities and potential as a new generation of fighters emerge. It makes her quite a grounded character, someone who's easy to empathize with.
"Ibuki moves alongside the larger Street Fighter III-era events and is involved with them, but isn't a world changer like Ryu, Bison, or Gill," Zubkavich continued. "That interesting aspect gives us a lot more room to flesh out Ibuki's personal story and have a solid self-contained action romp that anyone, established Street Fighter fans or brand new readers, can pick up and thoroughly enjoy."
He added, "Since many of the 'Street Fighter III' characters are only vaguely covered in Street Fighter canon, Capcom's been wonderful about letting me fill in the gaps for her back story," the writer said. "By the time this mini-series wraps up, fans will know more than ever before about who Ibuki is and the events that carried her through all 3 iterations of the Street Fighter III game series, including some surprises about how she became a ninja [in the first place]."
For fans of the "Street Fighter" games and comics who might be less familiar with her, or for readers who might never have played the games, Zubkavich offered a brief introduction to Ibuki's character. "Ibuki is a high school ninja girl who is trapped between two worlds. She desperately wants to lead the normal life of a teenager, but can't escape the intense ninja training and responsibilities she's grown up with," Zubkavich explained. "Both of these elements, teenager and ninja, are core to her character. She's simultaneously an awkward teen trying to figure herself out and a fighter capable of amazing feats beyond her years - she's the Spider-Man of the Street Fighter world, if you will.
"'Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki' is a teen action-dramedy in the vein of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' except our heroine is an acrobatic super-ninja and the vampires are other martial artists," Zubkavich said. "It's fun, energetic and filled with snappy banter, coupled with the best artwork of Omar Dogan's career. In addition, the mini-series is rocking ahead of schedule and will be in stores on time. If all that's not enough to pique your interest, I'm afraid you must hand in your geek membership card on the way out.
"I'm really confident that this mini-series has broad-base appeal. With Ibuki's tremendous popularity, we already know fans of Street Fighter are going to eat it up, but Ibuki's story also connects with elements that will appeal to comic/manga readers. If you've never tried an UDON comic before, or don't know why Street Fighter is one of the most popular game franchises of all time, this series is a great jumping-on point."
Among the supporting cast is another "Street Fighter III" mainstay, the boisterous martial artist Makoto. "Makoto is another teenage martial artist whose goals and personality make her a perfect partner/foil for Ibuki," Zubkavich said. "After her father's death, Makoto vows to defeat every fighter she can find as a way to prove the worth of her father's fighting style. It's a classic martial arts storyline filtered through a young girl who hasn't yet learned the importance of restraint. Her intense singular drive and hair trigger rage make her an absolute blast to write, especially as it contrasts so wonderfully with Ibuki's far more careful and secretive nature."
Up to this point, Ken Siu-Chong has been the primary writer on UDON's "Street Fighter" titles, and Zubkavich said that he is coordinating his story with the line's architect. "With UDON's comic output increasing throughout 2010 with the main 'Street Fighter' series and 'Darkstalkers,' this new 'Legends' series is something I got behind pretty early on and made sure would jive with everything Ken had planned," Zubkavich told CBR. "We met up a few months back in person to bounce ideas back and forth and make sure the field was clear for both of us to cut loose on our respective storylines. Ken's love of all things Capcom is so apparent in the comics, and I wanted to make sure that all of it synced up and did justice to the characters and franchise we both enjoy so much."
Omar Dogan, who has previously illustrated "Street Fighter Legends: Chun Li" and "Sakura," returns for this latest spotlight on the fighter's women. "I find Capcom's female characters from the SF series generally to be designed in an appealing way but not overly trashy and raunchy. I used to really like Sakura a lot and have been drawing her for years, but Ibuki is my favourite," Dogan said of the "SFL: Ibuki." "There are millions of schoolgirls, but not nearly as many Ninja/School girl combinations. Plus, Ibuki's uniform design and hair are really unique and have a very identifiable silhouette. I feel Ibuki has a lot more dimension than Sakura, and bit more than Chun Li, too. Dual identities in a person open many chances for conflict to happen internally, which make for a more complex character."
For reference on Japanese schools and landscapes, Dogan draws on his own life experience as well as books. "I am actually a gardener by hobby and love plants," he said, "plus, I have been to Japan, and have reference books of many things from schools to industrial buildings and streets etc. From all this, I can easily find the visuals of what I need to portray."
The "Street Fighter" comics are, of course, known for their action, but this "Legends" series also tackles another manga/anime trope, the eccentric high school comedy. "I really like drawing overboard facial expressions and trying to capture subtle emotions as well. I get bored with more serious stories, because everyone is so preoccupied with looking tough," Dogan said. "Tough face, angry face, yelling face, and on and on, but at least here I can really explore other emotions. It's refreshing, and provokes an energy in me to see how accurately I can nail the facial expression and pose."
Asked whether he had mastered Ibuki's fighting style in the "Street Fighter III" games, Dogan admitted that she isn't his first choice in a match. "I could not master her and had to stick to more traditional Shotokan characters, particuarily Ryu. Over the whole SF series though, I was better with Sakura, but at heart I want to be a Dan-master. Oyagi! Brakshou! "
Zubkavich said his skill with Ibuki was not at expert level, either. "'Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike' is one of my absolute favorite video games and it's a thrill being involved with the property on even this small level," Zubkavich said. "Although Ibuki isn't one of the characters I'm most comfortable with when it comes time to throw down, I absolutely love her play style and animation. Doing some extra video game 'research' for this comic series has been a blast, and I have a much greater appreciation for players who can mop the floor with me using Ibuki. Still, my Ken and Chun-li attacks are quite dangerous."