Akira Yoshida: A Bullet For Marvel's Young Guns

Thu, March 31st, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
George A. Tramountanas, Staff Writer

Quickly - name a Marvel writer who had four titles hit the stands this month. Most readers would likely answer this question by yelling out the name of Brian Bendis, Mark Millar, or Chris Claremont. But what about Akira Yoshida? As the writer of "Thor: Son of Asgard," "X-Men/Fantastic Four," "X-Men: Age of Apocalypse" and "Wolverine: Soultaker," he is quickly becoming one of the company's most prolific writers. In addition, the newest issue of Previews has a solicitation for yet another X-Men miniseries he's written, "Kitty Pryde: Shadow & Flame." CBR News contacted Yoshida to find out a little more about this writer's past, present, and future projects.

BACKGROUND

To begin with, Yoshida grew up in Japan reading manga. Since his father was in international business, he spent parts of his childhood living in the U.S. where he learned English by reading superhero comics and watching TV and movies. As a child, the writer said he always wanted to work in either the Japanese manga or American comics industry. Fortunately, he's had the privilege of doing both as an adult.

Yoshida started his career in editorial at a small Japanese comic publisher named Fujimi Shobo. It was there that he got to meet writers and manga artists like Ryo Mizuno ("Record of Lodoss War") and Kia Asamiya ("Silent Mobius"). The company was eventually bought out by a larger publisher, but the contacts Yoshida made proved helpful.

In 2002, he joined Asamiya at a few U.S. conventions and Asamiya was nice enough to introduce Yoshida to some of the American editors he was working with at the time. About a year later, Pat Lee and the Dreamwave team asked him to write a "Darkstalkers" comic series for them. This was never published, but fortunately an opportunity to work on a Hellboy story with Asamiya followed that. Around this same time, Marvel contacted him to pitch for them too. This led to his first series at Marvel, "Thor: Son of Asgard."

"THOR: SON OF ASGARD"

This miniseries followed a young Thor in Asgard before he became worthy of lifting his famed hammer, Mjolnir. Yoshida had heard Marvel was interested in a book about Thor's adventures as a youth, so he wrote up a pitch and lady luck smiled on him. "It was originally a six-issue limited series, which was lucky enough to get extended to twelve issues," Yoshida told CBR News. "There was almost a chance that we would continue to eighteen, but it did not happen. There may still be the possibility that we could revisit it someday if sales on the trade paperbacks do well enough."

One interesting aspect of the book was the style of dialogue used by the characters. As opposed to Thor's "old world"-style of talking, the characters in the book spoke in a more modern tone. "This was actually a decision that Marvel made," Yoshida explained. "The first issue was lettered and I had already seen the proofs when my wonderful editor MacKenzie Cadenhead called and said that the general feeling at Marvel seemed to be to make the dialogue more colloquial. She explained that we should tone down the THYs and HATHs and NAYs, so younger comic fans could pick up the book and enjoy it as well without getting turned off by the older-sounding language. I remember initially feeling a little weird about it, but now I think it was the right decision. I think the book reads nicely as it is."

"ELEKTRA: THE HAND"

"Elektra: The Hand" #2, Page 19
Yoshida's next miniseries, "Elektra: The Hand," was actually a project he pitched when he first met with Marvel. "I pitched this book to Marvel back in 2003. It was one of my first pitches to Marvel, along with a Red Ronin series I am still trying to get off the ground," he said. "I was very happy with the way it turned out. I think [artist] Chris Gossett did a great job and really captured the feel I was going for in my scripts. The trade is out and I hope that people who have not yet checked it out now will."

"Elektra: The Hand" story focuses on the history of the Hand, the ninja organization that was partly responsible for Elektra's training and resurrection. From talking with Yoshida, he explained that this series just scratched the surface of the Hand's origins.

"'The Hand' was originally planned as a trilogy," Yoshida said. "The next series was going to show what happened to Elisa after her resurrection and how the Hand grew as times changed in Japan over the years. The third part was about how the Hand's influence spread from Japan across the world, and eventually ended with their initial contact with Stick and Elektra, tying it all into continuity. I would still love to do these minis as I think they are great stories. However, given the lower sales on the first mini and the not-so-positive response to the Elektra movie, I am not sure if they will happen."

"X-MEN/FANTASTIC FOUR"

Following "The Hand," Yoshida wrote "X-Men / Fantastic Four," which was a re-teaming of sorts with artist Pat Lee. Yoshida explained, "I wrote the first three scripts for 'Darkstalkers' for Dreamwavem but the book was never released. I appreciate Pat and Roger (Lee) and Dreamwave giving me my first shot in comics in the U.S. market, and it was nice to have things come full circle and be able to work with them at Marvel."

"X-MEN: AGE OF APOCALYPSE"

Currently on the stands, "X-Men: Age of Apocalypse" was a true labor of love for Yoshida. "I'm a huge fan (of the original series). 'The Age of Apocalypse' was one of the most popular U.S. comics ever published in Japan and was a big hit here. So writing this series is a dream come true!"

He continued to elaborate, "This was another concept I pitched to Marvel in 2003. X-Men editor Mike Marts finally got the pitch and he was anxious to bring AOA back to life as well. He asked me to write an outline for a six-issue series, which I did. However, as I was a new writer, he also asked a few other writers to pitch him concepts as well. Luckily, Marvel liked mine the best and I was eventually given the greenlight to write the series. It's been a great experience all around and I have loved every minute of it."

"WOLVERINE: SOULTAKER"

Yoshida's most recent series on the stands is the Wolverine vs. zombie tale, "Wolverine: Soultaker." "There have been all kinds of cool stories about the time Wolverine has spent in Japan and I wanted to offer my own take on one of his trips that got a little out of control," explained Yoshida. "I originally planned it as a nice 'get in, get out, don't screw up continuity' story, but my editor Nick Lowe came to me with a great idea that has really taken the story to another level and actually has lasting repercussions on Wolverine's life."


For a preview of issue #1, click here.

"KITTY PRYDE: SHADOW & FLAME"

After telling so many stories involving X-Men members and Japan, the announcement of Yoshida's newest miniseries, "Kitty Pryde: Shadow & Flame," shouldn't come as a shocker. However, the artist associated with the project will come as a pleasant surprise for many - Paul Smith. While Smith is known for his art on several books ("Leave it to Chance," "Dr. Strange," "Iron Man"), his work on "Uncanny X-Men" #167-175 alongside writer Chris Claremont is a favorite for many. As a matter of fact, Joss Whedon gave a nod to Paul Smith's artwork in "Astonishing X-Men" #1, so it's a great time for the artist to jump back into the X-Men's world.

According to Yoshida, working with Smith has been nothing short of fantastic. "Paul is a master storyteller and he breathes such life into Kitty and Lockheed. He takes what I have written and makes it all move across the pages so effortlessly. It's unbelievable how good he his! We have established a great working relationship and he adds so much to the stories. As he is one of my favorite illustrators of all time, I still have to pinch myself sometimes. "

As for what the story is about, Yoshida told CBR News it takes place in current continuity after the recent return of Colossus, which occurred in the pages of "Astonishing X-Men." "It's a solo series about Kitty and Lockheed that examines their relationship while sending them on an action-packed adventure in Japan," said Yoshida. "Some of its plot points tie into classic Kitty continuity, like 'Uncanny X-Men' #181 and the old 'Kitty Pryde and Wolverine' miniseries. However, it is also new-reader friendly and stars the modern day Kitty that we all know and love from 'Astonishing X-Men'."

UPCOMING PROJECTS

While Yoshida's current plate is full of projects, he shows no signs of slowing down in the near future. Although he couldn't talk specifics at the moment, he said he has another Marvel series in the works plus a new series for "another major U.S. publisher." And lest we forget his manga roots, Yoshida said that one of his new manga projects was "put on the fast track" just this past week.

Considering all of the books he has already completed, are there any characters Yoshida would like to try his hand at? "I would like to continue to play in the X-Universe, but with a few more minor characters. My tastes tend to run towards more obscure characters, and I do have a few ideas I am pitching Marvel now. I just have to convince them I am not crazy to even bring these characters up! While I'm very happy at Marvel, I would love to be able to write another Hellboy story for Dark Horse someday. And I would give up everything for a chance to play in the Star Wars universe!"

Akira Yoshida's "Kitty Pryde: Shadow & Flame" is available for order in the March issue of Previews, and both "X-Men: Age of Apocalypse" and "Wolverine: Soultaker" can be found on stands in a comic book shop near you.

 
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