Not the Last Samurai: Lusen talks "Dead Samurai"

Fri, November 4th, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

If you're the kind of comic fan that pays close attention to the credits in a book, the name Liquid! should be a familiar one. Liquid! is a comics coloring company started by Aron Lusen and Chris Lichtner almost tean years ago and they've worked on some of top comics published in that time. From "X-Men" to "Uncanny X-Men" to "Battle Chasers," Liquid!'s been around the industry and made quite an impact with their computer coloring. Aron Lusen hopes that same sort of impact happens when "Dead Samurai" ships to stores later this month from Komikwerks and iBooks Publishing.

"Dead Samurai" is a new three-issue series to come from Lusen, who's writing, drawing and coloring the series while Richard Starkings & Comicraft will handle the lettering. The book stars Kyuzomo, a former samurai who has been presumed dead and wanted for murder. He finally wanders home after a mysterious 11 year absence to find the life he left in complete disarray and the village in the grip of fear; the bodies of local samurai are being found mutilated in a field and nobody knows why or who's doing this. Kyuzomo doesn't want to get involved, but is conflicted by his own samurai honor and his desire to rebuild the life he once had. But what is the evil menace that's ravaging this small village? We spoke with Lusen to learn a bit more about "Dead Samurai."

"At the risk of sounding cryptic or vague, I don't want to give too much away. Kyuzomo's history will ultimately be revealed, but for now he's just a guy struggling to remember anything and everything," Lusen told CBR News. "He makes his way back to his village after he rescues the young granddaughters of the town's magistrate from a violent ambush. Upon his return, his memory begins to slowly tug at him, and then he's driven by a desire to recall anything that he possibly can.

"After reuniting with his brother and mother, Kyuzomo suddenly recalls that he was married. Unfortunately for him, his wife is now married to the magistrate's son, and it turns out it was their daughters who he rescued while wandering about. While some view Kyuzomo with great suspicion, many are also thrilled to have him back. He was a revered samurai, and the town is in a dire predicament. For some time, the local samurai have been turning up dead, weakening the town's defenses. It is revealed that the murderers are in fact a band of vampire ninjas, and that's when the fun really begins. Kyuzomo struggles with personal loss and the darkness of his past while also having to cope with his duty as a samurai. The poor guy can't catch a break."

Lusen said the idea for "Dead Samurai" came to him while watching the History Channel. "I was viewing a program on the history of samurai and ninja, and suddenly I thought it would be a cool idea to have vampire ninjas," said Lusen. "Hey, why not, right?

"That was my jumping off point to create the character of Kyuzomo, and then I just started building him as a character, his history, his issues, etc. I put ten pages of story together and then began talking to some publishers. I've known Shannon Denton at Komikwerks ever since I was a young moron over at Extreme Studios. We both worked there and became friends. I then ran into him at the San Diego Comic-Con and showed him my pages. He expressed interest in the project and told me that he had a relationship with the publisher iBooks. I sent my samples over to the owner, Byron Preiss, and he loved it. That's pretty much how it happened."

But why do a Samurai story? Is the way of the Samurai something that's fascinated Lusen for a long time, or is this something new for him? Lusen said it grew out of a fascination of another genre of films. "I'm a big fan of westerns, especially the Clint Eastwood, 'man with no name' trilogy," explained Lusen. "Once you start really getting into that stuff, though, I think it's natural to be lead to the films of Akira Kurosawa. A number of westerns were based off of his films, and he's also a respected innovator in film. I really grew to admire those movies, and I decided I wanted to do my own samurai story. That's pretty much it. I know it may seem rather unexciting. God didn't smack me upside my head with a lightning bolt or anything like that."

And as you might be able to gather from the description above, the influences on "Dead Samurai" range from Kurosawa films to westerns, as well as a dash of "The Crow" and "From Disk 'Til Dawn," which helps bring the mashing of genres together.

Creating the look for "Dead Samurai" required Lusen spend some time researching the look of ancient Japan. "I'm working from a lot of photo reference. I also did some research into authentic architecture and clothes, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that what I'm doing is historically accurate by any stretch," explained Lusen. "It's more of an amalgam that I felt suited the story.

"The art process has been a journey for me; it's actually a combination of different mediums," continued Lusen. "Some of the process involves ink washes and watercolor by hand. I have even used collage in some instances and scanned it into the computer to add texture to the work. Then, of course, I end up doing the majority of painting on the computer. It's been a lot of fun; I often feel like I'm back in a high school art class."

Lusen says folks shouldn't expect him to give up his regular coloring gig now that's he's embarked on his second creator owned comics project (the Liquid! produced "E.V.E. ProtoMecha" would be his first). "I think I have time to do both. I guess time will tell, but I'm still enjoying my work at Marvel on X-Men, etc."

 
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