by Joe Locastro | contributor
Cyborg 009 is the first name in Japanese superhero teams. Literally. Back when Shotaro Ishinomori created the series in 1964 it was the first full fledged super hero team in Japanese comics. Ishinomori went on to create some more landmark superhero genre titles such as Kamen Rider, Kikaider and the Super Sentai series.
Ishinomori’s legacy on the shape of Japanese superheroes is Stan Lee-esque, so translating that magic for a western audience is no easy feat. The themes of fellowship and justice are universal however, and firmly ingrained in each of Ishinomori’s works. F.J. DeSanto (comic book writer and co-producer of The Spirit film adaptation), writer Bradley Cramp (Invertigo) and artist Marcus To (DC Comics’ Batwing) are teaming up to bring the first North American produced Cyborg 009 graphic novel to print. A stand alone book, this will be a chance for many North American comic fans to experience this historically significant team for the first time.
Inside AX: What made now the right time for Cyborg 009? Is there something about the story that says “Pick me!”?
Bradley Cramp: Great stories never go out of style and with the wild success of recent hits like The Avengers and X-Men it just felt like the right time to introduce a broader, global audience to the incredible world and heroes Shotaro Ishinomori created with Cyborg 009. When FJ first asked if I’d be interested in helping take a crack at it, I found myself instantly hooked on the original source material. Even though it was created in the 1960’s during the height of the Cold War, its universal truths and commentary on the human condition continues to ring loud and clear even in today’s world. At its heart is a timeless story about the triumph of the human spirit that anyone, regardless of their culture or nationality can relate to — and we are very excited about introducing the spirit of Ishinomori’s great work to a whole new audience.
IAX: Who is your favorite cyborg in the main cast, and why?
BC: That’s a tough question because there are so many rich and wonderful characters inside Cyborg 009 – however, if I had to pick just one, that would have to be Joe (aka “009” himself)! He’s the embodiment of the classic hero. An unlikely guy who was born with the ‘deck of life’ seemingly stacked against him, who suddenly finds himself thrust into this horrific – yet incredible – situation and uses the opportunity he’s been given to take control of his fate and fight for the common good of mankind. Ultimately, there’s something in Joe’s character that everyone can relate to.
IAX: Would you ever attempt to adapt Kamen Rider or any of his other works for American audiences?
F.J. DeSanto: Absolutely. We are hoping the CYBORG 009 graphic novel leads to an ongoing series of new books based on many of Ishinomori’s creations. Everyone is certainly interested in doing that. The Ishimori [Productions] library is one of the richest in the world and there are tons of his creations that we would love to bring to a new audience.
IAX: Was there anything memorable during the back and forth with Ishimori Productions? Any vetoed ideas?
FJD: Brad and I spent a lot of time in advance breaking down the story into detail in order to get Ishimori’s approval. While we already had an intimate knowledge of CYBORG 009, our colleagues at Ishimori [Productions] provided us with these in-house “Encyclopedias” that gave us a wealth of material to mine from Ishinomori’s manga series. We scoured through those for a long time, so by the time we started writing the script, we were in good shape in terms of their being happy with where we all wanted to go with it.
They understand we are trying to reach a new audience with this book, but we are determined to do so only in a way that is respectful of the heart, soul and intent of the original work. There’s nothing I can think of offhand that was vetoed other than maybe a few moments of extreme action, etc.
IAX: Did you have a visual style in mind when drafting up the first plans for the adaptation?
FJD: Our pre-requisite was that it had to be rich and cinematic, yet most importantly with a look that still possessed the heart and spirit of the original characters. We knew this would be the most crucial element any artist would have to bring to this project. It became very obvious right away that Marcus To was the man for the book. He instinctively understood the property right away and immediately knew how to make everything look fresh while retaining the elements people love about the team. As we continue to work on the book, we are writing it to tailor it for Marcus so he can let loose and really draw something special.
Look for more on Cyborg 009 at San Diego Comic-Con next July from Archaia Entertainment.