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Spaghetti Wuxia Wasteland: An Inter-Review - Part 1

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This is an Inter-Review—a review and an interview in one!

Today we turn our attention on a new (what I like to call) “future-fantasy” that utilizes the best of post-apocalyptic wasteland settings coupled with high-octance  wuxia mysticism and drama.  Created by the three-man production studio Finney-Thompson Entertainment (responsible for the movies Carver and 100 Girls) alongside artist Gabriel Hardman (storyboard artist for the Spider-Man and X-Men movie franchises, plus the upcoming Image OGN Heathentown) The Wind Raider is a three-issue epic exploring a world as operatic as it is pure grit, oil, and sand.

Issue #1 hits stores in January, and proceeds monthly from there.  All orders can be placed through your local comic shop or from the Ape Entertainment storefront.  You can also check out the free preview and the video trailer for further eye-candy persuasion.  For all news, updates, and the fullest scoop on the book and its creators, head on over to The Wind Raider Website.

Broken Frontier Review: I’ll be the first to say that post-apocalyptic scenarios are a dime a dozen, and in certain venues they’ve even proved absurdly awful of late: Neil Marshall’s Doomsday and the third Resident Evil flick come to mind. Even grafted-upon pseudo-western ambiance couldn’t freshen up the cliché for theater-goers.  However, comics have experienced something of a renaissance in post-apocalyptic material: Wasteland, DMZ, Y The Last Man, the list goes on, and it’s a who’s who of fan-favorite series.  Where does The Wind Raider sit within, then?  Crafted by a trio of movie folk entering the wide world of comics with a genre that hasn’t performed a decent theatrical release in years?

The good news: by blending an almost eastern high-fantasy into the usual spaghetti-wasteland scenario, co-writers Richard Finney and Dean Loftis have assembled a unique enough stage to mark The Wind Raider as something new, a book that captivates well beyond the first issue.  The story opens with a traveling family and a chance encounter with an object of inordinate value.  An attempt to sell the object at a local caravan, however, results in unwanted attention from a cadre of very dangerous fellows.  An action-soaked chase sequence ensues, and peaks with the arrival of a man wielding the power of the wind itself.  What follows next, then, I’ll leave for the surprise (it’s pretty neat).

Side stories abound, beyond the main event: a small empire of wind-powered villains stalk the wasteland, and seem poised to unleash something disastrous upon it.  Naturally the single most enticing aspect of the book, the magical/mystical side of The Wind Raider is thoroughly developed, but only partially, in piecemeal, is it offered up.  There’s more than meets the eye to this epic, and while issue #1 keeps its focus on a small core cast, future issues herald space-opera style consequence.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Welcome Richard and Dean!  Let’s kick this off by asking the most obvious question up front - why the move to comics?  Always been fond of them?  The freedom of producing illustrated stories that are “budgetless”?

RICHARD FINNEY: I’m a comic book lover from way back. This reference will date me, but I was buying and collecting comics when they were 12 cents each. I loved Spiderman and Captain America, but I also loved war comics like Sgt Rock. I can sincerely claim that as long as I can remember I’ve always had the dream of writing a comic book. The Wind Raider is a fulfillment of that dream. The project started with Dean. We had written a couple of screenplays together and enjoyed the process. He had some core ideas for the setting and the characters for The Wind Raider and one day told them to me. I responded and started building on those ideas and pretty soon we had the foundation for a trilogy.

Little did we know that getting everything down in our world and telling the first story would end up taking us (working between other projects) over five years. At the end of writing the umpteenth draft of the first screenplay, I turned to my producing partner, John Thompson, and said, “We’re going to need some help getting people in the industry to see what we’re trying to do here.” That’s when we decided to pursue doing the project as a comic first even before we marketed the screenplay to Hollywood.

DEAN LOFTIS: Of all our screenplays, The Wind Raider certainly is the most visually unique and appealing, so we felt it would lend itself well to the comic book medium. And while we are utilizing it to set up our film, it was important to us to create a comic book for comic book readers and enthusiasts…not just for Hollywood executives. Your “budgetless” comment was correct in this regard: It will indeed take a significant budget to produce this as a live-action film that will have heavy SFX, so we strongly felt that for studios to be willing to invest in our project, executives will have to be able to clearly visualize the elements in our world. As an example, there’s such a difference between reading about “landsailors” or “para-carts”and seeing the vehicles in action, so to speak. Same with the many different manifestations of our Ki Warriors “controlling the wind.”

BF: How did The Wind Raider come to be with Ape Entertainment?

RF: Once our company, Finney/Thompson Entertainment, committed to doing The Wind Raider as a comic book, we started talking with several companies that would potentially partner up with us to bring our dream to a reality. We had to find a publisher that could answer two needs – a company that could give us a crash course in the world of comic books; and one that would allow us to hold on to our creative vision for the project. Ape Entertainment was the clear winner.

David Hedgecock, one of the partners at Ape, has from day one been the essential element to making The Wind Raider a comic book reality. Ape matched us up with Gabe Hardman, the brilliant artist of our project, and David has been running the whole project like it was his baby from conception. Meanwhile, Dean and I have been able to maintain our vision of what we want the project to be…and John and I have been able to maintain control over the project as we play out the project’s future incarnations.

BF: On the subject of spaghetti-wasteland yarns being prevalent and hit-or-miss, can you name the post-apocalyptic epic you’re most inspired by?  Also the one you’re most looking to avoid comparison to?

RF: In regards to post-apocalyptic epics, I’ve always loved The Road Warrior, but my answer to your question has more to do with “spaghetti” rather than “wasteland.” Besides the epic Samurai movies from the past, the major inspiration for me in writing The Wind Raider was Once Upon a Time in the West directed by Sergio Leone. Leone, was also inspired by Samurai movies. He directed A Fistful of Dollars which was a remake of Yojimbo. In Once Upon a Time in the West (and in almost all of his “spaghetti” westerns) Leone played with the themes that also haunt The Wind Raider – Code of honor; Revenge; Redemption; and the abyss that sometimes exists between something that once was…and something that is coming to replace it.  I apologize for not being able to answer your last question. I always believe that attacking someone else’s movie in public is like insulting someone’s child.

DL: On the post-apocalyptic front it will be compared to The Road Warrior due to the desert-like wasteland and on the “mythological” front, Star Wars, due to the Ki Warriors. From a birds-eye view, that is a fair comparison. Both these archetypical films indeed were inspirations for me in my childhood and were in my mind when I first started weaving a story about a young man on his para-cart scouring a windswept wasteland for something to salvage and sell for his impoverished family. But The Wind Raider doesn’t pay homage to these movies, nor is it derivative, in a derogatory sense. Richard inspired me to dig deeper, beneath the surfaces of these movies, specifically into the “Eastern” and samurai philosophies.

BF Review: The Wind Raider has been compared to Dune and Lord of the Rings alongside Mad Max in attempts to “FrankenTag” its flavor, and there are definitely high fantasy elements involved, though for my money, and to bring the comparisons back to the comics community, I’d pair it with Crossgen’s Sojourn—a quest across unexplored (by readers) landscape, with enemies hot on the heroes’ tails.  Even more to the point, and as mentioned before, Wind Raider cannibalizes Chinese fantasy tang a la Zu Warriors such as elemental powers, master-student character dynamic, and a nearly cultural-derived backstory.  Reading the comic, I was reminded more of Warriors From Zu Mountain and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon than anything more standard high fantasy in feel.

One of the reasons for this—perhaps the biggest distinction between The Wind Raider and all other comers—is that WR is savagely visual.  In much the same way that Frank Miller’s Sin City can work on a virtually silent plateau, Finney and Loftis keep the dynamism high and the script sparse. There are moments where brief explanations are necessary, and moments where the characters take stock, summarize, and then progress. Yet even these devolve into choreographed mêlées before the scene is through, and lest you think that this mean mindless, pointless violence, the effect is more akin to martial arts high fantasy, the plot is often verbalized only when information is dire, when it simply can’t be translated through activity. Otherwise, like the best of wuxia classics, the action is the story, the story embedded organically within.

Even better, issue #1 is a double-sized intro, which was damn smart on Ape’s part, because this offers readers a first exposure that allows action, story, style, and pacing to breathe, and settle nicely into a coherent and captivating epic. Any less, and WR would have struggled to present an enticing enough setting or narrative.

Join us tomorrow for the second part of this Inter-Review...

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Issue #1 of The Wind Raider hits stores in January, and proceeds monthly from there.  All orders can be placed through your local comic shop or from the Ape Entertainment storefront.

You can also check out the free preview and the video trailer for further eye-candy persuasion.  For all news, updates, and the fullest scoop on the book and its creators, head on over to The Wind Raider Website.  The writers can be contacted at Finney-Thompson Entertainment.

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