Spaghetti Wuxia Wasteland: An Inter-Review - Part 2

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This is an Inter-Review—a review and an interview in one! For part one click here.

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: Would you say there were eastern or martial arts influences to The Wind Raider?  I gotta say, I see such a huge manga/anime/wuxia flavor as a core-deep aspect of the book, far more than even western fantasy or sci-fi epics WR’s been compared to.  Or would you say these elements were unintentional (as in subliminal)?  If so, what were your own personal influences on this one?

RICHARD FINNEY: There were definite major eastern and martial arts influences when we were creating The Wind Raider. I’m a huge Akira Kurosawa fan. His movies, The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, The Hidden Fortress, Sanjuro and Throne of Blood had a huge impact on me creatively. When Dean presented his first ideas on the project I instantly said to myself, “this premise could be the Samurai movie I’ve always wanted to write!” I just felt that if the future turned chaotic, violent, and unpredictable, the heroes of that world would be the ones who could restore order and peace to the land. But then…what if those “heroes” were eventually corrupted…as all things human inevitably end up? The ultimate hero would be the one who restored honor to those who had lost it. And that’s where The Wind Raider begins. 

DEAN LOFTIS: Strangely, but I think importantly, I have far less of a working knowledge of or interest in manga/eastern/martial art works than Richard. So creatively I couldn’t directly or readily draw upon those influences, which I think helped us put an original spin on the knowledge of Japanese-inspired anime. Here’s a behind-the-scenes example of our world-building that might be illustrative: There’s been references that “controlling the elements” has an “eastern” flare, that it is a trope of that genre. Perhaps that is true, but that wasn’t the point-of-origin for it being in The Wind Raider. In a “windswept wasteland” without electricity/power sources, the wind is a valuable commodity/tool.

Why is there so much wind? We devised that the moon was shattered, displaced in the heavens, altering its gravitational hold and climate on Earth, whipping up winds far more consistently and harshly than in present day. That was our cataclysmic event that caused the post-apocalyptic scenario. And since “wind is power,” then that became the basis for the “magic” wielded only by the Ki Warriors. So this type of thing really resonated with Richard, who does happen to have a working knowledge of eastern works (as he mentioned, and he wanted to write his version of a Samurai movie). Then we mined those and other concepts in that direction, one concept birthing or building off the next. Actually, that’s our creative modus operandi for almost all our projects: I tug one way from my vision/influences, he tugs the other and we end up in the middle with something that is fresh in that it isn’t solely derivative from one particular influence.

BF: Name your favorite martial arts flick?  Your favorite action movie?

RF: The Seven Samurai and Enter the Dragon is a perfect martial arts double feature for me. Kill Bill is my favorite action/martial arts movie of all time.

DL: Does The Matrix count? I’m more Western or medieval in temperament, so I prefer action like in Lord of the Rings and 300.

BF: Did you approach the story as primarily a visual thing?  It’s a remarkable feat to manage a complex world-building fantasy with an absolute minimum of dialogue.  We’ll talk about artist Gabriel Hardman in just a moment, but for now, can you discuss the challenges (or lack thereof) of moving from screenwriting to comic script writing, and reaching the stage where The Wind Raider currently sits?  Did you give Hardman a plot first (old-school Stan Lee style), or a full script?

RF: We started with the story and then the characters. Deciding how to tell that story led to our choice to make as much as we could visual rather than verbal. Again, using the western or the samurai movie as our inspiration, I felt the less said the better. Over the years I’ve come to believe that movies and comic books are usually at their best when they are visceral and visual rather than message oriented or didactic. Rather than “say it once more with feeling” we wanted The Wind Raider to “show it and feel it.” I’ve been involved with plenty of movie projects where lines of dialogue are what people remember in a particular scene…and it’s fantastic for a writer when a fan can quote those lines. But for me, the first goal is to tell a story…gets the script reader or viewer compelled to turn the page or see what happens next.

The Wind Raider started out as a script and when we decided to do it as a comic, I was a little worried about fitting my creativity into the comic book process. Most of the people absorbing this interview probably know that the normal process of a comic book is for the writer to actually describe to the artist what is being seen in each panel on the page. I was uncomfortable with this because I’m truly a screenwriter and not a director. I may suggest through my writing on a movie script what we could see, but it’s ultimately up to the director of the movie to decide what we will see on the screen.

So it was a great relief when Gabriel Hardman came on board as the artist for The Wind Raider. Gabe has had a ton of experience as a storyboard artist and was very accustomed to working with a movie script and translating what he was reading into visual images, ideas, transitions and sequences. So my involvement with the comic book became very much like it would be if I was working as a screenwriter. I was able to focus on the story and the characters while Gabe handled making that story and the characters come alive visually and viscerally…as if he was directing a movie.

DL: I can’t add much on the front Richard so thoroughly covered. So, I’ll say this: There have been several versions of the screenplay…the project in fact is chock full with characterization, character arcs, vices and virtues sliding into their contraries (as Emerson would say), most achieved or at least understood through dialogue. So in one regard it has been a slightly painful process for us as a creators having to eliminate certain aspects, backstory in particular to accommodate the comic book format. For instance, in the comic, you wouldn’t know that in Act I (which ends with the end of the first issue), Joshua and his father have a relationship issue that stems from Joshua’s mother having died in childbirth…and Joshua’s “arc” in the first Act is he earns his father’s respect, the wound is healed, just as his father meets his own fate.

BF Review: Unsurprisingly, looking back at those last few paragraphs, the art of The Wind Raider stands out as its most impressive feature. Executed by the storyboard artist for the X-Men and Spider-Man movie franchises (not to mention the upcoming Image OGN Heathentown), Gabriel Hardman hits the comic scene as (seemingly, since we’re only seeing his magic now) a pre-made giant of the industry.  His work is a mesh of the best of the best: David Lloyd’s figures with Michael Lark’s faces and a use of thick black and open space evocative of Frank Miller, Jim Lee’s work on Deathblow, and Jae Lee to boot.

Hardman’s action sequences are crystal clear and his lines charged with the very wind-force the characters control. He is hands down the best damn artist that could have worked on this series. Once you see it, you’ll believe it.I should add that colorist Micah Farritor puts the whole package in a pitch-perfectly selected palate of water and wash color that transforms every page into a canvas of black motion and hues that seem aftereffects of the action itself.

The Wind Raider is an action book, and an epic book, and yet another post-apocalyptic future-fantasy spaghetti-wasteland series.  But while Wasteland and DMZ are the more sociological and political (respectively) of the genre, The Wind Raider aims to bring back the too-fast-to-think balletic grace of the action-epic to the stage. And rule it.

BF: So Gabriel, from storyboards to the comic page, it seems (or so you make it  seem) like a natural transition.  While your work on The Crooked Man for Zuda and The Black Coat for Ape were very solid, almost classical pieces of work (also your webstrip Kinski which looked like the very best of Apartment G-style art), your work on The Wind Raider seems a major leap forward for you. Did your work on Heathentown pave the way for this new, ultra-dynamic look, or was this something cobbled together just for WR?

GH: You got me, I’m a classicist! At least in comic book terms. When I approach each project, it’s the story that determines the style. There’s more kinetic action in WR so I used a style that best showcased it. Heathentown is almost at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a very dark and atmospheric horror story that has more in common with the style of Warren’s Creepy or Bernie Wrightson.

BF: Can you discuss your general approach to crafting a page of The Wind Raider?  Tools and method?

GH: On WR I’m working directly from the screenplay so I’m adapting it to comics. It’s not unlike the old Marvel style but with dialogue included. I do tight thumbnails and send them to Richard and David Hedgecock for approvals. Then I go straight to the inked page. I do very little penciling. I use ink and a brush for most everything along with Faber Castell Pitt Artist pens. Then I do most of my revisions and corrections in Photoshop.

BF: From the comics world, who would you say would be your influences?  Outside of the comics community?

GH: From the world of comics my big influences are Noel Sickles, Alex Toth, Jorge Zaffino, Bruno Premiani and Alberto Breccia to name a few. Yep, all dead people. To be fair there are some great living comic aritsts too like Michael Lark, Sean Phillips, Jordi Bernet, Berni Wrightson, Marcos Martin and of course, Gene Colan.

The biggest outside influences on my comics work are the great draftsmen that I studied when I was younger like Ingres and Degas. I don’t want to give the impression I went to art school though. Who has time for that?

BF: Awesome. Thanks for being with us, guys. Parting shot: what’s next for The Wind Raider after this initial three-issue mini? Do you know?

RF: We are in the process of setting the project up as a movie. But just as importantly we want to continue telling this story as a comic book. We intend to get another three-issue mini going after we’re done with this first mini-series and then hopefully we’ll continue the story of The Wind Raider beyond that. There’s a hundred stories out there blowing in the wind and we want to tell them all…


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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