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The New Kid on the Block - Part 2

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Continuing BF’s exclusive talk with Americanime Corporation’s CEO Michael Westerman.  You can read the first part of this interview  here.

BROKEN FRONTIER: The flagship title for Americanime, Katharsis , the story of an extraordinary super-human named The Blitzkrieg, has gone through a number of permutations, from a screenplay, to an animanga (of which one issue was published), and finally to the black and white horror-action book it is today.

As you have finished the screenplay, how long until the ending, and will the story be finished in the black-and-white style, or will there be yet another shift?

MICHAEL WESTERMAN: Katharsis did go through a few translations and transitions before its current publication. The first book was the animanga followed by the issue ‘Projekt Blitzkrieg’, the first with Luis Guzman on pencils and Sol Caldwell on inks/tones/letters, and the latter by Rhodanim Belo. Neither were successful in the solicitation to the necessary distributor so I picked up Xerx through a search at www.digitalwebbing.net, a site I would recommend for anyone looking for talent as it was useful, and reworked the story arc for the graphic novel adaptation and moved forward. The comic series will end at the pinnacle of the story arc that would finalize the first OVA or chapter for the title in screenplay form. From there it will depend upon how the facets of Katharsis are cut!

BF: Moving onto Bounty Killer – it reads like Trigun as directed by Ridley Scott or John McTiernan, a western-supernatural-historical-action extravaganza with an emphatically western execution. What were your inspirations for such a genre-blend of a tale? And is there a definite beginning middle and end as with Katharsis?

MW: For Bounty Killer, it is more a tale of the gray, of influence and paths taken than about a beginning and end. The comic series will have something of a finale in the fourth issue which will lead into the eventuality of the future; the last pages are coming in now from Donny and are looking great! The ending is going to be nasty, things will progress….

My influences on BK are a love of Western films, particularly Sergio Leone and A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More; of course The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was great, however the first two were harder and more airy yet grounded in gritty reality. The Red Man is a legend throughout various cultures I am fascinated with; French, Native-American, Russian; the flashback with Napoleon during Austerlitz (as seen in Bounty Killer #3) reputed to have actually happened, and so I wanted to expose and exploit his quality.

The American Civil War was an insane period in history and followed the Napoleonic situation, within which I am sending the Red Man to guide the path of a mysterious gun-slinger drifting against time into destiny. The supernatural aspect is deep-rooted in the culture I want to create, the Red Man and the wild and organic New Orleans backdrops lending this credence; both natural parts of the chaotic settings amidst the approaching cataclysm of the war.

BF: Moving on to other creators’ books, let’s talk about Lia Fiengo. Her books Cold Dream 0 and Airshell are incredibly atmospheric, minimalist cyber-punk fables, yet her style is indelibly manga-esque and reads best when collected. Will her books be getting a similar graphic novel treatment, event though they’ll be published under the Withdrawal Studios banner?

MW: Lia is great and has been a joy to work with! Airshell Volume 1 the graphic novel is out and we are working on Cold Dream 0, upon completion of the Airshell story arc! Her titles do work very well in the graphic novel format, as she is great at creating and maintaining mystery which can be hard to deal with in issue format given the release schedule, but of course well worth waiting for! I’m eagerly awaiting the final outcome of Airshell alongside the fans as it comes together! Cold Dream 0 currently has 2 issues available online, and will be released quarterly through Withdrawal alongside the periodic graphic novels.

BF: Nevin Arnold’s book Honor of the Damned and The Upper Hand are both limited series, the former of which has finished while the later has just begun. What are the future plans for both these series?

MW: Nevin has also been a great member of the team, and his writing and graphic design skills are key. HotD the graphic novel is done and set for a release in November alongside the first volume of Airshell to coincide with the 1-year anniversary of their release. The Upper Hand will first be released as a quarterly and then be collected into a graphic novel, both through Withdrawal Studios as the issues drop, the first of which is now available on the site!

BF: As a writer, who or what are your primary influences? Most industry reviews on Americanime titles have been overall positive, yet many have been ambivalent as to the plotting structure. Most Americanime books do fall somewhere between manga and western comics, even seeming to steal a good chuck from European titles.

So as a writer, what do you strive for with each tale, which aspects do you embrace, and which storytelling gaffes do you hope to avoid (in short, what are your fiction pet peeves and which are your loves)?

MW: For my writing I generally see a visual roll through my brain when considering a particular subject, and from that the story and subsequent scenes spring forth. The writing influences come from books as well as film. My readings during high-school and up through university, have focused on history and politics, primarily the spectrum of WWII focusing upon the three ‘new man’ world leaders, feudal Japan, Napoleonic France, and Rome. In conjunction with the historical readings that play like epic dramas, there is the necessity of political philosophy; life is a trip, like a wave in the sea crashing forward only to slow and finally draw back into the deep blue, and understanding such things puts a board beneath the feet of man so he can carve his own path through life.

BF: Nice.

MW: (laughs) Thanks. Lately, I’ve been hitting up some silly literature; Kerouac, Milton, Fitzgerald and Hemingway – a blast from high school past – and finally getting around to Dostoevsky and Ellis. For the visual aspect I go for key shots that are visually stimulating and dynamic to keep the readers’ eyes interested. Tarantino does this very well, although Johnny To is incredible as well.

Most stories I write are creations based upon potential developments imagined or hallucinated as possibilities. Katharsis deals with the actuality of the realization of black-magik in the Nazi party, Bounty Killer brings a legend into reality and toys with the outcome of history, Drug-Land Security explores theories on urban underworld expansion and war, etc. I try to keep the characters and situations real and true to their nature. I have no patience for the black-and-white, in both life and stories, as the gray is undeniably reality. Sometimes the heroes have the blackest of hearts, but such things are all in the mind after all.

 The plot structure of each story I like to give a beat or a pulse all its own to establish pacing and tension. Flipping around between characters and settings while pursuing the same plot amidst the pieces is a fun technique, and also keeps the writing fresh as the cast and the settings vacillate. A plug here for a few great films to check out: Full-Time Killer, directed by Johnny To. Go and get a copy. Also Jiang Hu – a few amazing Chinese flicks that are great for inspiration and stimulation.

BF: In your own experience, what has fan and industry response been to your products thus far?

MW: The response to the products has been well in regards to reaction at conventions and through the online community, with the retail sales in the range of the small press industry, which is great considering fans were picked up, although the industry could always use more of a base. Support the indy press! I do. If the fans want labels to exist that can deliver something beyond the level allowed to the conglomerates, hit up the indie press! Fan support at cons is always great, and each word of support was much appreciated and great for momentum!

Withdrawal Studios is in the process of solicitation and is geared more towards the main-stream audience versus the niche target of Americanime which is a diversification I am interested to see play out. I would like to thank all the fans for support as well as the fine retailers who supported the company; Mid-Town Comics in NYC, That’s Entertainment in Worcester MA, Comicopia and New England Comics in Boston, and all others who took a chance, as well as of course the man giving the interview, thank you Dave for the reviews and support!

BF: Yes, well, it was back-breaking to read so many good comics and have to write about them online. I mean, it’s not like anyone does that kind of thing in their spare time! But moving on, you’ve mentioned that the Americanime books are entering the “graphic novel” phase of things. Can you discuss the plans for such? Which books will get the treatment and when and what extras will be included in the books to incite fans to pick them up?

MW: Yes! The graphic novel phase has been reached! Airshell Vol. 1 is done, as is the first volume of The Way To Your Heart, and the complete collection of Honor of the Damned is in, with the promo version of Katharsis. Airshell has original art and new pages, as does HotD, alongside a 30 page extras art gallery. Katharsis currently has a new opening scene, and the final edition will have a few additional pages alongside a ‘making-of’ featurette and art gallery.

BF: For the Withdrawal Studio books which will still be coming out in single-issue installments, what will the (hoped for) shipping schedule be?

MW: Withdrawal will be in quarterly format, and will hopefully hit shelves early next year! The earlier issues of Cold Dream 0, The Upper Hand, Shadow of the Setting Sun, and Drug-Land Security are already available though through the Americanime online store and at conventions and select retailers so they can be checked out now.

BF: Are you always looking for new talent and products, or is the AP/WS stable well stocked and holstered for the time being?

MW: For the time being both publishing labels are solid in their content and release schedule, locked and loaded.

BF: Finally, what does the future hold for Americanime Productions and Withdrawal Studios? We’ve got graphic novels for AP and a whole slew of new books for WS (funny how those are both acronyms for other well-known publishers), but what else is in the works?

MW: The future is being eagerly dashed into by both companies – when facing impossible odds, a real man thinks not of victory or defeat, he plunges recklessly towards an irrational death! Not that the odds are impossible or really all that bad at all, but it’s a proper ideology with which to live nonetheless. I want to take my titles, and the publicity and equity created from their comic release, knock out the final drafts of the screenplays, and get them all made into films. To better facilitate this I just moved to CA a few weeks ago abruptly, just prior to signing a lease and rooting myself in Bean-town for another year, posting up in Pacific Beach, a perfect environment to chill and – most importantly – complete the screenplay to Drug-Land Security.

The proximity to LA will be endlessly useful for development of the properties, although not too close to the insanity! I am extremely excited to see where the corporation goes, the establishment stage and development have been bridged, and now I’m progressing with the film aspect and awaiting the comic developments while moving on with life!

Americanime was a blast to get going during college which has also lead to my extended bachelor’s degree pursuit, and now a pleasure to watch its maturation and evolution as I move into the real world, then right back into academia and law school (for the full mental armory) as life progresses!

There are still many great titles to come from both Americanime Productions and Withdrawal Studios! Drug-Land Security, The Upper Hand, and Cold Dream 0 are the first triumvirate to come through Withdrawal, to be followed by Shadow of the Setting Sun, Tokyo Bullets, and Roman Infidelity! Bounty Killer also has a new issue on the way from Americanime, as well as the Charmed Reality one-shot from Emi, and after Cold Dream 0, a book called Waiting by Lia! Thanks to any and everyone who has shown support to any of Americanime’s writers, artists, and titles. We very much appreciate it and will do our best to keep it coming!

BF: Good to hear it. Anything else you’d like to add?

MW: I would, if I could, like to take this opportunity to thank the many exemplary individuals who have made this trip possible; Yikai Zhou, Luis Guzman, Steven Westerman, Thomas Westerman, Michael Gaffin, Ted Clark, Elliot Sherman, Nevin Arnold, Donny Hadiwidjaja, Lia Fiengo, Stefano Cardoselli, Marco Della Verde, Emily Wilcken, Xerx Javier, Eric Bowman, Erfan Fajar, Jun Monares, Tzvi Lebetkin, Sol Caldwell, Rico Chavez, Shelton Bryant, James Imbong, capitalism, Mark McNabb, Dom Palumbo, Danny Simon, John Orlando, Dave Baxter, caffeine etc.  History, literature, the world-wide enabler, Mid-Town Comics, That’s Entertainment, my girl Nikki Olayon for putting up with both the insanity of the writer and the company’s voracious greed of time, and last but not least…no, I’m not going to go with the normal hokey cop-out here, as if ostensibly free will was gifted and didn’t evolve, though either way creativity has sprung forth from the matter of man (in the species sense, so as to avoid sexism); and so last but not least I would like to thank the United States of America, and the paramount freedom of speech and press!

BF: Thank you very much for being here. Good night and good luck!

MW: Word. Peace.

For more information on Amercanime and Withdrawal Studios, and to order any of their products direct, go to www.americanimeproductions.com. Additionally, all books by Americanime Productions and Withdrawal Studios can be traditionally ordered via your local comic shop and Diamond Distributors.  Ask for your copies today!

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