Thursday, January 13, 2011

Marvel's Next Big Thing: "5 Ronin"

CBR: Marvel's Next Big Thing actually involves five things—or five people, rather. Wolverine, Psyclocke, the Punisher, Deadpool and the Hulk star in the upcoming five-issue, weekly miniseries "5 Ronin." The title re-imagines the quintet of heroes as masterless samurais in feudal Japan out for revenge. Writer Peter Milligan pens all five issues, while a rotating cast of artists pencil each installment, including Tomm Coker, Dalibor Talajic, Laurence Campbell, Goran Parlov and Leandro Fernandez.

Milligan and Marvel Editor Sebastian Girner spoke with reporters today in a conference call moderated by James Viscardi about the upcoming miniseries, which launches in March and runs throughout the month. CBR is there with LIVE coverage to help bring some guidance to "5 Ronin."

Things started off with discussion on how the idea came about. "The egg of this idea was born in Sebastian's great interest and passion in all things Japanese," said Milligan. "Sebastian and I made an omelet out of that egg."

Girner said that the samurai armor reminded him of superhero uniforms and he started putting things together on paper. "I tried to image which characters would," and took it from there, he said.

Talk then turned to the specific characters. "The characters changed a little," admitted Milligan. The writer said he was a big fan of the "Seven Samurai" film and concept. "The characters all represent an aspect of this Japanese society," he said. He said that it was interesting to see how these characters molded and became a part of the Japanese landscape as the brainstorming went on. Milligan said that Wolverine made the most sense, as did the Punisher, for the atmosphere and culture.

Girner said that it makes sense to a lot of people why Wolverine would be a vital character in the tale, and that other characters proved a little more different to make work. "We got further and further away from the historical roots to making the characters inhabiting the story of the world that they're in."

Psylocke is a character that might make you raise an eyebrow, Milligan said, but also argued that "Psylocke is the character that fits in most beautifully" with the story.

In regards to the story itself, Milligan went into a little bit of detail. Each chapter focuses on one of the characters, but the stories are intricately linked through a common catalyst. "All these characters have to rediscover as the story continues" that there's a reason they're all connected and drawn together, explained Milligan. They each have problems that stem from the same source.

The decision to have multiple artists said works brilliantly for the nature of the story, said Milligan. The writer said that each installment has a certain tone and atmosphere specific to that character and their story that it almost necessitates a different artist than the other story. Girner talked about the various artists involved and his previous work with them, including on "Daredevil: Noir," "Punisher MAX" and "Deadpool."

"Tomm worked a long time on page one and it's the opening page of this series and it's so detailed," said Milligan. The writer said he owes the artist a beer for how beautiful the image came out—an image based on an actual Japanese battle.

Question then opened up to the press. Milligan revealed that the story begins in 1600 in feudal Japan and follows a few years after that. "When we pick up, one age is coming to and end and the other is painfully about to be born," explained Milligan. Girner said that the story follows from 100 years of civil war and is an important era in Japanese history and culture. "A lot of great stories take place in the Eto Era," said Girner. Milligan pointed out that "Seven Samurai" takes place during this time.

In regards to the Hulk and how he fits in the story, Milligan said that he was the most interesting and counter-intuiative character. "He's not this rampaging Green Monster" revealed the writer. "He's a monk." The writer said the internal battle between Hulk and Banner actually represents what a monk is about—finding that balance within yourself.

Samurais themselves have become a legendary icon in popular culture, similar to the cowboy. In regards to the comparison of the two and how both have become romanticized, Milligan said that "the cowboy as we know him is an entire fabrication. The samurai obviously existed with their own code and conduct." The writer said that he took a good look at that code and their lives and reality of the samurai when researching for the story.

"The characters are meant to be recognizable," confirmed Milligan. The writer said that the characters are still "100 percent the characters we read" in regular Marvel books every month. When coming up with the story, they wanted to make sure to keep the core of the characters the same, despite the change of the setting. Girner added that each story plays with things that we know about each character. This went into not only the design of their outfits, but also keeping that inner turmoil and the heart of the character that went into their original creation at Marvel.

Milligan said that there aren't really other analogues of Marvel characters in the story. "The one character we haven't talked about was the villain of the piece," but that is not an analogue but based on a historical figure—a rather evil and wicked one, he said. Milligan said he turned want to turn into a gag of who you could fit into feudal Japan. The story is about these five characters and their problems specifically.

Milligan says that, of the main characters, Psylocke is the one that some "raise an eyebrow at" due to her inclusion, but he thinks she "fits in most beautifully." "My way into Psylocke, when I found out the metaphor of the butterfly, that was my way in to her character in this Japanese setting," Milligan adds.

How do the character-centric stories tie in together? "Each chapter focuses on one of these characters," Milligan says, and has a "standalone quality." "But they're intricately linked." Milligan says there's "another way they're connected" that he can't talk about until people read the book. "Their problems are caused by the same source," the writer adds. "It becomes very clear very quickly," what that linking element is, Girner says.

Girner says Laurence Campbell draws a "cold as hell" Punisher, which is why they wanted him for that issue. He adds that Parlov is maybe the best Punisher Max artist, but the only thing he draws better than Punisher is women, which is why he's on the Psylocke issue.

Milligan says that while you wouldn't think characters like Deadpool would translate, they are "immensely recognizable." "We structured each story with things we know about them," Girner says. Milligan says 5 Ronin's Deadpool couldn't be anyone else, and the Punisher is very close to his MU depictions. "We tried to see the people in there," Girner says. "Upholding a code of honor is an incredibly difficult thing to do when you're conflicted."

Which samurai character would you like to see someone dress up as at a con? Milligan: Psylocke. Girner: "The big, broad basket hat Deadpool wears."

Milligan: "One of my favorite moments is when Logan and Psylocke are getting to grips with each other, and the night has been so wild, that Logan isn't sure if they're fighting, or they're actually still having sex."

Marvel's Viscardi ends the call by saying that 5 Ronin will be one of the most attractive comics on the shelves, and a good opportunity for fans who want a Marvel book to be set outside of normal canon.


captainfur said...

Looking forward for that Wolverine/Psylocke scene...

Sky said...

Reading this has changed my mind some. I was just only going to get the Betsy issue but I may wait for the whole tpb.

Francis said...

the only one i raise an eyebrow at is hulk

Adam said...

Hi guys. I just saw this on Newsarama. It's an Age of X preview with Psylocke in it:

Rahsaan said...

Ain't that the bee's knees! I hope she is as crafty as she was before becoming "Thonglocke." However, I hope that she is badass and has become a physical combatant with those daggers!!

FSaker said...

Interesting. I'll be looking forward for this mini. Even though Milligan's run with the X-Men was atrocious, he seems to have a good idea of what he's doing now.

Plus, the art shown so far is delightful.

Plus, if Milligan messes it up, it's okay, it's just an alternate Betsy, not the real one...