Interview with Ryan Inzana, Author of Ichiro

Ryan Inzana is an artist and author.  His latest release, the graphic novel Ichiro, hits stores next week.  Ryan stopped by the virtual offices to talk about his new book, so read on to see what he has to say about Ichiro.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Ryan Inzana] I am an illustrator, writer and comic artist.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Ichiro?

[Ryan Inzana] It is a graphic novel about a boy’s adventure through a mythological world. Along the way, the protagonist, whose name is Ichiro, deals with issues of cultural identity, war, history and loss. And monsters, there is an abundance of monsters.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the book?

[Ryan Inzana] The first seeds of the book were planted on a trip I took to the Peace Park museum in Hiroshima, Japan. I was there with my wife and her family, who are originally from the area.  It is at once both disturbing and enlightening to visit the museum. Not only do you find out about the atom bomb and its effect, but you learn the history of World War II as told from the perspective of the Japanese.

When most Americans think of Japan and World War II, they immediately think of Pearl Harbor. The history most school children learn in the United States labels Japan as the aggressor and America as the victim that begrudgingly enters the fray only after being attacked. But in front of me in Hiroshima history told a very different story, the roles of aggressor and victim seemed to be vastly less defined. Most importantly, the museum gives you the stories of the average people that were killed in the blast, not some faceless enemy, but ordinary people. History in general and war in particular are a lot less black and white than some make it out to be.

I wondered, how would I explain this all to my son, that long ago the country where his father was born fought a war against the country where his mother was born. That scores of people died and that both sides had good intentions and bad intentions but most of them wished the war would simply just end. That now America and Japan are friends and the world is ok? There are still scars. I left the museum and looked up at all these modern buildings that stand in today’s Hiroshima City. For the first time, I gave some thought as to why Japan’s cities look so new and futuristic, it’s because the old buildings were bombed into rubble during World War II so they had to rebuild.

The experience made me feel conflicted, but it also made me curious. I started talking to people, reading books, doing research. This all led me to think more broadly about war and humanity. One aspect that really interested me in my research was the role that Shintoism and Japanese mythology played in World War II. There is a notion, not just in World War II Japan but probably in every country that has ever engaged in large scale combat, that God (or Gods, as the case maybe) not only supports war, but has a stake in it and has bet on the fill-in-the-blank country to win it all. I thought to myself, if the Gods are so pro-war, maybe they are fighting amongst themselves. And so I imagined an epic mythological battle going on in the heavens that mirrored the real world conflict that is going on today.

The character of Ichiro really came out of the "how would I tell my son about this" thought that I had. The mythological characters in the book are in part based on their descriptions in the Kojiki, which is Shinto scripture. Also ukiyo-e prints, Japanese handscrolls and screen paintings, stories of the yokai (monsters from Japanese folktales) helped inform my design sense and gave me some sort of base of the character’s personalities that I could embellish on.

Some of weirdest characters in the book came from random doodles in my sketch book.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of creating the story?

[Ryan Inzana] I’m dealing with a lot of themes and issues in this book. I didn’t want it to come off heavy-handed or have it seem forced. That and drawing, inking, painting and coloring 280 pages of comics.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things would Ichiro never have in his pockets?

[Ryan Inzana] I don’t know, Ichi is a little survivalist so you can never tell what he’s going to have in his pockets in case of an emergency. Can’t rule out anything.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Ryan Inzana] I like that quote from Faulkner where he says, "Read, read, read. Read everything–trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window."  That’s exactly how I feel about it and the same goes for art. My book shelves are buckling under the weight of a little bit of everything.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

The 3 s’s: Silence, Solitude and more Silence.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t working?

[Ryan Inzana] I fish. I live on a river, so when the conditions are right, I’m out the door like a kid when the school bell rings.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!!


You can learn more about Ryan by visiting his website.

You can pre-order Ichiro from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

 

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