Ben Dunn Interview
Rasmussen - The last title I remember seeing from you was The Agents (Image/Sentai Studios), what are you working on or releasing now, and how is your new studio doing?
Mr. Dunn - Currently I am working on Quagmire USA and Heaven Sent for Antarctic Press. I also did a short 5 page Green Lantern story for DC to be included in the upcoming Bizarro World comic. My attempt to start a new company called Sentai Studios was met with little fanfare and apathy. I released only three books and then suspended self publication due to low sales. I then returned to working with Antarctic Press.
Rasmussen - In consideration of the plight of Sentai Studios does this mean any plans for a second The Agents release are off?
Mr. Dunn - Initially the series did well, but after the second issue sales dropped to the point that it was no longer a viable series for me to do. Kevin Gunstone (the writer and co-creator) and I have no plans on doing a second series as of yet. However, if response to the collected AGENTS in bookstores is received well then there might be a possibility of a second series.
Rasmussen - Three books? I know you released The Agents but what were the other two books from Sentai Studios? Also are there any plans to collect the three titles into Trade Paperback format for purchase?
Mr. Dunn - The Agents was released through Image comics. The collection will be released through Antarctic Press for November release. The three books that Sentai released was The collected GIGANTOR, NHS:TIMEBLAST #1 and NHS:PROM FORMULA #1. No plans for doing any type of collections.
Rasmussen - What can you tell us about Quagmire USA and Heaven Sent, and will they be available for purchase in the UK soon?
Mr. Dunn - QUAGMIRE USA is a 6 issue NINJA HIGH SCHOOL mini-series that will tie in directly to my return to the regular series starting with NHS #127. It is currently on issue #4 (6).
HEAVEN SENT is a 12 issue series that has 4 issues out so far. It is about a middle school student and his guardian angel. I am not sure if is available in the UK.
Rasmussen - When I interviewed you at the time of The Agents it didn't seem as if you were interested in returning to do Ninja High School, but now you're returning (and did quite abit since then).
[image2]Mr. Dunn - Well, after thinking about it and talking with the guys at Antarctic Press it was decided that NHS would best be served by my return to the series. Plus the simple fact that the current team will be leaving after #126.
Rasmussen - How did that come about (you returning to work on Ninja High School)?
Mr. Dunn - While working on Quagmire USA I was struck by the universe and how much potential it still had. To be honest I never thought the series would last this long. The series has many incarnations so far but to me that has been its strength. This gives me the flexibility to change the characters and situations as he years go by.
Rasmussen - What can we expect to see from you in Issue #127 and up now that your back?
Mr. Dunn - It will be a continuation of the Quagmire USA cast as the central figures but characters from the old series and V2 will also play a pivitol roles in the stories. I will make it more Quagmire centric and focus on the high school once again. I am also going to emphasis self contained stories that last no more that 1 to 3 issues so that new readers can come in at anytime and not be lost but will want to know more about the universe.
Rasmussen - About the two Ninja High School projects that was started with Sentai Studios, can you tell us abit more about each and if what happened in these two #1s will ever be revisited (follow-up issues connecting to these two being done somewhere down the line for example)?
Mr. Dunn - Well, THE PROM FORMULA are reprints of the Eternity series that first appeared in 1991 so nothing new there. TIMEBLAST #1 was a comic with video game experiment. It was to be 12 issues but only one came out. The overall impact was to change the makeup of the series but Quagmire USA will probably end up doing that.
No follow-ups are planned though the TIMEBLAST storyline might be incorporated into the regular series at some future time.
Rasmussen - In light of what happened to Sentai Studios, and the formerly powerful (now defunct) CrossGen, will this be a "wake-up" call to other studios that might be near the same fate but unable to do the same thing that MARVEL did when it was in this situation (Image for instance which seems to be the next studio nearing the same fate)?
Mr. Dunn - I don't think Image has anything to fear since almost all the material they publish is creator owned and there seems to be no limit to the material they can publish. Also they have low overhead in terms of running the company so they do not have to achieve a certain sales level. Image takes a charge on each book they publish from the creator so they have no fear of cash flow. They are able to adapt to changing market conditions. Crossgen was a company with high overhead with properties that did not have enough cache. Basically the sales did not meet their expenses. With Sentai I was undercapitalized and did not have the staff to run the company. Antarctic Press will be 20 years old in 2005 and I think this is the ideal model for a independent company. have some company owned titles while mixing in creator owned titles.
Rasmussen - Well, then, what lessons can be learned by other studios (or future studios yet to be launched) and their leaders from all this when it comes to their own publishing futures?
Mr. Dunn - Comics publishing is a crap shoot.
Getting the right creators with the right property with the right publisher is very trickly. Crossgen was to emulate the Marvel/DC model and it failed because it had properties did not have enough of a reader base. For the small publisher you should find a property that can supported over a long period of time until a readership is built up. Money is the key.
Rasmussen - Have you heard of DC Comics entering the manga field shortly with their new CMXManga line? What is your opinion of this, and what do you think of the route they took? (To publish manga from asia ala TOKYOPOP, Del Rey, etc. rather than trying to make their own "Mangaverse" style thing ala what MARVEL did on it's last attempt at manga?
Mr. Dunn - I think that DC will be making a wise short term decision. Manga is hot right now and why not capitalize on it. It remains to to be seen if people will identify with DC's manga line.
The big difference in the two attempts by the two largest comic publishers in the US is that Marvel owns The "Mangaverse" and thus can exploit it any way they want. DC does not own anything in the CMX line (as far as I know).
The only thing I think is that for the most part manga is manga and it really doesn't matter who publishes it. I think the readers will gravitate to whatever they like regardless of the publisher. Marvel tact is that they played on its own readers while at the same time trying to attract the readers of manga to its own line.
Reader questions section
Armageddon asks "What work are you most proud of (and why)?"
Mr. Dunn - "I'm sure you've heard the cliche about asking "which child I should pick", but if I had to choose one I think NINJA HIGH SCHOOL is the series I am most proud of."
Mr Blonde asks "Looking back at your career, what has been your most positive experiences? And, alternatively, what has been your most negative experiences?"
[image3]Mr. Dunn - I think doing Warrior Nun Areala was the most positive. I loved the fact that AP was producing a series that not only changed the company but created a whole new genre. I would also have to say that it was also Warrior Nun Areala. Its fast rise and ultimate fall created many problems that I am still recovering from.
(Mr. Blonde) - "As you progressed throughout your career, has your style changed over the years? And if so how has it changed?"
I would say it has changed. I don't know why it does. I see something I like that someone else is doing and adapt it to my own work. However, I think I am getting to the point where I am comfortable where I am.
(Mr. Blonde) - "Do you have a recognizable style or drawing (a "trademark" look if you will) commonly associated with your work?"
Mr. Dunn - I dunno. I guess the closest thing to a "style" would be the look I gave NINJA HIGH SCHOOL. The "old school" manga look.
(Mr. Blonde) - "Of all the projects you've worked on to date what has been the most challenging project to work on and why?"
Mr. Dunn - I guess the Mangaverse was the most challenging. I had to balance what I saw as manga and Marvel's "house style". It was very difficult.
Nephandus asks "Do you find it hard to find acceptance in the Japanese Manga style comics as a US based Artist drawing in a traditionally Japanese style?"
Mr. Dunn - Oh, yes. From the very beginning in 1985 it was hard to convince people as what I was doing. The purists only believed true manga came from Japan. Now that they have all the manga they want they are finding that people everywhere are accepting of the style. What I find strange however is that most people don't care where it's from If they like it they like it. It reminds me of that conversation at the beginning of PULP FICTION where the talk about the McDonald hamburgers and how in Europe it's the same but "different". That's the attitude I take.
(Nephandus) - "What works inspired you, and how do you compare your own style and how it's different/similar to the style of the works that inspired you?"
Mr. Dunn - The biggest influences in my like were Jack Kirby, Go Nagai and Richie Rich. I looked to Jack Kirby for the grand scope of storytelling, Go Nagai for his dynamic characters and Richie Rich because the art was manga I did not even realize it. I like to say that I have created my own style but it is really a mix of many, many different influences. I just can't stay in one place.
(Nephandus) - "Do you see a real future in the "AmeriManga" style, and do you think that the Western world will accept Manga as mainstream eventually?"
Mr. Dunn - I think that there is plenty of room for all kinds of styles. To me there are only two rules: story and art. If you do both well it doesn't matter what style you employ. People recognize when they like what they are reading and they will support it. If not, then it's time to move on to something else.
Studly asks "What inspired/motivated you to go into the comic industry (AmeriManga) in the first place?"
Mr. Dunn - Not to get a "real job".
GhostWulf asks "What was it like being the founder of Antartic Press? Why did you move and draw for Marvel and Image?"
Mr. Dunn - It was a lot of fun back in 1985. Things were really different as was the market. There was more a sense of excitement and a great potential for the industry. While working for AP was great working for Marvel was a dream come true for me. Image was certainly an experience. I thought I might try doing things on my own but like that actor on a TV series trying to make it in the movies I had to return to my roots.
(GhostWulf) - "What is your opinion of "amerimanga" and do you see a place for it?"
Mr. Dunn - I think it's great. It's wonderful to see new art styles come to the forefront.
I think there is a place for it as long a new creators enter with new stories and a continue to push the envelope. Of course it also depends if there will continue to be a market for it.
(GhostWulf) - "What are your thoughts on fans that avoid "amerimanga" and say there's no place for "amerimanga" and that manga can only be drawn by Japanese people?"
Mr. Dunn - They are entitled to their own opinion no matter how ignorant they are. That's like saying that Japanese can't do aniimation because only Disney can do it. If the stories are good and the art is good who cares what country does it.
Method_Bison asks "What is your favourite anime(s) (film or series) and manga(s) (and why)?"
Mr. Dunn - I don't have favorite per say since I like to expose myself to new things all the time. Some of my early favorites were mangas by Nagai, Ishimori, Matsumoto and Takahashi. I love almost any anime by Miyazaki.
Steve the Pirate asks "How did the idea for marvel mangaverse come about?"
Mr. Dunn - When I was in Japan at the Comic Market I was introduced to a group of doujinshi artists who were big American superhero readers. After seeing their stuff I was inspired to combine the two styles together. I then put together a proposal and sent it to Marvel and they said 'yes'.
(Steve the Pirate) - "How difficult was it to find so many collaborators (Mangaverse)?"
Mr. Dunn - Not difficult at all since Marvel did all the hard work. They had me do the two bookends and they found everyone else.
(Steve the Pirate) - "Did you like the finished product?"
Mr. Dunn - I did. Though I wished I had more time to have developed it they way I had originally intended.
(Steve the Pirate) - "How did the collaborators work when it came to putting together the 5th Week "Mangaverse" event that started it all off?
Mr. Dunn - Again, my editors at Marvel handeled that.
(Steve the Pirate) - "Also there are a few inconsistencies between the comics (the Mangaverse 5th week event), I though they are supposed to interlink together?"
Mr. Dunn - That was my original plan but Marvel had other ideas.
(Steve the Pirate) - "Where do you see the Marvel Mangaverse going? Does it have a future?"
Mr. Dunn - Probably in the immediate future but then again I never thought the 2099 world start again.
Rasmussen - Any final words or thoughts for our UK readers?
Mr. Dunn - I want to thank all of them for the support they have shown me, Antarctic Pree and NINJA HIGH SCHOOL.
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