I recently got a chance to interview creator, writer, producer Onrie Kompan about the historically based comic book series Yi Soon Shin. The comic touches on a place many of us have yet to experience, Korea during the late 1500's when Japan started to take on the world. Admiral Yi Soon Shin of the Korean navy showed during a time of little hope what conviction and ingenuity could do to fight off Japan's unstoppable forces.
I recently read volume one, Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender, which spins a heroic tale with it's captivating story and breathtaking art. The graphic novel also includes character profiles and bonus art, a diary of the making of Yi Soon Shin, and an eloquent forward by Stan Lee.
Angela: For listeners not familiar with the comic, can you tell us a bit about the book?
Onrie: Absolutely. The book's about a Korean Admiral who fought the Japanese in the 1500's. He was outnumbered 10-to-1 and beat them 23 times in a row without losing. It's all based on a true story.
Our first trade, Warrior and Defender, collects the first four chapters of the story arc. We'll have a total of twelve issues, with three seperate story arcs creating a trilogy.
Angela: What a lot of people won't realize is how intense this is. There are so many shows out there highlighting history right now and it's so fascinating to see how history can be just as action packed and even more brutal than invented stories. Now have you ever thought about turning this into a cinematic or novel form?
Onrie: I've always seen this as a film and would love to see it as a film one day. For now though, I think it's important that we get the comic book done and we do that right. For our audience, that's what's most important. We want to build our readership, show them we can finish this series, rather than jump ship and move on to different things at the same time. We want to put all of our focus on the book and do the best job we can.
Angela: You have such a fabulous creative team here, but the big issue is that they are from all around the world. How do you work with that?
Onrie: Well, I've been doing this for five years now and have gotten used to it. But really it's not bad at all. It's nice to go to sleep and night and when you wake up in the morning see pages done and being able to move forward.
Our artist is based out of Italy, his name is Giovanni Timpano, he basically is working while it's nighttime here in Chicago. Addrianna De Los Santos, our colorist, she works from Argentina, I think the time difference there is only three hours, which isn't so bad. And our letterer Joel Saavadra, he works from there too, so they are on the same time zone. My editor and co-writer David Kraft is based out of Georgia, which is only an hour difference, so we manage to make it work. It's not so bad.
Angela: With the second volume coming in, I know you said the first issue comes out in a couple of weeks (April 26th), we've been left with so many feelings built from the first book, but can you tell us what to expect with the next?
Onrie: The arc will be called Yi Soon Shin: Fallen Avenger and the first issue comes out in a couple weeks. The arc takes place five years after the events that unfolded in Warrior and Defender, but we left Warrior and Defender on such a cliffhanger that we decided to use this issue to say goodbye to the past and wrap up all of the unanswered questions we left open. The first three pages will answer a major question that's been on everyone's mind, and I won't give it away, but after that we'll jump forward in time.
Yi Soon Shin has been going through a lot of hardships, five years after the war, we'll see him a lot older, grumpier, more pissed off, and in a lot of trouble. Basically we'll be jumping back and forth through time throughout this issue. We have a lot of awesome stuff in it, it's going to be a huge action packed issue. We have a Jack Kirby inspired fight scene, with the classic haymakers-- it's going to be a great issue, we just got all the coloring done tonight and working on the letters now. As soon as I'm done with this interview I'm going to hop back on the computer and start working with my team to get this done.
Angela: Anyone who has read the book is aware of the small details that make this book so awesome. Who did you work with to research this story?
Onrie: (laughs) well... a lot of people, I wish there was just one person I could have talked to get all the answers I needed. It started out with just my curiosity for the character growing, reading about him in books. I was advised by my aunt, who, at the time, was the editor at the Miami Herald, to contact the Korean consulate. It turned out the consulate had contacts in Korea who worked at an institute devoted to Yi Soon Shin. We developed a relationship and he introduced me to people in the Korean army and navy who were able to give me even more information. So when I was out there, I was touring all of South Korea, taking pictures, reading stuff, it was amazing.
Angela: That's what comes across in the book, a great sense of that time period. I think you guys did a lovely job with that. I can't wait to see what's coming up next!
Onrie: Thank you very much. It's going to be awesome, this next arc is going to be amazing. It's really the arc I've wanted to do since starting this book. We'll be killing off a ton of cast members, there will be some incredible battles taking place. I just can't wait until we finally get to issue four, that will be the big one.
Angela: For people who haven't read the book, if you were to pick a western character to compare him with, who would you choose?
Onrie: I would say Batman. It just makes the most sense. Yi Soon Shin is a master tactician and warrior, where Batman is a detective and martial artist, so there are a lot of similarities there. Batman has his batmobile and Yi Soon Shin has his turtle ship. I actually think the turtle ship is even more bad-ass than the batmobile. The batmobile wasn't designed to kill people, where the turtle ship, that's what it was designed to do. I actually got to walk on a replica turtle ship and see how it was designed, it's really cool
Angela: Thank you so much for joining me, where can we see you next?
Onrie: I'll be in Boston for the comic-con this weekend, and I'll be in Chicago for C2E2 the following weekend. I'll be making an appearance in Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Deigo, Baltimore, New York, Austin, Ohio, I'll be everywhere this year. I'll be stationed in artists alley at most conventions, at C2E2 I'll have my own booth.
I also want to mention for people interested, at our website YiSoonShin.com, if you decide you want to buy our book from our site, I'll sign it and ship it to you directly. It doesn't matter where you're from, we ship all over the world. You can also let your local retailer know if you want the book, we do direct distribution as well.
If you want to connect with Onrie: