Interview: F.J. DeSanto on creating Cyborg 009
Authors F.J. DeSanto (The Spirit, Insurgent) and Bradley Cramp (Gattaca, Lord of War) and illustrators Marcus To (Batwing, Huntress, Red Robin) and Ian Herring (Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand) recently embarked on the ambitious work of updating Shotaro Ishinomori’s Cyborg 009 for a modern international audience. The prequel issue, 000, came out on May 1, and the full graphic novel will be available from Archaia in July.
The Geek Girl Project is happy to have the chance to interview F.J. DeSanto about the upcoming hardcover graphic novel adaptation of the series!
GGP: Thanks for taking the time to talk with is!
What led you to recreate the story of 009? What resonates about the tale now? How do you adapt a 60’s Cold War story to a modern setting? What choices do you make to make the adaptation appropriate today’s world and readers? What sacrifices does that involve? What do you gain?
F.J. DESANTO: What led to this was Ishimori Production’s and my desire to bring the creator’s wonderful legacy and properties to a wider audience and hopefully build a new generation of fans. We chose to start with Cyborg 009 because its international cast would be great to adapt for a modern audience while also being attractive to those fans who have a long history with the characters.
The manga’s Cold War setting is eerily similar to the world we live in today. Thus, it didn’t take too much to adapt for a graphic novel reader in 2013. For us, it’s more about cherry picking as many fantastic elements from the source material as we can to create an exciting 105-page story.
Obviously, when you are dealing with manga, there are a lot of things you can’t initially bring over, in particular the extended origins of each character, but I believe we have been able to really give readers the absolute best of what Cyborg 009 has to offer.
GGP When is this 009 set? From the 000 introduction, it could be anywhen, given the technological advantage secret societies tend to have. Do you have a time in mind?
DESANTO: It’s happening right now in the present, which makes it easily relatable.
GGP How long is the initial 009 arc going to be? How closely do you follow the original arc?
DESANTO: This volume is a self-contained story that has a beginning, middle, and end. Of course, it leaves room for a sequel but our initial story parallels the original volumes of the manga, while also utilizing different moments throughout Cyborg 009 ’s rich history to create as strong a story as possible.
GGP What do you think is the core of the story?
DESANTO: I think the core of the story is very much still the central theme of the entire series: people from different races overcoming adversity to bring hope to humanity. It’s always about the heart and soul over the technology.
GGP What is your favorite moment so far?—if you can tell us without spoiling things, that is!
DESANTO: I can’t say, because it would too big a spoiler, but it’s a beautiful double-page spread that was inspired by the original manga and is sort of the emotional exclamation point to the entire story. Marcus and Ian really make this epic moment so poignant and beautiful and fans who know the property will love it.
GGP What are the pitfalls in recreating popular work? What makes it attractive?
DESANTO: The pitfalls are not honoring the original work or letting down the core audience, which is why we have worked extremely closely with Ishimori Production Inc. to ensure we retain the spirit of the manga. That’s a big responsibility. The most attractive element is getting to work with such classic characters that very few people have been allowed to touch.
GGP Why Shotaro Ishinomori? What draws you to his work in particular?
DESANTO: His work resonates with me personally because he was one of the few creators from his era to create stories that a person from any part of the world can read and get something from it. He had a genuine understanding of the human spirit and truly believed in our ability to come together.
GGP This is a book about a team. Do you have a favorite team member? Why? If not—how do you avoid playing favorites?
DESANTO: I think I am partial to Jet because he’s so cool, he’s angsty, and can fly, plus he’s a New Yorker. I don’t think you have to avoid playing favorites because Ishinomori gave each character such a distinctive personality that, as a writer, it’s a fun opportunity to give each character their own moment to shine.
GGP Though anime-influenced, the art in 000 is much more realistic than Ishinomori’s original art. How and why did you decide to move in this direction?
DESANTO: There was lot of discussion about this. We knew we had to figure out a way to create a look that honored the source material while also being contemporary. We needed a balance. When Marcus and Ian came onboard, we realized immediately that there was no better team for this book. I can’t even imagine any one else doing this book. No one has ever done this kind of project before, and I think we’ve succeeded on every level from the art, to the lettering and the design. I can’t give away too many secrets yet, but when they see how the final book is produced, people are going to flip out.
GGP You’re involved in both the graphic novel and the upcoming movie. How closely related is the print version to the upcoming movie version?
DESANTO: They are approached as two completely separate things. When we work on the graphic novel, we aren’t thinking about what would make a great movie; we focus on how to make this the best possible Cyborg 009 graphic novel. The same thing applies to the feature film. When it’s developed, it’s to create the best possible movie based on Ishimori’s original source material. Of course, there will be similarities, and elements will carry over between the two because the property is so fantastic, but we take great care in making sure that each and every version of Cyborg 009 is the best it can be!
GGP: Again, thank you! We look forward to seeing the graphic novel!
Links of Interest
F.J. DeSanto’s blog
Marcus To’s site
Archaia’s 009 page
Preview pages and solicitation for Cyborg 009