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Jean-Paul Deshong Talks his series, Sons of Fate

Black culture and Asian culture in America have more in common than either would care to admit, as they have shared similar struggles and history which actually has created more connections than separations between the two. This connection was explored through many of the exploitation movies of the 1970s, the most notable being Enter the Dragon, which featured a very diverse, cast for its period. More recently, this connection was explored in Samuel L. Jackson’s Afro Samurai which harkened back to the great Japanese samurai films with some futurism thrown in there. Now, enters Jean-Paul Deshong’s Sons of Fate, which tethers itself to history more intimately than most comics in recent memory.

I got a chance to talk to him about the series, its influences, and his love of anime.

Jean Paul DeshongGraphic Policy: So you just came back a few weeks ago, from the 1st volume of Sons of Fate being inducted into the Kyoto International Manga Museum, was it your first time being in Japan? Did you visit any famous sites while there? How was the ceremony?

Jean-Paul Deshong: It was the first time being in Japan. Between Kyoto and Tokyo, I hit all the historic, and famous sites. As for a ceremony for the Kyoto International Manga Museum, there wasn’t any induction ceremony. It was more of a mutual expression between me and the administration who run the museum. They were very interested in having my book, and I was VERY INTERESTED in having my book inducted there. I signed a few papers, allowing then to use the books in their library, advertising and such, We took a few picture, and talked to a few people. That was pretty much it. It was an amazing experience!

GP: Did you meet any manga writers you admired while there?

JPD: Unfortunately, no. It was a whirlwind trip especially, for the fact that it was the first time I’d been there. Japan is HUGE!!!!

GP: What was your original inspiration behind the story?

JPD: There was really no one source of inspiration that inspired me to make Sons of Fate. It is the amalgamation of experiences I had in life that inspired me creatively. As for making a graphic novel, it was my contribution to the field for which I love.

Ninja ScrollGP: Did you grow up watching samurai movies/anime? If so, what were your favorite ones? Did any of those movies/anime influence Sons of Fate as it feels like a classic Samurai movie?

JPD: I was RAISED on Anime and Kung-Fu ,and Samurai movies,…a pure child of the 80’s. I was one of those kids who had anime on video tapes that weren’t subtitled. Hell, I didn’t see a dubbed Akira, Fist of the North Star, or Macross until I was an adult. When I did see them in my native language, I was surprised to see how closely I pieced together what was going on to it’s actual story. All except Akira (I still don’t know what Kaneda caught in his hands at the end.. in any language) That understanding serves as a true testament of how well those movies tell a story through visuals. As for my favorites, that’s a tough question. The thing about anime is the people who make it always end up outdoing themselves by creating a better one after their prveious endeavor ( a true testament of how life should be). Adding to the complexity, they mentor the younger generation who go on and make more great art from their influence from their mentors. Lastly, it seems there guys never retire (another true testament about a great artist), so the list grows.

With that, Ninja Scroll (AKA The Wind Ninja Chronicles) is my first and foremost favorite anime. There are many others I want to name, but if I do we’ll be here all day. This topic could be an interview all in itself. So much anime… so little time.

GP: How much research did you do before writing Sons of Fate?

JPD: I did A TON of research for the book. I read books about code, culture, lore, mythology and most importantly, its history. On the trip I went to the actual Tokugawa castles and temples and took a ton of pictures. I actually stood in rooms I illustrated for this series. To my delight, my “researched” reference was spot on. ( Thank you internet.)

Japan 1Japan 2
Japan 3 Japan 4

GP: What made you set the story in Tokugawa era of Japan?

JPD: I thought the Tokugawa area was a great place where I could incorporate the story I wanted to tell and parallel it with the actual history of feudal Japan. Sons of Fate serves as the lost chapter of why the Tokugawa Shogunate closed its doors to the West for 200 years.

GP: Will either of the shoguns show up in the story eventually?

JPD: (SPOILER ALERT!) Tokugawa Ineyasu is already is in the story. He is MAJOR character is Sons of Fate.

YasukeGP: Did you know about the legend of Yasuke, before writing Sons of Fate, and if so, did his story have any bearing on overarching story arc? (Yasuke was the only African samurai known in Japanese history – editor)

JPD: In my research I knew already knew I wanted to do the Tokugawa Era.Yasuke is a generation (and then some) previously from where I started. From the beginning, I knew, from a storytelling perspective it was the place that was best to write a story which I could incorporate my story and still have the historical impact. After I did my research, I looked into the warring states. It was tempting (because there I could run with the action), but for me story comes first and foremost. By the way, I love the Yasuke story, but would NEVER touch it. But, then again…..

GP: Did you read The Book of Five Rings in preparation  for the story? (Book of Five Rings is a classic Japanese tome that shaped philosophy of Samurai in Japan – editor)

The Book of Five RingsJPD: Funny you ask about about Book of the Five Rings. I am a HUGE  fan of Musashi Miyamoto.( I hope i spelled it right.) I had read that as well as Hagakure. with that, In the web series…..wait did i mention the web series yet? I’ll get back to that in a sec. So, I based Daiki Jinjaku’s father  on Musashi.  I love the unassuming warrior idea. As for the web-series. On my site, blackberryjuice.net there is a web series that continues the main story through a side stories  which fleshes out characters for the main story. The first web-series called Fishing With My Father is the story of a young Daiki Jinjaku, and his adventures in the wild with his unassuming fisherman/ warrior father. The web series serves as a in-between for the graphic novels, or an introduction for those who haven’t yet invested in Sons of Fate.  I wanted Sons of Fate not just to be a once- a year- graphic -novel, but and entire experience.

Oh, BTW,, (you’re gonna love this.) I listened to The Book of the Five Rings  WHILE I drew Sons of Fate, for both Origins and Legacy. My hope is to know the book by heart. 

GP: I have seen elements of Moore’s and Gibbons’ Watchmen throughout the story, which definitely heighten the mystery and action throughout, what do you, believe makes for great storytelling?

WatchmenJPD: Firstly, …for saying you see elements of The Watchmen in Sons of Fate, …. THANKS FOR THAT!!!! I read Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns the summer of 88. I was 13. Those books changed the way I saw comics and inadvertently started me on the path of HOW I wanted my stories to feel. As for the influence, you probably can tell form my previous statement, they influenced me a lot. With that, there is a TON of other influences in Sons of Fate. I’ve laid easter eggs THROUGHOUT the entire series. Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, even newer influences like Samurai Champloo, and Naruto to name a few.

As for storytelling, not to go all Yogi Berra on you, but ‘”It ain’t over till it’s over.” What I mean is great storytelling should be about telling great stories.( See what I mean about the Yogi reference?) A person is creating should hold no boundaries as long as those boundless parameters bring about a robust experience. There are stories that work, and ones that don’t. Great storytelling can be about an epic experience (I’ll name examples here) , like The Lord of the Rings, which Is a grand epic or Death of a Salesman. (Which is by far not an grand epic and much smaller in scale.) I’ll go to say Death of a Salesman the polar opposite of LOTR, in most if not all aspects. With that, they are BOTH examples of MASTERFUL STORYTELLING. Although extremely different, they both encompass the idea that you have a boundless amount of freedom as long as you use that to tell a rich and robust story. In Sons of Fate, I tried to make THE STORY the main character with the characters backing up the story: A character driven story about a character if you will.

GP: In reading this, I almost could imagine hearing music being played in certain sections of the story, did you listen to any music in particular while crafting this story?

JPD: Being a visual person, I feel music, is the other part of a perfect melding of great storytelling. I actually wanted to make SOF come with a playlist you listened to while you read the book. I plan to do that in releasing digital copy in the future. So, in short yes. I hear orchestral music in some parts and slow simple flutes in others. Drums and flutes. It would have to be music indicative of the lands in which they inhabit. So it would be a meld of African and Taiko drums which not only are native to the lands SOF inhabit, but also to the story as well.

GP: How do you feel about the comparisons to Afro Samurai? What do you believe sets it apart?

JPD: Have a seat this is gonna be good!

Afro SamuraiLET ME TELL YOU ABOUT AFRO SAMURAI, (I pause and exhale). I already wrote SOF and was thinking about how I was going to shop it around when Afro Samurai came out. I remember when it came on TV. In a word…AWEASOME! EVERYTHING about it was perfect. The story, the art, THE MUSIC!!!! It was great story telling, AND IT WAS ORIGINAL. As I watched it my phone rang. It was a friend of mine who read and saw some of the SOF artwork. I picked up the phone and, “Hello?” on the other end I heard,” J, I am so sorry.” “ I know.” I replied and hung up the phone. That’s how good it was.

The character even looked like Kamau. So, I was beat, and I shelved it. There was NO WAY I could release SOF now, without hearing I was an Afro clone. Beside that, It was FANTASTIC!!!!!

AFTER THAT, TWO THINGS HAPPENED:

Years later, I was at San Diego Comic-Con, looking for work, and ended up at I went to the Afro Samurai 2 panel. It’s hard to explain the feeling of joy and hatred at the same time over the same thing. Especially hatred over the fact that the hatred you had was because it was soooooo good. With that, I was excited to see the next chapter because, again … IT was SOOOO GOOD!

So, I sat there and watched this amazing experience expand to the next chapter. It STILL had the same great art, story, and originality, not to mention this time… KUMA WAS A DUAL WEILDING SWORD SAMURAI ON A CHOPPER!!! I left beLIEving that that SOF would never see the light. This great thing was going to go on, and I could never release SOF without the stigma of clonage.

That was the set-up. Here’s what happened.

I watched it. It was great ….UNTIL THE END.

SPOILER ALERT AHEAD;

The first thing.

As part of the audience I was unfulfilled by the ending. I LOVED the fact that they resurrected his dad. I LOVED the fact his father was better than him. I ABSOLUTLELY ADORED the fact that in order to become the #1 again, meant he had to kill his father to do so. What I didn’t like was that HE DID IT… AND Kuma died helping him. I watched that whole show with the idea of how great this was, so to me when it fell apart at he end, IT WAS PROVIDENCE! It was ( baseball fan reference , and I’m sorry for bringing this up. He SHOULD BE exonerated!) Bill Buckner missing the grounder that led to the NY Mets winning the World Series in 1986. A game I saw in person as a child. I WAS the Mets. Afro Samurai MISSED the grounder.

The second thing.

A friend of mine who was a BIG FAN of Afro Samurai, who was a BIG comic fan asked me to tell him about SOF after he overheard a conversation about its dashed dreams (told by another friend) over Afro Samurai. More importantly, earlier he read a Star Wars (another love of mine) story I wrote that was also shelved. He loved the Star Wars story (as everybody who read it did: shameless plug), and wanted to hear if I wrote anything else. After I gave him the synopsis. I let him read the story it it’s entirety. He told me that after hearing about what it was, HE THOUGHT it sounded nothing like Afro Samurai, and wanted to know what happened in the story. After he read it he was positive that not only was it NOT Afro Samurai, but also it was vastly different than Afro Samurai. Most importantly, it was something he would be interested in reading. The rest was history… and a little procrastination( but that is another story).

So in short.. after the long of it, what sets it apart is the story. I wanted to create an original piece of fiction free of a derivative story.

GP: Are you reading any comics right now? if so  any indie comics you believe doesn’t get enough love?

BlacksadJPD: As for what I’m reading right now, I TRY  to get to the comic book store casually as much as I can, but with little success. I’m literally one-man-banding  it. I keep i like right on my desk. I just got into Blacksad, and I’m a big fan of Korean Mahwah Shaman Warrior is my favorite. Outside of that i collect a lot of Art books.  I think ALL OF INDIE DOESN’T GET A LOT OF LOVE. I just blogged about it. Here’s the link.

GP: What is the ultimate message that you want the reader to take away from reading and following Sons of Fate?

JPD: Your actions, good or bad, have far reaching consequences. In some cases ( such as these) they have the capacity of forging a nation.

GP: What can you tell us about the final book in the series this early?

JPD: The final book is the grand conclusion and result of the consequences of our protagonist’s actions. In the previous two entries you see the immediacy of his actions, but those consequences ripple through and create the events that end up forging Feudal Japan. Again in creating SOF, I wanted to make a historical fiction where in made up character s interact with real people in history. SOF is the lost story of why Japan closed off its doors to western civilization for 200 years.

GP: Thank you for your time!

JPD: No problem. It was a blast!

Review: Sons of Fate: Legacy TPB

sons of fate legacyBlack culture and Asian culture in America have more in common than either would care to admit, as they have shared similar struggles and history which actually has created more connections than separations between the two. This connection was explored through many of the exploitation movies of the 1970s, the most notable being Enter the Dragon, which featured a very diverse, cast for its period. More recently, this connection was explored in Samuel L. Jackson’s Afro Samurai which harkened back to the great Japanese samurai films with some futurism thrown in there. Now, enters Jean Paul Deshong’s Sons of Fate, which tethers itself to history more intimately than most comics in recent memory.

Within the first book, Origins, Deshong describes it as :”(a) story is set in the Tokugawa period of feudal Japan ,Gen. Daiki Jinjaku is commissioned by the ruling Shogunate to command a small fleet of ships in order to acquire trade routes and charter new passages to foreign lands. But, the mission is a catastrophe, with most of the fleet lost to sea. The lone survivor, Daiki reaches the mainland — however it’s the shores of Africa, a complete land of mystery for him. He meets a young boy named Kamau and together they form a master/apprentice relationship where Daiki realizes his purpose in life is not to serve his country but to teach the ways of honor to others.” The first book more than exceeded expectations, as it proved be more than a coming of age story but also a parable for being the master of your own fate

The story delves into the Japanese period of history, when they start involving themselves with foreigners, and the first time Japanese had ever heard of Africa or dealt with black people, which leads to the arrival of Kamau onto Japanese shores via a slave ship, where he meets Daiki’s son, Omo. He delivers Daiki’s journals, to Omo, who adopts Kamau, and trains him to fight in the ways of Bushido. who is combating a rebel war, against the Shogun, while unbeknownst to him, a colleague is moving against him for personal gain. The climax of the story, when the rebels attacks Omo’s village, where Kamau skills are put to the test in a battle royale. The story ends, very much in the spirit of the ideals presented in the Book of Five Rings, where the honorable man, ultimately prevails.

Overall, this story, reminds me of the first book of Game of Thrones and the original 47 Ronin, in premise alone, but is an excellent installment to this trilogy of the making of a warrior. The story by Deshong, is a gem, as he clearly has a master plan to this odyssey, and provides a strong chapter to this epic. The art by Deshong, remind me of the manga, I read growing up, while bringing a style all his own. Ultimately, an excellent read from start to finish, and much like Empire Strikes Back, makes one yearn for the next episode.

Story: Jean Paul Deshong Art: Jean Paul Deshong
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.7 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: BUY NOW

The creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Kickstarter Spotlight: Samurai, Cake Princesses, Baking, Canada, Qu33R, Devils, Steampunk & Magic School

ebfe969d25999ac826e3481bc9f8572a_largeSons of Fate

What it is: A lost chapter in the history of ancient Japan and the code of the Samurai via an unlikely warrior from the most foreign of lands.

Why I like it: The story sounds pretty cool and I generally think we could use more cool Samurai stories out there. The art looks pretty solid too, and seeing it all in a full comic book series would be solid.

Best Pledge: $10 gets you all three issues as a PDF or $25 gets you a printed graphic novel.

Risk: MEDIUM: Creator Jean-Paul Deshong has been involved with previous Kickstarter projects, but I couldn’t see how well that went. Some of the prices seem a little off, but the March 2014 date for delivery seems to be pretty realistic.

20130920211345-promo_cover_picture_for_campaignMy Sweet Lady

What it is: The story focuses on a cake princess with a rotten attitude named Lady White Cake, and her quest to transform into someone that everyone will love and respect with the help of her little friend, Cupcake. Due to the sudden and mysterious death of Lady White’s father, the King, she will have to take his place as ruler of her kingdom in a month’s time, while uncovering the truth behind her father’s death.

Why I like it: I’m still generally new to manga, but there’s something that sounds cute and fun about the comic series.

Best Pledge: $12 gets you the zero issue of the series signed plus your name as a credit.

Risk: MEDIUM: I have no idea the creators experience in doing this sort of project and the January 2014 date seems a bit short.

44252ecea915488d14a786b2546c3456_largeNutmeg: Issue 1

What it is: When quiet, friendly Poppy Pepper teams up with steely new girl Cassia Caraway in a bid to sabotage haughty rival Saffron Longfellow’s brownie-baking enterprise, they wind up creating a brownie even more addictive than Saffron’s, thanks to a secret and possibly illicit ingredient. Before long, they find themselves at the head of a culinary empire and must navigate Saffron, her crew, the PTA and even the police.

Why I like it: Kickstarter is made for a comic series like this. How does the above not get you interested?

Best Pledge: $12 gets you a printed copy as well as pdf and a random print.

Risk: MEDIUM: The prices seem to be really low, but these are professionals, so….

1d305a027548ccc8a65f06cd9d39b97d_largeNelvana of the Northern Lights: Canada’s First Superheroine

What it is: Nelvana of the Northern Lights is Canada’s first superheroine and one of the most popular creations of the Canadian Golden Age of comics. YES! Canada has a golden age of comics!

She was first published in December 1941 in Triumph-Adventure Comics, and ran as a feature for 31 issues, even having her own merchandise and graphic novel. She’s one of the very first female superheroes ever created, predating Wonder Woman by several months.

Nelvana of the Northern Lights was created and developed by Adrian Dingle. The idea was conceived after hearing Inuit stories of a mysterious goddess-like figure relayed to him by his friend Franz Johnston (of the Group of Seven). Dingle decided to ‘make her into a doll in a miniskirt’ and thus Nelvana, defender of the Northern people and enemy to the Axis powers, was born.

Why I like it: This is a piece of history people!!! Awesome to see a superheroine from Canada getting some love.

Best Pledge: $50 gets you a copy to read in print and digital!

Risk: MEDIUM: As they state, they need to restore the book, so the time frame for delivery is a bit up in the air.

f4b9b02c1dbe6126e2d6ed17e2779993_largeQU33R — New Queer Comics Anthology

What it is: QU33R is an all-new project featuring queer comics legends as well as new talents that picks up where No Straight Lines left off. Where No Straight Lines set down our history, QU33R shines a light on our future!

Why I like it: I’ll always support Northwest Press and whatever that team puts together. They’re a needed voice and publisher in the comic book industry.

Best Pledge: $30 gets you the print edition of the book.

Risk: LOW: They know what they’re doing. I’ve contributed before to them and receive my copy in time and as promised.

3DEVILs MAIN IMAGE ABSOGOgroup3 Devils

What it is: 3 Devils is an 80 pg. graphic novel written and drawn by Bo Hampton and colored by Jeremy Mohler. It’s a Supernatural Western/ Action/ Adventure/ Melodrama and too much for editors, in general, to wrap their heads around, in this country and in Europe.

Why I like it: The story sounds very cool and the art looks pretty solid.

Best Pledge: $15 gets you a printed copy signed.

Risk: MEDIUM: First projects I always put at medium as they have no history, but the date of October 2014 is very realistic.

fb4ecf20c162c8339c8d112cadc61ec6_largeSTEAMPUNK REILLY

What it is: A graphic novel telling the story of Sidney Reilly, the world’s first true secret agent, set against a Steampunk alternate history.

Why I like it: I’m a fan of steampunk and the idea of mixing it up with a secret agent spin sounds like it could be pretty cool and entertaining.

Best Pledge: $15 gets you the printed first volume and some more items.

Risk: MEDIUM: The date of November seems to be off, even if it’s completed, I don’t see how it gets printed that quickly (though they may have it all printed).

5abdb047664374d0c47e3c6755725492_largeMisfortune High Book 1

What it is: Misfortune High is the story of Biscuit, a spoiled rich kid, who goes to the most prestigious magic academy in the city.  Biscuit gets caught cheating and lying, but his father decides not to bail him out as he usually does. Instead, his father punishes Biscuit by sending him to a magic school in a bad neighborhood.

Why I like it: The above sounds awesome! So much fun and something new and interesting.

Best Pledge: $15 gets you a digital copy of this and another series or $20 gets you a printed copy.

Risk: MEDIUM: It’s the first project so automatically gets this, but the project is done, so it’s just printing and shipping.