There are a lot of licensed comics out there that lack a certain legitimacy. Whether they’re good or bad, they’re not the main version of those characters and those worlds, and they’re usually created by people who weren’t involved in the original. IDW’s Samurai Jack circumvents that sense of not feeling like the “real” thing not only by continuing where the animated series left off but also with art by Andy Suriano, character designer of the Samurai Jack TV show. I spoke to Suriano about how it felt to wrap up the comic with Issue 20, along with other projects he’s involved in.
For a day job you’re working on cartoons of Mickey Mouse, who is Disney’s flagship character but has lately been off a lot of viewers’ radars. Does that give you a chance to experiment and get away with more?
I wouldn’t say Mickey Mouse is ever off anyone’s radar, but yes, Disney has been very supportive and encouraging with the type of designs, humor and stories we’ve been doing–playing to the strength’s of our team as well as the climate of today’s viewer, all the while keeping them timeless.
You were considered to write the series as well as handling art duties. How did the plans you laid out in your pitch differ from what you and Jim Zub did together with the series?
I think my stories were more stand alone that intersected occasionally versus Jim’s more connected, linear story arcs, which fit better with the direction they wanted for the book. I’m happy Jim landed the gig because he did a terrific job. But I am happy that a couple of my stories still made it into the final product with issues #8 and #18 which I got co-writing and writing on, respectively.
What unique elements do you think Zub added to Samurai Jack that weren’t there before the comic book series started?
Well, Jim brought the AWESOME that IS Jim to the series. He came on board with actually more knowledge about the episodes I worked on than even I did. I think he took the rules and framework of what we established with the animated series, and quickly took ownership of the character and was able to expand the mythos in a fun way.
In your mind, what are the most crucial elements of any Samurai Jack story?
Action. Humor. Visual storytelling.
Zub mentioned that he’s seen you draw a Samurai Jack sketch in less than 10 seconds. How long does it take you to draw a whole page?
It’s not about the time in which I do a drawing, it’s what I put into it. I purposely decided early on to use a more kinetic line quality on the book to intimate a sense of movement and speed, that was so integral to the animated series. It was my way to try and “animate” the stationary printed page.
A number of pages of Samurai Jack (such as Page 4 of #20) contain multiple actions but don’t use typical panel arrangements. How do you manage to keep everything coherent?
Ha! I close my eyes and hope for the best! Confusion to the reader or viewer is what will kill you, so I experiment a lot in the layout phase and see what works the best–and what leads the readers eye the best, to hopefully create a fluid, organic and fun experience.
Is Samurai Jack #20 your final stamp on the character, or would you return for more?
If IDW and Cartoon Network decided to do more and asked Jim, Josh and I back, we’d be back!
What did you take away from more time with the property?
I just enjoyed getting an opportunity to live in that world a little bit longer.
After two years revisiting Samurai Jack, where do you go from here?
Well, thankfully I still have my day job on the new Mickey Mouse shorts at Disney, I actively contribute to the new TMNT series at Nickelodeon and I do a weekly webcomic with homestarrunner.com creator Matt Chapman called Cosmic Scoundrels which I encourage you and anyone reading to check out and help us spread the word!