by Erica Friedman
The panel was moderated by Ben Applegate, Editor at Kodansha, with guests David Lopez (All-New Wolverine), Alex de Campi (Archie vs Predator, Twisted Romance), Genevieve Valentine (Catwoman) Brenden Fletcher (Motorcrush, Batgirl) and Alejandro Arbona (Editor of Ghost in the Shell: GNN)
Applegate started with a discussion of the new deluxe edition of Ghost in the Shell, published in Japanese style, with box, art prints, and all of Shirow’s color pages over the years; Ghost in the Shell: Read Me 1995-2017 the inside story of the all the anime adaptations, with schematics for the mech designs and interviews with all 3 anime directors speaking about how they took this property and put their own spin on it. Which, Applegate noted is exactly what this anthology is in comics form.
Applegate then spoke of the Akira manga box set and the new Battle Angel Alita release in hardcover including previously unpublished short stories and side stories, interviews with the creator and art prints in foil.
He then segued into the anthology by noting that the beginning of every anime version begins with a slow crawl of words, which is replicated in this comic by an opening spread.
Arbona says that they decided to bring a western style to the property, but be faithful to original, even referring to specific scenes from the original manga. Applegate added that one of the ideas was to update the science. Arbona agreed, noting that in the original, Section 9 uses actual wires to plug in, but we hardly do that anymore. So they updated the “future” science with ideas that didn’t exist when the original was written.
We got a look at “Automatic Behavior,” written by Max Gladstone with Art by David Lopez. Lopez talked about how much he wanted to work on the anthology. He did own approach to the art and tried to get as far as possible from Shirow, because no one would be able to do that do better than the originals. To give his backgrounds verisimilitude he used a 3-D model of Shanghai.
The team briefly discussed that Batou was everyone’s favorite character and if they could have, the volume would have been all Batou. There is continued discussion about the naming scheme for the tachikomas/fujikomas/logikomas. They all agreed that the amazing bit is that “Shirow approved my drawing! Ahh!”
Next up we see “Redbloods” by de Campi and Giannis Milonogiannis. de Campi talked about how much of a fan Giannis is, and Arbona noted how they discussed whether the anthology would ape the manga style, or not. This is a western comic anthology, but Giannis did it manga style. de Campi even scripted chibi-panels in the style of the original.
Applegate commented that with each story being so different, they wanted one unifying factor, and that was the lettering. They had Jody Wynne doing all the lettering throughout.
de Campi pointed out the James Bond influence in her story. She then went on to say that she took a mother’s approach to the world – asking if we’re all cyborgs, how do we propagate the species? Do we use clones, artificial babies… so she made up a service where you get sized up, aged up bodies… which, of course, has underworld criminal ties.
Applegate commented that in the original Ghost in the Shell, North America is not doing great, and while it’s only an aside in the original, we can see that in this story.
We then turn to “After the Ball is Over” Valentine and Fletcher. America is now broken up in 3 entities and this becomes a story about immigration within America.
Valentine said that she can remember seeing the Ghost in the Shell movie, and how the images of access vs privacy, open information vs totalitarianism intrigued her and led her to question in this world with information being free who has access to healthcare and natural resources? What human resources do we have left?
Applegate notes that in most of the Ghost in the Shell stories, we are seeing people who have access to everything. In this story, the protagonist has no access; the story takes place in sub-cyborg level
Valetine points out that in a world where you have a cyborg body and it easy to access info, what role would religion take? Religion is their story is conservative biologically as well as ideologically.
Last up is “Star Gardens” Brendan Fletcher and LRNZ
Fletcher insists that this was all about LRNZ. He had done collaboration with Lorenzo and he knew he wanted to work with him again, especially as his style is very inspired by Ghost in the Shell in the first place. Fletcher says that the entire story was designed to appeal to him and his sensibilities.
Applegate calls this story a love letter to Ghost in the Shell.
Fletcher launched into a discussion about how the character of Kusanagi changes depending who or where she is. Everyone has their favorite version of her, but there is – there has to be – an intersection where she is all of them all at once.
Arbona commented that Shirow’s world was so well defined, it was easy to be faithful to it. That it’s always about memory, identity and it still is all about about how we define ourselves
Lopez asked when memories can be erased and replaced, how does one even define self? He considers Ghost in the Shell a scary story, in reference to the scene with the garbage man whose whole life is composed of false memory.
In response to audience questions, Lopez comments that current issues are always current. You can’t help but reflect the state of the world in your work. All stories are political; you can’t live without being political.
de Campi agreed that that was embedded in the original story. The question always was what are the ethics involved? If info is free why are there borders?
An audience member asked if any of them addressed outstanding questions from the original work and I’ll leave you with this brilliant answer from Alex de Campi, “You have to respect the original work. If you’re answering unanswered questions, that’s a fanfic, not something new. To make something new, you have to ask your own questions.”