Samurai, sixguns and steampunk! by Ian Edginton
I’ve adapted a fair film, television and literary properties in my time, a good deal of them for Dark Horse – Aliens, Predator, Terminator and so on, but working on The Immortal truly does rank as something of a unique experience and I mean that in a good way.
The original novel, Enma The Immortal by Fumi Nakamura, is a sprawling epic about a dying Samurai whose life is saved by an aging tattooist. It’s more than saved in fact, he’s made immortal almost invulnerable thanks to the Oni, the demon, that’s been bound inside him via the tattoo inked onto his hand. We then follow him down the long years of his life, as he adopts the daughter of his former enemy and raises her as his own, all the while hunting his evil opposite who murdered his sister and who has to eat living human hearts to survive. The final showdown occurs in the devastated ruins of the city of Nagasaki just after the atomic bomb has been dropped.
Okay, now fit that puppy into four issues!
Clearly cutting the book to size, would mean abridging the life and any kind of sense out of it, so consensus was to use it as a spring board only. However, I didn’t quite reckon on how far the guys behind the novel wanted to leap!
Samurai, six-guns and steampunk!
It raises the hairs on the back of your neck!
Working on licensed books, I’m used to jumping through various hoops but this was way out of left field…and I couldn’t wait to get started! Funnily enough, once underway, the changes didn’t seem as radical or incongruous as they first appeared. The story is set during the mid to late 19th century, a period of great upheaval in Japan. Socially, politically, economically, life was changing beyond all imaging as the West was making its presence felt. All that was needed was to crank it up a little, give it a twist and voila, there are steam-powered mechas pulling carriages. Great dragon and lotus painted airships gliding by overhead…and a pair of immortal, demon-possessed warriors fighting for the life of a young woman with swords and six-guns.
The steampunk stuff doesn’t detract at all from the core story one bit but instead provides fantastical set dressing again which it’s all played out.
As I said, working on this series has been a unique experience. Adapting a licensed property is usually quite a structured formal thing, it’s not often you’re told to just go nuts and run with it and run I bloody well did!