The Kokoro Files is a segment that tells the everyday stories of people who are connected to Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun has served as an inspiration for many writers, and EMMY-nominated author Mike Garley counts himself among that list.
The creator of horror comic Samurai Slasher, Garley took the time to chat with Yamato Magazine about why he chose to tell a story of an unkillable zombie samurai and what it means to mix horror and comedy together during the writing process.
Thanks for taking the time to talk about your work Mike. As the creator of Samurai Slasher, you’ve reimagined the legend of the samurai into a horror setting. I’d heard the comic was inspired by a 1980s film that was never made. How did you hear about the film and what inspired you to adapt the idea to a comic format?
The idea of taking something created with a certain time and visual aesthetic in mind and reinterpreting it in a more modern style really excited me.
And films of the 80s (and horror films in particular) had such a distinctive feel to them that really compliments the comic format. You can go really over the top with the onomatopoeia and the visuals in a comic that creates an authentic feeling 80s pastiche.
What kind of research was involved when coming up with the look of the character?
I know that I wanted the Samurai Slasher to be from the get-go – something big, bold and striking, and whereas his design is fairly straightforward, his simplicity works perfectly for the horror genre. So there really wasn’t too much to do in terms of researching his look as I didn’t want it to take away from the simplicity of what I hoped would work as an ominous and frightening character.
Within the series, there are a lot of references to classic horror films. What are some of your favourite horror movies and did any play an important part in the creation of the Samurai Slasher?
The opening story is a Friday the 13thhomage, but whereas there’s several nods to films throughout the series, it also goes in its own direction. There are lots of films of that era that I loved from various slashers films to films like House, Creepshow, and They Live, and even later films like In the Mouth of Madness.
There’s a great mixture of dark comedy and over the top violence in the comic. When writing the series, did you find yourself leaning more towards comedy or horror?
Comedy is an important part of the type of stories I tell. I’ve never been a fan of really dark/joyless stories so – whereas I never attempt to inject any comedy – it always finds its way into my work. I like stories to be fun so a few laughs here or there can help with that.
You’ve worked with a variety of great artists on the eries. Do you have any collaboration stories that stand out when working with a particular artist or letterer?
No. Everyone I’ve worked with has been a joy, so every story has gone without a hitch. I’m in a pretty privileged position where I get to choose who I work with so I only work with people who – in addition to be great at their jobs – are really decent people.
What do you think it is about samurai that have captivated western audiences over the years?
There’s a romantic quality to some of the more noble elements, as well as an exotic and mythical quality that appeals to a western audience. Plus katanas are cool.
Are there any plans to resurrect the Samurai Slasher In future stories?
Well, I’m actually working on a collected edition of all three of the graphic novels, as well as a Survive your own Adventure story, and an RPG game. So there’s plenty more to come for the Samurai Slasher.
Outside of samurai, are there any other elements of Japanese culture you’d like to explore in your writing?
Not at the moment. I know Cyber Punk is popular right now, but whereas it’s something I enjoy reading and watching, it’s not something that I’m particularly tempted to explore for myself.
Who are some of your favourite comic creators and have they inspired you in any way throughout your career?
I’m a big fan of creators like Neil Gaiman and Mike Carey, but I don’t try to write the type of stories that they tell. I’ve always just tried to write my own stories in my own style.
In addition, to Samurai Slasher, you’ve worked on projects like The Kill Screen and Our Final Halloween. Do you feel horror is your favourite kind of genre to write?
Horror and Sci-Fi. I think Sci-Fi lets you explore the world and society as a whole, and horror lets you explore individuals and how they deal in their darkest most real moments.
I do like most genres but I always find myself gravitating towards these two in particular.
When not writing, you regularly lecture in Writing at Brockenhurst College. What kind of writing tips would you offer to young creators who want to develop their own comic?
Set yourself a small attainable goal and commit to that. I think most people over stretch themselves and try to do a sixty-part epic, when what they should really try and do first is just create a six-page story. That’s probably the easiest way to improve and progress your writing.
If you could pit the Samurai Slasher against any other serial killer in a fight to the death, who would it be and why?
Hmmm. I’d probably say Chucky. He’s by no way my favourite ‘killer’ but I just think there’s a lot of fun to be had with the Slasher vs Chucky. Or even an army of Chuckys. Samurai Slasher is definitely on the more fun spectrum of horror slashers, so having him face off against someone else who can add to that seems really appealing to me.