There hasn’t been an American comic book of Vampire Hunter D. There’s been manga and the novels have illustrations, but why do you think that is?

McLean: It has to do with the fact that in Japan, you’re not going to find a 24-page comic book. The American-style comic book just does not exist there. Because of that, if something’s not something you find in your home market, you’re probably not really looking for a lot. It’s unfamiliar to you.

Rauer: You don’t understand it the same way as an organic homegrown product. I think the real answer is that Mr. Kikuchi, the creator and current rights holder who has done a rights deal with us and digital frontier collectively, has needed some form of comfort. How do you create something that’s truly international that takes a foreign IP and works closely with that foreign set of tastes and aesthetic and binds it in such a way that the U.S. market can access it?

So we started almost 20 months ago now talking with the Japanese, Digital Frontier, and we began building this relationship. Over that more than year and a half, we built up a certain level of trust where we are able to now say to them we believe that this is a great marketplace for Vampire Hunter D. So have that organic conversation with Mr. Kikuchi and Mr. Matsuoka, his agent, and explain to them that we feel there is a market in the United States for this. Give them that comfort that we have established with you and pass that on to the rights holder. That’s what they’ve done. So it’s really been this relationship building and the mutual trust in the art form that we’ve been able to establish over the last year and a half that’s allowed us to put forward the idea of creating a comic and then be successful at putting that idea to Mr. Kikuchi and get his approval for this, and then get to create that comic book.

It’s something kind of unique I think. It’s been a lot of fun for us to do along the way. We’ve learned a lot about the Japanese and their aesthetic and their work process that is different from animation here in the United States. We’re doing a $35 million animated film called Ark of the Ardvaark. John Stevenson who directed Kung Fu Panda is our director. So we’re doing that sort of traditional bigger budget U.S. animated product. That’s entirely different than the way the Japanese animate for their domestic television. Their budgets are very slim in comparison and their timeframe is very condensed. So taking what we’ve learned through creating our own feature animation and bouncing that off the Japanese and learning how their process works has allowed us to come to a new place, where there is a great level of trust between the two companies. We are developing this feature TV animation so it’s really high quality but still utilizing some Japanese pipeline, and then exhibiting a Japanese story but written by U.S. writers and adapted by U.S. writers for television. It’s a little east and west.

Is the comic essentially a prequel for the series?

McLean: It’s the only story in the whole franchise featuring D that’s set on Mars. That was also part of the motivation to do this as a comic book and not part of the television series. All of the novels are set on Earth. For one short story it would be really difficult to try and work in a part of an episode set on Mars. So one of our writers suggested why not a comic book? Because it’s a really great story and it touches on the transition from humanity blowing up the world literally to the rise of the vampires and how they started spreading out and taking things over. It does provide some unique insights into those portions of the story that are only alluded to in most of the rest of the novels.

How did you each become fans of the Vampire Hunter D franchise?

Rauer: That’s easy. In 1985-86, my corner video store had a little animation schedule. We stumbled across D as an import and it was sort of the first time I had seen animation done at a high level outside the U.S. and it was eye-opening. Prior to that, it was essentially only Disney and Warners. I didn’t know at the time that they made feature film outside of the United States. I was early high school and it was an eye-opener. At the end of that four-year period, we got Robotech here, the first run of that. We got Akira being bicycled around as a print in ’87-’88. So we got to see that. We were interested in the art form very early. I grew up in San Jose. There’s a large Japanese population there so it was organic how it came to be. And I’ve been a fan ever since.

McLean: My mom is Japanese. Immigrated here, she married my dad so I was seeing anime since I was an infant. Vampire Hunter D I came across because when I was a kid there was a local broadcaster that one night a week would do late night anime movies. As a kid, I would stay up past my bedtime. I would go to bed and then wait, sneak out, go to a television away from where my parents were that I could turn the volume down and watch these late night anime movies. Vampire Hunter D, the original ’85 film was one.

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