Billy Tucci Interview

Billy Tucci is the creator of the fan-favorite comic, Shi. This year, Shi celebrates its 10th Anniversary and the festivities kick off with Shi: Ju-Nen, a new mini-series from Dark Horse. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently contacted Tucci to find out more about Shi.

Westfield: Why did you decide to work with Dark Horse on Shi: Ju-Nen?

Billy Tucci: Well Roger, I've had some wonderful changes (including the birth of my son) take place in my life over the past two years and had to do some soul searching. I came to two conclusions: the first is to spend as much time possible with my family; the second is to focus all my other energy "creating." I've been very fortunate to be a self-publisher for 10 years, but the business aspects and energies have always dominated the creative. And to actually be associated with Mike Richardson, the apex of the comics industry, and devote all my time to creating is really a dream come true. It also doesn't hurt that most of my favorite creators and books fall under the Dark Horse label!

Westfield: For those who've never read Shi before, who is Ana Ishikawa and what is the book about?

Tucci: Shi is a modern-day samurai tale. A story of an outcast soldier drafted into a centuries old war who literally turns her back on vengeance.

Ana Ishikawa is a product of two very different racial, cultural and religious societies. This very cultural war rages within her and its fallout plays hard on her conscience and spirituality. On one hand, she feels compelled to regain her family's honor, while she cannot pull herself away from the Catholic teachings of her mother. Shi, the Japanese Spirit of Death, haunts her and she's plagued with guilt of the crimes she's committed in battle. I think this all makes for a very reactive and interesting character at war with herself and her world.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the new mini-series, Shi: Ju-Nen?

Tucci: Ana is Sohei, a direct descendant of Kyoto's greatest samurai, the warrior monks of antiquity who have since carried into 21st century society their place in the arts, religion and above all else, hatred for their ancient rivals the Sohei of Nara. In Ju-Nen, Ana returns to Japan in an attempt to avert an all out war between these secretive warrior sects as the Kyoto Sohei, powerful and drunk with victory and under the protection of the Yakuza, will do the unthinkable. They will bring their Imperial Kyoto Theatre Company to the heart of Nara and perform the timeless Kabuki Shi in an insolent display of brazen debauchery. The Narans, though battle scarred from the wars in Shi - Heaven and Earth, will never accept this fate for their beloved city. Now pledged to the mythical spirit of the Phoenix, they will trap and engulf the entire Kyoto sect and if need be, burn themselves and all of Nara to the ground in the process.

Westfield: Will any of Shi's supporting cast be returning?

Tucci: Oh yeah. The Narans are now led by Tomoe and the mysterious but deadly Lady Kaoyo. These Sohei blame (and rightly so) Ana for their ranks decimation. This subplot and Ana's original back-story are all nicely intertwined into Ju-Nen making a compressed and intriguing introduction to Shi and her universe.

All the while, the Yakuza play an integral part of the Kyoto's planning and know that the Narans will retaliate. But of course, they have their own interests at heart.

Westfield: How much research do you do into Japanese culture for the book?

Tucci: Since most of Ju-Nen takes place inside the world of Kabuki theatre, I've been inundating myself with all sorts of books and videos of this brilliant art form. It all makes for some really challenging and terrific visuals that has spurred my best work yet.

Westfield: Shi has been published by Crusade, Avatar, and now Dark Horse. What do you think there is about Ana that keeps people following her adventures?

Tucci: I'm not sure, but for some reason, Shi has really struck a chord with people. I remember when the original Way of the Warrior story arc sort of took off and seemed to write itself! Since Ana's not a superhero and struggles so much internally, we've had this wonderful pallet of surrealism to work with. Our website (www.crusadefinearts.com) has an incredibly active and devoted member's forum and their enthusiasm and devotion has really been incredibly inspiring. Shi needs them and I hope to deliver.

Westfield: Will there be more Shi projects coming from Dark Horse?

Tucci: In the past, Shi's bane was not being able to produce and release enough books to meet public demand. Not anymore, and thanks to Dark Horse, my dream of focusing on writing, drawing and painting has become reality. Since 2004 is Shi's 10th Anniversary, DH will re-release the original Way of the Warrior series, with new DH covers by me. This way we feel we can bring in even more new readers without them having to shell out 15 bucks for a trade paperback. But we're planning so much, posters, action figures and this summer they'll release Shi, Spitfires and Sensuality - The Art of William Tucci coffee table book. So as you can tell it's going to be a pretty big year. We're also hoping to release a monthly Shi series starting late next fall.

Westfield: Do you have any other upcoming projects you'd like to mention?

Tucci: I'm currently working on Gremlin Effect, Victoria Cross and The Magnificent 7th Graders (co-created with JC Vaughn and Mark Haynes). They're all really different and fun titles that'll hopefully make their way through the DH label and onto comic racks this year as well!

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Tucci: I just want to thank everyone from the Westfield Company, Dark Horse Comics and my fellow lovers of our incredible medium for this wonderful opportunity. It's been ten incredible years and I owe a debt of gratitude to you all for changing my life and making my dreams a reality.