Bay Ridge author publishes graphic novel featuring DUMBO-based hero
“The Foreigner, Book One” is the new graphic novel from the pen of Bay Ridge author Kensuke Okabayashi. The elaborate fantasy relates the tale of Ravenika, a war-torn world ripped apart by Acedia, Ira and Superbia, three powerful brother kings and their queens battling for each other’s share of land and riches.
Into this fantasy realm comes Kaz, an unlikely hero from DUMBO who was mysteriously transported to an alternate universe where he must restore peace between the three brother kings in order to return back to his world and save his wife who has just been kidnapped.
The illustrated saga by the Brooklyn illustrator is just the latest in Okabayashi’s long list of published works. He is also the author of publications such as “Drawing for Dummies,” “Manga for Dummies,” “Figure Drawing for Dummies,” and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Manga Edition).”
The indie comic artist’s impressive list of clients include Marvel Entertainment, Star Wars Lego, D.C. Batman Lego, and Magic the Gathering. He’s also done storyboards for Lucky Charms, Hanes underwear, Cadillac, Lays potato chips, Gatorade, Time Warner Cable, Tropicana juice and Cracker Barrel, among others.
Okabayashi graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and his portfolio includes a unique range of production art. He lives in Bay Ridge with his wife and two children.
Okabayashi recently sat down with the Brooklyn Eagle to discuss his work.
Brooklyn Eagle: What was it about graphic novels that caught your interest?
Kensuke Okabayashi: I grew up reading Japanese manga. The weekly issues were compiled into larger volumes and I’d stay up at night reading them. The longer format of graphic novels allows readers get to be more engaged in the story with having to wait for the next single issue to come out.
Eagle: Tell me a little about “The Foreigner.” How did this work come about?
KO: The concept of “The Foreigner” came to me in a dream a few years ago. I remember waking up in middle of the night so excited that I couldn’t fall back asleep. The next morning, I took the day off to sketch as much as I could remember from the notes that I put together in the wee hours of that morning so that I had enough material to begin writing out some of the dialogue and plot.
The theme of this 190-page graphic novel is a quest for love through redemption. To that end, each one of these characters subtly embodies one of the seven deadly sins. It is up the characters to recognize their stumbling blocks and overcome the consequences in the face of a life or death situation.
Eagle: Is it difficult being both the illustrator and writer on a project like this?
KO: For me, creating both artwork and storyline for “The Foreigner: Book One” has been an awesome experience. Having control over both the writing and illustrations has definitely helped me dictate the flow of the story. I’ve also been very blessed to have colleagues who have given their time to provide constructive feedback throughout the progress.
Eagle: Talk about your work at Marvel Entertainment and Star Wars Lego. How did you get involved working on those projects?
KO: I really enjoyed working on both of these projects—especially with Star Wars. I worked for nearly three years on storyboards for their website promo videos depicting yet-to-be released products was a blast — Legos and Star Wars were two childhood favorites of mine and now I have the joy of seeing my son take these on as favorites, too!
Around the same time, my art rep also approached me to do drawing storyboards for Marvel’s toy franchise promoting Spiderman. Anytime to get to draw one of my favorite superheroes is a treat.
Eagle: You have a new web comic series in the pipeline. Please tell us about it.
KO: The new web series gives the readers a chance to discover more about the origins of the characters in “The Foreigner.” I felt that it’s important to explore not only how the main characters struggle to overcome their obstacles but also address the origins of their personal issues or flaws that got them stuck in the beginning. The first of four series, “Empty Vessel,” focuses on the main character, Kaz, who like many of us struggles with envy. He struggles so much so that he cannot go through a day without comparing himself to other people around him. I’m very excited about the narrative and I encourage anyone who has already read “The Foreigner” (or is thinking about getting it) to check out these free online episodes.
Eagle: Any upcoming signings or Comic-Con appearances?
KO: I just wrapped up conventions in Philadelphia (Wizards) and Heroes Con at Charlotte, North Carolina. I will be at the Boston Fan Expo from August 10 to 12 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. At Wizards Comicon, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to pitch “The Foreigner” to Sony Films.
Eagle: What new projects can we look forward to?
KO: In addition to the four-part web comic “Foreigner” series, I will be debuting “The Foreigner Book Two” (the conclusion) via Kickstarter this fall.
Eagle: The hero of the “The Foreigner,” Kaz, lives in DUMBO. How else does Brooklyn factor into your work?
KO: It’s no secret that loneliness is a problem in New York. While I am very happy and proud to be a Brooklynite, I think “The Foreigner” addresses some key psychological problems through the characters. I believe many who are struggling to “make it” in large cities such as Brooklyn can identify with similar struggles.
To learn more about “The Foreigner” and Okabayashi’s other works visit www.TheForeignerComic.com or www.KensukeART.com.
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