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Exclusive: Vampire Hunter D Comic Switches Artists

posted on by Karen Ressler
Brandon Easton continues to write for comic, TV pilot

California-based production studio Unified Pictures has informed ANN that Ryan Benjamin (Ultimate Spiderman, Batman Re-Animated) is taking over as artist and colorist on its Vampire Hunter D: Message from Mars comic book series, and Richard Friend is providing the inks. Benjamin and Friend are replacing the previous artist Michael Broussard beginning with the second issue.

Unified Pictures funded the comic based on Hideyuki Kikuchi's original Vampire Hunter D novel series with a Kickstarter campaign in 2016, and has released the first of five issues. Unified Pictures' Scott McLean told ANN that it will wait until all five issues are completed before resuming publication.

Unified Pictures provided previews of Benjamin and Friend's work, pictured below.

Benjamin said in an interview with ANN's Zac Bertschy that he has been a fan of the Vampire Hunter D animation for years. "[Vampire Hunter D] was easily part of the influence that made me a fan of dark type characters," he said.

On his approach to the material, Benjamin said, "Although I have many different styles, I am usually a traditional DC Comics artist. I took some time to feel the character when I was studying the original art style, then after some feedback and testing, I found myself closer to a warm happy medium to the original character and my traditional style." He added that he went to Japan in preparation for the comic, and met with Vamipire Hunter D: Bloodlust character designer and animation director Yutaka Minowa to discuss character poses and facial features.

Brandon Easton (M.A.S.K., Civil War II: Choosing Sides) is still writing the script for the comic, and Unified Pictures also revealed that he is writing the pilot for the animated Vampire Hunter D television series that it is co-producing with Japanese CGI animation studio Digital Frontier (Resident Evil: Degeneration, Tekken: Blood Vengeance, GANTZ:O, Mighty No. 9). The pilot is based on the two Mysterious Journey to the North Sea novels (volumes 7 and 8 of Kikuchi's original Vampire Hunter D novel series).

Easton told ANN about his experiences writing for both projects. "I've had to manage the expectations of three entities: the creator Hideyuki Kikuchi (who still creates new VHD material), the producers at Digital Frontier and Unified Pictures, and ultimately myself," he said. "This means that you have to find new and exciting ways of telling a story that has a set of concrete rules that have been fully established by the novels."

Easton described the character of D as "an enigma... like a catastrophic force of nature wrapped up in this impossibly beautiful goth prince who rarely speaks." The character of Left Hand, by contrast, Easton said "would love to give speeches, but you have to keep him reigned in because there's a strong temptation to write Left Hand as a "town crier" who has to comment on (and explain) everything to the audience in a snarky voice... However, to hold Left Hand back and let him respond to the truly bizarre and mysterious incidents surrounding them at the right moment is the toughest part."

The story of the comic adapts Vampire Hunter D creator Hideyuki Kikuchi's short story "Message From Cecile," which was published at a fan event in Japan. The story is not set on earth, and will show some of D's early years as a vampire hunter.

Christopher Shy is handling visual development. Kikuchi and his publishing group are reviewing the pages.

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