Writer Jordan Patrick Finn is onto something. Yes, 80 pages of samurais and Lovecraftian horror is more than enough to give this Kickstarter all my money. More than that, however, is the beautiful artwork. One look at Death Kanji and you’ll be throwing your money, too.
Artist Greg Woronchak effuses each page with clean bold lines that juxtapose dramatic panel breaks. Each page captures texture without an abundance of detail. Colorist rising star A.H.G. takes that one step further, with soft watercolor pastels that feel dream-like and contradictory to the horror and violence to come. Letterer Lyndon Radchenka further adds to this with sound effects and bubbles that feel fresh without distracting from the artwork.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Jordan Patrick Finn on the Death Kanji Kickstarter. Check out the interview below!
Malissa White: Death Kanji is a story of a samurai’s struggle to maintain his duty when terrifying knowledge comes to light. Can you share a bit more about the plot and characters?
Jordan Patrick Finn: Death Kanji, at its heart, is a love letter to the works of both HP Lovecraft & Akira Kurosawa. It’s the tale of a dutiful samurai tasked to look into the heritage of his daimyo, and his reaction to the horror he discovers.
The characters in Death Kanji remain largely unnamed, but the story centers on the samurai, a tragic figure who loses everything in his quest for knowledge and dedication to his ideals. The other principle characters, including the daimyo, his wife, and a few peasants, are explored via their relationship to the samurai.
MW: How do themes of duty and destruction play out in Death Kanji?
JPF: Without giving too much away, duty and destruction are everything in Death Kanji. Right from the jump, we are introduced to the samurai on the day of his ritual suicide – he is quite literally facing destruction because of his duty. Page 2 is already exploring the idea that the samurai has forsaken the duty he had to his daimyo, and the rest of the story is a dive into why he did what led him to this moment.
MW: What inspired you to create Death Kanji?
JPF: As mentioned previously, my two major inspirations for the book were Lovecraft & Kurosawa. I’ve always found myself more attracted to tragedy in storytelling, and I went into this project trying to create a tragedy of my own, while also trying to explore the themes of forbidden knowledge and nature vs nurture in a feudal Japanese setting with cosmic horror elements hidden within.
MW: What are you most excited to share with backers?
JPF: I am so excited for backers to read the finished book! I poured my soul into it, and I’m really proud of the way the story came together. What I’m most excited about, however, is the beautiful art. I can’t wait to see the work of the entire team (Woronchak, AHG, Radchenka) in print!
MW: Lovecraft and samurais! How do you see cosmic horror in feudal Japan?
JPF: I think that the principles of cosmic horror are universal: fear of the unknown, the limits of human comprehension, and what actions that leads to. Where feudal Japan allows me to deviate from the typical Lovecraft formula is that I have a more active protagonist. The samurai isn’t a character who reaches that horrible knowledge and shrugs, resigned to do nothing until his inevitable end, as so many of Lovecraft’s characters are. Instead, the samurai has a duty to take action, which allows me to write what I think is a more tragic ending, driven by the characters’ choices.
MW: What drew you to feudal Japan as a setting? How do you honor its history and culture?
JPF: At the time that I began drafting this story, a few years ago, the Criterion Channel had just released their streaming service. I grabbed a free trial and binged everything they had by David Lynch and Akira Kurosawa in a week. The Kurosawa stuff must have stuck with me subconsciously, because I very quickly realized the story I had drafted fit best with a samurai at the helm.
The team on this book is predominantly (Canadian) white guys, and using Japan with that context was (and still is) a genuine concern of mine. I wanted to keep the team on Death Kanji local to Canada, which ended up with me not having a very diverse team on the project. There was a time that I was considering re-writing the story to be about a knight, or possibly even a cowboy, but ultimately I had to step back and let the book be what it was always meant to be: a horror samurai graphic novel.
That said, I did my research. I spent months diving into the history of Japan, reading articles & nonfiction books, watching samurai films, and listening to historians speak about their culture, which I have found absolutely fascinating my entire life. The final realization that made me okay with putting out this book, given the context, was that I am taking nothing away from the people of Japan by making Death Kanji.
MW: How did you get started in comics? What are the genres and stories that inspire you most?
JPF: I got started in comics by writing a horror detective series called Hellcraft, also drawn by the artist on Death Kanji, Greg Woronchak. Clearly, horror is the genre that I get most passionate about. I also have a deep love of sci-fi & fantasy, and I’ve written a handful of fantasy/comedy short comics with Robert Ahmad.
The stories that inspire me most are tragic ones, with deeply flawed protagonists making mistakes despite good intentions. Sad endings are what I love the most.
MW: Where can we find your other works? How can fans follow you?
JPF: The best place to follow me is on Twitter @jordanpfinn. I sell my previous book, the collected edition of Hellcraft #1-4 on Bigcartel, Gumroad, or just via private message. However, the cheapest way to get Hellcraft is to pledge to the Death Kanji Kickstarter!
Thank you so much Jordan Patrick Finn for chatting with me! If you haven’t already pledged, I recommend you do so while you can. This comic, running on Kickstarter for the next two weeks, can’t be missed.