In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, Immortal Studios’ CEO Peter Shiao talks about the action-packed comic Fa Sheng: Origins. With the Kickstarter campaign taking place as we speak, find out what happened during the humble beginnings of a great Shaolin Master.
THE PLOT: “Set in the latter days of the 19th century, Fa Sheng: Origins reveals how the confusion and carnage of China’s Boxer Uprising forces a young Fa Sheng to reevaluate his purpose in life, by dedicating himself to helping those in need. All that stands between him and his goal of empowering the masses are cowardly charlatans, backstabbing power grabbers, and ruthless adversaries.”
With the Kickstarter campaign now live, Immortal Studios founder Peter Shiao opens up about the personal history behind Fa Sheng, the future of Immortal Studios, and what the projects means to him. So join us as we discuss the craft of storytelling.
Villain Media: Tell me about how your father Shiao Yi inspired Fa Sheng.
Peter Shiao: My father imbued me with a love of the archetypal Wuxia hero coupled with an understanding of Chinese history and philosophy. So I decided to create a character that would weave all three of strains together – a martial hero who hails from the Boxer Uprising from my own ancestral home, deepened his real Kung Fu at the Shaolin Temple, and who would eventually become enlightened and find his way to modern day LA. Just covering those beats makes the Fa Sheng story one of the most ambitious, substantive, and relevant Wuxia stories ever. I know that is saying a lot. I actually believe that.
VM: Tell me about bringing Fa Sheng through ORIGINS.
PS: The enigmatic master character in the inaugural title of our Storyverse, the Adept, played a very significant role in establishing the parameters of our world — yet we knew so little about him. So it is entirely appropriate that we get a chance to know who this Shaolin master was, and find out what he is really about, thus the appropriately titled Origins. We often see enlightened masters in all their glory, but do not appreciate the roads they had to traverse and the trials and tribulations that they had to overcome to get to that point. So this is not just the making of a martial master, but an enlightened martial master who eventually becomes a supernatural “arhat” — someone who actually transcends the phenomenal world. We think that is a pretty awesome journey to depict.
VM: Tell me about the challenges of creating the first comic book-based shared universe based on the Wuxia martial arts-fantasy stories.
PS: At a certain level the martial arts fantasy genre became a hodgepodge of non-stop fighting of all types mixed with metaphysical and supernatural happenings with an extravagant ethos that was no longer tethered to any authentic elements, ideas and inspirations of what the genre was really built on. So deciding to stand for the origins of Wuxia and bringing authenticity back, and then stepping into this very crowded and chaotic atmosphere with that vision, and to do it from the West with the inclusion of modern day elements, is threading a lot of pearls together. It is difficult enough to tell a story that people actually care about, let alone doing all the other things, along with building and expanding. Having said all that – I am very heartened both by what we’ve created and the early reactions have been.
VM: Tell me what writer Rylend Grant and artist Dexter Wee bring to the project.
PS: Rylend’s very unique blend of amazing creative/craft chops as a seasoned writer and formal training as a Zen monk, which has its roots in the Shaolin Temple, made our partnership with him the perfect embodiment of what we hope to do at Immortal. He emphatically understood the challenge and opportunity of this character and story and has really delivered something that has a piece of his soul. A truly special collaboration.
In the same way that Rylend found something of himself in Fa Sheng, our artist Dexter Wee who was deeply inspired by Wuxia films since childhood, yet never had a real chance to pay homage to films like the Once Upon a Time in China series, is a kindred spirit with a yearning to do something this space. Having encountered his own share of tragedy and loss in his own life, I feel very blessed that Dexter was able to bring a level of aesthetic and emotion to this project that truly made the pages quite special.
VM: What do you think pledgers will be most excited about the Kickstarter campaign.
PS: To be the first to dive into the origin story of a very important figure in the Immortal Storyverse – to have the front roll seats to access all the various collectibles, behind the scenes information,and to participate as a member of the expanding Immortal community.
VM: What is next for Immortal Studios and Storyverse?
PS: Without a doubt, it will be the arrival of our fourth story, Assassin G – in the process completing the four pillars of the Immortal Storyverse. For a lot of our fans who have been wondering where things are going in the Immortal Storyverse, the imminent arrival of this title is going to lay out an ambitious foundation to our stories. In addition to the arrival of the fourth pillar of the storyverse our readers can look forward to several new titles that will be built on the four pillar foundation. As the world goes back into live events, something we are excited about is our presence at San Diego Comicon where we are expecting to host several panels, and begin the rollout of the Immortal Order – our fan club which promises a number of ways to get more involved in Immortal!
VM: Tell me about how FA SHENG: ORIGINS changed you as a storyteller.
PS: Wow! What a great question! I would simply say that because Fa Sheng is so personal in so many different ways that it has brought to the forefront my own story, and how to celebrate and own more of that in everything that I do.
Readers can find out more about the Kickstarter campaign here:
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By Jorge Solis