NYCC: Manga artists, online fans team up for Wikia writing project

Oct. 11, 2013 | 7:58 a.m.
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A character from "Red Bat," provided for Wikia's Masters of Animanga project by artist Takashi Okazaki. The story was produced by Hiroaki Ikegami and Masao Maruyama. (Wikia)

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A character from "Red Bat," provided for Wikia's Masters of Animanga project by artist Takashi Okazaki. The story was produced by Hiroaki Ikegami and Masao Maruyama. (Wikia)

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A character from "Fading Light: A Tale of Zan," provided for Wikia's Masters of Animanga project by artist Yoshitaka Amano. The story was produced by Kazuo Koike. (Wikia)

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A character from "Fading Light: A Tale of Zan," provided for Wikia's Masters of Animanga project by artist Yoshitaka Amano. The story was produced by Kazuo Koike. (Wikia)

ic2a6c3a7vnc2a6c3a2ic2a6c3aaac2a6c3aaic2a6c3aacc2a6c2bafcc2a6c2bau NYCC: Manga artists, online fans team up for Wikia writing project

A character from "Fading Light: A Tale of Zan," provided for Wikia's Masters of Animanga project by artist Yoshitaka Amano. The story was produced by Kazuo Koike. (Wikia)

witch NYCC: Manga artists, online fans team up for Wikia writing project

A character from "TAO: Rize of the Ying-yang," provided for Wikia's Masters of Animanga project by artist Shin-ichi Hiromoto. (Wikia)

Iconic manga artists teamed up with an online community to take fan fiction to a new level.

Throughout September, manga and anime legends Takashi Okazaki (“Afro Samurai”), Masao Maruyama (“Trigun”), Hiro Ikegami (“Space Battleship Yamato 2199″), Yoshitaka Amano (“Vampire Hunter D”), Kazuo Koike (“Lone Wolf and Cub”) and Shin-ichi Hiromoto (“Hells Angels”) teamed up with the Wikia community for a collaborative writing project dubbed the Masters of Animanga.

The artists provided a jumping-off point — illustrations and character descriptions — for three stories. Wikia members then contributed to the story, one paragraph at a time.

“More and more new characters appeared,” Okazaki said through a translator. “It was unexpected and surprising how the story moved so fast.”

A character from "TAO: Rize of the Ying-yang," provided for Wikia's Masters of Animanga project by artist Shin-ichi Hiromoto. (Wikia)

A character from “TAO: Rize of the Ying-yang,” provided for Wikia’s Masters of Animanga project by artist Shin-ichi Hiromoto. (Wikia)

Okazaki created characters for a story called “Red Bat” (along with producers Ikegami and Maruyama), about a world in which humans and vampires coexist, and a corporation called Red Bat sells artificially engineered blood to the vamps. Other stories created during Masters of Animanga include the Hiromoto-led “TAO: Rize of the Ying-yang,” about a battle between a Buddhist maiden and a witch, and “Fading Light: A Tale of Zan,” produced by Koike and based on a samurai character who first appeared in Amano’s graphic novel “Deva Zan.”

Amano said Zan was the perfect character to share for the collaborative writing project, due to his flexibility.

“Zan travels between time and places, so he can exist anywhere, in anyone’s story,” Amano said through a translator. “He is the ultimate flexible and perfectly free character.”

The project produced more than 55,000 words (more than  80 pages) over the span of 439 story submissions, with the artists providing feedback and advice to the fan writers throughout. Now, the results are being presented at New York Comic Con at Wikia’s Masters of Animaga panel Saturday at 1:45 p.m. ET, to be attended by Koike, Okazaki, Hiromoto, Ikegami and Maruyama, and moderated by Eric Moro, Wikia’s director of entertainment programming.

Hero Complex caught up with Moro to talk about what’s next for the co-created stories.

HC: What inspired this project? Why a collaborative effort between professionals and an online fan community? Has Wikia done stuff like this before?

EM: “The Collaborative Writing Project” is an initiative that Wikia communities have participated in for months now. Our super-fans have come together to write original stories (one paragraph at a time) in the fantasy, sci-fi and kaiju genres. But never have we hosted a project involving professional creators (i.e. writers, artists, filmmakers, etc.) and their works. So over the course of a few meetings in Japan this idea was presented to Masao Maruyama, Kazuo Koike and Hiroaki Ikegami. The trio was actually looking for the next “big idea” – a way to take the creation of anime/manga to the next level. So when we presented them with this opportunity, they loved it, so much so that they expanded the scope of our original proposal (one writing project involving this particular trio of creators) to include three separate writing projects, and invited Yoshitaka Amano, Shinichi Hiromoto and Takashi Okazaki to also participate.

HC: Why were anime and manga chosen as the medium?

EM: I think it’s a combination of things. First, our various anime and manga communities draw incredibly large audiences from all over the world. So hosting a project in this space allowed us to play at a global level. Second, while anime/manga creators are obviously known for their past works, they’re constantly creating new properties that fans are just as excited to see. So it’s more about the creator that’s involved than it is about the character(s). Third, comic book, movie and TV characters are all tied up in complicated rights issues/licenses. And while we’re just starting to see networks work in this space (“The Vampire Diaries” fan fiction through Amazon’s Kindle Worlds, for example), it’s still not an idea the industry has fully embraced. We’re hoping to change that, though.

A character from "Fading Light: A Tale of Zan," provided for Wikia's Masters of Animanga project by artist Yoshitaka Amano. The story was produced by Kazuo Koike. (Wikia)

A character from “Fading Light: A Tale of Zan,” provided for Wikia’s Masters of Animanga project by artist Yoshitaka Amano. The story was produced by Kazuo Koike. (Wikia)

HC: How did you choose the artists and writers and producers for this project? Was it difficult to explain the vision and get people on board?

EM: Maruyama and Ikegami deserve the credit for gathering this amazing group of artists/writers. Once they latched onto our vision for the project and – in turn – expanded upon it, they shared their infectious enthusiasm with the larger group. And as executive producers of the overall project, they worked with each artist to select the genre they would be creating characters for. As any anime/manga fan can see, the artists and their choice of genre match up well with the work they’re known and loved for.

HC: Which rule for collaborating was most effective in this project?

EM: The six-sentence rule was perhaps the most effective. It really challenged participants to be as concise as possible, while at the same time detailed enough to advance the story in their intended direction.

HC: Was the response what you were expecting? More than you were expecting? Less, but with the promise of growth?

EM: The response was definitely more than I was expecting. The Masters of Animanga outperformed any other collaborative writing project we’ve hosted on Wikia to date. While these projects typically only last an average of seven days or so, the three Masters stories lasted a total of 30 days and showed no sign of letting up when it came to level of participation. In fact, the numbers got stronger with each story.

A character from "Red Bat," provided for Wikia's Masters of Animanga project by artist Takashi Okazaki. The story was produced by Hiroaki Ikegami and Masao Maruyama. (Wikia)

A character from “Red Bat,” provided for Wikia’s Masters of Animanga project by artist Takashi Okazaki. The story was produced by Hiroaki Ikegami and Masao Maruyama. (Wikia)

HC: What’s the advantage of a collaborative project as opposed to a cohesive vision led by one or two creators?EM: Honestly, it’s the creative “power” (for lack of a better word) that comes from working directly with a community – the power that comes from tapping directly into a passionate fan base. And I’m not talking a handful of fans. With Wikia, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of fans. They [the community] are the true experts – they live and breathe this material.

HC: What most surprised you about this project?

EM: When you break the stats down and look at the total number of words that were contributed to the project, you’re talking about chapters’ worth of content when compared to a traditional novel. That level of participation was really surprising.

HC: What’s going to happen to the finished stories?

EM: The sky’s the limit here. In the short-term, Wikia’s plan is to debut the final stories and submitted artwork in a live panel discussion at New York Comic Con, where all of the participating “Masters” (with the exception of Amano, who had a scheduling conflict) will be in attendance. This takes the legitimizing of fan fiction to a whole new level. At the same time, we’ll be showcasing the finished stories on dedicated, designed landing pages for a slick and easy reading experience. There’s also talk of the Masters possibly publishing the material down the road (if that were to happen, each participating user would receive a byline), but they’re excited to see what the community comes up with first.

HC:  Any plans for future projects in the same vein? Would you work with DC/Marvel/Image/Dark Horse creators?

EM: We definitely plan on doing more creator-involved collaborative writing projects on Wikia, and would absolutely love to work with the likes of a Marvel, DC or Dark Horse Comics (we actually have large fan communities for all three of these publishers). The Masters of Animanga really did set the bar for an initiative of this nature – we just need to figure out how to top it.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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