Jack's back... again. But this time, he's changed.
In the upcoming comic book miniseries Samurai Jack: Quantum Jack, the titular swordsman is leading different lives across the Genndy Tartakovsky-created universe of the hit animated series. Remember the episode where Jack was briefly turned into a chicken? Well, imagine that - but with him being turned into other people as well.
Helena Crash's Fabian Rangel Jr. and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell are behind this inspired madball take on Samurai Jack, and Newsarama talked with them ahead of the book's September 6 debut.
Newsarama: Fabian, what can you tell us about Samurai Jack: Quantum Jack?
Fabian Rangel Jr.: Samurai Jack: Quantum Jack is a new Samurai Jack comic series coming from me, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, and IDW. It starts in September. Each issue will see Samurai Jack leading different lives. Each role is strange and different, but still maintains the spirit of Samurai Jack, while also being a whole lot of fun.
Warwick Johnson-Cadwell: The world of Samurai Jack is infinite in terms of what goes on there so the possibilities for characters are as infinite. We’ve got mercenaries, bikers, luchadors, kaiju, giant robots, and a whole lot more, but in Samurai Jack terms that could just be a line of people waiting for a bus. The morning I sent Fabian and IDW the Biker Jack character was the same day as the Biker Samurai Jack teaser for Season 5 came out. I had no idea they were planning that, it was a total coincidence but it made me feel we were on the right lines.
Nrama: Is this a sequel, a remake, a reboot, or... what?
Rangel Jr.: It's a story that would have taken place between the end of the fourth season and the start of the fifth season.
Johnson-Cadwell: It’s the character and the spirit of Samurai Jack in comics.
Nrama: Warwick, how would you compare the traditional animated Samurai Jack with the one you're drawing here?
Johnson-Cadwell: I could watch the animated series forever, repeated over and over (I can’t have them on while I work, I get drawn right back into them and get nothing done). Our comic is different. It’s a different medium so there’s a lot we can’t do, actual SFX, character voices, soundtrack, etc. so we focus on what we can bring out on the comic page.
Nrama: So is “Quantum Jack” a person, a style, or what?
Rangel Jr.: “Quantum Jack” is the name of this arc, just a way for us to let readers know what's going on with him in this series. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that it is indeed the Samurai Jack that we all know and love who is having these strange adventures. But as far as what exactly happened that led to the events of this book, you'll have to read it to find out!
Nrama: And this biker gang?
Rangel Jr.: The Biker Gang in #1 are some rough riding mercenaries/bounty hunters. They are dangerous and awesome. Jack is their leader.
Nrama: And why are they after a royal envoy?
Rangel Jr.: They have been hired to steal and deliver the cargo. What the cargo is, and who wants it, help Jack start to try and figure out what's happening to him.
Nrama: The comic books have generally stuck to the art style of the cartoons, but your cover shows you sticking to your artistic guns - I like that. Was there any discussion of trying to approximate Genndy's style? Is it influencing you at all?
Johnson-Cadwell: Genndy’s style and Samurai Jack has influenced me hugely. The design of the show is remarkable and a massive source of inspiration for me. I have a reverence for it that makes me feel I shouldn’t try to emulate what they did but working in my own way may show how much I have loved (and learned from) their work.
Nrama: Were there any specific episodes or previous Samurai Jack comic books that inspired this five-issue miniseries?
Johnson-Cadwell: Our series is taking a slightly different approach to Jack’s quest to return to his time. This has given us the chance to try something new but in the world that is wholly inspired by Samurai Jack. So no, and yes.
Rangel Jr.: Other than the fact that Jack was always looking for a way back to the past, not really. The original four seasons (we pitched this before the final season) are a huge influence on my storytelling, especially in Helena Crash. I revisited some episodes while writing the pitch for this series, but there aren't any episodes in particular that stand out for this arc, but I will say the episode where Jack gets turned into a chicken might help people understand what we're doing. Like, Jack is still Jack no matter what he looks like. His spirit is what makes him who he is. Our major inspiration for this series is that it had to feel like its own thing, something different from the show and the comics that came before, but of course still be Samurai Jack. I think we've pulled it off.
Nrama: As you mentioned, you're working on this with your Helena Crash partner Warwick. Was this a joint project from the get-go, or did you two get involved separately?
Rangel Jr.: They reached out to Warwick first, who then suggested getting me involved because we worked so well together on Helena. I jumped at the chance. This is definitely a dream gig for me. It's really awesome to work with someone I have already worked with, especially Warwick. I absolutely love his work, his designs in particular. This has been a blast.
Nrama: So Warwick, what made this a project you wanted to do?
Johnson-Cadwell: Working with Fabian again. Working with Adult Swim and IDW. But mainly working on a Samurai Jack book.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals for this?
Johnson-Cadwell: To show our love for this character and its creators. To be able to make something that is new but strikes a chord with Samurai Jack fans and comic readers and particularly those who are both.
Rangel Jr.: To tell an exciting story with one of my favorite characters that simultaneously feels familiar but also totally new. To remind readers that we can do anything in comics, and to have an insane amount of fun doing it.