The Pulse-Pounding Origin Of Lil’ Ninja

Greg Woronchak writes for Bleeding Cool:

I remember watching television as a youngster (more than likely clutching an overfilled bowl of sugary cereal), and discovering Goldorak. A giant robot that flew about smiting monsters with a giant axe? Loved every second of it. It was exciting, visual spectacle, and even though I wasn’t sure what was going on, it was an absolute blast.

One day at a local depanneur (our version of mini-mart over here), eager to blow my handful of change on candy, I had a similar epiphany. There on spinner racks, were something I hadn’t seen before: comic books.

I’d been previously exposed to super-heroes, mostly from grainy Saturday morning cartoons on one of the three channels we were able to catch with rabbit ears. Slowly spinning the rack of comics, my heart must’ve skipped a beat. Heroes of every shape and size were featured on vibrantly colored covers bursting with energy. After much deliberation, I recall purchasing a Hulk (269, if memory serves; hey, a green monster fighting a giant space mouth is hard to resist) and Fantastic Four 239.

I was hooked. Big time.

I wasn’t completely sure what was going on, although little text boxes filled me in (and hinted at the wealth of history behind the characters); I remember hating those dreaded words ‘to be continued’, since I couldn’t be sure which issues I’d be able to find on my next comics run.

That doe-eyed, absolute joy from reading an entertaining comic book has remained with me ever since. I remember picking up future titles merely based on the covers: my meager allowance netted me Batman 340, Detective Comics 509, Daredevil 186, and Wolverine 1 (I naively assumed it was his first appearance, and the coolness of owning a ‘number 1’ blew my young brain).

The common thread of all the books I bought was pure escapism; I didn’t try to comprehend how a blind dude could fight crime, or that Wolvie had knives (as drawn by Frank Miller) popping out of his arms. I went along for the ride, completely trusting that the end result was a fun read.

Which it continued to be.

For awhile.

Mainstream super-hero comics have lost the magic I felt as a youth. Of course, folk will accuse me of being a nostalgic old fart (guilty as charged), but I’d like to think that I can appreciate a given comic based solely on how I feel after reading it. A lot of books today are dialogue-filled, with violent, navel-gazing ‘heroes’ quipping sarcastically while facing the latest universe-ending threat (usually with an open ‘ending’ to ensure the storyline can continue for years).

Of course I’ll be rapped on the wrist for knocking today’s ‘mature’ (?) fare, with exquisitely detailed ‘realistic’ artwork and equally detailed and verbose scripts. I think the simple fact is that by ‘growing up’, comics have lost the wild fun that seemed to permeate the very newsprint I grasped in my sweaty hands. By over-thinking fantastic concepts and piling complicated emotional backstory onto iconic characters, today’s comics are dense ‘movies’ that are impenetrable and often boring and pretentious

But that’s just my opinion, of course.

One of the side-effects of discovering comic books was a strong urge to create my own. I still own a New Teen Titans tale I drew on foolscap, colored with markers and pencil crayon. Compared to some of the output of the 90s, I’d even say it isn’t half bad.

This seed blossomed into a dream to create my own comic books; as I became more disillusioned with the current state of comics, I found my concepts became my attempt to recapture the thrills I felt as a fledgling collector. My ideas revolved around heroes having fun adventures that kids could enjoy, but adults could as well. The trick of all-ages material is not churning out licensed material with dull stories talking down to kids; it’s producing material that everyone can get enjoyment out of, for different reasons.

Animation seems to understand this best, which is another main influence in my self-published comics.

Sore Thumb Press is what I’ve chosen to call my work. I have a dozen or so concepts (most of which began as barely coherent scribbles on Post-its) which I long to develop and see the light of day. My ideas have my love of super-heroes in their DNA, and feature a variety of genres, from comedic horror to mythic sci-fi.

One of my most developed concepts is Lil’ Ninja, inspired by the antics of my daughter: it’s about a toddler with very special abilities, who defends her crib from a variety of menaces with the help of her favorite stuffed toy. The themes of Lil’ Ninja are the nature of heroism and the joy of family; readers young and old will enjoy her adventures.

I’ve decided to try Kickstarter to fund this concept. Hopefully, my small rant about comics (and wistful description of those of yore) might strike a nerve; at the same time, I hope folk will find Lil’ Ninja appealing, and we’ll meet our goals.

Here are links to Lil’ Ninja, and Sore Thumb Press and our kickstarter.

I’d appreciate it sincerely if Bleeding Cool readers could check it out!

lil' ninja

About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.