GVN Talking Comics Interview: Author Samuel Sattin for Osamu Tezuka’s “UNICO: AWAKENING” by Tezuka Productions
A great opportunity
When the creative team behind Osamu Tezuka’s iconic story, UNICO, Tezuka Productions in Japan was looking for creators to adapt the beloved story to new audiences, acclaimed novelist Samuel Sattin jumped at the chance. Together with the Eisner Prize-winning team of artists Gurihiru, they produced Unico: Alarm Clocka 162-page manga, which is currently working towards the end of its successful Kickstarter campaign.
Recently we were lucky enough to be able to get a moment of Samuel’s time to discuss his book and the honor of working on Osamu Tezuka’s opus. Unique. So, welcome Samuel Sattin to GVN’s Talking Comics.
GVN: Thank you very much for your time, Samuel. After browsing your website, you are an extremely busy man. But everyone has a beginning. So when did you first become interested in writing and what work inspired your efforts?
SS: Ha! Yes, extremely busy these days. Although in part, this may be because there was a time in my professional life where I desperately just wanted to work, but was too green to capture enough. It’s something that most writers and artists understand, I think. You live in a desert, and then, if you’re lucky, it rains a little, then a lot of rain, then it becomes a flood and all of a sudden you have to build a boat. I’m still building this boat.
As to where I started, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I love and loved fantasy growing up, so I wanted to write those kinds of stories, but growing up I realized that I wanted to write other kinds of stories too. Comics have been a huge part of my life ever since I bought a copy of Elf Quest at a Renaissance festival when I was 11, and spent most of my teenage years in comic book stores, flipping through trash cans and catching up with myself in the 90s. Deluge of images.
After a while I realized I liked the language in general, and when I got out of college I considered trying to become a translator; my dream was to work at the UN But I just couldn’t stop writing. I applied for a Masters in Creative Writing in the Bay Area, walked in, and dedicated myself to the pursuit, with all the good and bad that came with it.
Unico: Alarm Clock
GVN: I’d say it worked pretty well for you. Of course, the main reason we’re talking is your work with Tezuka Productions in Japan on the reimagining of Osamu Tezuka’s beloved character, Unico, in Unico: Alarm Clock with Gurihiru. How was this project born and did you know the character before being approached?
SS: This project was born through my friend, Deb Aoki. She introduced me to a person named Vince Shortino, who founded Crunchyroll Japan. I’m a huge Osamu Tezuka fan. His books have changed my life. When I told Vince this, I found out that he had worked with Tezuka Productions for a long time, and he said they were open to accepting proposals to adapt and/or reimagine some of their classic characters, including Unico. .
I jumped at the chance to put together a pitch, and to be honest, I still get goosebumps when I think about the fact that they accepted it. Working on this project has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I’m extremely grateful for that.
As for the character itself, yes, I knew Unico before. I had seen the movies as a kid and had read some comics. But I admit that I was much more absorbed by the world and the history of Unico when I started presenting it. I wanted to know everything I could.
GVN: For those who are unfamiliar, can you tell us a bit about Unico and what Unico: Alarm Clock is about?
SS: For those who may not be familiar with Unico, it tells the story of a young unicorn whose incredible power to spread kindness and love draws the wrath of the gods, including the goddess of beauty and beauty. love, Venus. She has his memory erased and banished from heaven, essentially trying to have him destroyed. Luckily, Venus’ servant, the West Wind, takes pity on Unico, saving him, with the caveat that she must erase his memories again each time he makes new friends, because when his powers awaken, he attracts the gaze of the gods. It’s the tragic story of someone who is never able to remember the friends he made or the lives he changed because of jealousy and envy.
Unico: Awakening is based on a chapter from the original Unico manga, called The Cat and the Broomstick. The original story is a bit difficult to break down step by step, so I’ll spare the readers that. But overall, it’s about how Unico befriends an abandoned young cat who wants to be a human and leave his felinity behind. Unico grants his wish, with some caveats in mind, which leads to him attracting the attention of a sadistic hunter, who in turn summons his own supernatural powers. Unico: Awakening pays homage to this manga chapter, while reinventing it for a new generation of readers. There you will see that some characters have been given larger roles. We have also provided a larger storyline as a backdrop to expand the Unico universe.
GVN: I imagine the stress of working on such an iconic story was considerable. How much pressure did you feel working on such a beloved character and did you have any flexibility in your narrative?
SS: A lot! However, in retrospect, it is possible that most of this pressure was self-applied. The great thing about working with Tezuka Productions is that they truly believe in the ideas that Osamu Tezuka himself stood for; namely that iteration and collaboration are good things, cross-cultural and otherwise.
I think it’s good to state that since I started thinking about the project, my main goal was to make sure it would be truly collaborative. I wanted to work with Gurihiru. I wanted to work with Tezuka Productions. The “with” part is important to me.
To be honest, working with Tezuka Productions has been a great and transparent experience. As you can see in our Kickstarter video, Yoshihiro Shimizu, COO at TP and former assistant to Osamu Tezuka, talks about his insistence that writers and artists have creative freedom when building projects. derivatives of Tezuka. It’s one of the reasons Gurihiru agreed to work on Unico: Awakening, and it’s part of what makes the project so exciting to me as a writer. We don’t just tell the Unico story. We get to reinvent it.
GVN: Speaking of your creative artistic collaborators, you work with the extremely talented team at Gurihiru. How much have you worked with them and what was that experience like?
SS: Unbelievable. Gurihiru is an extremely talented team, as you say, and I think their art style combines Japanese and Western comic styles in a new way. It’s great to work with them, not just because they’re talented, but because they have such a deep understanding of character design and the intricacies of visual storytelling. They are also very nice and we share a love of horror movies.
GVN: As we speak, you are nearing the conclusion of what has been an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign. As the days get shorter, what can fans find on the site that would inspire them to be a part of the Unico: Alarm Clock Crew?
SS: We have been incredibly grateful for the support we have received. Truly beyond words.
We have an incredible array of artwork to choose from. Besides the book by Gurihiru and myself, we offer a range of beautiful 16 x 24 inch prints from renowned artists such as Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier), Junko Mizuno (Ravina the Witch), Peach Momoko (X-Men: Demon Days), and Akira Himekawa (The Legend of Zelda). We also have what we call Amazing American Cartoon Artifacts.
Some of these items include a fashion lookbook by Rye Hickman, a mini comic by Steenz and a photo card by Amber Padilla, a large tarot card illustration by Julia Reck, and a picture book by Maddie Copp. All of these are Kickstarter exclusive, so I recommend checking them out before time runs out! It should also be mentioned that almost every dollar we raise goes to pay the artists and translators who made this project a reality.
GVN: Thank you for spending a few moments with us, Samuel. Before you let go, please share with our followers (if you can) some of your future plans and where they can follow you on social media or the web.
SS: Thanks. As for future projects, I just announced that I will be adapting Cartoon Saloon’s Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells into graphic novel format, which I’m really excited about. I also have a book coming out next year with Rye Hickman called Buzzing, from Little Brown for Young Readers. People can find me on @samuelsattin on Twitter, and the same goes for Instagram. I also have a newsletter you can subscribe to on my website where you can hear about what I do and see some of the weird dioramas I like to build.
It’s not too late to check out this great book and campaign. Just go to the Kickstarter campaign here.