Ultraman Manga Interview: Creators Eiichi Shimizu And Tomohiro Shimoguchi
Attendees of the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con had an opportunity to meet Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi, creators of the new Ultraman (ウルトラマン Urutoraman) manga series, during their first international appearance at the Mecca of comic book culture. Appearing at the massive VIZ Media booth, the brains behind the latest Ultraman comic book series were enthusiastic to be part of the festivities, meet with fans and sign autographs throughout the July 8-12 weekend.
Currently serialized in Hero’s magazine in Japan, Ultraman has sold more than 1.5 million copies. The English language edition will be released in North America by VIZ Media starting August 18th.
Shimizu developed the manga’s story, script and mechanical design while Shimoguchi provided character design and art. In this incarnation, readers get a glimpse of the iconic Hayata and his family 40 plus years after the events of the classic ULTRAMAN show. During an Ultraman panel at Comic-Con, Shimizu and Shimoguchi revealed this concept was developed after they received a note that their bosses wanted the manga to be a sequel to the original television series. This caused some scrambling since storyboarding had already begun.
Shimizu also mentioned that he had originally turned down the offer to write the series, adding, “We received direction that there would be no Kaiju in it, and we said but how can we tie it into the TV series with no Kaiju?” They overcame these restrictions and the adjusted storyline has caught on with the public, including the old guard Ultraman fans.
Shortly after Ultraman‘s debut in Hero’s, VIZ editor Mike Montesa pushed the title with his company for publication in English. Montesa asked his boss and the editorial team to take a look at the manga; everyone enjoyed it and VIZ began working out the license. Production of the English language version began in 2014.
Comic-Con attendees also had the pleasure of picking up advance copies of the manga at the VIZ Media booth. During Shimizu and Shimoguchi’s first autograph session, a special bundle containing Ultraman Vol. 1 and an exclusive edition Ultraman manga figure by Bandai sold out in 19 minutes flat. The creative team was truly impressed by the love for Japan’s King of the Heroes.
Representing SciFi Japan at SDCC, Edward L. Holland of Monster Attack Team and Gary Teetzel sat down with Shimizu and Shimoguchi for a brief interview about the series…
SciFi Japan: How are you enjoying Comic-Con?
Eiichi Shimizu: I’ve always wanted to come, so I’m just thrilled to be here. I can’t tell you how happy I am and how much fun I’ve been having.
Tomohiro Shimoguchi: For me, too. I’ve always wanted to come to Comic-Con, so the fact that I’ve actually been able to make it here is like a dream come true.
SciFi Japan: How were you first approached to work on this new incarnation of the Ultraman franchise?
Eiichi Shimizu: We received an offer from the publisher of Hero’s magazine.
We had initially self-published a web comic based on the Kamen Rider series. So the original concept was actually to potentially do a Kamen Rider project, but for various reasons that project fell through and that’s when things evolved to become an Ultraman project.
SciFi Japan: Did Tsuburaya Productions give you guidelines or restrictions for the project?
Eiichi Shimizu: We didn’t receive any sort of specific direction necessarily. There were definitely restrictions, but that was way towards the beginning and now we’re actually given quite a lot of creative license and freedom.
SciFi Japan: There have been many variations in Ultraman’s appearance over the years, in everything from the TV series to posters and even record art. Your design is quite different. What was your inspiration?
Eiichi Shimizu: It might be hard to believe, but when we first received the concept they wanted the story to be about a character who puts on a suit and becomes Ultraman and battles monsters, this was literally the first thing that I drew. It just came out of me. It wasn’t any long thought process or anything like that. And it pretty much ended up just like you see on paper.
SciFi Japan: Were toy figure aesthetics a consideration? We’ve heard you are both big fans of figure collecting.
Eiichi Shimizu: Actually, no. We were not consciously designing the characters with figures in mind. Although we are figure fans.
SciFi Japan: Are there figure companies that are particular favorites?
Eiichi Shimizu: Hot Toys and Sideshow Collectibles.
Tomohiro Shimoguchi: 3A Toys.
SciFi Japan: Were you excited to see your version of Ultraman turned into a figure by Bandai?
Tomohiro Shimoguchi: Of course, very happy — absolutely!
Eiichi Shimizu: It’s the biggest toy company in Japan so it’s a tremendous honor.
SciFi Japan: The first issue of your book features Shin Hayata, alter ego of the original Ultraman. Will alter egos from other series such as ULTRA SEVEN, RETURN OF ULTRAMAN or ULTRAMAN ACE appear in future volumes?
Eiichi Shimizu: It is up to Volume Six in Japan and other characters will appear. There are definitely things coming up so we’re sorry to keep the fans waiting, but please keep your eyes open for the others.
SciFi Japan: And will there be appearances by any classic Ultraman foes?
Eiichi Shimizu: Yes, there will be and already some are appearing in the Japanese volumes.
SciFi Japan: What is your favorite Kaiju from the Ultraman series?
Eiichi Shimizu: Eleking.
Tomohiro Shimoguchi: (Laughs) King Joe.
Eiichi Shimizu: How about you guys?
SciFi Japan: It is hard to say, probably Bemstar… there are so many. Tyrant and Grand King as well.
Eiichi Shimizu: You guys are very knowledgeable.
SciFi Japan: Have you had any particularly memorable responses to your manga in Japan since it was first released in 2011?
Eiichi Shimizu: Well, it’s actually very amazing to us that we’ve received touching fan letters from gentlemen who are much older than us, who watched the original ULTRAMAN series when it originally aired live. We never imagined we would get such positive feedback from first generation fans like that.
SciFi Japan: Since some of your previous manga like Linebarrels of Iron have been successfully adapted into anime, are their hopes this series will make a transition to movies or television?
Eiichi Shimizu: There’s been a lot of discussion about it, but the green light has not yet been given. So any support we can receive from our American allies or fans would be much appreciated.
SciFi Japan: The Ultraman manga promotional trailers and motion comics make us want to see an anime treatment. How do you feel about them?
Eiichi Shimizu: Motion comics are definitely an amazing technology. The technology has advanced to the point where I watch it and go “God, I guess we don’t even need the anime if we have the motion comic!”
SciFi Japan: VIZ Media’s publication of your Ultraman manga marks the character’s first American comic appearance in a number of years. How does it feel to be part of the next chapter of Ultraman in North America?
Eiichi Shimizu: We’re both very happy and honored to be involved with this project. Even in Japan I would say that Ultraman is not the ever-visible presence that it was in the past. There are fewer and fewer children who have seen or are watching Ultraman. And there are fewer new properties coming out. So we are definitely very excited and very honored to be able to imbue new blood into Ultraman by being involved.
Ultraman Charity Auction for Wounded Warrior Project!
With the assistance of VIZ Media, Edward L. Holland has acquired an original, one-of-a-kind Ultraman illustration by Tomohiro Shimoguchi (and signed by both creators) for the Wounded Warrior Project charity online auction by Monster Attack Team. 100% of the proceeds will go to the charity, so please support a great cause and bid on this incredible piece of art. Check out MAT Facebook and website for more information soon.
Edward L. Holland is the Captain of Monster Attack Team and a recurring contributor to SciFi Japan.
About VIZ Media, LLC
Headquartered in San Francisco, California, VIZ Media distributes, markets and licenses the best anime and manga titles direct from Japan. Owned by three of Japan’s largest manga and animation companies, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media has the most extensive library of anime and manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa.
With its popular digital manga anthology Weekly Shonen Jump and blockbuster properties like NARUTO, BLEACH and INUYASHA, VIZ Media offers cutting-edge action, romance and family friendly properties for anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages. VIZ Media properties are available as graphic novels, DVDs, animated television series, feature films, downloadable and streaming video and a variety of consumer products. Learn more about VIZ Media, anime and manga at VIZ.com.
For more information on the Ultraman manga, please see the previous coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- VIZ Media To Debut New Ultraman Manga Inspired By Classic Japanese Superhero This August!
- VIZ Media Welcomes Ultraman Manga Creators to 2015 Comic-Con