A question I get asked a lot about my new novel, THE CESTUS CONTRACT, is “where does it come from and what are your influences on it?” Okay, so that was two questions squished together. Usually, once they’ve posed the question, the asker will then go on to start guessing at those influences. The most popular guesses have been The Six-Million Dollar Man, Terminator, The Bourne Identity, Wolverine and The Matrix. All good choices and all things I am a fan of — all things that have probably added to what I wanted to do with the work itself.
However, the single biggest influence on the Weir Codex books is the work of a man absolutely no one has offered up as a guess. The man in question is Japanese manga artist and creative genius, Shotaro Ishinomori.
If you aren’t immediately familiar with the name, you will recognize his work — and the things that have come from it. If you’ve ever watched an episode of “The Power Rangers” here in the United States, then you’ve seen a product of material Ishinomori created back in the 60s with Cyborg 009 and in the 70s with Himitsu Sentai Gorenger (known as The Go-Rangers in the US) and J.A.K.Q. Dengekita. That’s right, Ishinomori was the creator of the original Power Rangers prototype series. Beyond that he created Kamen Rider, Kikaider, Skull Man, Inazuman and a host of other comics, anime, and live-action shows. His work also laid a lot of the groundwork for what would later become cyberpunk here in the United States.
The man was a creative dynamo who influenced popular entertainment all over the world. In fact, he was such a prolific manga artist, he was awarded the Guiness World Record for most comics published by one author for over 128,000 pages of material.
As a kid growing up in Hawaii, I was exposed to the work of Ishinomori from the very beginning. My earliest heroes didn’t come from comics (although that would follow very quickly), but came from watching Go-Rangers, JAKQ, Kikaider, and the various Kamen Rider shows. Those last two programs, and the comics I was able to dig up by haunting the local flea markets on weekends with my parents, nested themselves in my young brain and have remained there for the past 35+ years. The idea of cyborgs rebelling against the darker whims of their creators and striking out to make the world a better place portrayed so vividily in Kamen Rider, Kikaider, and Cyborg 009 (which I’d discover much later), would eventually become the core of what I wanted to do with my work on THE CESTUS CONCERN and its sequel, THE CESTUS CONTRACT.
(And, honestly, I will always believe the “Weapon X” comic storyline, written and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith, was highly influenced by, if not straight up “borrowed” from, the work of Ishinomori.)
The ideas of a secret organization hidden within the government, operating under its own rules and trying to control the hearts and minds of its operatives, is at the heart of much of his work. It’s pretty strong stuff that imprinted on my at a young age. Factor in that everything the man did was filled to the brim with action/violence and you’ve got the perfect formula for what turned my work is today.
If you haven’t checked out work from the man who really was Japan’s version of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby all rolled into one, then do yourself a favor and pick some up. There’s a lot of amazing stuff to be found at every point in his 40+ year career. Two places I’d suggest as entry points for more modern tastes would be the Cyborg 009 graphic novel from Archaia and the Kamen Rider Spirits manga. Both cool stories with a lot of action and excitement, although neither were done by Ishinomori himself they both hold up nicely to his legacy.
For another look at the man’s legacy, check out my new novel, THE CESTUS CONTRACT, for some of the most intense cyborg action around! Don’t miss out!
-Mat Nastos, Super Genius