I was 17 when DC Comics released Ronin by Frank Miller and it blew my mind.
I was a huge Frank Miller fan from his work on Daredevil for Marvel, where he'd turned a second-rate Spider-Man into a cool, ninja-fighting, underworld-crushing, must-read superhero. He was writing and drawing, something that seemed almost impossible to me as well. He was one of the emerging comicbook superstars along with John Byrne, Walt Simonson and Howard Chaykin.
Naturally DC wanted him. Offered him an unheard of deal where he could actually own what he created. So given a free-hnad, he didn't recreate an alternative version of Daredevil. He created Ronin, a time-travelling sci-fi samurai epic, riffing of the Lone Wolf and Cub books he loved from Japan.
He took everything he loved and put a Western twist on it, making it likeable for American tastes, remixing what was done before into something fresh and amazing. I remember drawing for hours my own version of Ronin, eagerly awaiting each new issue (released every six weeks) and lusting over each panel, beautifully painted by Lynn Varley.
And the art style would change each issue as Frank grew in confidence as his influences pushed him into exciting new directions. This is the work of a master coming into his own, imagination unleashed.
Even the design was different. There was blood splattered across the logo. Panel borders were roughly drawn as were the speech bubbles. It was printed on beautiful paper. I remember though the covers (which had quotes from other creators like real books had) picked up your thumb prints on the black. At first I hated it but in the end I knew this was a book to be read, treasured and the thumb prints were proof of that.
I had this poster on my bedroom wall opposite my drawing table. All my characters had sharp cheekbones and carried samurai swords. I was doing my own comic strip about a sci-fi soldier with big shoulder pads and body armour and a sword on his hip. I think I managed six pages but they are long gone, thrown out when my family moved home and I was abroad. I wish I had them still to see at what my younger self dreamed of.
I still love Ronin today and I often pick up my beautiful oversized Absolute edition and read it. There's rumours that they are releasing an Artist's Edition shot from the original artwork. I'll buy that too when they do and salivate over every page once more.
As I sit here and write tales of cursed swords and demons, I can not help but wonder how much of an influence Frank Miller's Ronin has had on my life. If you haven't read it, do so. You'll not regret it.