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There have been plenty of discussions over the past few years around diversity in comics and animation — in terms of the characters as well as the creatives crafting the stories. Although there is more work to be done to make both more inclusive, the success of comic book movies such as Into the Spider-Verse and Black Panther and comics including Ironheart and Ms. Marvel proves that mainstream audiences will support a good project in worlds featuring diverse characters when executed well.
Moving Ink Media — founded by husband-and-wife team Carrie and Alan Tupper and artist Havana Nguyen — is striving to create such a world by adapting their award-winning webcomic Kamikaze into an animated film. (Full disclosure: I'm friendly with the creators and was paid to upload a press release. I wrote this story simply based on enthusiasm, with no payment.)
The YA story takes place on Earth 2235 after a catastrophic natural event wipes out almost all plant life on Earth. The parts of the planet that aren’t desert are centered around pockets of the remaining cropland still left. The government has been replaced by warring factions who fight to control these resources, forcing everyone else to pay a premium or eke out a meager living in a harsh landscape.
Markesha Nin is a teenager living in Trinity, a city on the outskirts of one of these fertile areas. She works as a courier and a runner to provide for herself and her father Toshi (who happens to be blind), but she never quite makes enough to make ends meet. Under the threat of eviction, Markesha takes a risky job with a high payoff that ends up blowing up in her face.
Luckily she is saved by Orson Stykes, leader of a covert resistance organization fighting the factions from underground. In exchange for saving Markesha’s life, he offers to bring her into their ranks. Headstrong and fast, Markesha doesn’t have powers, per se, but she does have a hi-tech backpack that gives her the ability to fly.
Now she’s known all over Trinity by her code name: “Kamikaze.” And her mission is to “tip the scale of power in the dystopian city she calls home.”
If it seems as if the art has a manga or anime feel, that’s on purpose.
“When we started Kamikaze, it was an idea for an animated series well before streaming services with original content was a thing,” says Alan Tupper, “So we forged ahead to marry two mediums into a comic that LOOKED animated.” They must have been onto something, because currently they are in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign for both an animated short, Embrace the Fire, and a companion anthology called Short Circuits, both of which take place in the Kamikaze universe.
Unlike many crowdfunders, who wait to get their money before they commence work on a project, the team has already started animating Embrace the Fire. The award-winning Florida-based animation studio Echo Bridge Pictures (TMNT/Nickelodeon; F Is for Family/Netflix), helmed by Esteban Valdez, has picked up the project and has already started animation tests.
Carrie’s previous work in animation has granted her valuable connections, and she was able to convince notable voiceover talent from the anime world to join the project. Including Monica Rial, (Dragon Ball, Super: Broly gen: Lock, My Hero Academia), YouTube star and musician Johnathan Young and Dani Chambers (Ancient Magus Bride, Tokyo Ghoul), who’s voicing the title character Markesha.
They didn’t stop there, though. The team is also working on new anthology Short Circuits, a 64-page anthology of four short stories that take place in the world of Kamikaze with a small crew of collaborators. Writer Robert Jeffrey III (Route 3, Radio Free Amerika) is thrilled to be working with Moving Ink on this project.
“I just loved the fact that there was this woman of African-American descent kicking butt on a sci-fi, cyberpunk landscape," he says. Other creatives on the project include artist Takeia Marie, Skeritz (Scorpio), and Dan Jolley (Dr. Strange/Marvel; G.I. Joe/Image). Post-campaign, Moving Ink is committed to shopping the pilot around to create a 13-episode series.
If they make their $27,000 Kickstarter goal, Moving Ink will have managed to do what so many companies claim is impossible: source ethnically diverse talent to tell an incredible adventure story with beautiful art, a series of well-written stories, and kickass animation.
If you’d like to contribute to Kamikaze's Animation and Anthology Kickstarter, click HERE.