When I decided to try to build a self-publishing empire, my immediate idea was a series of novellas similar in style to the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring my own cast of comic-book-like superheroes. Creating that cast proved to be a bit of a challenge.
And then it hit me. I didn’t have to start fresh. I had already thought up a couple of characters that would fit the bill! All I have to do is retool them a little bit. Make them more “adult” than the twelve year old me would have made them.
So I thought some fun blog posts about Then and Now would be interesting as I gear up to release the first of this exciting series, and the best start would be the hero of the story, The Ninja.
Twelve year old me imagined The Ninja as a crime fighting vigilante, dressed in black, expertly wielding any of the four ninja weapons we who came of age in the late 80s/early 90s all knew: katana, nunchuckus, sai, and a bo. I liked how, in the novelization of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action movie, the author capitalized “the” when referring to The Foot Clan, even in the middle of a sentence.
So I stole it, and The Ninja was born.
I was a huge nerd in grade school (difficult as that may be to believe) and I was always creating stories. Fan fiction, mostly. The other kids in my class always commented that I should create my own characters and sell this stuff instead of always using other people’s. In retrospect, I kind of wish I had tried to do that sooner.
The fellow nerds I hung out with also tried to create characters and stories. One created “Spud the Druggie,” who was always high on something. Yeah, we were cool. I honestly can’t remember if Spud was in response to The Ninja or if The Ninja was in response to Spud. But I always told Spud’s creator that The Ninja would defeat the druggie in battle.
I gave The Ninja a real name, but I have no idea what it was. Something Japanese sounding. Google didn’t exist back then, so I wasn’t able to research a list of real Japanese names and pick the one I liked the best. I can’t remember if he even had a motivation to fight crime. He just did.
During summer vacation, my school would let families take home the computers in the computer lab. As we had no family computer at home (not uncommon back then, millenials), we borrowed one. An Apple II/e. Very old school. No hard drive. It was on this ancient machine that I wrote my first Ninja story, all four pages of it. Yeah, you read that right: four pages. That was my Great American Novel.
I put The Ninja up against a mysterious, magical man in black that could turn himself into a giant dragon. Let me correct that: a DragoNinja. His big plan was to spit fire into the sun, thereby causing a supernova.
Embarrassing plot, character seriously lacking in detail. Fortunately, I’m better at what I do now. For the updated version, the Japanese nationality has been dropped. White American guy Rod Taylor, named for the actor, kills an opponent in the ring and it devastates him. Upon finding out that his opponent would have become a police officer after the Olympics, Rod decides to become the masked vigilante known only as The Ninja.
I believe the original story only included The Ninja and the DragoNinja as characters. I’ve expanded the universe with many supporting characters, including mentor Hideyoshi Mitzusaka and girlfriend Cheyenne Andrews.
I’m proud of the world I’ve created for Rod and for the upcoming superheroes like him. In particular, Hideyoshi is one of the best, funniest supporting characters I’ve devised. He is the one I’m happiest with.
Why stop with The Ninja? In fact, there were a host of short stories that I wrote back in high school that I can mine for inspiration and ideas. I never read comic books until more recently, but it turns out that I have a serious affinity for creating characters that would be at home in such an environment.
In the coming days, as I prepare to release The Ninja, I will detail more characters from it in this Then and Now format. Keep reading!