I’ve heard that my grandfather was quite the dandy when he was young. His favorite pastime was acting in amateur Peking Opera performances.
According to my admittedly fuzzy memory, when I was a toddler, my grandfather and I often went to watch Peking Opera performances at Pao Fu Kung, a temple in Taipei’s Yonghe District. I didn’t know a thing about opera, but the female characters in particular left a deep impression. They cut such striking figures on the stage, sometimes delicate and graceful, sometimes sharp and forceful. Those impressions have stayed with me, and often linger in my thoughts. It might be a snatch of reserved and elegant song, or the thrust of a sword or spear in a martial dance. To me, all of these performances are beautiful.
About five or six years ago, a thought occurred to me. Iron Man, Batman, Kamen Rider… so many superheroes wear masks to conceal their identity. But if a superhero were to paint their face like they do in Peking Opera, they wouldn’t need a mask.
I’ve always believed good stories usually arise out of a core concept that is powerful, yet ridiculously simple. But combining science fiction and traditional opera seemed far too ambitious. I hesitated, wondering if I could pull it off. However, one concept was just too compelling. It captivated me and became a vehicle for all those beautiful impressions of Peking Opera from my childhood. I simply had to draw it.
That concept was Yan, the story of a Peking Opera actress turned superhero.
About the Title Calligraphy
It is a great honor, and my good fortune, that the calligraphy of octogenarian manga master Hirata Hiroshi appears as the title characters of this graphic novel. Mr. Hirata is famous throughout Japan for his samurai-themed manga. His vigorous calligraphy also appears on the original posters for world-renowned anime classic Akira.
When I received the original of this monumental calligraphic work, I felt it as a blessing for the project. Of course, I also felt immense pressure. I had to produce the best graphic novel I could, no matter what the cost. My deepest gratitude to Mr. Hirata Hiroshi and to Mr. Wu, who surreptitiously arranged everything and made the trip to Japan to collect the artwork and deliver it to me.