J.P. Perez is an extremely talented artist working on an ambitious project based off of the Super Mario Bros. series. In Ronin of the Mushari Kingdom, Perez is putting Toad in the starring role against the evil General Bozuru and his army of goombas and other evil beasties. I had the good fortune of chatting with J.P. about the project that he and his writing partner, J. Hough, came up with just based off a picture he threw up on his Deviantart Page.

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With just a picture and an idea for a story, he teamed up with Hough and fleshed out a script taking that one image, and turning it into a graphic novel. But what was the best way to get their name out there and to help get it created? Crowdsourcing the project on Kickstarter of course!

Casey: Okay, so Ronin of the Mushari Kingdom. Started as a concept and branched out to a comic. What made you decide to jump into it past the initial image?

Ronin of the Mushari Kingdom 1JP: Well, the main reason is that I took it to shows and conventions, and the response to it was just very positive. A lot of people asked if it was a “thing” that I’m developing. During that time, I only had a very simple backstory to the piece, which I used as sort of pitch to see what people thought.. and it was always a very positive feedback that I got.

After a few shows, I kind of kept expanding the backstory until I finally decided to flesh it out. I’m not too much of a writer, so I partnered up with my writer friend, J.Hough, since he was very into the premise already and he too witnessed the fans of the piece during shows and cons. It was at Megacon this year that we decided that we had to do it for them.

Casey: That’s amazing. It’s funny how a convention can shape things. They have such a great buzz about them, people all with similar minds bouncing ideas off each other. That’s great.

Ronin of the Mushari Kingdom preview_pageJP: Yeah, it’s really amazing. I’m glad to be able to experience that. I never thought I would.

Casey: So, you partner with your friend, and you said “Okay, let’s do this” Did you then write all of the 9 issues you have planned, or just the first one?

JP: J.Hough and I developed the whole arc of the series, well of the first 9 issues. After that, J.Hough broke down the arc into 3 volumes. 3 issues make a volume. So far, the first 3 issues are laid out, and the first 2 issues are completely scripted while the 3rd nears completion. We work closely together to get the theme and where the story goes for each issue, and then he comes up with some great plot points and dialogue. We give each other feedback on the writing and the art, so it’s been a good experience. He’s come up with some seriously cool theming throughout each issue, each volume, and throughout the whole series. For instance, this first issue is called “Out of the Fire”, and there’s just a theme throughout the issue that works well with that.

Casey: Could “out of the fire” imply that we may see Bowser’s classic flame mouth, or possibly a certain flower with pyrotechnic properties?

JP: Haha, well, we definitely keep all those great nuances of the Super Mario franchise in mind when creating the issues. We spent a lot of time remembering the great things that we loved in the games.. and we are creatively showcasing that in our story. I can say that if it’s not in this issue, then we planned it for a later issue. But of course, we are definitely putting our own spin on everything. We’ve gone as far as to change the whole mythos and even hierarchy of the main characters; but yeah…one of those are in this issue, haha.

Casey: Haha, nice. Well being that Toad is the main man, that’s already a deviation from the original story. What made you decide on him as the focus as opposed to everyone’s favorite Plumber?

JP: I’ve always had a soft spot for the little guy! I really enjoyed him on SMB 2 and even in Mario Kart. I’m not sure if it’s anything subconscious or whatever, but I wanted the little guy who nobody paid attention as the spotlight character and to prove himself worthy. I do love the dynamic of the Mario brothers, and the characters based of their archetypes will play a very big part in our story.

Casey: That’s a good way of putting it, a bit of the underdog that always has to prove himself. What other classic Mario characters should we be looking forward to seeing? Without giving away too much of course.

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JP: We’ve got most of the main ones in there. The brothers and the Princess are a given. But we have a unique take on the amazing range of enemies that live in that universe. Characters like the goombas and koopas, Boos, one or two of Bowser’s kids… even the beloved Yoshi; who will be featured in this first issue! Just a lot of fun stuff! Famous items are included as well. One thing I’d like to touch upon is Bowser’s character. Remember how he was King Koopa, then became known as Bowser? Well, we have our reasons for that.

Casey: Oh really? So we get to see that transition?

JP: Oh yeah, the first issue is pretty much that transition.. and is about the history of the Universe we created.

Casey: That sounds very, VERY cool.

JP: Haha thanks!

Casey: What made you go the Kickstarter route? How’s your experience been with that?

JP: We chose Kickstarter because I researched where a lot of interesting and successful crowd-funded books got their start. It was mostly the popularity of the site along with some other referrals that got us to commit to it. We had a very strong start which slowed down a bit in the middle. Now that we are in the last week, it has picked up. We are truly grateful for our backers for believing in us and our work.

As of right now, we are at 73% and we have until this Saturday night to make it.

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Casey: Oh, you’ll make it just fine. Believe me. You’re so close to the end.

JP: I appreciate the words of encouragement.. thank you!!

Casey: So, is there any last things that you want to let our fans know about the project?

Ronin of the Mushari Kingdom Bridge conceptJP: Well, whenever we meet people at shows and cons, I want people to look at my art and feel like the artist actually cares for his subjects. I’m a huge fan just like they are of good art and stories, and we are on our way to making other titles come to life. J.Hough is in the midst of launching a really cool detective story featuring anthropomorphic animals, and I’m on my way to developing kid friendly stories and art. We are here to create, and we hope that people enjoy it.

Casey: I think what you guys are doing is fantastic by taking what we’ve all grown up with and turning it into something that’s familiar and yet entirely different; without screwing it up like the Dennis Hopper version.

JP: Yeah, Hollywood is.. interesting. Luckily, we have an amazing team of talent that will be contributing to our work, and we all working hard to do our part in making products come to fruition. 

Casey: Hahaha, they don’t call it Hollyweird for nothing. JP, You’ve been a blast to talk to, and very professional! I have no doubt you’ll make that last bit of money, and probably then some, to fund the project. We’ll do anything we can do over here at DFAT to help!

JP: Thank you Casey, you’ve been the best interviewer ever!!  Again, I truly appreciate you taking time to do this.

Thanks again to J.P. for chatting with us about Ronin of the Mushari Kingdom and we can’t wait to talk about more of his work in the future. Make sure to donate to the Kickstarter Campaign as there’s only a couple of days left! If you’d like to learn more about J.P. Perez and J. Hough, you can check out their links below!

JP Perez: Facebook, Deviantart, Tumblr, YouTube Page, Ronin Facebook Page

J. Hough: YouTube, upcoming Bad Hare Day Facebook page, illustrated by Perez.