Captain Harlock is back in a new 6-issue comic series from ABLAZE publishing. The series is a Western retelling of the original Captain Harlock series from the late 1970s and early 1980s, created with the approval of original creator Leiji Matsumoto. We interviewed European artist Jerome Alquie about bringing the classic series to a new generation of readers.
Bonjour, Jerome. Congratulations on landing the gig of drawing Captain Harlock for a new generation of readers in the West. How did you get the job?
Thank you so much! It's a great pleasure and honor for me to bring back such a beloved character and help introduce him to a new generation.
I was able to get this job because I've been in the field of illustration for about 20 years – for DVD covers, posters, commercial illustrations, and other work-related to animated series of the 80s, those of my childhood, of which Captain Harlock is of course part.
I also created French-Belgian comics, and it is this experience and my passion for the original anime that resulted in this project.
When did you first discover Captain Harlock? Was it the original TV series that was syndicated worldwide?
Like many children of my generation, I discovered Captain Harlock thanks to the TV series broadcast in 1980 in France as well as the 2nd series that followed in '84. I wasn't necessarily a devoted fan at the time, but I rediscovered the shows in the 90s when I was almost an adult, and I totally fell in love with the series, the artwork and designs, and the charisma of this character. The themes it covered were much more mature than other Manichaean (good versus evil) series, and it really accentuated my passion for Captain Harlock.
Captain Harlock has a huge following in France, as Captain Albator, more than any other country outside of Japan. What do you think his enduring appeal is for French fans?
People who grew up in the 80s saw the first Japanese cartoons arrive in France, and Albator was one of them. We all have a very vivid memory of this charismatic pirate with his skull on his torso and on his ship, his special crew, and his fights against the plant humanoids called Sylvidres, who burned like paper when they died. There is a lot of nostalgia and emotion for the little girl who played the ocarina and who looked up to the sky while waiting for the return of her tutor, Albator. There was a lot of emotion, romance, poetry, and of course the space battles that really resonate with my entire generation when we were youths; and even today, we can look at it in a very nostalgic way because, through its adventures for children there were also adult themes, such as robotics, immortality, and ecology that extremely present in our current society.
I think it is this duality that allows the series to endure.
Was the intention of this new comic series to reboot the story of the original 1970s anime series?
We started with Leiji Matsumoto's original manga. I'm a fan of this first series because it's the one I find the most moving. This new work is not a reboot but a kind of unpublished episode that fits within the general chronology of the original series. A kind of 43rd special episode. There are a lot of references to the anime series as well as Matsumoto's manga, but you can read it even if you have never seen the series, I assure you ^^!!!!
I was very keen to respect the original work while trying to modernize the drawings and color a little bit so that people of my generation could relive their childhood memories for a few moments and share them with a new generation.
You work hard to retain the look and feel of Matsumoto-sensei's original art and combined manga-style storytelling with European storytelling. Did you work with Matsumoto-sensei on the style and pacing of the new comic?
You summed it up perfectly ^^! In fact, I wasn't interested in creating a manga because the Japanese are much better at it! I wanted to bring a more European touch.
And of course, everything is overseen by Leiji Matsumoto, from the initial story to the breakdowns, to the final pages. For me, this was the most moving part of the entire process to discuss Captain Harlock with the master. I am very happy to have been able to collaborate with him. It was a great adventure that will always remain in my heart.
I wish you a good read.
Captain Harlock #1 is out on June 9th.