Sometimes, you get a project brought to your attention that just seems like a success right from the start. And when that project is the work of a Father/Daughter team, it just confirms those beliefs. That was my mind set when Humanoids Shy Ninja was brought to our doorstep. With a background story that is right out of Chevy Chase’s Funny Farm (more on that in a bit) and a brilliantly told and illustrated book, Ricardo and Adara Sanchez’s creation is full of charm and will touch both children and adults alike. So it is with great pleasure that we welcome Ricardo Sanchez to GVN’s Talking Comics Interview.
GVN: Thanks for giving some of your time, Ricardo. First off, Shy Ninja is exceptional. It is easily accessible to both children and adults and artist Arianna Florean’s work is charming with an almost animated quality to it. But the most appealing part of the story is your collaboration with your daughter Adara.
A Writers Beginning
But let’s back up the truck and talk a little bit about your beginnings. When did you decide to take up writing and who were your inspirations? … besides Scooby Doo 😉 (I’m a big Scooby Doo fan myself…I thought the original theme song rocked).
RS: I’ve been writing and telling stories since I was eight or nine, although some of them might generously be described as elaborate fibs. I didn’t seriously take up writing until I was in college though, and I mostly focused on playwriting. At the time, I was a huge fan of Mel Brooks, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett…Kind of a weird mix, I know. I just really connected with the absurdity in their work; a theme that has stuck around in nearly everything I’ve written since, including Shy Ninja.
Rena, our heroine, has social anxiety disorder and struggles to go to school and make friends, so when she’s told her destiny is to save the ninjas, her reaction is to laugh at the idea. But it’s not lost on her that being a ninja would help her avoid unwanted human interaction. So she goes along with it, not expecting that becoming a ninja will push her to start dealing with her illness and put her in a position as the only one capable of stopping the story’s villain. (And is anyone NOT a fan of Scooby Doo, speaking of absurd?)
The Background Story
GVN: I’ve read the background story behind the concept for the book. It’s a great story. So, if you don’t mind, could tell our followers how the book came about and how you approached your daughter about using her story? (It’s kind of reminiscent of Chevy Chase’s Funny Farm, but you admitted up front that the story the publisher liked was your daughters, while Chevy took credit for his wife’s Squirrel story…see Chevy…this is how this was SUPPOSED to be done)
RS: (First…any interview with a reference to Funny Farm is AWESOME! I’m a huge Chevy Chase fan. I even liked Modern Problems. The Vacation movies are on permanent rotation.) Shy Ninja all started with a nine hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego Comic-Con back in 2018. Adara was 13 at the time and this was her first big comic convention. I was explaining about the crowds, the lines, and…she wasn’t really listening. She was drawing on her iPad, working on an illustration in her “Mutant Zoo” series.
I talked her into listening to my story pitches for a while, so I could practice before meeting with editors, and when I was done, she told me about an idea she wanted to draw, it was a girl who takes an online course to become a ninja because she’s shy. Shy Ninja. As soon as I heard the concept my jaw hit the ground. It was the kind of idea every writer wishes they’d thought of!
Well, fast forward a few days and I’m trying to sell my editor at Humanoids on one of my stories, when he stops me and says what he’s really looking for is something less “comic-booky,” maybe something for kids. I had nothing. So I told him about Shy Ninja. He had the exact same reaction I did and said “Let’s make it!” before I’d even finished the pitch. And yes, I did IMMEDIATELY admit it was my daughter’s idea, so we’d have to talk her into, which, thankfully she agreed to.
Artist Arianna Florean
GVN: It is a great story. Both how it came about and Shy Ninja. As I mentioned above, you have brought on talented artist Arianna Florean to bring Shy Ninja to life. How did that collaboration come about?
RS: We have Humanoids to thank for that! Fabrice, the editor who I was working with, was already thinking about her at that first pitch meeting, if I recall. Arianna really did an incredible job bringing our characters to life. She has such an amazing ability to capture expression and emotion.
GVN: She most certainly has that. The whole book screamed animation and I loved that about it. So now that Adara has not one but two comic creative credits to her resume does she perhaps have ambitions to follow in Dad’s footsteps, or at this early stage is she open to different paths?
RS: Adara is a smart, creative kid, but in many ways we are very different. I can’t draw. At all. Well, hangman stick figures. She has no interest in telling a story, at least not the way I do, with words. She’s more focused on illustrations that, themselves, are the story. She does have other interests, but she’s been talking about a career in art for a few years, and has really devoted her time and energy to improving her craft, so I’ve encouraged her to chase her passions. I’m not just a proud dad when I say that I think she has a pretty distinctive style that is all hers, and immediately recognizable. If you’re interested, you can see her work on Instagram. She’s WeirdSquidKreature.
GVN: I will most certainly check that out. Thanks for giving us a little of your time, Ricardo. Let’s finish with a pair of hypotheticals. Shy Ninja is a huge success.
GVN: Because of the already animated look to the project, you are offered a chance to have it adapted to an animated film. Whose voice could you see (or hear) as Rena?
RS: Hmmmm, tough one…To be honest, I was channeling Winona Ryder when I was writing it, but I think we’d probably have to go with either Dylan Conrique (from The Rookie) since she’s a local…or maybe Ariana Greenblatt, she was a lot of fun in Love and Monsters.
GVN: In addition, because of that success, you and Adara are offered an opportunity to collaborate on a one-shot story using any established comic characters from any publisher. Which characters do you think the team of Ricardo and Adara would like to tackle?
RS: Do you really have to ask? Scooby Doo!
GVN: We appreciate your answers and are looking forward to Humanoids Shy Ninja’s release on June 1st.
RS: Anything for a fellow Scooby Doo/Chevy Chase fan!
Humanoids Shy Ninja is a delightful book, with something for everyone. Be sure to check it out when it comes out on June 1st.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 17 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.