Hungry Ghosts (the Graphic Novel)

The result of an all-stretch-goals-reached Kickstarter, HUNGRY GHOSTS revisits the work of Lafcadio Hearn, a Victorian-era European writer who, in his book KWAIDAN: STORIES AND STUDIES OF STRANGE THINGS (the most famous of his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories), told a story of Isogai Heidazaemon Taketsura, a samurai who renounced his old life and became a wandering priest.

An adept warrior, Taketsura was more than a match for various supernatural threats such as goblins with detachable flying heads. HUNGRY GHOSTS is an expanded imagining of Taketsura’s story: a man of strength and lethal power seeking a more spiritual path, in the midst of post-war famine, Taketsura must face death, monsters, and of course ghosts – some of which are his own.

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“Call me crazy, but I like my Westerns a little Eastern. HUNGRY GHOSTS has it all if you’re looking for action, adventure, and skillful sword fights. It’s also built over a nice, healthy skeleton of supernatural horror drawn from Japanese mythology (Buddhist and otherwise). Taketsura, a 15th century samurai-turned monk, roves a countryside beset by monsters and immoral mortals, cleaning things up. The artwork is gorgeous, reminiscent of 28 DAYS OF NIGHT and the moody, noir-ish images of Kurosawa, the writing is perfectly paced, and the mythology is so well researched and finely crafted that it doesn’t get in the way of the marvelous story. I found delightful surprises on every page.”

–Jai Sen, author of THE MALAY MYSTERIES

“Written like an Akira Kurosawa samurai epic by husband-and-wife writing team Barb Lien-Cooper and Park Cooper, with haunting imagery by artist Jeremy Dumouchel that mines the depths of Stephen King’s creepiest tales, HUNGRY GHOSTS is sweeping in the breadth of its storytelling about a fallen samurai’s quest for redemption through war-ravaged 15th century Japan, all the while fueling the horrors of your next nightmare with its dark, brooding artwork!”

–Darryl Hughes, author of “The LookyLoo”

“HUNGRY GHOSTS is a dark epic of a samurai turned priest who devotes his life to atone for past sins. Amazing artwork compliments the story perfectly. It combines the best of horror and Eastern fantasy. Any fan of dark sagas or legendary tales would find this adventure a necessary addition to their library.” –Matti Silver,

“Once I was an avid superhero comic reader. Every Wednesday I’d line up at my local shop of choice and buy several cape-and-mask books. At the time I wasn’t interested in reading anything other than that genre. However, when I’d come across a book featuring a wandering samurai or the supernatural, I’d add it to my batch. So, if I could go back in time and tell myself that there was a graphic novel that not only features the supernatural but also a wandering samurai—12-year-old Michael would be frothing at the mouth.

HUNGRY GHOSTS hooked me with its sharp writing, haunting artwork, and visually engaging action. Together, these elements create a dreamlike quality for the reader.

Much like The Last Voyage of The Demeter is an adaptation of “The Captain’s Log” from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, HUNGRY GHOSTS is an expanded imagining of Victorian-era European writer Lafcadio Hearn’s story from KWAIDAN: STORIES AND STUDIES OF STRANGE THINGS. Hearn tells of Isogai Heidazaemon Taketsura, a samurai who relinquished his old life and became a wandering priest.

During his journey, Taketsura goes from battling men who have given up their humanity in favor of survival. To praying for their souls after he splits them in two. 

HUNGRY GHOSTS pushed me to contemplate my philosophy on life, while also somehow giving me much-needed light-hearted entertainment. That’s a tremendous balancing act that Lien Cooper and Cooper have pulled off.

I highly recommend HUNGRY GHOSTS for fans of Rurouni KenshinSamurai Champloo, and Blade of the Immortal.”

– Michael Stinson, writer, BITEMARK

What inspired the creative team to write this story?

There aren’t a lot of days where you can point and say: “This changes everything.” However, I had one of those magical days many years ago when I saw the Akira Kurosawa psychological mystery Rashomon and the samurai anime Rurouni Kenshin within hours of each other. I have spent years watching Asian cinema (from Shaw Brothers martial arts films, to samurai epics such as Yojimbo and Kill!, to Asian horror films such as A Tale of Two Sisters and The Ring), watching anime, reading manga, reading about Asian culture, religion, spirituality, societal structures, history, and mythology. My interests eventually led my husband and me to get freelance jobs as editors/adapters with Viz, Toykopop, and Del Rey’s manga division.

When I was watching Asian cinema, I came across a beautiful, haunting supernatural film called Kwaidan (which is Japanese for “weird tale/ghost story”). Kwaidan led me to watching hundreds of Asian horror films, trying– with various degrees of success– to recapture that feeling I felt when I watched Kwaidan. The movie was based on a book of Japanese supernatural folk tales written by Lafcadio Hearn, a westerner who went to live in Japan in the late 19th century. He collected Japanese folk tales, and introduced them to the audiences outside of Japan. The stories were simple, graceful, and haunting. There was one about a samurai priest who battled oni (a Japanese term for demons and other assorted monsters). I was saddened that only one story had been written about the character. So, my husband and I wrote a four-issue graphic novel expanding the story, trying to evoke the feel of the era’s world of war, death, life, and the afterlife.

I wanted the graphic novel to look like the film Kwaidan, which was known for its unusual imagery, but as a samurai story, the work had to have a sense of motion and movement to it, like a Shaw Brothers film such as Come Drink with Me. I just about gave up, but then we saw Jeremy’s art. It had sophistication, but also had raw power. It used color in ways that were extremely moving. His work leapt from the page. It had style, grace, visceral action, and most of all, a sense of movement to it. Often in comics, action sequences look frozen in time, as if the characters had posed for a sequence instead of enacting it. Jeremy’s work made me feel that I was there, watching terrifying, exciting scenes of fighting not just for one’s life, but for one’s soul. I could almost smell the blood and sweat, could almost hear the swords clashing. It was a color movie come to life. I was reminded of the supernatural Asian folk art I had collected hanging around my house and on my computer. I couldn’t help but feel totally enthralled.

I’m proud of the writing my husband and I did for this work, but I am especially proud of Jeremy; his work is totally compelling.

– Barb Lien-Cooper