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The epic legacy of Yi Soon Shin comes to America

Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender
Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender

When his friends suggested he take a look at a Korean TV series, Chicago writer Onrie Kompan had no idea what he had found. The Korean TV show from 2004 followed the intricate life of Korean Naval Commander Yi Soon Shin, the national hero who led a vastly outnumbered resistance to the Japanese invasion of 1592. Today, Onrie Kompan’s comic book series, entitled Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender, is the result of years of research and collaboration, including time spent in Korea with tourism organizations, renowned professors, and military historians.

“Once I decided to take on this project, I realized that this was something I had to do. I read up on the subject – every book on Yi Soon Shin that had been translated into English – and came to a point where I could go to Korea. When I was there, I took over 10,000 pictures to use as reference for the art team.”

Kompan found his creative team over time. In May 2008, he met with the Korean council and decided that though the dialogue and text of the book were developed, it was time for the visual component. He vetted freelance artists constantly, and it wasn’t until an artist based in Italy submitted his interpretation of the title hero that a partnership was forged. Shortly after Giovanni Timpano, the artist responsible for the vivid and historically accurate depictions, joined Kompan in his mission, the rest of the group materialized through mutual friends and professional connections. Currently, the creative team consists of Kompan, the writer, Timpano, the artist, Colorist Adriana De Los Santos, Letterer Joel Saavedra, Consulting Editors Mort Castle and Len Strazewski, and Editor David Anthony Kraft, formerly of Marvel Comics.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of this talented team, the legend of Yi Soon Shin, one of the most famous and celebrated historical figures in Korean history, is brought to life again: this time, accessible to an American audience as well. “Because it’s a period piece,” Kompan explains, “and because we’re reaching out to an American audience, we can give the characters certain slangs in dialogue, but in terms of the history itself, [it’s] one of those things we take the most pride in. There’s no reason to even exaggerate it. All the statistics [about Yi Soon Shin’s battles] are true…we want [these depictions] to be as accurate as possible.”

The second comic book in the series is due out in April 2010, and the first is available in stores now. Click here to find a store near you.