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By 2017-08-09

By Faizer Shaheid

Sachi Ediriweera is an accomplished designer, writer and comic book artist. Apart from his design and illustration work, he has also built a career in filmmaking as a writer, producer and director of the acclaimed short films 'A Small Miracle', 'Wildings Within', 'HTM' and 'Garden of Bones'. His films have been screened in numerous film festivals around the world including in Germany, USA, South Korea and Australia. Here are excerpts from the interview with him:

Your first issue of Lionborn was a tremendous success we hear. How successful was it?

Yes, the feedback was really great. I had close to 100 copies of the first issue printed, which all sold out within a couple of hours. It was great to see the Sri Lankan geek community show their support for the book.

We hear you are releasing the complete series at the Asus Lanka Comic Con. Tell us about it?

Lionborn was originally planned as a seven-issue mini-series. After the release at Lanka Comic Con 2016 I was able to discuss the publication of the mini-series with few indie-comic publishers, but ultimately decided to self-publish the full series as one single book as it was more feasible for me as a creator.

The creative team also expanded a bit. I was able to work with Katie Kubert; a wonderful American comics editor who has edited titles as Batman and Nightwing for DC Comics. Katie did some re-editing and helped me make the plot a bit tighter. Toben Racicot, a Canadian comic book letterer also re-lettered the entire book. Apart from that, the final book will also have a variant art gallery section with artworks by 16 international comic artists. With a total of 192 pages, the book will be released at the upcoming Asus Lanka Comic Con 2017 (26-27 August) for the price of Rs 4,000 per book.

'Lionborn' is an interesting, yet intriguing title to give the comic. What made you choose the title?

It all came down to the source material honestly. In this case, it's the Sinhabahu story, where the title translates to "Lion-Arms". The original Sinhabahu legend says the character was half-man and half lion, with his arms being lion paws, which is why he was named Sinhabahu. In my story, I've kept things grounded: Unlike a literal lion in the original story, in Lionborn the Lion is a man who was once a great warrior. And for Sinhabahu, who I've renamed Sheerdas, the character wields gauntlets which resembles lion paws, which is how I imagined it could've been in reality. The story is about facing consequences of one's past, a story of legacy and redemption, so the title Lionborn was the perfect fit.

Could you give us a taste of the plot?

We follow two characters; Sheerdas and Sivali who are based on Sinhabahu and Sinhasivali from the original Sinhabahu legend. The story takes place 8 years after the siblings broke out of the cave and begins with Sheerdas returning to the city after a long absence to investigate a crime which Sivali has been wrongfully arrested of. In terms of genre, it's a crime story set in the medieval age.

Is the graphic novel entirely based on folklore and myth, or does it have an element of creativity added?

Only key plot points of the Sinhabahu story were used in Lionborn. That too, was to construct the backstory for the characters. Much of the book is an original story-- which of course, eventually hits the climax of the original legend, which is Sinhabahu fighting his own father. In terms of genre, I wanted to approach this as a crime story, so there's a lot of that here. The one thing I didn't want to do was to have any supernatural elements... in other words, I wanted the story to feel as realistic as possible.

This is a joint venture by you and Colourist, Chris Lissman. It is important that both of you are on the same page if this project was to work. How challenging is it tobe on the same page at all times?

Chris is the main colorist on the book. He is based in Colorado, USA and we collaborated on the entire project through e-mails. Working with Chris was pretty straightforward actually as he understood the tone I was looking for. It was rarely that I asked for a complete change in colors on a scene. Another thing to note is, Lionborn is a creator-owned project; we were free to work on this at our own pace, unlike a comic project for a publisher where we have to stick with strict deadlines.

Is Lionborn being distributed in other countries too, or it purely a Sri Lankan release?

The book will be released in Sri Lanka first and then in Dubai. After that I am planning to expand the availability to countries that have a strong comic reading community going on. Since Lionborn is self-published, it will be a challenge, but a welcome one for sure.

Now that the seven part series is complete, what next for Sheerdas and Seevali?

Lionborn is a stand-alone story and most likely will stay that way. Mainly because, as a creator I am more interested in exploring new stories with new characters and see what else I can come up with.

Any plans of having a movie adaptation of the comics?
Not as of now. But, completely open to the idea.

Any plans of releasing Lionborn in Sinhala and Tamil too for the benefit of the Sinhala and Tamil speaking comic fans?

Oh yes, this is something I am definitely considering as long as I can find the right people to translate and produce the book.

You have a very close affiliation with the Geek Club of Sri Lanka, and they are responsible for organizing the Asus Lanka Comic Con. Tell us something about the Sri Lankan version of Comic Con and why you chose Comic Con to be the date of releasing Lionborn?

Comic Cons around the world are essentially events that celebrate comics, movies, games, cosplay and anything geek. So, when GCSL organized its first ever event, I knew it would be something special. So, last year I worked closely with the organizers and helped them with few aspects of the event. Launching Lionborn at the Lanka Comic Con was the obvious choice because it was by default an event celebrating comics. You had people who love comics attending and it gave me a great opportunity to meet folks who have been following my work online as well.

Comic Cons in other countries are a massive affair with celebrities and industry guests in attendance. I am glad to say, this year's Lanka Comic Con is taking things a notch higher with international guests in attendance for the first time ever. The event is happening 26-27 August at the SLECC. You can learn more at www.lankacomiccon.lk

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