A Brief History of Ninja Guy

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Ninja Guy 1994
Scan 1
A panel by Lee Gilmore for “Always and Forever”

As far as I can tell, I began doodling Ninja Guy in my high school notebooks as early as 1994. In 1996, I began passing around a notebook full of blank comic book panels asking my classmates to contribute something to the on-going story. So the concept of improv theater in comic book form had its beginnings for me with Ninja Guy. The only rule for the Ninja Guy improv sessions was that no two people could contribute after one another, so the rotation of artists had to be at least 3 people before an individual could contribute again. That first comic from 1996 (titled Always and Forever) was 20 pages and written by 12 high school kids. This can be considered the First Ninja Guy who met his untimely fate by using all of his Ninja Powers in one final burst to renew the cosmos.

Micah and Ryan panel drawings for Mmmm… ‘sketti…

Then in college, I passed around another notebook full of blank panels, and a different Ninja Guy was born. This Ninja Guy titled Mmmm… ‘sketti… lasted 39 pages before getting blown up near his home in New Hampshire; however, he appeared to survive the atomic blast. This book was written by 7 people, the majority of it by Keith Douchant, and Ryan Buller, (who also contributed to the first one) and Christian Lawrence and myself.

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Keith Douchant’s Ninja Guy
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Christian Lawrence’s Ninja Guy

Then also in college, I started collaborating on a new idea with these three friends who all helped come up with the plot of a comic I would draw. This comic was about 70 or 80 pages long and, unlike NJ improv sessions, illustrated on high quality Bristol board. However, after completing it, I was ultimately dissatisfied with my drawing style and decided to pitch the whole thing. The basic idea for the story encapsulated the belief that “Super Heroes” were like football jocks and “Super Villains” were the nerdy loser crowd that usually got picked on by the former. It’s in this story that Ninja Guy meets the love of his life, Jenny.

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From Ninja Fish: Sherry Buller, Ryan Buller, Micah then Sherry’s panels
a Ryan Buller splash page
a Ryan Buller splash page

This was followed by another improv comic that lasted 36 pages (Ninja Fish), and a brief 6 page comic (Badminton Europa 2004). Jenny remains a major character throughout this run, and the tone of the book is much less violent or crass (yet way more absurd). Also it should be noted that more female contributors helped with this book then in previous sessions including Sherry Buller who became a major contributor from this point forward.

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From the NJ origin story: Ryan, Micah, Sherry, Ryan then Micah’s panels

The last improv comic lasted only 12 pages and remains incomplete. It appears to be about the origins of the second Ninja Guy.

There are at least 3 sidebar Ninja Guy comics that I created just for fun. None of them really contribute to the Ninja Guy legacy. They just appear to be special appearances by the second Ninja Guy that he probably did for charity or something. He also makes a brief appearance in the improv web comic, Pannin’ for Clumps.

While it is known what happened to the first Ninja Guy, the fate of the second Ninja Guy and his wife Jenny remains a mystery to this day.

The third (and newest) Ninja Guy appears for the first time in the 2014 Ninja Guy comic, chapter title New Felt Friendships. Get it today to learn more!

Making Ninja Guy 1

NinjaGuypanel01 NinjaGuypanel02 NinjaLogosWell, here it is. My first printed comic book since 2002! I’ve actually done a lot of comics since Feldspar, but none of them really made it to book format. They were either singular comic strips or web comics. Ninja Guy 1, “Felt Friendships” is the first actual comic book after a very long hiatus.

So why now? Well, a self-publishing comic book-making friend of mine that I used to trade with, Billy McKay, contacted me in August to say he was making comics again (Peculiar Paper People—Check it out!), and encouraged me to do the same. He put me in touch with his friend, D. Blake Werts, (Copy This!), and suddenly I was reading about the current whereabouts of all these folks who make their own comics that I used to correspond with. Fast-forward three months later and I’ve completed Ninja Guy. You could say that I caught the bug.

The process of creating Ninja Guy 1 wasn’t very clean or thought out. I didn’t sit down to map out the plot until I had already completed 13 pages. I kind of just jumped in. And even now, I only have a vague idea of where to take the next issue. This lack of planning resulted in a lot of re-do’s. The first 3 pages were completed on simple copy paper, and I ended up re-doing the first page (replacing Ninja Guy’s cigarette with a rope).

Eventually I realized I needed to get better paper, so I switched to a fine tooth surface 9×12 paper stock. I didn’t want the book to look “super slick” so I steered clear of smooth Bristol board like I’ve used in the past. Another new material I’m using are gray tone markers. In all, I’m using about 9 different types of pens. Ninja Guy, however, is filled in with a simple Bic ball point pen (it’s kind of a tradition).

For the logo, I asked my mother, Joyce Kruse, to create a font style in Old English. I wanted a sort of “scimitar” swoosh below the letters. She sent me 12 different fonts with a total of 18 variations. Ultimately I went with the one you see on the website with the motorcycle drawing. petro01 petro02This is probably the best thing about his whole comic book.

Of the three characters in this issue, only one is new: Petro Del Shanko. He is supposed to be either Hispanic or Eastern European. I can’t really decide which. His look is supposed to be a cross between Benicio del Toro and Jemaine Clement. In other words, there’s something really wrong with his mouth. The other character in the book, Ido, has been following Ninja Guy throughout all of his incarnations. My friend Keith Douchant invented Ido. He’s sort of the bastard child of the ego and the id. Every thing he says ends with the punctuation !?! to confuse the reader’s understanding of the intonation (is this a statement or a question!?!). This character got its start on post-it notes in the video arcade we used to work at in high school. You’d open the cash register and there would be Ido with a note telling you to balance the books carefully!?! Or he would be on the mop head in the janitor closet telling you to clean, not just the floors, but the mop head too!?! And on and on.

Ninja Guy, in the past, was usually a collaborative effort (more on that later), and so to honor that original idea, I asked my friends to contribute ideas for the book. The text for the first page was written by Keith Douchant and the second page by Ryan Buller. Neither of them knew what I was going to draw to go with their text. Other contributors included my wife, Aicha, Sherry Buller and Billy McKay. They each submitted ideas for failed Apples tech inventions (used as a plot point in the book).

I’ll follow this post up with a brief history of Ninja Guy (when I have more time). For now, I hope you enjoy the new issue of Ninja Guy!