For the past year animator Mick Lauer has been hard at work on something amazing. You might know him better as “RicePirate”, the name he goes by on Youtube and Newgrounds. After traveling the world and months of work, Mick has finally revealed a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (JoJo) fan project you absolutely have to see. Set in Mexico, Blood Sun Vendetta is a bizarre adventure with colorful stands, beautiful art and plenty of Concha. To learn more about this ambitious venture, contributor Mateo Guerrero sat down with Mick to discuss JoJo, style and just what goes into an Araki inspired animation.
ButWhyTho: So before we dive into Blood Sun Vendetta, why don’t tell me a little about yourself?
Mick: I’ve lived a couple of different lives before my time as an animator. When I joined Newgrounds the username I created was “RicePirate”, and it would become the crux of my online identity. I joined Newgrounds at 30 with no previous animation experience, and from 2010 until about 2017, I was what I considered an “animation hobbyist”. While I did improve over that time, it was never my sole source of income or my full-time job. Besides a number of commercial animation projects I took on, the majority of my animations were short parodies or experimental collaborations.
For the past 2 years. I’ve been living in the LA area pursuing a career in voice acting (another reason I’d joined Newgrounds back in the day). While I’ve had the honor to perform in a number of awesome projects (WoW, LoL, Paladins, Smite, and others), I’m still not what I’d consider being a full-time voice actor. But it’s only been two years and I have no plans of backing off the hustle.
To pay the bills, I still take on a number of odd commissions for website design, video editing, animation, and script writing. But the bulk of my time has been dedicated to a personal animation project: Blood Sun Vendetta, a fan-made motion-comic based in the world Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures.
ButWhyTho: You clearly love the series, but how did you first get started with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? Every JoJo Fanatic I talk to has an origin story. There are just so many entry points, whether it was the game, anime, or just badly translated scans of the manga. What was your first experience with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure?
Mick: My entry point was around the beginning. I’m half Taiwanese, and every Summer since I was around 5 we’d visit Taipei. During that time, there were two things most kids did. Play video games and read manga. Dragon ball was the big hitter at the time. But when we finally moved to Taiwan in the early 90’s, the market was full of great manga. That’s when I first got into JoJo.
By that time Stardust Crusaders was well on its way. As a pre-teen, Jotaro was immediately the coolest. I quickly went back and read through Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency, while they weren’t my favorite, I still recall enjoying them.
I have yet to mention that I had been reading them all in Chinese. There were no English translations back then and I was reading at about a 2nd/3rd grade level. Stories like Battle Tendency that were heavy on explanation were sometimes lost on me. Parts 1 and 3 though were very visually driven. Powers were clearly telegraphed with the visuals, which made understanding the series much easier.
ButWhyTho: When did you first encounter JoJo in English?
Mick: The closest thing I’ve experienced to English dubs for the anime was viewing the voice work my friends did for the series. As for English localized manga chapters, it was just this past year that I cranked through the entirety of the published JJBA.
ButWhyTho: So Mick my diehard Jojo buddy would kill me if I didn’t ask, who’s your favorite JoJo?
Mick: This is a common question, along with “What’s your favorite stand?” Truth is I reckon the answer changes with time for most people (certainly for me). Jonathan felt like a 1-dimensional hero, and he just never really clicked with me. A long-time favorite of mine, Jotaro was the most bad-ass character around stoic, cool, unstoppable. I don’t think Josuke or Gio were ever my favorites, as much as I like them. Jolyne is an epic bad-ass, basically the younger more spirited Jotaro (so she’s up there). I have little connection to Johnny (Gyro clearly being the star). The current Josuke of part 8 is (I’m sorry to say) pretty blah to me, I don’t feel much of a personality at all with him.
Which leaves Joseph, who currently is my favorite. We’ve seen him grow so much (and yet so little, in the best of ways), following him for 3 arcs. He’s scrappy, he’s clever, he’s a smart-ass, he’s almost always the underdog, and he never gives up. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to really appreciate his lasting personality (over the more stoic and bad-ass Jotaro). So, ya, Joseph. And maybe that’s just because I’m old now too lol
ButWhyTho: So let’s dig in and stare straight into the Blood Sun Vendetta. For all the folks at home, what the heck is “Blood Sun Vendetta“?
Mick: BSV is a fan-made motion-comic based in the world of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures. The story takes place in 1999 during the events of Part 4 “Diamond is Unbreakable”, and is set in Mexico. The main protagonist is José Hijo de Caballo, a bastard child of Part 3 “Stardust Crusaders” villain Hol Horse.
ButWhyTho: José Hijo de Caballo…ahhh I see what you did there! So what’s this motion comic about?
Mick: The summary is a bit fragmented, but all its paths are eventually going to cross: A Speedwagon scientist suddenly breaks from the foundation and flees to Mexico (because spoilers). Hol Horse, who had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the head (but was stated to have survived), recovers from his coma at the Dallas, Texas Speedwagon HQ and (partly at the behest of the foundation) heads to Mexico to seek out the scientist (because spoilers).
By the time we jump into the story, José (the bastard son of Hol Horse) has caught wind that his father has returned to Mexico and seeks out his revenge (because spoilers). All the while, lifeless bodies drained of blood begin popping up all across the country. José gathers an unlikely crew on his travels, all with their own baggage that they’re trying to outrun or sort out.
The story is about revenge, redemption, escaping the past, but most of all empathy. And the journey will take us across much of Mexico, where we’ll naturally pick up on some of the history and culture.
ButWhyTho: Araki’s worlds are…well, bizarre! What’s it like building an original story in JoJo? Did building in his sandbox make things easier, harder, or something in between?
Mick: It’s been a blast. The biggest challenge has been trying to tell a JoJo story that bridges the first 4 arcs without breaking the lore. Over the decades, Araki has retconned a number of key plot points: Minor details like the dual Dio coffins aside, the fate of Hamon and the details and origins of stands. My goal and challenge have been to incorporate all these elements without contradicting the established (albeit changing) canon.
Challenges aside, I’ve spent so much time in Araki’s sandbox, that there’s certainly a familiarity to how things generally unfold that has helped plot me plot out rough bullet points of the action and story arc. As a bonus, knowing them (and knowing how fans likely are familiar as well), also gives me opportunities to pitch curveballs, which in some way evens the playing field for both audiences knowledgeable and new to JoJo.
ButWhyTho: You’ve definitely got a grasp on that JoJo‘s magic, but what impresses me the most is how naturally you’re incorporating Mexican Culture. After watching your animation test, I think I’m in love! What made you choose Mexico as your setting, and how are you weaving it into your tale?
Mick: That’s actually the simplest part. The very first frames of “Phantom Blood” (Part 1) introduce the Stone Mask: what is initially said to be a relic of the ancient Aztecs. From there until the end of the arc, little to no mention of Mexico is made.
Later in the series, “Battle Tendency” (Part 2) has the audience return to Mexico, where Speedwagon and Straizo not only discover more masks but a Pillar Man. Stroheim establishes a bunker in Mexico where a group of Nazi scientists studies the Pillar Man. Joseph makes his way from New York to Mexico, and after neutralizing the threat, the story cuts away to Italy. And again, from there on out, Mexico is pretty much left unmentioned.
From “Stardust Crusaders” on, it seems very clear that Araki traveled to many of the locations his characters would journey. The details of the locations and the specifics of the cultures are so clear. However, I have a suspicion that during the creation of Parts 1 and 2, Araki had either never been or had limited exposure to Mexico, despite it being the origin point of the entire series, details of location and culture were either basic or none existent.
It seemed appropriate that were I to tell a story that would include elements of all the parts (between “Phantom Blood” and “Diamond is Unbreakable”), that we would again return to Mexico to let a full arc unfold.
ButWhyTho: You’ve got one up on Araki there. You’ve actually been to Mexico!
Mick: That was the purpose of the trip (and hopefully future trips), not to “correct an oversight” so much as to flush out a part of the world of JoJo that Araki wasn’t able to explore at the time.
ButWhyTho: Well I can tell you Blood Sun Vendetta definitely shows how much care you’ve put into the project already. But I gotta ask, how the heck are you paying for this thing?
Mick: So, the project is “un-monetized”, meaning I’m not running ads on it. However, the animated chapters will very likely have ads running, but from third-party claims (which should be expected considering I’m using a lot of copyrighted music).
Not monetizing the project also allows me a lot more freedom, in terms of the language and content of the material. And while Youtube is certainly where many people will likely find Blood Sun Vendetta, I’ll be posting the videos to Newgrounds and Facebook as well. I could care less about view counts or viral relevance, the most important thing to me is telling and sharing e story.
So that begs the question you asked; how the hell do I fund this thing? Well, currently Patreon has been a huge HUGE help, and perhaps one day, it will be the financial foundation of the project, but considering the full-time nature of the work, the cost of hiring help (about $2500 for the 4-minute test scene), much of the money is out of pocket. W]hich is totally fine. This is a personal passion project, one that I decided to undertake whether folks wanted to support it or not. Obviously, I gotta make sure I can afford to live, but outside of that, this series is what I’m passionate about investing my time, energy, and money into.
Obviously, with additional support, I can focus more of my effort on completing the project, hiring others to help expedite the production process, even paying the voice actors.
ButWhyTho: Fantastic! Thanks, Mick for talking to me today. I can’t wait to watch the series! Where can people go to see more about your trip and all the things Blood Sun Vendetta?
Mick: The official website for the project is here.