A quick glance at animation director Robert Valley’s filmography reveals major projects from storyboard work on Aeon Flux in 1994 to animation for big corporate names like Nike and Coca Cola, and working with Passion Pictures on music videos and short films for the Gorillaz. When he discussed his latest project—a new feature film being released online in installments called Shinjuku—with Cartoon Brew he was quick to relate his professional experiences with that of an assistant coach in the major league. “At some point I needed to venture out and present myself as a coach in my own right, so regardless of success or failure I feel compelled to put myself out there and see what happens.”
Shinjuku, which is a Twistory property by Christopher ‘Mink’ Morrison and Yoshitaka Amano (Final Fantasy), is a work of noir fiction based in a Tokyo of a not-too-distant future. Morrison presented the project to Valley with the intention of adapting it into a feature-length bigscreen film. Valley has been directing segments of the film, which are being released online in short installments, while simultaneously collecting the artwork from the episodes into book form. “What’s really important for me is this cross-over between animation and graphic novel, so periodically we will be releasing a book based on the animated films,” Valley explained. “This [is] my goal, film, book, film book, and so on…”
Over the last several years, Valley has been honing his personal aesthetic by self-publishing his own comic series—turned—animated film, Massive Swerve, which has become a creative jumping off point for defining his approach. “This has been a great way to develop a personal style and voice. I take ideas from my Massive Swerve books and re-purpose them for the task at hand.” His look, which he defines as a “burning man/muscle car/beach theme” was heavily debated by comic book fanboys when DC Comics unveiled his recent Wonder Woman shorts for their DC Nation franchise.
The shorts, produced by Valley and his buddy Jorden Oliwa, and featuring Wonder Woman as a West Coast urbanite cruising the shores in her invisible Charger, seemed to be a perfect fit for DC Nation, which showcases creative reinterpretations of popular superhero properties. “Some people like the spin I had,” Valley said. “Others are completely repulsed by it.” When you consider the fickle nature of comic book geeks, perhaps that is the greatest compliment one can receive.
UPDATE (July 28, 2013): This story was updated to reflect that Shinjuku is owned by Twistory, although Dark Horse had earlier released a Shinjuku comic. The story was also updated to list Shinjuku as a feature film project that is being released online in installments, rather than being a webseries.