Animated series White Ninja has roots in the Sheaf

By in Culture

SAMUEL RAFUSE

White Ninja, Kent Earle and Scott Bevan’s absurdist comic strip that ran in the Sheaf for four years, is now being resurrected on the popular video messaging app Vine.

Vine is launching White Ninja as its very first serialized project. Two Vancouver-based production companies, North of Now Films and Whiskaye Films, will produce the series.

White Ninja is about the day-to-day life of the titular character and his random interactions with the environment around him, often including turtles, peanuts and innocent bystanders subjected to his intellectually skewed and outbursts of comedic insanity.

The character of White Ninja is not a definite protagonist in the traditional sense, but his characteristics change to fit the circumstances. He may be young, old, big, small, single, married, lightly funny or darkly ironic depending on what makes for the best joke. Sometimes he has arms and legs and sometimes he doesn’t. Very rarely does he act like an actual ninja.

The comic strip initially began “because I was trying to impress a girl. It didn’t work, but rather than refine my pick up skills, I refined the comic strip,” said Bevan.

Bevan explained that the simplicity of the comic, which is stripped down only to the most needed details, was a stylistic choice made due to laziness.

“Basically if a detail was unnecessary for the story or joke to move forward, I wasn’t interested in drawing it,” he said.

White Ninja is white simply because it took too long to colour him in, but somehow even that adds to the comedy. Bevan’s self-deprecating humour can be seen in his attention to finding unexpected payoffs and unique punchlines for all of the over 1,300 comics in the archive.

Tyler Funk, executive producer of the series at North of Now Films, is a long time reader and fan of White Ninja. He said the attitude of the comic was what initially attracted him to it.

“I think so many people connected with the tone, it’s so fun and never felt cliché. It always felt fresh. You never know what you’d expect,” said Funk.

When asked to explain how White Ninja would adapt from a printed comic strip to the animated Vine series, Funk said that the transition was actually quite seamless.WhiteNinja2

“It’s a really interesting new platform. For me it was a natural, perfect translation,” Funk said. “The comic can take little moments from the world of absurdism, of humour. It’s perfect for the Vine format.”

Bevan also noted that the animated series has a life of its own.

“Adding a voice to the character changes everything. The pitch, inflection, pacing [and] tone have the power to destroy an old joke. On the flip side, those same variables could elevate the humour to new levels,” he said.

Paramount to understanding the comic is the acceptance of the contradictions and inconsistencies that are its most distinguishing feature. Fans of other comics like Mummy Comics or Cyanide & Happiness will find similar things to love about White Ninja. Readers don’t have a problem with the chaotic nature of White Ninja’s adventures, as evidenced by the comic’s original website which was receiving upwards of 23,000 views per day before going on hiatus prior to its resurrection as a series.

“It’s something magical. It just connects with you,” said Funk. “It’s so funny. The fact that you can’t make sense of why it’s so funny is what is so magical about what [Bevan and Earle] have created.”

White Ninja is an inspiration to many students and artists alike and its success is a heartwarming story. Bevan’s advice to students trying to follow their own dreams was honest and humble.

“Be lucky,” he said. “Try to be in the right place at the right time. Have a whole bunch of dreams, just in case.”

As White Ninja can testify, inspiration can come from the strangest of places.

You can watch a trailer for the White Ninja web series on its website at whiteninjaseries.com.

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