I am pleased to announce the publication of Ninja Baseball Blast, aka Fuzzy Baseball #2. I had to create a new team of opponents for the Fuzzies to play in the sequel to my graphic novel Fuzzy Baseball, and I thought it would be fun if they faced a team of baseball ninjas*.
On the surface, the story is about a bit of cross-cultural confusion. There are rumors that baseball played in the Manga Leagueis different, that the players “over there” have secret wisdom and ancient baseball knowledge. Bo Grizzly dismisses this as nonsense and arranges an away game with the Sashimi City Ninjas. Bo insists that “Baseball is baseball” and that there is no difference. Blossom Honey Possum is the only one who orders a book that can teach them the Manga League rules.
The Fuzzies travel to Sashimi City for the big game, and on the surface, the rules seem the same. Bo Grizzly’s advice for his team to play their own way seems to be working. But the Ninjas assume, correctly, that the Fuzzies won’t take the time to understand one major difference (the use of the MORFO BALL). The Ninjas use this to their advantage. It’s generally a safe bet that Americans might not take the time to understand all the cultural differences while traveling abroad.
Baseball was introduced to Japan from America around 1870. In Ninja Baseball BlastI wanted to celebrate many of the fun things that our culture has imported from Japan. The Fuzzies meet ninjas, try sushi, learn from a manga style textbook, and even encounter a giant kaiju (Godzilla is an example of a famous kaiju).
I also wanted to have some fun with the idea of transformation. In Japanese influenced shows cars transform in giant robots, rangers morph into mighty warriors, and little pocket monsters evolve into larger pocket monsters. In English literature Alice goes through many transformations in Wonderland, and Dr. Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde. In American movies people transform into werewolves and superheroes all the time. Even Bugs Bunny transforms (when he meets Dr. Jekyll).
As a child my drawing style was influenced by cartoons created by Walt Disney and Warner Brothers. Today the drawing style of American school children is often influenced by Japanese Manga comics, which were created Japanese artists who grew up watching those same American cartoons. It’s amazing the way a culture can absorb an influence from across the globe and transform it into something unique.
But, more than anything else, Ninja Baseball Blast is meant to be funny. As I continue this series ,(#3, RBI Robots, is in the works for next year), I’m hoping that librarians and young readers discover that this is a comedy series, not a sports series. I had a blast creating Ninja Baseball Blast, and it was a fun challenge to choreograph all of the craziness that ensues once the game descends into chaos.
*Purist may assert that the plural of “ninja” is “ninja”, but Merriam Webster and Co tell me that “ninjas” is an acceptable alternative.