One of the highlights of WonderCon 2011 in San Francisco this past April 2nd was the opportunity for attendees to preview the movie “Priest” and meet several key contributors of it. Most amazing was how they flew in Min-Woo Hyung, the creator of the “Priest” comics, from South Korea. Min-Woo Hyung opened up about the film and his series with the help of a translator and a Tokyopop representative-the comic publishing company in charge of bringing “Priest” to the US-during a press interview and the “Priest” panel.
After introducing himself and apologizing for “[his] stupid English,” I could not help but notice the highly ornate tattoos on his arms: “Justice” on his right and “Mercy” on his left. He quickly recounted his magnum opus manhwa (Korean comics) “Priest” to those unfamiliar with his work. Starting since 1996, Hyung created a Weird Western of horror, gun-fu combat, and fantasy inspired by the old computer game “Blood.” For 16 volumes of “Priest” that is available courtesy of Tokyopop, readers got to read about Ivan Isaacs and the Priests who fought against God’s fallen angels. Sadly the series stopped rather than ended after the 16th volume. But then Scott Stewart decided to adapt “Priest” into a film for 2011.
Those expecting a straight adaptation of the original “Priest” manhwa set in the Weird West are in for a surprise. Instead, the setting of the “Priest” movie is during a desolate post-apocalyptic future where vampires instead of fallen angels threaten mankind. The titular priest is not Ivan Isaacs but a descendant of the acclaimed Priest from the original manhwa. Fortunately the action, character designs, and gun play that made “Priest” unique int he manhwa are present in the film.
Despite how the movie really bears little resemblance to the original manhwa and is at risk of sounding like a generic futuristic us vs. them film, “Priest” fans can take solace knowing that Min-Woo Hyung does approve of Scott Stewart’s vision of “Priest.” He was impressed over Scott’s vision and how he turned the two-dimensional artwork into a 3D film–yeah, the film is in 3D. There is a certain satisfaction in watching your pages liiterally come to life. In fact, Hyung now mentions how the movie gave him a new direction for his manhwa series. He would like to continue the “Priest” comics to match the setting and characters of the film. He did not mention when exactly he would continue these additional volumes to tie into the film, but it is an excellent way to reignite his manhwa series while getting in synch with the film.
But the recent bankruptcy of Tokyopop and office closures does make it more difficult to actually get the original “Priest” manhwa or possible future volumes more difficult.
“Priest” the film is scheduled for release May 13th. “Priest” the manhwa is available in comic book stores or online.