Otaku USA Magazine
The Pen Is Mightier Than The Card

One of the pleasures of doing features like the one I did for Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is getting the chance to talk to some interesting people. One of which is the Head Writer for the series, Nathan Long. As a writer, it was a pleasure being able to talk with him but I unfortunately couldn’t get the whole thing in print. So, for the fans out there, here’s the uncut interview I had with Nathan which has some insights into Dragon Knight that you may find intriguing….

First off, thanks for putting the time aside for this interview

My pleasure. It’s great to be here

So what exactly got you into writing?

Whew! That’s a long story, but I’ll try to sum it up quickly. I have been writing since I was a kid. When I was in college I decided it was what I wanted to do for a living, and have been writing ever since. Unfortunately, I’ve only made a living at it about twenty percent of the time.

I wrote Guyver – Dark Hero in 1992, and then did some work on a TV cop show called LA Heat, and also made a few low budget movies, but most of the time I was working crappy day jobs while pounding away on the keyboard at night trying to write the next big hit. Hollywood is a tough town, that’s all I’m gonna say.

Recently, I’ve had a lot more success, and strangely, it was only once I turned my back on Hollywood that it happened. Through a friend, I made a connection with Games Workshop, the guys who do the Warhammer and Warhammer 40k miniature and computer games, and I ended up writing sword and sorcery novels for them. I wrote a trilogy of books about a sort of medieval covert ops squad called the Blackhearts, and then I took over the Gotrek and Felix series from the original author, and Warhammer has been keeping me busy from then on. In fact, I was so busy writing novels that I almost said ‘no’ when Steve called me and asked if I wanted to be the head writer on Kamen Rider.

On the subject of Guyver – Dark Hero, you had a cameo in the pre-title sequence if I’m not mistaken?

I did indeed. I played a cop, and grew a cop moustache just for the occasion, then shaved it off immediately. Not a good look for me.

Would you say that penning Guyver maybe prepared you for your experience on Dragon Knight?


Well, in a way. It familiarized me with some of the iconic themes of Japanese superhero fiction – transformation, corrupt corporations, hidden worlds, epic time-scales. But more importantly it gave me a good working relationship with Steve Wang, and prepared me for working for him again. Along with his brother Mike we have turned out to be a pretty good team.

What series of events led you into working on Dragon Knight?

This is going to be a boring answer. Steve called me and asked me if I wanted to be head writer, and I said yes. The end.

I guess the background to that is that Steve called me because he knew from our working together before that we got on well together, we liked each other’s ideas, and he knew that I was a hard working, dependable writer who could bring a script in on time and have it not suck too much.

Okay, here comes the thing that many a fan have been bugging about; How much of Kamen Rider Ryuki did you watch when working on Dragon Knight? Were there any challenges in adapting it for the states, FCC-related or otherwise?

Heh. I watched ALL of Kamen Rider Ryuki, several times, but more so I could catalog the fights than for the plot. I think that’s the biggest misconception I find when I snoop around the various Rider forums. I wouldn’t call Kamen Rider Dragon Knight an adaptation of Kamen Rider Ryuki. We used the fight footage and some of the basic themes, but the Dragon Knight story has no real relation to the Ryuki story.

The things we kept were: the costumed footage, the idea that each of the riders would have a different reason he or she was fighting, the look and attitude of Ren, and the concept of a female reporter. Other than that, we started with a blank slate and created the story from scratch.
I’m guessing the next question would be, ‘why?’ Why did we make a new story when there was a perfectly good old one? Part of it was, as you say, FCC related. You can’t have straight up murder on kid shows in the US, and so the concept of the Rider War was a little too harsh. Another reason was – and this is embarrassing to say – we didn’t understand all of it. The only translation that was ever made available to us was the ‘don’t molest the lawyer’ translation, and trying to get any subtle meaning from that was almost impossible. Steve and I spent a lot of our time watching it and scratching our heads going, “Wait, who’s that guy?” and “What did she say?” and “Why is there a dance number?” and “Why does that frog have a mohawk?”
But I think a bigger reason than either of those is that we wanted to make something original – something that came out of our heads rather than just a carbon copy of an old show. Believe me, if someone had come to us and asked us to make a completely new Toku show from the ground up, without adapting some previous property, we would have jumped at the chance. That would have been so cool! The decision to use Ryuki as a base was not ours, it was the producers’, and it was primarily budgetary. They didn’t have a lot of money, and re-using existing action scenes was a lot cheaper than shooting new ones. Also, Kamen Rider has world wide name recognition, where as ‘Steve and Nathan’s Super Cool Hero Show’ would not.

So, given the task to make an American show out of Ryuki, we decided that we would do something completely different from Ryuki. If we’d tried a straight adaptation we would have only ended up making a watered down “child safe” version of the original, and we didn’t want that. That would be lame. If people want the old show, its available, and better than a US adaptation could ever be. We made a completely new show that can be watched as something entirely separate, and which stands on its own two power-armored feet.

Most Tokusatsu shows are automatically classified as “Power Ranger-ish” by most people. Were there any problems trying to find a way to break past that label or do you feel it’s worked in your favor?

I think that’s a question for the future. I am hoping that the viewers will see Kamen Rider as more than just a Power Rangers clone, but I don’t know if it will happen. I tell people that it’s more like ‘Heroes’ for teens. I hope that description will at least convince them to give it a chance. We’ll see.

The funny thing is that I think our producers pretty much had to go to the networks and say, “Yes, it’s just like Power Rangers. It’s only a kid show.” Because the networks aren’t interested in new things. They only want tried and true. But at the same time, we’re back at the studio making something considerably more adult and trying to sneak it through. Now the trick is getting the word out to the fans that this is hard-core without letting our own network know what they’ve got. Heh. It’s kinda like “Kamen Rider Trojan Horse.”

Shhhh. Don’t tell the suits.

While we’re on the subject, I have to ask….did you ever see Masked Rider-Saban’s attempt at Americanizing Kamen Rider?

I saw a clip of the credit sequence on You tube. That was enough for me. No more, thank you.

There’s a long-standing rumor that Saban’s Masked Rider was so bad that it apparently ticked off original creator Shotaro Ishinomori. Is there any truth to this and if so, did that provide any problems with production?

I’ve heard that rumor too, but as far as I know it didn’t have any direct effect on our production. There was a point early on when Steve and Mike had to run our concept for the show by the suits from Toei, and we were all kind of nervous about whether they’d like it or not, but they seemed to like what we came up with, so I guess we passed the test.

Without going into spoiler territory, was there a favorite character (Rider or otherwise) that you liked writing for?

Aside from Kit and Len, who carry the main drama of the series, Torque (Zolda) might have been my favorite. His real name is Drew Lansing, and he’s a twisty little con-man, always working the angles and keeping one step ahead of the people he’s swindling. Those kinds of characters have always appealed to me.

I also liked writing Michelle Walsh, who starts out as a fairly minor character – a rival reporter who gives the female lead a hard time – but who really changes and develops in interesting ways as the series goes on.

Bouncing off of that question, one of the biggest things that Dragon Knight has going for it in my book is the inclusion of Femme/Siren who had barely any screen time in Ryuki. Without giving too much away, what can we expect from her and will she catch more of a break than her Japanese counterpart?

She is an entirely different character in Dragon Knight than she was in Ryuki. I don’t want to give anything away, but she is tougher and cooler and more hard-edged, and she is going to get way more screen time. I think you’ll like her.

As of this writing, Dragon Knight is gearing up to have its sneak peek. How anxious are you to hear the fan response to the finished product? How do you personally feel about the final product?

I think the final product is pretty **** good. Of course, as writer, I can always see things that could have been better, or things where if we’d only had a little bit more money we could have made them extra cool, but considering all the budget and time constraints, I think Steve and Mike and the actors and crew did a fantastic job. I got to watch the first 14 episodes back to back the other day, and I was getting caught up in it. It has some real emotion.

I hope the fans will love it. I think it is miles cooler and more sophisticated than Power Rangers, and I think that if people stick with it, they’re going to really enjoy the ride. My biggest fear is that the audience that we’d really like to get – kids from 10 to 16 – will see the colorful hero armor and decide its kid stuff and won’t watch it. All I can say is, give us five episodes. If we haven’t hooked you by then, I’ll eat my hat.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I am still crazy busy writing the Warhammer novels, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to let up. I have my writing schedule with them worked out for the next four years! My next novel that’s coming out from them is called Shamanslayer, and will be out in October 2009.

As far as more Kamen Rider or working with Steve and Mike again, we gotta wait and see how well KRDK does. I would be up for doing another series if they ask us. Steve, Mike and I are also hanging out and discussing other ideas – movies, series, etc that we might do on our own. It’s all just talk right now, but we’ll see.

Anything you’d like to say to the fans out there?

Stick with us. Like I said earlier, give us five episodes. The first episodes are great, but as we went on and everybody got more comfortable in their roles they got even better. The story arc spans the whole forty episode series, and nothing at the beginning is as it seems. I like making things twisty, so trust me, there’s more curves in this thing than a Pussycat Dolls show. You’re going to like the ride.

One last thing before I take my leave: Can you somehow convince Steve to make a third Guyver film already? The masses are crying out for more!

I think both Steve and I would have a lot of fun doing another Guyver movie, but it isn’t Steve who has to be convinced. You need to convince the people who own the Guyver property to make another one – and then get them to hire Steve and me to write and direct.

I’ll get right on it! Thanks for the time!

Thanks for having me. I had a blast.


Kamen Rider Dragon Knight is current airing Saturdays on the CW4Kids