A father walks the road alone, his son at his side, as they seek the next meal, either given through kindness, or by the blood shed by his blade. Kozure Ōkami, or Lone Wolf and Cub, long ago entered in the public psyche from the Manga comic of that name in the 1970s. It tells the story of an assassin who suffers the fallout of shifts in power in the underworld, and is forced to a life on the road. Like many manga before and after, it is a story built upon vignettes, as they move from place to place, and the father and his son challenge all takers. Sound familiar? The Mandalorian on the Disney+ stream service makes no excuses that Mando and the Child are based on this story. The image of Mando walking down a road with the Child hovering next to him is reminiscent of Lone Wolf pushing the cart that holds his child, and the many hidden compartments containing his weapons of trade.
There are a couple other cultural references to Lone Wolf and Cub that are either less known, or have disappeared from current memory. The first is from my own favorite comic, Usagi Yojimbo. In the series the reoccurring character Lone Goat and Kid fulfill the same role. Miyamoto Usagi finds himself at odds with Lone Goat, since the assassin has only known betrayal, but when Usagi has to act as guardian to the Kid, the tables turn.
The second, is the comic turned movie, Road to Perdition. This high octane cast, including Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, and Jude Law is a masterful adaptation that I felt captured the relationship of the father and son perfectly. It is a terrible tragedy of a story that will settle an ennui upon the shoulders of anyone who watches it. I cannot recommend all of the above enough.
I cannot deny my influences. At times they are readily intentional. When I wrote Thrice, having succeeded at already writing a story that I felt escaped my past, I challenged myself to a new story, where I would lean on my past, as well as my present. I had at the the time a four year old boy, and realized the wisdom, and vocabulary often made too much like a toddler in works of fiction. I wanted to capture the story of a man and the boy in his care, on the road, against all odds. And thus, I set about to tell my own story. It would borrow from Lone Wolf and Cub the theme of survival against an underworld bent on separating the two. Yet, Jovan has no connection to the Underworld himself. And unlike the usually very quiet child, I wanted to make sure that Leaf, the boy traveling with Jovan, had a personality, and was given the opportunity to grow. I would like to hope that I’ve done a story like this justice, if only as a means to work through my own road as a father to a bright little boy.
You can find debut novel, Thrice, here: