Author and Illustrator Greg Stones Talks All Things Ninja

Author of the breakout hit Zombies Hate Stuff and the latest book Ninjas Have Issues, Greg Stones takes his playful illustration style to the badass (but surprisingly issue-fraught) world of ninjas, detailing their inner lives with humorous absurdity. Here he talks about what brought about his own ninja obsession, and even reveals a slightly embarrassing confession from his youth.

Ninjas Have Issues

What is cooler than a ninja? I will tell you what is cooler than a ninja: NOTHING!

Have you ever disappeared in a puff of smoke? Somersaulted off a six-story building and landed without completely destroying your knees? Thrown a shuriken directly into your enemy’s eyeball? Of course you haven’t, because YOU ARE NOT A NINJA!

(Little known fact: Ninjas never read the Chronicle Books blog, mostly because the Chronicle Books blog never tells you how to bean someone in the head with nunchucks. Like, EVER.)

Okay, sure, real ninjas back in Feudal Japan actually dressed as farmers and usually killed people using innocuous looking farm tools, but movie ninjas from the 1980s? Yeah, those invisible warriors totally rock.

Granted, ninja movies from the 80s are only actually good if you are 10 years old in 1984. Have you seen Enter the Ninja? Where the hero is an out of shape white guy who runs around wearing a bright white ninja suit in broad daylight? “Oh, he must be a snow ninja!” you say. There is no snow in Enter the Ninja. Nor a quality script. Nor anything that could accurately be identified as “acting.” And there aren’t even very many ninjas, now that I think about it…Why did I spend $12 to own this movie?? WHY??

Let us move on to American Ninja from 1985. The hero is an American who spends 60 minutes not knowing that he is a ninja, then he remembers that he is a ninja, so he finally puts on a ninja suit and fights other ninjas who have always known that they are ninjas, yet they are no match for the dude that never knew he was a ninja. Bwuh? And though I hate to give away a surprising moment, let me ask you this: if you are a ninja and you have a wrist-mounted laser, shouldn’t you use that laser ALL THE TIME? I mean, do you even need any other weapon? But no, Main Evil Ninja, you wait until later in the movie to use your James Bond technology just once, and then never again. No wonder you end up losing!

If you watch only one ninja movie, watch this one: Revenge of the Ninja. It has drug smuggling, a Japanese doll museum, and most importantly, Sho Kosugi, who is the COOLEST NINJA EVER. (I don’t want to tell anyone how to live their life, but I’m going to go ahead and recommend that you never, ever kill Sho Kosugi’s wife and child. It won’t end well for you.)

My overall point is that ninja movies have issues. As do ninjas themselves. Do you think it’s easy being so darn cool all the time? IT IS NOT! My latest book, Ninjas Have Issues, is a deeply moving intellectual exploration of what it means to be a ninja in today’s society. And by “deeply moving intellectual exploration,” I mean that I painted a bunch of funny watercolors of a ninja attempting to be super cool, and failing at almost every turn.

Ninjas Have Issues

Ninjas Have Issues

A woodpecker attacking his nunchucks, a poorly constructed skyscraper, a dry-cleaning mix up, an annoyingly superior samurai, a unicorn that just won’t leave him alone…these are just a few of the obstacles encountered by our beleaguered ninja.

Ninjas Have Issues

And just so you don’t think that being a ninja is the worst job ever, there are a few bright moments, such as when he gets some free balloons and finds a little romance. So that’s nice. If nothing else, this book is an excellent primer for anyone who is considering becoming a ninja, because now you will know to avoid ravenous polar bears, underhanded garden gnomes, torch-wielding sheep, and confrontational rabbits.

A quick confession before I go: Between the ages of 10 and 12, I owned an actual ninja suit and would sneak around my neighborhood at night. My main mission? To not be seen! (Granted, the best way to not draw attention to yourself is to NOT wear a ninja suit, and NOT tiptoe through people’s yards, but it was fun and exciting at the time.)

Author Ninja Photo 2

So yeah, for a few years there, I thought it would be super cool to be a professional ninja. But you know what? It turns out that I am less of a throw-a-shuriken-directly-into-your-enemy’s-eyeball kind of guy, and more of a hide-in-my-studio-and-paint-funny-little-pictures kind of guy, which is probably why I became an artist/author instead of a master of Ninjitsu. (I once thew a paintbrush at a bee, because I’m allergic and didn’t want to be bothered…is that ninja-like? Sort of? Maybe a little? No? Sigh…)

What is cooler than an artist/author? I will tell you what is cooler than an artist/author: ALMOST EVERYTHING!

Especially ninjas.

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Ninjas might be the coolest, but we still think Greg is pretty cool. You can find his latest book Ninjas Have Issues here

Greg Stones

Greg Stones

Greg Stones is the author of several books, including 99 Stormtroopers Join the Empire, Zombies Hate Stuff, Zombies Have Issues, Penguins Hate Stuff, and Sock Monkeys Have Issues. He lives and works in Rhode Island, and hasn’t dressed as a ninja since the mid-eighties.
Greg Stones


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