This week, "Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki" hits shelves, putting one of the newer "Street Fighter" characters into a starring role for the first time!

We've got a ComicsAlliance exclusive five-page preview, and an interview with writer and UDON Studios project manager Jim Zubkavich after the jump!ComicsAlliance: With fighting games, the characters are largely defined purely by their looks and fighting styles. How do you start building them into whole characters?

Jim Zubkavich: Our first priority is to make sure we understand as much of the existing canon material as possible, so we gather all of that and make sure that forms the base of our knowledge. In the case of Ibuki and the Street Fighter III cast, there's actually very little set in stone by Capcom. The SF3 back story wasn't laid out as in-depth as Street Fighter II was, so there's quite a bit more leeway.

Looking at the character profile information, endings and official art you start to see attitude that comes through. Even something as simple as a character's victory quotes from the game give off personality. It may sound corny, but you start to connect a bit with the character through that art and limited text. I'll write down defining characteristics for that attitude, trying to sum them up. It's a matter of taking the events that are known from the game material and filling in the many gaps between them, fleshing out who they are, what they want and how they go about getting it. It's pretty classic literary character building exercises, only with the raw framework of the games as a jumping off point.

From there, it's pitching the story outline to Capcom and the Street Fighter Producer to make sure we're on the same path and that what I'm envisioning for the character syncs up with their thoughts. We've been working with Capcom since 2003 so we've got a pretty good idea what will get approved, but there's always some finessing. We're all working towards the same goal - telling a good story with engaging characters that feel true to what's been done before.

CA: You mentioned running the stories by Capcom, but there are a lot of little details for character relationships in the "Street Fighter" comics, like Guile and Ken being brothers-in-law. With a licensed property, how much of the relationships and the supporting cast are left up to you?

JZ: That is pretty flexible. Many of those characters have only been named and are standing around a background stage, so it's an open field of interpretation. As long as Capcom gives it the nod it moves forward but, as with everything, it's about being respectful and not just adding things for no reason. The secondary characters are there as part of the protagonist's story, not to showboat.

In the case of Ibuki, there's a fellow ninja trainee named Yuta who stands with her, holding a punching bag that Ibuki hits a few times before a match starts in the "Street Fighter III" video game. That's all that's known about him -- his name and that he's a fellow ninja trainee. I could have made them rivals, relatives, ex-boyfriend and girlfriend... it was a matter of looking at the overall story and deciding what would work well and whether that kind of complexity was required. In the case of Yuta, I decided that he'd be a comrade in arms, a fellow trainee who wants to graduate to bigger and better ninja training -- someone who Ibuki works with and who understands her ninja lifestyle but isn't in quite the same league as she is. It enhances her story and adds a bit of personality to a background character.

CA: What sets Ibuki apart from a character like Sakura, who had her own series of high school street-fighting misadventures a while back?

JZ: Sakura is all drive, pushing past her skills with pure enthusiasm. Her desire to be a street fighter is everything. There's something very satisfying about that purity of purpose. In some ways Sakura has more in common with Makoto in that way, knowing exactly what she wants and going for it no matter what.

Ibuki's a more complex character, more flawed. She's a great ninja but she isn't even sure this is what she wants out of life. The warrior life is what she's always had and she wants to know what else there is for her to find past that, to get a bigger taste of the life of a teenager before she decides how much ninjitsu will play in to her future. I think about who I was as a teenager, on the cusp of graduation and unsure of what would come next in my life, and I can see parallels and ways to incorporate those thoughts in to the story, even if her circumstances involve ninjitsu and crazy martial arts battles.

Sakura's never-give-up attitude may be more of a classic anime archetype, but I feel Ibuki's a character more people can empathize with.

CA: For the past seven years, fleshing out the Street Fighter comics universe has largely been up to Ken Siu-Chong. What was it like to get in there and play with the stuff that someone else has been working on for so long?

JZ: Intimidating! I'm thankful that I didn't have to tred in to the heart of Ken's storylines or characters. Having a little corner of the "Street Fighter III" universe detached from the main tournament storyline has been a great way for me to build confidence in what I envision and see it come through whole. None of it overlaps Ken's material, it just gracefully runs alongside. We hope that "Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki" is a jumping on point for new readers of all ages, especially people who are discovering Ibuki for the first time through the upcoming "Super Street Fighter IV" video game.

When I pitched the storyline I made it clear who I'd be using and how it could assist Ken with his upcoming "Street Fighter" plotlines. He wrote the Makoto and Oro back-up stories in SF2Turbo to slot in perfectly with my mini-series and I wrote the Ibuki back-up story as a lead in. It's been a blast jamming with him on that aspect of it and fleshing out more of the overall back story.

Being able to contribute to the history of these characters is a thrill. I really hope people like the new aspects that are revealed about Ibuki by the end of the series. It's new terrain.

CA: When--and I do mean when, as it is inevitable--can we expect "Street Fighter Legends: Dan"?

JZ: We've had "Street Fighter Losers: Dan" in mind for years, literally years. I remember a group of us renting a van to drive down to Chicago Comicon and brainstorming Dan storylines on the way for hours, laughing like crazy. I don't know if Capcom would approve all of it, but man oh man, we have some amazing ideas for it. Dan just naturally lends himself to over the top concepts.

We've talked about doing an April Fool's Day Dan double-sized issue, Dan Legends: Dan, Dan Presents, Dan VS Marvel VS Capcom, you name it...

CA: Who do you pick when the Udon crew gets together to throw down on Street Fighter?

It depends on the title. In Street Fighter IV I default to Chun-Li or Ken most of the time, with some Gouken and Crimson Viper thrown in for good measure. I'm quite enjoying the team-up of Ryu and Roll in the recently released Tatsunoko VS Capcom title.

CA: Okay so seriously, what's up with Ibuki's pants?

Good question. Omar (the artist on Ibuki) was asked so much about this that he actually did up a comic page called "Ask Ibuki", which I present to you now as a way to side step the question entirely. Take it away, Omar...

"Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki" #1 Preview: