Executive Assistant: IrisWhen David Wohl read an article in The New York Times about executive assistants in China who were secretly well-trained body guards, he knew it had all the makings of a comic book story.
Beginning in June, Executive Assistant: Iris from Aspen Comics tells the story of a secretary who is also trained as an assassin. Originally conceived by Wohl with Aspen founder Michael Turner, the comic is being written by Wohl with art by Eduardo Francisco.
Previews of the series have appeared in both last year's Free Comic Book Day offering by Aspen and a Wonder Con exclusive Issue #0 (previewed here on Newsarama), giving readers a sneak peek into what the series will look like when it debuts in June.
Wohl, who started as a high school intern before working his way up as an associate editor at Marvel, eventually became the President and Editor-in-Chief at Top Cow. After helping founder Marc Silvestri create titles like Darkness, Aphrodite IX and Witchblade, Wohl eventually struck out on his own as a writer -- about the same time Michael Turner and others from Top Cow started Aspen.
Newsarama talked to Wohl about his upcoming story for Aspen, the inspiration was for the story, and why a promise he made to Michael Turner before the artist's death last year is so important to the creation of this project.
Newsarama: First, David, how did you come up with the idea for this story? It's based somewhat on real life, isn't it?
David Wohl: Yes, as a matter of fact, my partner (Brad Foxhoven) and I got the idea after reading a New York Times article that told the story of the practice in China where businessmen would bring these female executive assistants into meetings because they were considered non-threatening, but the women were actually well-trained bodyguards as well as personal assistants. And even more interestingly, these women were trained from a very early age for the position. There were special schools devoted to teaching girls everything from pouring the perfect cup of tea to hand-to-hand combat. Cool stuff!!!
NRAMA: Tell us about Iris. What's this character's story and what's she like?
DW: Well, Iris is one of these women. As a matter of fact, she's one of the best. There are many who are broken down by the process, but Iris excelled in all of her training. She's ruthless and efficient in everything she does. And she lives for her employer. She's completely subservient, following his every command to the letter. Obviously with a job like that she doesn't have much of a social life, but she doesn't care. All she cares about is doing her job and keeping her employer happy.
NRAMA: What's the story we'll see set up in the first issue?
DW: We jump right into the action, seeing Iris on the job, working for her boss, Mr. Ching. We see her as a secretary and as a bodyguard. But we quickly realize that Ching isn't exactly the most compassionate businessman. He demands loyalty from all of his employees and when he doesn't receive it, that employee must pay the price. And it's Iris' job to execute any plans that her employer wishes.
NRAMA: I have a feeling that word "execute" has a double meaning. But as this series continues, what will be Iris' journey?
DW: At first, Iris is perfectly satisfied doing everything that Ching wants her to do. She figures that this is what she was hired to do and there is nothing else to be said. But as the story progresses, Iris is forced to think about the morality of her employer and the consequences of her actions. Eventually, as her humanity begins to return, she goes back to China and confronts the founder of the school that trained her, and ultimately her boss (who has a few secrets of his own that even Iris doesn't know about).
NRAMA: Who are some of the other characters we'll meet?
DW: Well, first of all there's a "love interest" for Iris named Rucker. He's a low-level manager working for Ching who is smitten with Iris from the second he sees her. Now, Iris definitely isn't the type of employee who mixes business with pleasure, but she agrees to date Rucker --not because she likes him, but because she's ordered to by the boss. But, along the way, real feelings begin to develop between them, much to the dismay of Ching.
We'll also get to meet a number of Iris' fellow "Executive Assistants," as well as all of Ching's rivals, who each have very distinct personalities and mannerisms, and most of them would like nothing more than to see Ching -- and Iris -- dead!
NRAMA: What's the art like on this project? Does the tone match its Chinese setting? Or is it more modern in style?
DW: It definitely has a slick, modern feel to reflect the hi-tech corporate world where the story takes place. But at the same time, Eduardo Francisco adds an Asian flavor to the art that, I think, makes for a very appealing combination. Add some great art direction by Peter Steigerwald and sharp colors by John Starr, and you have a compelling, stylish presentation!
NRAMA: Anything else you want to tell people about Executive Assistant: Iris?
DW: When I began working on this project with Michael Turner, I promised him that I would work to make this the best comic I've ever done. And as I work on the scripts and review all the art, that promise is always running through my mind. If something doesn't seem quite good enough, we keep working on it until it's just right. My goal is for this book to be something that I'm proud of and something that Aspen can be proud of. And I hope all your readers will give it a chance, check it out, and let us know what they think.