For over twenty years there has been a Ninjak, but now Valiant Entertainment is peeling back the real origin of Ninjak - he's Ninja-K, the previous ten Ninja- starting with Ninja-A.
This Weapon X-ish twist on Valiant's Ninjak concept comes from writer Christos Gage and artist Tomas Giorello. Don't worry, Ninjak fans - Colin King is still the man behind the mask, but now you'll meet his colleagues in MI-6's Ninja Programme.
Launching November 15, Ninja-K will mix elements of “the best of the Bond films” with the classics of the super-spy genre with a mega 40-page debut. To learn more, Newsarama had talked to Gage to find out what readers can expect from Ninja-K and every ninja inbetween the alphabet.
Newsarama: Christos, you've dabbled with Valiant before so what was it about coming back for Ninjak (and here, Ninja-K)?
Christos Gage: Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons called me to talk about me doing some more stuff for Valiant in general, and when he mentioned Ninjak was an option, I jumped at it. A lot of the excitement arose from the chance to tell this particular story...exploring the past of the Ninja Programme, and getting to world-build all these characters and their enemies. As well, I'm a huge fan of what Matt Kindt and his collaborators did with their run, and I think the character himself is tremendously compelling - "what if James Bond was a ninja" is so simple but awesome a concept - that it was impossible to resist.
I had to cut short my run on Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps when the opportunity to work on the first season of the Daredevil TV show arose, so I also relished the chance to come back to Valiant and see through what I hope is a truly epic storyline.
Nrama: So with Colin King being the eleventh Ninja-, we're going back to the very beginning with the first Ninja- here. Doing some math here though, that's not a lot of time in the role.
Gage: Well, the Ninja Programme dates back to World War I, as we'll see. But it's a dangerous job with a high casualty rate. If you think professional athletes have short careers, try being a super-spy! Some lasted longer than others. But ending their career as the top Ninja- agent didn't always mean their story ended. That's what we're delving into. Colin himself has been Ninjak for a few years, but he's the first one to be a freelancer... and he's so good at it, MI-6 let him. But now he's about to learn about those who came before... and perhaps uncover some things he didn't know about himself.
Nrama: Live Wire has really come into her own as of late being the central figure in Secret Weapons and she makes an appearance here. How would you describe her and Ninjak's relationship for Ninja-K?
Gage: Complicated. They're both used to being loners, but they've been drawn to each other. We'll see how their relationship advances, and the hurdles they have to overcome. I really love the interplay between these two. Both have their baggage, but they care enough about each other to try to get past their instinctive defenses. That doesn't necessarily mean they're successful.
Nrama: You'll be collaborating with artist Tomas Giorello this time around so how did you guys come up with various ninja looks without being repetitive and with each having distinctive looks?
Gage: For me, it was a matter of trying to give each ninja their own identity, which sometimes comes from time and place and other times comes from necessity. Who first started using high tech, and why? Was there ever an attempt to give a Ninja agent powers? (Spoiler: yes.) What was going on in the era when they operated, and how would that affect their equipment and look? The idea is never that you can't tell one from the other. It's that each agent heralds a new era and their own distinct character.
Nrama: How are you approaching this kind of story for Ninja-K: hard-boiled action or more of a spy thriller?
Gage: Elements of both. It's weird to say you're trying to stay grounded when you've got stealth jets and miniature attack drones and ninjas who can slow their body processes down and all that, but we are keeping it grounded in the sense that we're staying away from the outright supernatural for a while (in part because the previous creative teams did it so well.) Classics of the super-spy comic genre like Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Master of Kung Fu are the inspiration I'm using, along with the best of the Bond films and spy pop-culture in general, from Terry and the Pirates to La Femme Nikita.
Nrama: Ninjak doesn't exactly have a large group of friends, so who can he trust this time around?
Gage: That's the question, isn't it? The things he's going to learn call everyone into question. He's instinctively not a trusting person, so he will find himself more alone than ever...and maybe pushing away some people who don't deserve it.
Nrama: The first issue is going to be a massive 40-page story so when you constructing this, did you think there was any way you could have made it a standard 22-page issue?
Gage: I mean, we could have, but it would have meant drastically reducing how much we revealed about the Ninja Programme and its history, and we all felt like there was so much we wanted to show and it was so cool and Tomas would be so amazing with it that we should just go nuts and pull out all the stops. We also wanted Tomas to have enough room to really display his talent, rather than crowding the pages too much. So hopefully, much like the recent X-O Manowar #1, the debut issue will feel special - an epic event in itself.
Nrama: Since working on Ninja-K, do you feel like Valiant could be a great fit for you later down the line?
Gage: Absolutely. I love these guys – I've known Warren for years, going back to when he was at Marvel – and I have loved the Valiant characters since I started reading them in the early 90s, when they first appeared. We're already talking about other possible projects. Stay tuned!