As a samurai, a detective, and a member of the Daughters of the Dragon, Colleen Wing would like to say she's seen it all -- but when it comes to Shadowland, this street-level supporting character is venturing in whole new territory. Being pushed into service as the head of the Hand's all-female hit squad known as Daughters of the Shadow, Wing's adventures will be chronicled in a three-issue miniseries in August by Jason Henderson and Ivan Rodriguez. Newsarama caught up with Henderson to talk about the tone of the book, what kinds of women our (anti-)heroine will be leading, and what it's like to take the "&" out of a character like Colleen Wing.
Newsarama: Jason, outside of last summer's Hulk: Broken Worlds, this is your first foray into the Marvel Universe, correct? Can you tell us a little bit about how you got this gig?
Jason Henderson: Yes, and in fact Hulk: Broken Worlds (like Strange Magic, another piece I did) was in a pocket universe, so this is totally my first foray into the Marvel Universe. I got the gig by continuing to write all the time; I've been busy doing novels all year; I'm on a three-book contract with HarperCollins for a YA series about a vampire spy called Alex Van Helsing. But editor Mark Paniccia knew that most of the comics I've done have featured female leads in a really action-heavy setting, so I think they decided it was a fit. But really, who knows how these things happen? I'm just here to say yes. And it's never just yes, it's will you pitch? Sure, I'll pitch. Then you're like the optometrist: better like this? Better like this. Fast, fast, get us a plot, it's Friday night. Maybe it sticks. This time it sticks.
Nrama: In a lot of ways, it seems like Colleen Wing is always ignored in favor of her other gal-pal, Misty Knight. For you, what's the appeal of a character like Colleen to you?
Henderson: It's very enticing for me as a writer when you have a character with a lot of skills but who hasn't really been explored. Colleen has been kicking around since the big black-and-white magazine days, she's this badass, samurai-trained swordsman, and yet we only really know her as "& Colleen Wing" of "Daughters of the Dragon starring Misty Knight & Colleen Wing." So when Mark said, pitch us a Colleen Wing story, I knew I wanted to make it really about: what's it like to stop being an "&." We all have to go through that, so we can all relate.
Nrama: Based on what's going down in Shadowland, it looks like there will be a lot of characters that have to choose sides. Without giving too much away, where is her head at, in terms of the morality of what Daredevil is doing with Shadowland?
Henderson: Colleen aligns herself with Daredevil because he can offer her a chance to make things right.. The reason is, she is very interested in taking down some very bad guys, a bunch of untouchable slave-traders, who specialize in smuggling in women and taking away their passports, and forcing them to work as prostitutes. Daredevil offers her the tools to go after people the police can't touch, and it all starts with taking her rightful place in the Hand. And the main thing she gets out of the Hand is leadership of a new hit squad.
Nrama: Maybe we're reading too much into this, but there almost feels like this whole grindhouse, Tarantino-esque high concept here, with Colleen Wing leading this all-female hit squad. For you, what sorts of opportunities does a story arc like Shadowland give you here? And just to get a sense of the flavor of this book, what kinds of influences are you drawing here for Daughters of the Shadow?
Henderson: Well, my instinct is always to make it BIG. So if we're gonna have Colleen going after modern slave traders, give her some real flavor -- I absolutely have a grindhouse fetish going in this book. The new squad, which we learn is a revival of an old key group within the hand that were all assassinated years ago, is made up of five women, each with their own skills. So the team gores from got traditional warriors like Black Lotus, who uses weapons like fans and sai, to really terrifying members like Cherry Blossom, a completely insane and homicidal cheerleader, and Yuki, who wears a white mask and uses skills that call to mind Yuki-onna, the Japanese snow demon who can freeze you. They are not nice people, and yet of course Colleen has always trod the straight and narrow, so leading them will be a real challenge. It'll be fun, too, because if you must lead a homicidal teenager, you might let her stay homicidal while still insisting that she not put her feet on the coffee table.
Nrama: Just based on the title alone -- "Daughters of the Shadow" -- it implies there will be more than just Colleen swinging swords. Are there any other Marvel characters you might be able to tease who will be watching her back -- or taking the fight back to her?
Henderson: Well, see above, and let me add that there's also Makro, a crazy woman with multiple bionic arms, patterned after the Giant Japanese Spider-Crab, because I really like saying Giant Japanese Spider-Crab.
Nrama: Going back just a bit -- they say that character is illuminated by conflict. Considering Colleen is, in many ways, a bit of blank slate to many Marvel readers, are there any characteristics that you are leaning on -- or adding into the mythos?
Henderson: I like to think of it as "discovering," as though the character has simply been silent and is now revealing things to me. In the case of Colleen, here's a woman who is always understood to be ultra-competent, confident, sexy, all of this. And yet we don't really know her personality. So I got busy thinking about what might motivate someone like Colleen, who seems to work harder than everyone else and takes everything very seriously. Her story is heartbreaking: raised by her grandfather when her mom died, and he raises her to be a samurai. And she sort of drifts from one strong authority figure to another. Someone like that really desperately wants to excel and be approved of, and eventually it comes time when they need to approve of themselves.
We finally will see Colleen come to closure with her best friend and now ex-partner Misty Knight. But whether she stays a leader will be the challenge of the book.
Nrama: You're working with Ivan Rodriguez on this book. Can you tell us a little bit about what the back-and-forth is between you two, and what strengths you feel he brings to the book?
Henderson: So far the back-and-forth has been very fast and professional, which is so vital when you have a project as heavily scheduled as this. We send ideas, he sends back designs. We send notes: "make her taller, make her shorter, give her pom-poms, ditch the pom-poms," and he can turn it around. I send out script pages and he shoots back thumbnails that blow us away, and he turns the thumbnails around fast. I produced my own comics for years, and let me tell you, responsiveness and attention to detail are probably the most important things you can have in an artist partner. And we're just at the beginning! I can't wait to see the finished work.
Nrama: Finally, for those who are still on the fence on Daughters of the Shadow, what would you say to get them on board? Are there any moments you're excited to see hit the page?
Henderson: Hot women bearing crazy weapons, bashing through doors and taking down slave-trading mafia guys-- I mean, for Pete's sake. But no, seriously, I hope people come for the homicidal cheerleaders but stay for to see Colleen Wing grow into a major character. The moments I'm personally looking forward to most? The moments with Misty, who was her partner all those years, and isn't anymore. I'm looking forward to seeing these two women come to terms with working separately.More on Shadowland: