Earlier this year, Valiant Comics came back to comics with a fire in its belly and a bold new direction for its classic characters. Valiant’s plans were ambitious: four new monthly titles, launched a month apart with May’s X-0 Manowar, June’s Harbinger, July’s Bloodshot and August’s Archer & Armstrong. And this week we learned their ambitiousness doesn’t stop there.
After a well-placed teaser image released at the beginning of the week, on Wednesday Valiant revealed that it was bringing in the tech-savvy ninja spy Ninjak to face off against X-O Manowar in the character’s September 5th issue. Memorable designed back in the early 1990s by a young Joe Quesada, to enter the 21st century Valiant tapped artist Patrick Zircher to bring the character up to speed.
Newsarama had the chance to speak with both Zircher and Valiant editor Warren Simons about this stealthy new development in the Valiant Universe, digging into the planning of Ninjak’s return and also looking forward into the character’s future.Newsarama: What is Ninjak up to in the new Valiant comics, Warren? The first image shows his sword defiantly stabbed through X-O Manowar's helmet, so I take it they aren't friends.
Warren Simons: Yea, as we'll see in X-O Manowar #5, these two are not friends. Ninjak is one of the most lethal characters in the Valiant Universe. He's a problem solver operating at a very high level. And while you might think that Ninjak would be outgunned by X-O Manowar's extraordinary power, you'd be mistaken. Ninjak's gained his reputation for a reason.
Newsarama: What is the title of this arc Ninjak is in starting with X-O Manowar #5?
Simons: The title of the arc is "Enter: Ninjak." It's like Enter Sandman, but with a ninja.Newsarama: Patrick, what were your thoughts when you first learned of the goal to redesign Ninjak?
Patrick Zircher: From day one I've been impressed with the art Valiant's bringing to their books and noticed each of the characters are being redesigned. A universe of characters that I didn't get to see enough of is returning. It's exciting. To be a part of it is a thrill.
Newsarama: How did the idea to bring in Ninjak into the new comics, and in this role, develop?
Simons: Robert Venditti and I were talking about Ninjak at C2E2 and Robert bounced an idea off of me that I absolutely loved and knew that we had to do as soon as humanly possible. As usual, Rob went above and beyond the call of duty to make it sing.
Newsarama: And how did you narrow down the list of potential designers and pick Patrick Zircher to do this?
Simons: Patrick is one of the most talented artists working in the medium today. He's got an exceptional eye for character design - his work on Thor: Ages of Thunder seemingly influenced Thor's costume in the film - and he's an incredibly gifted artist. If you haven't read Thor: Ages of Thunder or the MAX version of Terror Inc., I'd encourage you to pick these up as quickly as possible.
Newsarama: Patrick, what parameters did Valiant give you to work with in redesigning Ninjak?Harbinger #4
Exclusive RevealZircher: I was asked to get across the feel that it's Ninjak but, in addition to the ninja garb, there's a higher tech aspect to the character.
Newsarama: The mask Ninjak has is unique – open top and eyes, but the mouth is covered. As someone who’s drawn comics extensively in addition to designing, why’d you go this route with his expressions on his face largely covered but his hair open?
Zircher: I've worked on a lot of masked characters and learned an artist can be extraordinarily expressive when the eyes and the area around them are visible. The rest of the mask adds a touch of the classic ninja look and the shock of hair is in keeping with the original. The hair also lets the artist create direction and flow in action sequences, always a plus.
Newsarama: Looking back in the archives, I see you doing many sword-related characters – from Deadpool all the way back to your creator-owned series Samurai 7 back in your early days. Can you tell us about your interest in sword-wielding heroes and how you tried to make Ninjak unique but authentic in that respect?
Zircher: I hadn't thought about it but I guess swordsmen of some sort or other are in nearly every series I've worked on – except Iron Man. Love of sword-wielding characters probably goes back to reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E.Howard, and Alexander Dumas. With Ninjak, I wanted to go with a pair of katana, more ninja-style weapons than the long straight sword he had in his earlier appearances.
Newsarama: Were there any ideas you had for Ninjak that you didn’t end up using, and if so, can you tell us how you came to decide against using them?Harbinger #3
Zircher VariantZircher: We were originally going with clear, acrylic-like scabbards for his swords until we realized what a bloody mess that would look like once things got, well, bloody messy. We had also removed gold completely from the color scheme – but it just didn't quite feel like our guy until we brought the gold back.
Newsarama: This might be a question for Warren, but will Patrick be doing more work for Valiant in the future?
Simons: Patrick has the green light to swing on 3 and 0. He's an incredible talent I've been honored to work with several times in the past. We're exceptionally happy to be working with him at Valiant on the Ninjak redesign and on a number of covers.
Newsarama: One last question: It might be premature to ask this, but if I don't readers will: what are the chances we'll see a Ninjak series on his own?
Simons: If I were a betting man, which I am, I would say that they're good. But I wouldn't be surprised if we've got someone coming up next that fans have also been asking for...maybe even before Ninjak returns to his own title....
Ninjak returns to comics in X-O Manowar #5 in September 2012.