Enter: Ninjak. A bold exclamation in white text on the cover of “X-O Manowar” #5 back in September 2012. Since then, Ninjak has been one of the most active members of the Valiant universe. In May the character’s 27 issue run of his own solo series came to its end. The character of Ninjak was explored throughout writer Matt Kindt’s run but one of the most important; the Ninja Programme had only been touched upon. That all changes this November 15th with the debut of “Ninja-K,” Ninjak’s new solo series from creators Christos Gage (“Bloodshot,” Netflix’s Daredevil) and artist Tomas Giorello(“X-O Manowar”).
This new series will feature a “straight-ahead, espionage-driven” story that looks to explore the “character’s relationship with his handlers at MI-6 and reveals the origins of the “Ninja Programme” that’s been training (and replacing) Ninjak’s predecessors since 1910’s.” To learn more about this new series and the Ninja Programme we were able to talk to the series writer, Christos Gage. Below you will find out Q and A with Christos and three exclusive covers to the second issue, due in December.. Be sure to look for Ninjak and his new series “Ninja-K” this November.
Ninjak has to be one of the most popular characters in the Valiant stable. He is coming of an amazing solo series with writer Matt Kindt and a host of great artists. There also might be just a little bit of hype also around this live action series. As a creator how does it feel taking over a this character right now, making him your own and telling your own unique stories?
Christos Gage: It’s exciting for the very reasons you mention…the creators we’re following built an amazing mythology and world around Ninjak, but it’s not restrictive at all; there’s plenty of room in it to explore new stories. The past of the Ninja Programme is the one we’re kicking off with…how did Britain’s top field agent spy end up being a ninja – an art usually associated with Japan? Well, did you know Japan and England were allies in World War I? That’s how far back it goes. We’re having a blast – I love all the terrific designs Tomas is coming up with for the past ninjas! Of course, we’re not neglecting Colin King as a character in the process… What he faces will have major implications for his own life.
Readers have got some teases as to the new direction of this series. What can you tell us about this new direction and why is this is a story that you are excited to tell for the character?
CG: Without giving too much away, someone is killing people associated with the Ninja Programme’s past, and Ninjak has to find out who it is. In the process, he’ll learn the dark secrets surrounding the tradition he is the current incarnation of…and have to look at his own life and career in a new light. In a thematic sense, we’re leaning heavily into the super-spy side of things. Too much more than that, I don’t want to say, because I think it’s a lot more enjoyable to discover it in the story itself.
There have been nods for a long time about the Ninja Programme. It is exciting to know we will get to see a story focused around the program and the other ninja agents with your ideas as the focus. For you guys there seems like there is a lot of story to tell, characters to create and history/lore to build with this series. How has creating this history and world been for you as creators? Do you have a lot of freedom in terms of building this history and how you want it to look?
CG: Pretty much complete freedom…as long as we don’t contradict established Valiant Universe history, we can do whatever we want. So we get to do some fun world building… What would a specific era’s ninja agent be like? What would the times call for? And what kind of person would thrive in such a deadly job…or would the role crush them? Also, what villains would they face, and what kind of personal lives would they have? It’s like getting to create the toys you’re most excited to play with.Continued below
Valiant titles always feature some great villains. What can you say about what we will see Ninja-K and the others going up against in the series?
CG: As I said, the initial villain is a mystery to be uncovered, so I’ll be a bit secretive there. Going forward, it’s very much in the super-spy vein…I’ve been looking at comics like “Nick Fury,” “Agent of SHIELD” and “Master of Kung Fu,” as well as Bond films, for inspiration. There were always great, but relatively grounded villains in those. In other words, Ninjak won’t be going up against cosmic-powered enemies or outright supernatural foes… Matt and his collaborators did a terrific job confronting Ninjak with magic, so we didn’t feel the need to go back to that, at least not for some time. Part of the fun, as well, is thinking up villains from past eras. We already know that Dr. Silk has stayed basically immortal through cloning, but what other villains bedeviled Ninja agents…and are any still alive? We want each story to be the best super-spy action movie you could ever want to see.
Not enough credit is given to how well Valiant handles their shared universe. Looking back at this reboot and we first see Ninjak in an X-O title. Will your series have weight and repercussions that will interact with the larger universe? I know you can’t spoil anything, (unless you can or just want to I mean this is just between us) but is there anyone you would like to see make an appearance in your series so you could write for them?
CG: We don’t want to throw in guest stars just for the sake of having them, but we have talked about who might show up. Livewire is an obvious choice… Readers will see the relationship between these two characters, who are used to being loners, go in a direction they’re not necessarily used to. There are likely to be other Valiant universe characters appearing – as friends or foes. But one thing we want to make sure of is that readers don’t have to pick up other titles unless they want to. You’ll always get what you need to follow the story in the book you’re reading. We’re trying to give readers all the benefits of a shared universe without any of the drawbacks, which I think Valiant has done quite well as a whole.
My favorite thing about Ninjak books are the tech the action, and the fights. With a book literally full of ninjas how have you approached the fighting, the weapons and the ninjas?
CG: I’ve tried to make each ninja a distinct character, in terms of their equipment, their appearance, and how they approach the job. Some of them are products of their time…like Ninja-G, the first female ninja agent, who stems from the idea “what if Foxy Brown was a ninja.” Others also come from the old “what if” game…i.e. doesn’t it make sense that as super-powered characters like psiots arose, MI-6 might try to give one of their ninja agents powers? The idea is to make each one somebody you’re dying to know more about and distinct in themselves, while remaining rooted in the idea of ninja super-spy. As for the action, it’s a matter of thinking of awesome things for Tomas to draw and turning him loose!
With the idea of multiply ninjas (Ninja-A, Ninja-B,.Ninja-K) coming together and also telling a story that features these characters over generations how do you handle a story that big with what sounds like a lot of characters?
CG: The idea is to reveal that this larger world and history exists, giving the reader enough information to tantalize them and make them want to know more, but not throwing all the characters at them at once, which I agree would be confusing. Some of the past agents are dead; others are retired, in hiding or out of the picture somehow. They’re not all showing up at once. Which means they can appear when we have the best story to tell for them.
Since the Valiant reboot we have seen Ninjak/Colin appear in his own series but also a lot of other series. While at the core he is the same each creative team has their own idea of what/who Ninjak and Colin are as a character. For you guys who do you see Colin/Ninjak is as a person? Who is he at the start of this new series?Continued below
CG: For me, Colin is the product of an abusive family. And it shows in how he goes through life…keeping people at arm’s length, able to trick or seduce anyone, but never really getting close to anybody. At the start of the new series he’s still that guy, maybe starting to take a few steps to try to change that…but it’s not easy for someone like him, and there are more ghosts of the past that are about to raise their heads. This time, not so much his past as MI-6’s, but his past and the agency’s are very much intertwined…and he might well discover that his MI-6 “family” has something in common to his biological one.
Any time I have ever talked to anyone at Valiant, someone writing or drawing a Valiant book they are always just so excited and it’s contagious. The one NYCC panel I have made sure I never miss is Valiant’s. Everyone involved appears to absolutely love comics and love Valiant. As creators who have worked for Valiant before and get ready to launch this new series why do you think Valiant creators are so enthusiastic for the line? Why do you find yourself creating books for this publisher and universe?
CG: Part of it is that when you see great work from other creators it makes you want to do good work yourself. Part of it, for those of us who remember picking up Valiant 1.0 comics, is the thrill of working on characters you loved and read as a fan. And a big part of it is that the folks at Valiant are awesome – Dinesh and Warren and the whole team – and treat creators really well. Plus they’re more excited about the characters than anyone. Getting to collaborate with talents like Tomas and Juan Jose Ryp is pretty awesome, as well, and makes you want to bring your A game every time, because they do!
What do you hope fans of the character take away from this series? For new readers why might this be the time to pick up a Ninjak book?
CG: On the most basic level, I hope they’ll enjoy the story. That they’ll feel like they got the thrilling experience of a great Bond film mashed up with the most exciting martial arts movie. I think longtime fans will enjoy seeing the past of the Ninja Programme revealed and explored, while for new readers, this is a terrific jumping on point…you don’t need to have read anything that came before to follow the story, and you’ll get to learn all these cool things about this world and the people who populate it. Not to compare the two, it’s kind of apples and oranges, but I remember when I first discovered the X-Men…there was obviously a rich past to these characters, but the stories I was reading were compelling and contained in themselves. That’s the kind of feeling I hope we’re going to deliver. You’re reading a great story, and you get the sense there’s a history to it all which you can explore if you want (and you won’t regret it if you do!)…but you can also just strap in and go along for the ride.