Christos Gage outlines the future of the publisher's resident super-spy
Valiant Entertaiment has been a fresh and exciting superhero publisher for a few years now, but there’s never been a better time to start reading. Last month saw the launch of a new X-O Manowar series, with writer Matt Kindt and artist Tomas Giorello taking one of the company’s flagship characters on the first step of an epic space saga. Now one of Valiant’s other prominent heroes will be getting a similarly fresh relaunch, when Giorello and writer Christos Gage begin a new Ninja-K series this November.
Many Valiant characters mash up different pop culture influences, and Ninjak is a particularly awesome example of that: a combination spy and ninja who slices his way through all kinds of enemies. His most recent series, written by Kindt, explored some magical and metaphysical territory. Gage’s run, by contrast, will focus more on the spy element and on the history of the secret program that created Ninjak — especially since a mysterious someone has started killing off people involved in the program, Watchmen style. The title of the new series, Ninja-K, emphasizes Ninjak’s role as the latest iteration of a long-running program (going all the way back to Ninja-A and Ninja-B).
In an interview with EW, Gage teased his plans for the series, which kicks off with a special 40-page first issue. Look for it this November, and check out the first cover from Trevor Hairsine above.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Like the new X-O Manowar series, this book seems like a great potential jumping-on point for new Valiant readers. Can you explain to new readers who Ninjak is and what his role has been in the Valiant Universe up until now?
CHRISTOS GAGE: The great thing about Ninjak is he’s a terrific character with a cool high concept: What if James Bond was a ninja? He’s a super-spy who uses ninja techniques along with fancy spy tech. He works with the British MI6 but he’s also a freelancer and does whatever he wants. He has become the go-to super-spy of the Valiant Universe, if you will. One of the things I love about the character is you can tell many different kinds of stories with him, as Matt Kindt and his collaborators have shown. You can do spy stories, you can do crazy high-tech that’s almost sci-fi, Matt did some semi-horror, and you can do straight up superhero action (Ninjak is part of Unity, the Valiant superhero team).
We’re looking at it as, going back to the James Bond analogy, every Bond movie is its own experience. You don’t have to have seen Diamonds Are Forever to enjoy Skyfall or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Each one is its own big, epic story, and that’s how we’re approaching it with this relaunch. What I think Matt did wonderfully with his run on Ninjak is he really delved into the backstory of Ninjak himself: His personal past, where he got his training and abilities, his childhood. There’s no reason for us to redo that, so we’re looking at the past of the Ninja program itself. Matt established that Ninjak is actually Ninja-K, so there were Ninja-A, -B, -C, and so on. We’re going to start looking at the history of the program. What happens is, someone is going back and killing people who have been associated with the Ninja program in the past. Ninjak has to figure out who’s doing it and why, and obviously he’s gonna be a target himself.
We’re getting to really delve into the history of the Ninja program. How is it that MI6, the British secret service agency, has as as their top operative someone who uses Japanese spy techniques? We’ll get into that. It has to do with the fact that Japan and England were allies during World War I. But of course Japan and England were enemies in World War II, so what happened there? It’s a really cool mythology we’re setting up. With Ninjak himself, we’re gonna see his relationship with Livewire move forward. At the end of the day we want it to be equally enjoyable to people who have been reading Ninjak this whole time, and folks who want to jump on board now.
What can you tease about the past versions of Ninja? What else might we see in this super-sized first issue?
We’re gonna see a lot of Ninjas through the ages. I’m really excited to see the designs that have already started to come in. There’s a badass ’70s female Ninja, who’s sort of like if Foxy Brown was a ninja. I don’t want to give too much away but there’s the ones from ’50s who are more James Bond mode. They use tech to varying degrees. I really like going back to the original two Ninjas, A and B, because they have an interesting history. What Ninjak is going to uncover in the course of this investigation is something that affects him personally and makes him take another look at the whole program. He’s the first of the Ninja agents who is a freelancer, he doesn’t answer directly to MI6 and goes out on his own. We’ll explore what makes him different than those who have came before, and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
I know you’re just starting to see the art come in, but what can you tell us about working with Tomas so far? His stuff on X-O Manowar blew me away, so I’m excited to see what he’s bringing to Ninjak.
I think anyone who’s seen his work on X-O Manowar knows how amazing he is as an artist and storyteller, especially his design work. Some of the aliens and planets he designed for X-O are just so cool, and that’s the type of design sense we thought was really important to bring to this, looking at past Ninjas and the history of the Ninja program. It’s a bit different genre wise, where X-O is fantasy and sci-fi, Ninja-K is more super-spy and high-tech. I think artists, like writers and anybody else, like to stretch themselves creatively, and what’s exciting for me is seeing Tomas use his tremendous powers in a slightly different arena. I think people will really enjoy that.