In 2017, Valiant Entertainment and its fans will explore the history of Ninja-K.
More specifically, writer Christos Gage and artist Tomas Giorello will explore the history of the ninja program that helped make Ninjak who he is in a new series titled Ninja-K.
The new series will trace the ninja program back to its roots in World War I, reveal who Ninja-A through NInja-J were, and answer a lot of lingering questions about Ninjak and his relationship with MI6.
At Valiant Summit in Los Angeles, ComicBook.com spoke to Gage about his plans for Ninja-K.
How would you pitch Ninja-K to someone who isn't overly familiar with Ninjak?
Christos Gage: Well, the great thing about Ninjak is it's a very cool simple high concept which is, essentially, "What if James Bond was a ninja?" It's a super spy who uses technology, espionage techniques, and also ninja techniques and fighting styles. Matt Kindt is going to be finishing a terrific run on the character where he delved into Ninjak's personal history, both in terms of his powers and his fighting ability and also his childhood and I recommend that to anyone, but he's left this great little tidbit out there that Ninjak is actually Ninja-K, meaning there was a Ninja-A, B, C, D, and so on.
On my run, we're going to get into the history of the ninja program, how did it start, why is there a practitioner with Japanese espionage style that's so important to the British Secret Service? And the answer to that is that Britain and Japan were allies in World War I, so that's when Ninja-A first came over. Of course, Japan and England were enemies in World War II, so that's how you lead to things like Ninja-A and Ninja-B fighting each other in the '40s. We've got a '70s ninja who's like if Foxy Brown was a ninja. We're coming up with all this great history of the program and the context of the story is that someone is killing people formerly associated with the ninja program and Ninjak has to look into it and find out what's going on.
I think that is all I can say about it, but the great thing is if people aren't familiar with Ninjak, it's just like you don't have to have seen however many James Bond movies to go see the latest one. It stands on its own and that's what we're doing. You'll get everything you need to follow the story. If you've been reading it a long time, you'll appreciate some of the threads we're following up on, but if you haven't read it before, you can enjoy it certainly on its own and, hopefully, it'll get you excited to go back and read the early issues but it's just like you don't have to watch James Bond films in any particular order. You'll watch Skyfall first and then go back to the Goldfinger.
So we should expect to see some ninja-on-ninja action in Ninja-K?
CG: I don't want to make it sound corny but there will be some ninja-on-ninja action at some point in the series, yes.
What was it like coming on Ninjak after Matt Kindt's fairly long and defining run?
CG: See, I'm a huge fan of what Matt did. I think that he did a terrific job. I love the way he does world-building whether it's in things like Mind MGMT or the stuff he does with Valiant, so it was more of a sense of that I don't want to try to do the same thing he's been doing, but at the same time, his world-building left so many threads and tidbits that he hasn't had a chance to do anything with that I can be like, "Oh, okay. We'll explore this" or "We'll explore that" and the biggest one to me was the ninja program, the history of it. Ninjak is a freelancer. He can accept or deny missions from MI6 even though he works with them a lot, so what about that makes him different from past ninjas? How did the program come about and how did it come to be that they even let a ninja agent be a freelancer without trying to take him out. Why do they accept this arrangement?
The great thing about following Matt's run is he left so many rich veins to mine. If I ever decide to do something that's a trip to the Deadside, for example, like Matt has already done, then I'll probably be intimidated because he did such a great job with it, but I think we've got plenty story material that for a while. We won't be covering the same ground that he did.
You make it sound as if a big part of the story is just figuring out why MI6 even puts up with Ninjak.
CG: Yeah, and again, I'm trying to think of what I could say without getting too
What was the creative process of developing the histories of Ninjas A through J like?
CG: It was actually a lot of fun because I just wrote down each letter and then it was a matter of coming up with a timeline. I actually did a little bit of research and found an actual tidbit of history which is something I didn't know which is that Japan and England were allies in World War I, so that explains why someone who practices Japanese art is working with England. He was on loan from Japan. Well, then at some point, Japan and England became enemies, so then what happens? At some point, England said to themselves, "Hmm, we may not have this guy much longer. We better make our own," and what did that lead to? Then how did they change along the way? How did they evolve? How did the times that the characters were living in affect the ninja program?
Putting all that together, once I have the basic timeline, putting it all together was just a matter of what leads logically from one to the next and also what's really fun and cool to do? Like the idea of, at some point, probably in the late '60s, early '70s, they'd start being less chauvinistic and more open to the idea of female ninja agents, so that's when you get your Foxy Brown ninja agent. And then what was it like in the '90s? Did they ever experiment with wanting to have a ninja agent who has super powers as opposed to one who's a peak human? It's kind of like as a fan when you play speculation games about the characters and the worlds you love to read about. It's almost like that.
Has any of those other ninja agents emerged as a personal favorite as you've created them and fleshed out their story?
CG: Some of them have been flushed out more than others at this exact point, so those are probably a little more favorite, bu one of the things I made sure of in doing is with each one, would I enjoy telling stories about this character? And so each one of them has something I think that sets them apart, makes them interesting.
How will the tone of Ninja-K compare to Ninjak? More espionage, less superhero?
CG: Well, at least for the first arc, yeah, it's going to be more superspy than superhero but James Bond in a lot of ways is a superhero. Ninjak will still be using his high-tech and his fighting abilities.
At least at first, we're not going to be doing stories where Ninjak is going to the Deadside and dealing with supernatural menaces or Ninjak fighting Divinity, a cosmic level superhuman. That's not to say there won't be any superhuman beings at all in the storyline but it'll be a little bit more like Ninjak dealing with threats and allies and enemies who are more like him, so if you can sort of imagine that, like much in the way that the James Bond films have people with special talents and equipment but we're not getting too cosmic, I guess, you would say, but that's not to say we never will. It's just for the time being, we want to stay in that sort of superspy milieu.
What has scripting the ninja action scenes of the series been like?
CG: I've actually really enjoyed it. It's not something I've done much in my career, so that's a lot of fun and I'm a big fan of series like the legendary Master of Kung Fu series mostly by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy and Mike Zeck who were some of the great people who worked on that, so I'm sort of drawing on that. The ways they told the story really fed into the whole spy game aspect of it, and I'm really trying to tonally and spiritually be faithful to that.
Any last teases or hints you want to leave fans with?
CG: Obviously, I'm thrilled to have Tomas Giorello drawing the thing. He did such an amazing job on X-O Manowar and he's just tremendously talented, so that's a big thrill and I know he'll be designing some of the ninjas. It's always such a delight to come up with general ideas of characters like these past ninjas and then see the artist realize them and improve upon them and make them great, so that's the most exciting part to me.
Look for Ninja-K to launch from Valiant Entertainment in November.