Betrayals And Subterfuge On A Grand Scale – Christos Gage Talks Ninja-K

by Hannah Means Shannon

Ninja-K is stealthily invading comic shops this November, starting off a new ICONS title for Valiant, and bringing with it the creative team of Christos Gage (Netflix’s Daredevil), Tomás Giorello (X-O Manowar), and as recently announced, Ariel Olivetti on back-up stories. The premise for this new series is bold and revelatory, diving back through the 20th century to explore the roots and iterations of the MI6 Ninja Programme that eventually spawned the superspy Ninjak, otherwise known as “Ninja-K”.

The incident that brings all this information to light for Ninjak are a series of assassinations of former members of the Ninja Programme who are now in retirement. Could he be next? To investigate this, we have to follow Gage and Giorello through the past as well as the present.

Christos Gage joins us here today on Comicon.com to talk about Ninja-K.

Hannah Means-Shannon: What do you think are some of the key elements that make for a good criminal underworld mystery?

Christos Gage: Well, Ninjak isn’t a criminal underworld mystery per se. It’s super-spy fiction, which has some common elements — betrayals, subterfuge, always being on guard — but is also much bigger in scale. The characters move in the shadows but fight to the death on top of Big Ben, or similarly grand settings.

HMS: When there’s a character like Ninjak, who has plenty of bad qualities as well as good qualities, what do you think the reader needs to know in order to care about him and root for him against bigger forces?

CG: I think it’s important to understand what motivates him and what he’s been through. That’s important for the antagonists, too. But in Colin’s case, I think he is aware of his less positive qualities and troubled by them, which goes a long way toward making him sympathetic as he struggles against them.

HMS: We’ve had a very specific personality to get to known in Colin King, but now readers are going to get a chance to get to know several other members of the Ninja Programme. What kind of personalities are we going to encounter in that way, and do you think we’ll find they have more similarities or differences to Colin?

CG: That’s the key question! Each ninja agent is a unique personality, but they all have common experiences, so part of what’s fascinating is to see their different reactions to similar situations. The more he learns about their lives, the more Colin starts thinking about the implications for his own life, including such important elements as his relationship with Livewire.

HMS: The comic is being presented to the reader in different time periods, I believe, taking us back to the period between WWI and WWII and forward. Did you find out anything surprising during research for the book? What was espionage actually like back then?

CG: I was actually quite surprised to find out that Britain and Japan were allies in World War I, which I had not known – and which provides a perfect historically-accurate reason as to why a practitioner of a Japanese art works for a British spy agency! As for what espionage was actually like, it was dangerous, but not nearly as flashy as in spy fiction and our stories. I usually try to start with something from real history, and then inject a bunch of insane tech and fights and situations into it.

HMS: You’ve probably written many fight scenes in your career so far, but what specific elements did you need to bring in to the Ninja-K story to make it distinctive and feel like the world of Ninjak that we’ve known so far?

CG: Martial arts, advanced tech, and crazy settings and situations. I wanted the fight scenes, without seeming derivative, to feel like the ones I loved in the old Master of Kung Fu and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD books. These characters might not be able to throw tanks at each other, but the fights end up seeming more cool, brutal and real than the superhero battles.

HMS: It seems like these other ninjas are the closest thing Colin might have to a spy family, actually. How does it affect him emotionally to know that they are being picked off and targeted in their retirement and that he might be next?

CG: It affects him quite strongly, especially as he personally knew one of the victims. But as he goes along, and learns more secrets from the past, his feelings could well change…dramatically.

HMS: What has it been like working with Tomás Giorello on this book? He really seems to add an old school gravitas to a story telling the history of the Ninja Programme. Any favorite aspects of Tomás’ work you’d like to call out?

CG: It’s incredibly cinematic. It calls to mind the work of Gene Colan, who also had a cinematic style and whose pencils could also be colored directly without inks. It has exactly the quality of realism – but the heightened realism of the craziest Bond film you ever saw – that this book needed. It’s been a tremendous pleasure to work with him! I can’t wait for the readers to see it.

Here’s our exclusives preview of Ninja-K #1, courtesy of Valiant:

Many thanks to Christos Gage for participating in this interview with Comicon.com.

Ninja-K #1 arrives in shops on November 15th, 2017.