An interview with Christos Gage, writer of the new ‘Ninja-K’ series from Valiant.
Colin King–also known as Ninjak–remains one of Valiant’s most popular characters. The freelancer for MI-6’s adventures often blend the fantastic with storylines in the vein of Ian Fleming or John Le Carré. Matt Kindt’s recent run on the character was excellent, and helped convert those who missed out on the character’s other appearance into fans.
Replacing Kindt on the upcoming Ninja-K series is Christos Gage, who has previously worked on comics such as X-Men: Legacy, Civil War: House of M, and Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps. Gage also works as a writer on Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil TV series. We had a chance to talk with Gage about his new Ninja-K, working with Valiant, and the differences between writing for television and comics.
AiPT!: In your interview with IGN, you mentioned that you wanted to explore the super-spy angle rather than duplicate Matt Kindt’s focus on the supernatural. What are the benefits to grounding Ninjak’s story more in reality this time around?
Christos Gage: Mostly that Matt and his collaborators already did the supernatural and did it so well. I’m not saying we’ll never do supernatural stories – Ninjak is still part of the Valiant Universe and so is the supernatural, just not for a little while. Keeping it more grounded in the material world also fits in well with our focus on the past of the Ninja Programme.
AiPT!: As a fan of Ninjak, one of your run’s biggest draws for me is your exploration of the Ninja Programme, which has been alluded to for a long time but never fully explored. Can you tell me how that history is going to intertwine with what I assume is still a very Colin King/Ninjak-centric story?
Gage: Someone is killing people who have been associated with the Ninja Programme, and Colin has to find out who it is. In the process, he uncovers information about the Programme he is a part of, and it has shocking implications for his own life. That’s about as far as I can go without spoilers… but basically, as we learn about what happened to various past ninjas, Colin is thinking about parallels to things he’s been through and is still going through… and wondering what that means.
AiPT!: Obviously it’s like choosing your favorite child, but which of the new Ninjas did you most enjoy writing?
Gage: So far, it’s a tie between Ninja-G, the first female and first black ninja agent, whose premise is basically “what if Foxy Brown was a ninja,” and Ninja-C, whose story is tragic even for people in this line of work. But there are plenty of ninjas I haven’t sunk my teeth into yet, so one of them could easily take the lead!
AiPT!: What makes Colin King/Ninjak unique compared to those other Ninjas?
Gage: Colin is a freelancer – he can pick and choose the missions he goes on. And he was trained by the Undead Monk, not the training methods the Programme used. So he feels he’s quite different. But he’s going to find out he might not be as different as he thought.
AiPT!: This isn’t the first time you’ve done a comic for Valiant. A few years ago, you were working on Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps. How does it feel to be working with Valiant again?
Gage: Great! I love these guys. I had to cut my run on Bloodshot & H.A.R.D. Corps short when I got the opportunity to write for the first season of the Daredevil TV show. I always felt bad about leaving early, so I am thrilled to be able to come back and hopefully stick around for the long run this time.
AiPT!: How did the opportunity to write Ninjak come about?
Gage: [Valiant Editor-in-Chief] Warren Simons, who I’ve known since he was at Marvel, and who I worked with on Bloodshot, called me and asked if I was available. When he mentioned Ninjak, I jumped at the chance, being a fan of the original 1990s Valiant version, as well as what Matt and his collaborators have done.
AiPT!: What about Tomas Giorello’s art made him seem like the right fit for the series? What does he bring to the table?
Gage: Ninjak has that James Bond quality, and Tomas’ art, like Gene Colan’s, is extremely cinematic… Also like Colan, you can (and we do) color his pencils without any inks, courtesy of the great Diego Rodriguez. There’s a stunning double-page spread Tomas has done featuring ninjas throughout the years, and I absolutely adore it… It’s like a ’70s movie poster. He really makes this book like the greatest Bond film you never saw because they couldn’t possibly do it on the screen… but Tomas can.
AiPT!: You’ve got a number of writing credits for television, Daredevil in particular, under your belt. How does writing for television compare with writing a comic?
Gage: In some ways, comics give you more freedom because you’re not worrying about the budget or other practical considerations… For example, if you tell a network you want to do an episode where instead of featuring the star, you want to do a flashback to their World War I predecessor, they’d tell you that their star gets paid six figures per episode and is damn well going to be the focus. Plus shooting period is expensive, so forget about it. But on TV you have a writer’s room (usually) and you get the input of the entire room on the story, which makes it a great collaborative experience. Of course, other times you enjoy doing it all yourself. I love going back and forth between different types of writing. I feel it keeps different creative muscles in shape.
AiPT!: Are there any comics characters that you’d like a chance to write that you haven’t already?
Gage: I’ve been lucky enough to write most of the characters I grew up loving. I guess Godzilla, but the version from the Marvel Comics of the ’70s, with all the supporting characters, which will likely never happen for rights reasons. Similarly, the Shogun Warriors. As for purely comic book characters, I’d have to say Kamandi. I love me some Kamandi.