This September, Valiant Entertainment continues with relaunching its universe by introducing the hero Ninjak to the second arc of “X-O Manowar.” Created in 1993 by Joe Quesada and Mark Moretti, Ninjak was originally an enforcer for the mysterious Weaponeer organization. Debuting in the pages of “Bloodshot,” it wasn’t long before Ninjak was headlingin his own series due to his immediate and massive popularity with fans. Earlier this week, Valiant teased the return of the character in a teaser implying Ninjak’s latest Valiant incarnation may not work out so well for Aric of Dacia.
“X-O Manowar” writer Robert Venditti and artist Lee Garbett are responsible for shepherding Ninjak (redesigned by artist Patrick Zircher) into the rebooted Valiant Universe this September via “X-O’s” second arc. To shed some light on Ninjak’s Valiant debut, CBR spoke with Venditti about his work in devising Ninjak’s return to comics, how his appearance in the new Valiant U will affect Aric of Dacia and what fans can expect from this new incarnation of the popular character.
CBR News: Robert, tell us a bit about this new version of Ninjak. Who is he and where does he come from?
Robert Venditti: Ninjak — AKA Colin King — is a master of espionage and the Valiant Universe’s foremost weapons specialist. He’s a freelancer of sorts, selling his services to those in need of his particular skillset — and his services come with a very high price tag. Highly intelligent and supremely confident in his abilities, he’s also a bit cocky. But as he’ll come to learn, he doesn’t have everything figured out as much as he thinks he does, especially when it comes to the exact circumstances of his latest mission.
Historically speaking, there are two pretty disparate versions of Ninjak — one from the original Valiant run and another that came up with Acclaim published the series. Did you draw from either or both of these incarnations when developing this latest incarnation?
Much in the same way Valiant is handling all of their relaunches, this version of Ninjak will stay true to the spirit of what made him such a popular character during his original run, but also update him for today’s readership. It isn’t a ground-level reboot, so much as building on a foundation already laid. That said, there are some intuitive updates to the character that I think longtime Valiant fans will appreciate and that will give Ninjak a unique place in the universe.
I wanted to introduce Ninjak and make him compelling to the reader, but this is “X-O Manowar,” so Aric has to be the main character. It’s a delicate balance, giving Ninjak his due, but not letting him overshadow the rest of cast. I think we’ve managed to pull that off, but there are going to be moments where Ninjak gets his chance to shine.
The original Ninjak actually got his start in “Bloodshot” — what made you decide to introduce him via “X-O Manowar” this time around?
It was a storyline that made sense. There really isn’t much more to it than that. I don’t enjoy when two characters clash and it reads as though events were contrived to put the characters in the same place at the same time. That isn’t what we’re doing. There’s a very simple, logical reason why Aric and Ninjak will square off, and it fits perfectly with the core concepts driving each of the characters. It all happened very organically. When the Manowar armor falls to Earth, who better to go after the universe’s most powerful weapon than the world’s most skilled weapons specialist? When the dust settles, where both these players fall against the larger backdrop of the Valiant Universe will be clear for all to see.
It looks as though Ninjak is actually the villain of your second arc. In the first arc, you’ve been introducing Aric of Dacia, exploring his origin and his acclimation to the modern world. When the second arc starts, where is Aric in his hero’s journey when he meets Ninjac?
I don’t know if “villain” is the proper word, but he’s definitely the antagonist of the second arc. By issue five, Aric will have fought very hard to return to Earth, only to discover everyone he has ever known — his entire culture, even — has been gone for centuries. He’s alienated and without a purpose, but, as sometimes happens, events transpire that will give him a new purpose. Ninjak will play a large role in that transformation as he demonstrates just how dangerous this strange new world can be — even when you have a sentient suit of alien armor strapped to your back.
How does Ninjak compare to X-O in terms of personality and approach to the world, not to mention his approach to battle? Aric is obviously very much a man out of time, but what does Ninjak bring to the table to further challenge him?
The first arc of “X-O Manowar” has shown Aric to be a bit of a hothead. His heart is always in the right place, but too often he rushes in without thinking. By contrast, Ninjak is calculating and methodical. Each approach has its upside and its downside, and the fun part of writing this arc is pitting the two against each other and seeing how they respond in different scenarios.
In terms of fighting styles, they’re at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Aric is a 5th Century Visigoth accustomed to charging across open fields in broad daylight to clash head-on with his adversary. Ninjak relies on strategy and stealth, coming at his opponent in a way they’ll neither expect nor have time to prepare for. One thing is certain: as fierce and experienced as both of these men are, neither of them has ever faced anyone like the other.
How closely did you work with Patrick Zircher on the design for Ninjak? What sources were drawn from during the design process?
Actually, Valiant Executive Editor Warren Simons spent a long while working closely with Patrick to make sure Ninjak’s new look hit just the right notes. They took the essential, instantly recognizable elements of Joe Quesada’s brilliant design for the original costume and added some key flourishes that nail the dueling aspects of the character — high-tech spy meets old world Japanese assassin.
Why do you think longtime fans of Ninjak and new readers alike will enjoy the upcoming story arc of “X-O Manowar?”
The arc is going to have an espionage feel to it, which will certainly appeal to longtime fans of Ninjak. As for new readers, this arc gives us a chance to do something with “X-O Manowar” that I think is one of the great aspects of the original run: explore different genres. The core concept driving “X-O Manowar” is already genre-bending in that it combines both historical fiction and science fiction. The original run went far beyond that, though, bringing in elements of horror, fantasy, thriller and more. So this is an opportunity to show the characters in settings and situations they wouldn’t ordinarily find themselves in, but all in a way that makes sense narratively. This arc is going to be loaded with surprises.
“Ninjak” makes his debut in September’s “X-O Manowar” by Robert Venditti and Lee Garbett