An Executive Assistant’s job is never done. There are dictations to type, memos to take, phone calls to return and… assassinations to enact? While these may not be the average duties of the modern secretary, it’s all in a day’s work for Iris, the protagonist of Aspen Comics’ “Executive Assistant Iris,” heading into her second volume this June beginning with a special zero issue.
In Volume 1, readers were introduced to Iris, Executive Assistant to prominent Chinese businessman Mr. Ching. As an Executive Assistant, Iris has been trained in all the day-to-day duties of a secretary, but is also proficient in the art of assassination. While performing missions for Ching, Iris realized her loyalty did not lie on the side of the angels and began to turn against her employer. Now, with Ching out of the picture and Iris cut loose, her world will exponentially expand with revelations that will bring new light to the world of Executive Assistants.
Expanding Iris’ world is writer and series creator David Wohl — and not only will he expand the world of Executive Assistants with Volume 2, the series will lead into Aspen’s big summer event, “The Hitlist Agenda” and a host of new “Executive Assistant” titles. Wohl took time out of his busy schedule to give CBR News the newest developments on “Executive Assistant Iris,” the other “Executive Assistant” miniseries, the new big bad in Iris’ world and the how it all plays into “The Hitlist Agenda.”
CBR News: David, tell us about the new volume of “Executive Assistant Iris.” What’s the core concept and how does it relate to the events of Volume 1?
David Wohl: In the original series we introduced readers to the world of Executive Assistants, which is a concept that my co-creator Brad Foxhoven and I actually came up with after reading an article in the New York Times. In that article, they talked about how in Asia in the ’80s, corporations were growing rapidly, but doing business was a very dangerous thing as businessmen were often killed or kidnapped by unsavory people whom they were doing business with. And they were wary of bringing bodyguards to meetings, because that would seem like they didn’t trust the other person. So they began to hire Executive Assistants — women who were trained as bodyguards, but also skilled as secretaries, who would accompany businessmen to meetings and look unassuming as their assistants, but in reality they could defend their employers if necessary. These people, almost always women, were trained at schools in China that would often take in girls who were orphans, teach them all the skills necessary to be Executive Assistants, and then sell them to rich, corporate buyers.
We thought this was a great premise for a comic, and came to Michael Turner and Aspen who, luckily, liked the concept as well! And we brought in artist extraordinaire Eduardo Francisco, who is on the new series as well! Then we all worked together to create the story of Iris. She is meticulous and deadly, and fiercely loyal to her employer, a Chinese businessman named Ching. Over the course of the story, she realizes that Ching is up to some shenanigans, and she begins to understand that her loyalty is misplaced. She performs a series of hits for Ching, and even woos a co-worker at her employer’s request. But when she actually falls for her erstwhile coworker, things begin to fall apart and she ultimately finds herself at odds with her boss. In the end, she prevails (uh, spoiler alert?) but then at the very end of the story, she is attacked by a mysterious assailant.
The new series begins several months later, and over the course of it, as well as the other books connected to “The Hitlist Agenda,” we show that the world of the Executive Assistants is MUCH BIGGER than we first realized. There are schools across the world, and Executive Assistants are popping up all over the place, working for corporate bigshots worldwide, as well as gangsters, drug dealers, and even celebrities.Â In my story, we follow a new Executive Assistant named Actiea, and her employer, a powerful woman named Diane Coverdale.Â Her husband was recently killed and she feels her life is in danger as well, so she hires Acteia to keep her safe. At first, we’re still wondering what happened to Iris. But we quickly learn that Iris has been busy since her disappearance — and her path will definitely cross Acteia’s and Diane’s!
Will readers get to find out exactly just what happened to Iris in the zero issue or is it more of a slow and steady reveal throughout the series?
Yes, readers will eventually learn exactly what Iris has been up to, as well as some other Executive Assistants whom people may have thought were deceased (hint, hint). There are definitely some surprises in store!
Now that Mr. Ching, the villain of the previous volume, is out of the picture, what can you tell us about the new antagonist?
He’s a man named Duncan Villone, and although people don’t know it yet, he’s intimately connected to the world of Executive Assistants, and has been for a long time. And now that there are schools across the world and the number of Executive Assistants has grown exponentially, he has some interesting plans for them.
Similarly, can readers expect to see any familiar faces come out to play in Volume 2?
Well, there are a number of Executive Assistants whom we’ve introduced over the course of the first series. Some emerged from the series unscathed and some didn’t fare so well after fighting Iris. There will definitely be EAs from both categories in the new series, as well as a bunch of new ones!
“Executive Assistant Iris” is part of Aspen’s first event, “The Hitlist Agenda.” How does the book connect with the event and what can we expect further down the line?
We have the honor of being the starting-off point for the whole crossover — first in “Executive Assistant Iris” #0, coming out in June, and then in #1 coming in July. In those 2 issues, we begin to get a sense that Iris is involved in a new scheme that will ultimately expand to include a host of new Executive Assistants — AND their employers. In this series, and the event itself we see that the stakes are much higher than before. Her old employer Mister Ching was involved in some wrongdoing, but his plans didn’t really affect too many people beyond his relationships. This time, Iris’ exploits will have an effect on a global level — something she won’t realize for a while…
What kinds of challenges will Iris face during the second volume and beyond moving into “The Hit List Agenda?”
In the first series, Iris was able to learn over the course of the story that she wasn’t just a soulless killer. She had a conscience. Once she realized that, she was able to take down her employer even though the odds were stacked against her. This time around, Iris slowly comes to understand that the world she is part of, and the people she encounters within it, are much more formidable and dangerous than she initially suspected. In every issue she will uncover more and more pieces of a puzzle and she’ll realize that this time she doesn’t have enough power on her own to defeat this enemy. She’s going to need some help, but the people she needs help from are just as dangerous to her as the people she needs to fight.
Rumor has it that in addition to “Executive Assistant Iris,” there may be some other characters getting introduced in Iris’ world in July. Care to comment?
As a matter of fact, we are launching three other mini-series as part of “The Hitlist Agenda” crossover. “Executive Assistant: Lotus,” written by Vince Hernandez with art by Oliver Nome, “Executive Assistant: Violet,” written by Marc Andreyko with art by Pop Mhan and “Executive Assistant: Orchid,” written by Scott Lobdell with art by Micah Gunnell. These books all launch in July, along with Iris, and I must say it has been really fun working with these guys. We bounce ideas around as we work out the whole storyline, and everything is integrated into one storyline that will run right through the summer and finish in my Iris series in the Fall. I haven’t worked on a crossover like this since my Top Cow days, when we worked on the “Devil’s Reign” crossover with Marvel. But this one is even more ambitious than that, I think.
That said, I will say that this isn’t your typical crossover — we don’t force readers to pick up all the issues in order to enjoy the stories. You can read “Iris” or “Lotus” or “Violet” or “Orchid” if you’re a fans of any of the creators. You’ll definitely get a good read if you pick up any of these individual series. BUT, if you pick them all up, your enjoyment will be enhanced because there is a great story in there that runs across all of the series for the readers who are willing to make that commitment.
As a writer, what appeals to you about Iris as a character? What makes her enjoyable to write?
I’ve always enjoyed working with Iris because she’s smart, meticulous and she kicks a lot of ass. When I work on this book, I get to immerse myself in a world that’s just so alive and dynamic — and different than my own day to day life. It’s fun doing the research to make the world believable and interesting, and I love figuring out how Iris gets out of all of the dilemmas that we put her in. Plus, I’ve always been blessed with the luxury of working with great artists. From Michael Turner on “Witchblade” to Dave Finch on “Aphrodite IX” and Joe Benitez on “Cyblade” and the other Top Cow projects we did together, these guys always did such great work that I would look forward to writing stuff just so I could see them draw it. That’s the way I feel when I write “Iris” pages as well, because I feel that I’ve developed a good rapport with Eduardo Francisco and I really enjoy seeing how he visualizes what I write. It’s one of the more fun aspects of the job!
What does the future hold for Iris? Any plans for her beyond Volume 2?
I definitely have some ideas for the next Iris series that will delve deeper into her character and where she came from. Hopefully, if fans enjoy “The Hitlist Agenda” as much as we think they will, we’ll be able to keep doing Iris stories for a long time to come!