Having had the chance to first write the character as part of Valiant Entertainment's "Unity" event series, Kindt brings the world's most dangerous intelligence agent into his own solo series this March, joined by artists Clay Mann and Butch Guice. The series will follow Colin King both on his latest mission to find and take down "The Shadow Seven" group and on his very first missions for MI-6.
To find out more about Kindt's plans for "Ninjak," the swooniest spy there is, CBR News spoke to the writer about how he came onto the book, what Ninjak will face in this first arc... and which James Bond the character is most like. Connery? Moore? Dalton? Read on to find out!
CBR News: It's not exactly a secret how much you like Ninjak, and how much you wanted to write a solo series for him. What is it about the character that you respond to? What made you a fan?
Matt Kindt: He's the only ninja/spy in popular culture -- which when I was 12 years-old were the two coolest job occupations ever. Now I'm a grown man -- and those are still the two coolest jobs ever.
It feels like a "Ninjak" solo series has been in the works for quite some time. Was this something that came up as you were working on "Unity," or did you already know a series was coming when you started on that book?
I'd been bugging [Valiant Editor-in-Chief] Warren [Simons] and the guys since the day I started, asking them to put me on the list of potential writers when they got around to launching "Ninjak." And again, like everything they do, they waited until the scheduling worked and the pitch was good -- luckily I'd been thinking about the character a lot and was able to hand them a plan for the first year and a basic idea for how the series would work.
And when Warren came to me he explicitly told me to think outside the box and not be hemmed in by any perceived constraints that the medium and the genre usually suffer under. So I cut loose -- had ideas for a gadget page inside [front] cover for every issue (that I'm drawing) and a few other story-structure ideas that don't get done much in monthly comics.
"Unity" and "Rai" are both, arguably, ensemble books -- will this series feature a team of characters also, or will it be focused directly on Ninjak as the lead and star?
This one is definitely focused on Ninjak -- what makes him tick and who he is. A lot of that will be the people in his life -- but most of the series is written from his perspective.
Where do you think the character sits within the Valiant Universe? In comparison to the grander aspirations of X-O Manowar or Harada, he's really quite a more 'street level' sort of character.
Yeah, I think that's what's great about him, is that he's just a normal dude -- no powers, no fancy armor. He's just a guy with his training and his mind and he's got to go toe-to-toe with X-O Manowar and all of these high-powered characters -- and not only survive, but come out on top. I think that makes for a really interesting story. Not only what kind of guy would do that -- but what kind of guy would want to do that?
Where does his moral compass lie, in your opinion?
I think he's probably the most interesting character in the Valiant U because of his motivations. He's been a kind of mystery for a few years now -- and there isn't one specific event that made him who he is and what he does. His "origin" story is a lot more nuanced. I'm trying to make it as realistic as possible and make him as real as I can. Grown adults are the product of a thousand decisions and life choices they've made or had made for them over the year, so the fun in his series is seeing him now and then seeing those thousand small moments that put him where he his.
For this series, he'll be butting heads, and likely swords, with a group called the Shadow Seven, the same men responsible for training him. What brings them into his path? Is this simply the next mission, or is there a personal element to the fight for him?
There's a personal element -- a few key moments from his past that will figure into who and what the Shadow Seven are. We'll see the role they played in his past and present as the series unfolds -- that's really the core and the secret of what the first 12 issues are built around.
That's what's been really fun working with Valiant is being able to structure a story like this that plays out in small pieces every month but really has a larger structure and a bigger story so it's not just a cliffhanger on page 22 every month. There are layers of clues and meaning all throughout that are going to give the series an extra layer of depth when you read it the second time.
To that same point, does Ninjak have much of a life outside 'the mission?' Will the series be looking at him when he's not following a new mission, and what he does with his life in those moments?
The series is structured so we get modern-day Ninjak action -- his current mission and then small snippets from his childhood and then great back-up stories that detail Ninjak's training in the basics of espionage when he was just starting out. All three of those weave together each month so we can get a full picture of what he's about.
What kind of style will the series have? You're no stranger to spy stories, with your creator-owned series "Mind MGMT" delving deep into that genre. I guess the real question is: will Ninjak be more like Connery, Moore or Craig?
If I had to pick a Bond... he's probably Craig with a Roger Moore veneer. But honestly, each issue is going to have three different flavors to sort of get across the dichotomy of Ninjak's character. The espionage aspect of it is one tone -- and then he straps on this crazy outfit and disappears like a ninja and gets shoved out of skyscraper windows, so there's that, and then the short glimpses of the childhood he had that got him to where he is.
I really want to humanize him in a way that Bond can never be, and sort of show how a human being gets to be this superhuman, un-killable spy.
Speaking of Bond, you mentioned earlier that you're designing a gadget for each issue's inside cover?
Yeah, each issue will have an inside cover that I'm illustrating and writing/labelling. I had a fun idea for a twist on one of my favorite tropes of spy comics -- the headquarters cut-away views -- which are something I've always loved, as well as handbooks with gadget diagrams. So I'm doing that.
Each gadget is going to be chosen to fit a specific theme or moment that we see in the story that issue, and then the descriptive text for the gadgets is... a little out of the ordinary. Not exactly what you'd expect -- but I don't want to spoil it!
What's it been like working with artist Clay Mann on the series? How's the collaborative process for you both?
He's been great -- I'm an artist as well, so I really get a kick out of seeing pages come in that are way better than what or how I would have drawn it. His stuff is just phenomenal.
Butch Guice has also been announced for the book, drawing a recurring backup feature which follows Colin King's first missions as a spy. What are you enjoying about the different ways he tackles the character and his world?
I've loved Butch's work forever. Each issue has a back-up story that is really integral to the main story line so while it appears separate, it's telling a story that will eventually loop around to the present-day story line.
Butch's section is set during Ninjak's early years -- his first years learning the spy trade -- so it's all really grounded and gritty, as he gets trained and encounters his first antagonists. It's a great visual shift that really serves the intent of the story.
Will the two stories in each issue be intersecting at all, or is your plan to keep them separate?
Yeah, definitely, over the first year you'll begin to notice little things here and there -- like a watch that Ninjak receives in the flashback that shows up later in the present-day story section, and later we realize the significance of that particular watch. Small things like that will be threaded throughout, and by the end of each arc and at the end of the year you'll get a real understanding of why those back-up stories were there. It all comes together.
Is this a book which sits away from the rest of the Valiant Universe, or is the plan to let it get tangled into the path of some of the other books and characters?
I'm sure eventually we'll see more interaction with the rest of the universe, but in a way it's going to work more like "Rai" does. "Ninjak" is in this little bubble -- we'll see little bits of things here and there creep in from the rest of the universe, and eventually it will all explode and in year two we'll be seeing more direct interaction, and Ninjak's relationship with the rest of the universe. But for this first story I really wanted to give Ninjak some space to become who he is, and to get to know him first.
And then watch him rub the rest of the universe the wrong way...
"Ninjak" #1 is on sale March 11 from Valiant.