A spy's job is to gather secrets, but when Valiant Entertainment's resident secret agent Ninjak finds all of his secrets have been exposed to the world he must change who he is to fight back.
Going on-sale July 14, Ninjak #1 kicks off a new series by Jeff Parker and Javier Pulido that aims to redefine the spy game for the Valiant hero, and also break down the artificial barriers between writer and artist. Pulido spoke with Newsarama earlier this month about how he's writing through his art, and now Parker is here talking with us about how he's working with the artist to make the best comic possible.
Along the way, we found out that Parker's own track record of spy comics from James Bond to his own fondly remembered creator-owned series Interman has revealed a secret about him: he is a super fan of the spy genre as well.
Newsarama: Jeff, what do you have for store for us in this new Ninjak series?
Jeff Parker: As you say, we're going for.a different feel with the series. Really we're just trying to imagine what it would be like for such a secret operative to be dragged out into the sun, where the element of surprise isn't on your side anymore. It's life dropping on Colin King like an avalanche instead of him being given a mission to carry out.
Ninjak #1 preview
Newsarama: Colin King's the kind of guy to keep his secrets close, even among friends. What can you say about his secrecy normally, and how that could be breached like this?
Parker: It felt thematically like a true approach for these times, where the world has shifted under our feet. So now you're reading about this superspy, and in a way, the same thing has happened to him. It's now all about he/we adapt to our new situation.
Newsarama: There's got to be someone behind this, but I think Colin's fighting this on more than one front. Who all is he up against here?
Parker: There's an anonymous group called Daylight who seemed like a group of hackers out to embarrass the power players in the world, but suddenly they have deeper access than before. Enough to expose everything about the powerful British MI6. And they don't plan to stop there, because secrets are the new currency and leverage for power. The figurehead of Daylight is a man referred to as Kingmaker.
Newsarama: Does Colin have anyone on his side in this?
Parker: He's down to a skeleton crew.
He still has his old boss Neville, but Neville was affected by a psychic attack that resulted in what we call 'The Great Brain Robbery.'
The other person is a Songbird-class agent, Myna. She was assigned to follow Colin around the world and keep MI6 posted on King's doings. Unlike much of the cast of the series, she's not a super killer, she's really someone who gathers information, classic spycraft. Despite Colin's cold view of the world and how the strong survive, he knows she's ill-equipped to deal with this new situation where you're constantly under siege and he starts trying to impart some of his second-nature skills to her. It's a new role for him, sharing what he knows, almost as a teacher.
Newsarama: The last time we spoke, Jeff, we were talking about a James Bond series you were writing. Now we're here talking about another super-spy, even more 'super' than 007. Between that, this, and the signed copy of Interman I have over there on my shelf, what is it about this connection you have with spies and espionage?
Parker: It's a good question! I was immersed in Bond movies from a young age and I have a strong affinity for that kind of action-suspense. I love movies like Three Days of the Condor. I like that what matters here are survival instincts and we've really downplayed the tech aspect this time out.
Part of that is because in Javier, we have someone who can show action in a very different way than most comics. A clever fighter needs a clever storyteller. Also, you see Colin in plain clothes a lot more here because frankly, he looks cool when Javier draws him that way and I think it makes us connect better to the character. He's almost now more in disguise wearing a black shirt than he is in the ninja gear.
Newsarama: When this was first announced, people were rightly blown away by Javier Pulido's artwork here - he's making a big jump here, angling for stark and bold simplicity. Can you give us your perspective on knowing Javier was on the book, then seeing how he chose to approach it?
Parker: I was excited! We had worked together years ago, and I've wanted to be on a book with him ever since.
We go back and forth a lot more to keep this from being what's called the 'assembly line' of comics. And I think you'll be able to tell that when you read it. You also have to read it closely because Javier has very subtle things happening, it rewards repeat readings. I think we make a great team and am grateful to Valiant senior editor Lysa Hawkins for putting us together.
Newsarama: I just finished the first issue - what do you think of what Javier's doing now, judging by what you've seen from the first issue and beyond?
Parker: I knew it was going to look like nothing else, but Javier took it even further.
Readers who are artists themselves are going to enjoy his approach in particular, there's a lot to learn here. Pulido doesn't try to wow you with flourishes and intricate linework, he's more a force of nature who shows you what visual storytelling can do if you embrace the medium of comics.
It challenges the reader and expects them to step up too. We know our readers are smart and we're going to reward that instead of giving them something they can find anywhere.
Nrama: Last question then, what's the big draw of this Ninjak run that you can't keep a secret that fans should know about?
Parker: Indirectly, we're also saying a lot about the modern world and how information is currency. The villains of this piece understand that and are trying to control the Economy of Secrets, essentially. All the world's secret services are now compromised and vulnerable, but Ninjak is still a survivor, first and foremost.
In our own ways, we've got to be more like Colin King to get through this.
Ninjak #1 goes on sale July 14 in comic shops and on digital platforms. For the best digital comics experience, here are our recommendations for the best digital comics readers.