COMMENTARY TRACK: Al Ewing on "Ninjettes" #1

Fri, February 17th, 2012 at 8:58am PST

Comic Books
CBR News Team, Editor

Al Ewing dissects "Ninjettes" #1

Earlier this month, Garth Ennis' newest creation, the Ninjettes, graduated from a punchline in the writer's "Jennifer Blood" series to a Dynamite title of their own. Writer Al Ewing, who took over "Jennifer Blood" scripting duties from Ennis as of issue #7, weaves a bloody and violent tale featuring the deadly assassins, fleshing out the original characters' back story while building a new team that is set to be decidedly more effective than their predecessors.

Below, Ewing walks CBR readers through the first issue of the all-new, all-violent "Ninjettes," delving into the grindhouse influences on the new series, explaining how he sync up the somewhat comedic original Ninjettes' with the much more competent and dangerous group he's assembling and the inevitable uprising of Garth Ennis' Star Cars!

Note: The following COMMENTARY TRACK contains images containing massive amounts of blood and violence.

Story continues below

Al Ewing: Boy howdy! Eman could knock a robot-based comic out of the park.

The Star Cars are something Garth Ennis invented for "Jennifer Blood," a fairly standard-sounding aimed-at-boys commercial-for-toys thing that popped up once or twice in the background. I'm treating it here like Transformers -- I love the moustache on the Optimus Prime figure -- but I imagine there's all sorts of other nonsense in there as well, little lifts from Mask, He-Man. At some point I'll give it a decent skewering.

The opposite number in the TV schedules to Star Cars is, of course, the Pony-Rabbits, a form of kid-crack I'm assuming isn't a billion miles away from My Little Pony. Since My Little Pony seems to be back with a vengeance -- the vengeance of a brony betrayed -- it's surely only a matter of time before that makes an appearance in the comic as well. Hmm, what about a war between the two toy companies? Lots of corporate espionage and assassination inside the world of brightly-colored plastic. I think I just plotted issue #10.

This whole situation was obliquely referred to back in "Jennifer Blood" issue #4, which, unsurprisingly, informs the first six issues of "Ninjettes" a lot. Kelly's dad, we're told, ran away with his nephew -- meanwhile, I'd included a bit of business in Jennifer Blood #8 (on sale now!) saying that Kelly's mom was a Senator. I can't remember if that was before or after I was told about the Ninjettes spin-off, but the idea popped into my mind that Kelly's dad would be hunted down and killed before the nephew-abducting scandal could hit the papers, and this would be Kelly's first contact with the shadowy world of the covert assassin. And so it came to be!

"Welcome To Violence" -- like every title for the first six issues -- is a quote from the Russ Meyer classic "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" in which a trio of marauding women smash mercilessly through a teen beach movie, killing the handsome lead and absconding with the leading lady before slamming head-first into a completely different genre-movie comprised of a family of killers on a deserted farm. It's a nice way to think about a new Ninjettes team -- that they'll be tearing wildly through various different tropes, genres and idioms, reducing them to rubble and roaring away unpunished. And the first story they'll be overtaking and demolishing is the origin story of their predecessors. That'll take a good six issues, but by the end I'm confident they'll handle just about anything.

Here's the full quote, as delivered breathlessly over strange fluctuating patterns at the very start of the film:

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence -- the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favourite mantle still remains: sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn't only destroy -- it creates and moulds as well... Let's examine closely, then, this dangerously eeevil creation, this new breed, encased and contained within the supple skin of woman… the softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female. The surface shiny and silken. The body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution -- handle with care and don't drop your guard! This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs, operating at any level! Any time! Anywhere! And with any body! Who are they? One might be your secretary! Your doctor's receptionist! Or a dancer in a go-go club!"

Smash cut to a dancer in a go-go club. Jack Moran, everybody.

People don't really like your protagonist shooting a child in the face on-panel. It's not 1940 anymore. "Playing truant, eh-h-h? This for you, urchin -- BANG BANG! Courtesy of that bastion of good -- Mister Good!" Follow the adventures of this bold new crime-crusher in the pages of Union-Breakin' Chuckles, also featuring The Deather.

Mister Good is evidently the character find of 1941. Hmm, I think I just plotted issue #11.

The question is, will I let Varla get away with something like this? Or is there some kind of karmic punishment lurking in the future?

I'm reminded of the bit in "Hobo With A Shotgun -- a film I saw for the first time a couple of weeks ago that seems to have been created specifically to be shoved into a dusty old VHS box at the very back of the Ace Video Shop in Heworth, alongside "Spider-Man Strikes Back," "Hard Ticket To Hawaii" and "Wild Zero." It had problems, but I was impressed with the totality of the style, the way the filmmaker managed to conjure up certain facets of the eighties video-cheapo experience so completely. Anyway, there's a bit in that where one of the bad guys, who previously roasted a school bus full of kids -- who obligingly pressed their burnt faces to the windows in the name of cheap thrills -- gets trapped on board a spectral version of that same school bus and dragged to hell. I can't help but feel that there really should be a similar school bus waiting for Varla down the road.

The original concept for Varla was based heavily on Tura Satana -- or rather, Tura Satana spitting the deathless dialogue of Jack Moran through gritted teeth. (The name "Varla" is a bit of a giveaway there.) Varla's an out-of-control muscle car, speeding through situations, smashing with bone-breaking force into whatever falls into her path. Can she be directed? Can she even direct herself? We'll find out.

Mr Oshiro, making a brief guest appearance from the pages of "Jennifer Blood." I think this is his only appearance in this series, but fans of Eman's portrayal of Oshiro can find him in "Jennifer Blood" #9, out next month.

At one point in the series of pitches I sent, "Ninjettes" was going to be focusing a lot more on the families of the originals -- to the extent that I was ignoring the origin of the originals entirely and looking at Kelly's little sister's decision to form a gang of fourteen-year-old vigilantes to deal harsh social justice in a small suburban community -- a kind of "Jennifer Blood Juniors," The Bash Street Kids with big knives and lefty politics. It got a bit too deep and weighty for this, but I might rescue that idea one day for future use.

More Meyer! I'm really nailing my colors to the mast here, with a direct reference to the kind of beautifully overblown rant Meyer ended up spewing over the trailers of his later movies. (Here's an example.)

It's the biggest statement of intent so far, really -- me saying, "Yes, in this comic I am Russ Meyer." That's when you laughed, Bruce! That scary laugh of yours! "Sure, we're Russ Meyer!" you screamed, like a deranged monkey, "We've always been Russ Meyer! We have to be Russ Meyer!" Except Russ Meyer would have had a bit more sex in it by page eleven, so I was obviously holding back. Never mind, violence is the new sex anyway.

The Tittyboom Room was an attempt to reproduce the strange febrile atmosphere of one of those trailers -- it's the kind of place where the Kelly Nations might have ended up playing while John La Zar and Charles Napier mugged furiously in the background. I don't know if I got that on the page in the end, though, and anyway I hate going back to the same gag twice, so I blew it up in issue three.

Anyway, here we have the new Ninjettes, and some vague hints about what their characters might become. I was asked to introduce a new team at the same time as telling the origin of the originals, so as the six issues go on, we'll be fleshing them out in more detail and, eventually, finding out just what happened in Kennebunkport.

(I picked Kennebunkport as the site of some Terrible Occurrence in the past because I was casting about for a traditionally funny-sounding town. Then I found out the Bush holiday home was in Kennebunkport, and suddenly it all clicked into place.)

Unlucky for some! What the hell is going on here? Forget it, Jake, it's Kennebunkport.

Our first sight of Ray Buwick, beloved ex-employer. He'll become important later. He's a pansexual mixture of Ted Danson and Tim Gunn, two of my favourite silver foxes.

Exposition time, plus a bit of linking to the main series. But never mind that! Here's Phil! God, he's a grotesque creature. Which probably says more about me than it does about him. Depending on how much humor I can squeeze out of him, I'll either keep him around as a court jester or blow his head off quickly somewhere around episode six.

Meanwhile, we're introduced to Brooks, who'll become important in later episodes. At the time I was writing this, I didn't know he was gay, or that he was kicked out of the marines under DADT. I found that out later, when I interrogated him in my head in the shower. This happens more often than you'd think.

DADT? Well, "Ninjettes" is set in early-to-mid 2011, at least for the first six issues, and obviously Brooks' backstory happened before that. Unfortunately, DADT remains relevant as there are plenty of idiots wanting to bring it back.

So I had a spare page, and I wanted to illustrate how Varla could completely destroy an adult human body in seconds, as an afterthought. Hence this. It's almost a gag strip, isn't it? Under the Bizarro Sea, Reverse Aquaman reads this kind of thing instead of Mary Worth.

Meanwhile, in Charterstone, Mary quietly digs a hole just large enough for a human body. That one should have followed her advice. It's always so unpleasant when they won't follow the advice.

Varla does some more damage, and we get a bit more plot in. It's all starting to take shape! Or is it?

Kelly's a bit mousier here than she ends up being -- she was just starting to wake up in my head and walk around. (More interrogations -- this time while staring at a blank page on a computer screen with a cup of coffee. I found out something interesting -- she's got a tendency to act weaker and dumber than she is to get people to underestimate her. Didn't work in "Jennifer Blood" #4. Oh well.)

I read "Wetlands" over the weekend, the Charlotte Roche novel. Kicking the crap out of conventions, indeed. Anyway, that might end up informing Kelly as I move forward -- not so much the up-front approach to hygiene and bodily fluids, more the general attitude. Kind of a shame she has to die, really -- but then, I think that about most of the characters I end up killing off, and their deaths aren't already written into the continuity of the book.

Varla's pad -- I basically had the idea of her living out of one of those giant storage lockers in the middle of nowhere, the kind they turn upside down on Auction Hunter. And now, at the time of writing, I'm waiting to find out if I myself am going to be living out of a storage locker in the near future. Be careful what you write, folks! Morrison was right!

We show Varla's bike, plus a Trans Am, which I'm going to have to work in at some point. When? Well, that depends where we end up going after this origin story has been entirely reduced to rubble. Maybe some sort of race. Maybe some sort of Wacky Race. Maybe some sort of..."Death Race 2000." I think I just plotted issue #12.

And at the end, we discover Kelly's dad bisected in the freezer! More red paint as the grindhouse ethos makes itself felt for the last time. And we're out -- until next month, and "Ninjettes" #2, when the moorings start to snap and the story rears up and howls like a raging beast-machine of deadly-death! Feast on it!

TAGS:  commentary track, dynamite entertainment, ninjettes, al ewing, garth ennis, jennifer blood

 
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