The writer of SHADOWLAND: DAUGHTERS OF THE SHADOW talks about the 3-part series, and his other work in comics and novels. Thank you to Mr. Henderson for taking time out of his schedule to do this interview!
Kuljit Mithra: With the third and final issue of the Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow series now out, I was wondering how you felt about the writing experience since I believe it was your first series work for Marvel, correct?
Jason Henderson: Yes it was. I learned a lot, because prior to this I had mostly worked on independent comics that didn't tie in to any other comics out there. In this case, not only was it a miniseries but it was a miniseries that was tied into a Marvel event. One thing that I was amazed by was how responsive the editorial team was-- these are guys who under pressure and would look at changes, tell you what they thought, send you a request, and it all goes bam-bam-bam. They were like a well-oiled machine.
Mithra: Since the series was part of the Shadowland story, was this something you had initially pitched which transformed into this series, or were you asked to pitch a story based on some guidelines from editorial?
Henderson: It was a Shadowland story by birth. Marvel came to me and asked, 'would you be interested in doing a street-level female team of Hand Assassins?'. That was really where it started. They wanted Colleen and street-level ninjas. I had even tossed around the idea of a more super-powered team, but the office was very keen on the idea of keeping it to low-level powers. And of course it would focus on Colleen Wing.
Mithra: My exposure to the Colleen Wing character before this series was minimal... like many people I knew she was Misty Knight's (former) partner and that's about it. What drew you to the character? Was it the opportunity to expand on her history with The Nail?
Henderson: I was totally enthralled by the idea of a character who's always been an "and," as in "Misty Knight and Colleen Wing." I had not had a lot of exposure to the character either, but that's really a plus. It means you can read pretty much everything she's been in in a day or so and go forward. And Colleen was a really rich character-- raised by a samurai who worked for the Japanese Secret Service, master swordsman and private eye, with this long history with Power Man & Iron Fist. So I loved the idea of meeting her. And so what we came up with was that she would be enticed to join and lead a female ground team for Daredevil, an ancient part of the Hand called the Nail.
Mithra: Now that you mention it, your description of Wing as an "and" is probably the best way to put it. For your research, what stories did you read, in case any readers wanted to look out for those.
Henderson: Sure! Okay, there were two series that were really key to read. Those would be "Heroes for Hire," both the Civil War series and the following series. You can get them all in trade or read them on Marvel Digital. The really key elements happened in the arc that ended with Heroes for Hire #15, where Colleen and Misty finally had their falling out. Before that but recently, there was also a miniseries called Daughters of the Dragon that showed them working together that I really enjoyed.
Mithra: With The Nail, you introduced some new characters and used an existing character, Black Lotus. How closely did you work with artist Ivan Rodriguez to get their look and characteristics down? Can you describe some of your ideas behind Makro, Yuki, and Cherry Blossom?
Henderson: I put together a bullet list of the characters with their descriptions, but I have a very light touch when it comes to judging an artists' rendering of the character. To my mind that's their skill and I don't get involved unless there's some major course correction, like if someone actually needs to be very short or tall, or something. In this case, I bulleted out Colleen, Lotus, Makro, Yuki, and Cherry Blossom, and essentially made them "Colleen and the Little Women," with Lotus as stuck-up Meg, Yuki as shy Beth, Makro as temepestuous Jo, and Cherry Blossom as self-centered Amy. But truly there's not much time to get into all that, because it's a three-issue series, so you have to bring the central plots to a conclusion, whereas in an ongoing you can keep threading the plots around the character work.
Mithra: I'm sure this is a common question you get asked, since you also write novels, but is writing comics very different for you? Do you write outlines? Do you write full script?
Henderson: I totally write outlines for comics, and in Marvel what we do is:
* first a paragraph-long pitch
That way you have plenty of time for everyone to eyeball the work and see if it's working for them. Because remember, unlike with an indy series or
isolated Marvel series, this was an event series, so it also had to tie into major events in Shadowland.
* then a "beat sheet" of major scenes
* then a page-by-page outline
* then a full script
* first a paragraph-long pitch
That way you have plenty of time for everyone to eyeball the work and see if it's working for them. Because remember, unlike with an indy series or even an isolated Marvel series, this was an event series, so it also had to tie into major events in Shadowland.
Mithra: With Shadowland being told across many titles and different editorial teams, was there anything specific that got changed or removed, even after all these checks were in place?
Henderson: The greatest challenge was one of timing. For instance the action of the series takes place after Shadowland #2, which revealed something key about Daredevil's actions in Shadowland. But that revelation was a secret, and Daughters of the Shadow #1 came out earlier-- so we had to tell the story such that the revelation about Daredevil is a secret even though it's known to all the characters in the story. That was not easy, and of course if the story were all published together, there are certain lines of dialogue that could be less oblique.
Mithra: One of the things I liked about the series was that there was time to pause and reflect on the relationship between Wing and Misty Knight. What did you enjoy most about dealing with their friendship, and what was challenging to portray?
Henderson: I was excited most about this out of the whole series. I wanted this to be the series where these two partners who have had this strained relationship finally reconcile. What I loved most was imagining what each would want to say to the other. I loved writing the coffee scene in Issue 3, mostly. The idea that these two can now be on their own without being at odds anymore.
Mithra: The ending certainly leaves a door wide open for further stories. Something you'd be interested in doing if given the chance?
Henderson: Oh, absolutely! Colleen's an interesting woman, and I like that her humor is very cool and dry; she's all about the dignity, while at the same time she's drawn to flighty people, like her neighbor Tig who I imagine being a traveling assistant, and Cherry Blossom, who's the opposite, a total bruiser. I think they'd be a great super-detective team.
Mithra: Thank you very much for doing this interview. I've mentioned your novel work and you've got a Alex Van Helsing book coming next year. Can you give a brief background on some of your work and what's coming next for you?
Henderson: Yes, I started writing YA novels in the same universe as my comic Sword of Dracula. Whereas the comics are about Ronnie Van Helsing, a superspy who works for the organization called the Polidorium, the books are about her brother Alex when he's 14 years old. The first book, Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising, was just named by the Texas Library Association to the 2011 Lone Star Reading List, a list of the top 20 books published in the previous year for young readers. That's a huge honor because there are only 20 titles, and schools all over the state buy and promote those books. The second book, Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead, comes out in Summer 2011.
(c) Kuljit Mithra 2010
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