Early in the week I had an interview with Caio Oliveira from Super Ego. Today I present you an interview with JD Morvan the writer of Naja which is launching the same month as Super Ego from Magnetic Press. You don’t want to miss this book. I’ve read it. It is REALLY good. Now before we begin I’m going to remind you that the final order cut off for Naja (and Super Ego) is next week so talk to your comic shops or even pre-order on-line to help Magnetic Press’ launch a successful one. We need more books like this so pre-order! Now on with the interview.--- Dustin Cabeal: If there’s one thing people want to know about comic books, it’s where the ideas come from. With that said, where did Naja come from?
JD Morvan: Naja comes literally from an old illustration by Bengal. A young woman seated on a sofa, half-naked, with a vaguely lost look, while another girl sleeps in the aforementioned sofa, resting from sex, it seems. I kept that feeling of total coolness when creating the character of Naja. The rest came from a small catch phrase which came to me while driving on the way back from Brussels. "When the number 1 killer of an organization has a contract out on number 2, how does the number 3 killer react?" I sent the idea to Bengal by text on my telephone and the entire story came together during the 2 hours on the highway, through successive messages.
Dustin: There are some pretty big assassin stories in the world of comics and film, what were some of the genre tropes that you were looking to avoid when writing Naja?
Morvan: I tried to avoid most of them... Just to create my own.
N°1 is a nice killer, who only accepts missions which he considers as moral. He does not realize his own paradox.
N°2 is a guy who kills hoping that he will eventually find somebody good enough to kill him himself. He is a person with suicidal tendencies who does not dare act on them.
N°3: Naja came into this business by default, because she does not want to decide anything more in her own life by herself. She answers simple orders. Not feeling any more pain, everything seems vain to her. Because Life is, above all, avoiding pain, to stay amused in order to forget Death. That sort of entertainment is therefore foreign to her.
Dustin: An influence I noticed while reading Naja, was Kill Bill. What were some other influences or elements from other stories that you used to create the story?
Morvan: I wasn’t a big fan of Kill Bill, really. I only saw the first one because I didn’t really like the sequence in Japan (where I lived). I much preferred 1000 times over LADY SNOWBLOOD, who Tarantino used as reference.
I think that the difference with Naja, and quite a lot of others, is that Naja is not a parody. We did not say to ourselves: everything has already been made about killers, so let’s make a story that makes non-stop winks at other movies. Ours is a story first and finally.
I think that not everything needed to be told, and even if I am a little self-aware in certain subcultures, I did not want to try to show off all that I know, to create a sort of insider’s club. In that respect, I don’t have a geek spirit. J
Dustin: Was there a particular character (possibly besides Naja herself) that you enjoyed creating and writing?
Morvan: Yes, the narrator. Because even I did not know who it was. His identity changed several times in my head during the story. That method of writing was inspired by the work of Kundera. In effect, it is a character who knows the subconscious of the other characters: when they believe they act on instinct, he explains the deep motivations that really move them.
Dustin: The narration was particularly effective for the story, did you try another way to present the story or did it need to be that way due to the structure of the plot?
Morvan: A good story, for me, manages to connect content and form. I don’t arrive there all the time, regrettably. But here, there was something obvious about it. It was THE ONLY way.
For the American public, there are 5 chapters. For the French audience, there were 5 separate books. To begin each with the presentation of another character was a fun challenge. I actually liked a lot these inescapable sequences that I set up for myself. Traps that I laid out to force me to catch myself.
Dustin: When you started the story did you know exactly how it was going to end or where there moments when a new idea developed that shifted the outcome? I ask because of how intertwined the characters stories become by the final act.
Morvan: No, in fact I often did not know what was going to take place in the following scene! I wrote, and when I did not know how to continue a scene in an original way, I stopped and moved on to another one. Either a new a piece of story or the continuation of another scene. You mentioned Tarantino before, and there I joined him on constructions such as Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction which I adore (more so the scenes with Bruce Willis than the dance scenes).
The first big change in the story was the fact that Naja falls in love with “Him.” By writing the scene, it seemed to me obvious that she should love the first guy to dominate her, because she didn’t think that it was possible. And moreover, he saves her. In brief, that erased everything afterward and I headed in another direction. And I liked that surprise so much that I decided to make the rest of the story in this way.
Dustin: What was it like collaborating with Bengal on Naja? Where you consistently blown away by the pages and were there times you let them cut loose and surprise you?
Morvan: I’ve known Bengal for years. I knew what his pages, his framing, his colors were going to bring, then I played with that to always put the text in counterpoint. I believe that Naja really arises from the emphasis of one or the other at a time. It is a mature work, in a way. And that surprises myself. --- A huge thank you to JD Morvan for taking the time to talk with me. If you liked this interview then leave a comment, but then also stop back by tomorrow for an interview with the artist of Naja Bengal! Again, if Naja sounds interesting then pre-order it by next week and be sure to stop by Magnetic Press for more information.