As one of the masterminds behind the wildly successful Spy Ninjas franchise, Chad Wild Clay has made a name for himself as a pioneer in the world of online entertainment. From thrilling spy-themed challenges to engaging storylines, the Spy Ninjas have captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of fans worldwide. And now, with the release of the new Spy Ninjas Graphic Novel, the franchise is set to take on a whole new dimension. In this exclusive interview, we got in touch with Chad to discuss the inspiration behind the graphic novel, the creative process, and what fans can expect from the future of the Spy Ninjas.
FICTION HORIZON: First, before we begin, I would like to thank you for setting time aside to answer these questions. It’s pretty impressive to be in touch with a content creator whose talents span several forms of media.
To start with your new graphic novel, Spy Ninjas: Virtual Reality Madness, what influenced your decision to create the graphic novel?
CHAD WILD CLAY: I’ve been a comic book reader and collector since the age of nine. Spider-man has always been my favorite, and my Spidey collection currently exceeds 13,000 books. As a kid, I used to write and draw my own comics. However, my drawing skills never advanced to the level of awesomeness I was looking for. Thankfully, we were able to team up with comic book artist Mike Anderson who does have that level of awesomeness. His style is the perfect combination of modern, kid-friendly action comics with a hint of the retro 80’s & 90’s comic style I grew up reading.
What creative challenges did you have to overcome in the context of translating your work to a completely new and far more static form of media?
When creating our videos, we utilize a lot of improvisation, freestyling, and genuine reactions. This is very different from creating a graphic novel, where every line must be planned out and scripted. We are lucky enough to have writer and cartoonist Vannotes working with us on the script, really understanding each of our personalities and translating us to the page.
Can you discuss your creative process and how you collaborate with artists and other team members?
We spent a lot of time working with Scholastic to find the right team members. I was very particular about the art style specifically. Once we formed the team, we brainstormed and put together a bunch of ideas, especially gravitating toward ideas that simply couldn’t be pulled off in video form. We ultimately really liked the idea of entering a virtual reality world and being able to go inside our favorite video games, which is the main adventure of Spy Ninjas Virtual Reality Madness.
How do you balance creating entertaining and educational stories for younger audiences? What considerations need to be taken into account?
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be a positive influence on our viewers and readers. That means behaving appropriately on camera, not swearing, setting a good example, but also being open-minded and respecting that our viewers come from all different backgrounds and upbringings. We realize that there are some topics or opinions that would be inappropriate for us to discuss, and it’s not our place to try and influence somebody in one direction or the other.
How do you see the role of graphic novels in children’s literature evolving in the future?
I hope to see graphic novels grow in popularity. With a plethora of free video games and short-form videos available on every phone and tablet, reading has more competition today than ever before. I think graphic novels have the best chance of competing and getting kids into reading. As far as evolving in the future, I’d like to try our best to engage the reader in a real-life way, such as hiding clues in the book that can only be read with a black light, using puzzles and mysteries that need to be physically solved (like an activity book) in order to progress the story.
What is the overall message that the Spy Ninjas are trying to convey?
Overall, we are trying to show that you can have a lot of fun interacting with real-life friends, being physically active, and treating each other with kindness and open-mindedness.
Can we expect more Spy Ninjas graphic novels in the future?
Absolutely. We’re already about halfway done with our follow-up graphic novel, which I expect to be finished later this year.
How well do you think young readers can connect with your work? Do you try to incorporate some specific themes that the audience can identify with?
Our readers are growing up watching YouTube and TikTok. If you go to a classroom and ask what they want to be when they grow up, a large percentage will probably say they want to be a YouTuber or an influencer. A specific theme that we incorporate is the fact that we are YouTubers, and our job is to make videos. We also incorporate video games into our content. In our graphic novel, we get trapped in virtual reality and must play our way through games that look very familiar to our readers (Roblox, Minecraft, Fortnite, and Rocket League).
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or releases you have planned?
We are almost finished building the Spy Ninjas HQ Theme Park here in Las Vegas, NV. It will be a 50,000 square foot family entertainment center filled with Spy Ninjas-themed activities such as Ninja Tag (think Ninja Warrior Course + Tag), an indoor zip line, a ropes course, climbing walls, a trampoline park, modern and retro arcade games, escape rooms, axe and ninja star throwing, and a restaurant.