Black Widow… there’s stuff coming up. I don’t think you’ll hear about it at this convention, but we have a lot coming up.
And even when we talk about how this year progresses, it’s, how do we draw in an occasional guest star or two, but into Widow’s world? And vice versa. Kind of the same way we drew Silver Surfer into Daredevil’s world, but it was still a Daredevil story. And the contrast was interesting. That’s an interesting challenge that we might want to play around with.
As rumor milled two months ago and suspected a long time before then, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee are moving to Black Widow post-Secret Wars, with Matt Wilson on colors. Entertainment Weekly has the announcement, which you can read, and to which I’ve attatched some thoughts:
This Isn’t Just Daredevil pt II
Waid and Samnee are most famous for their brightly-colored, antigrim portrayal of sad radioactive ninja Matt Murdock. I’ve always thought “happy Matt” was a simplification of Waid volumes, which tackled depression with an honesty unknown in mainstream cape comics, and a shallow read on the Daredevil canon as a whole. Matt has always had that swashbuckling side, and the mythology is compelling because it mixes red-knuckle street crime, Catholicism, and bad lawyer jokes. Why limit yourself to only one of these things? Still: Waid/Samnee on Black Widow had people imagining another San Francisco era.
But reading the interview it’s clear they see Matt and Natasha as separate personalities. Their Matt talks a lot, their Natasha will keep her cards close to her chest. This is a spy story, which makes me wonder if the vibe will be more sixties S.H.I.E.L.D. than seventies Champions. Plus, they seem determined to ruin Natasha’s life again, so weirdos who are worried about Black Widow being “too happy” should chill a little.
Parts of the Last Series Will Be Mentioned
Like all sense-making comic books, #1 of this volume will be a true starting point with no further reading required, but it sounds like some parts of the last run will carry over in still ambiguous ways. If I had to guess, Natasha’s still dealing from the fallout of quitting S.H.I.E.L.D. in Black Widow #18. Hopefully, Isaiah and Liho also make appearances, because Isaiah was one of the better parts of the last run, and I like cats a lot.
Parts of the Other Black Widow Stories Will Also Be Mentioned (Probably)
Waid and Samnee are doing new things and introducing a new Big Bad, which is fine and good, but I care about the important things here, and that’s continuity I can nitpick. Samnee calls this his “love letter to Gerry Conway and Gene Colan”, the creators who helped define Natasha in the early 70s as Marvel’s first “liberated” heroine. He also mentions reading Black Widow’s appearances from the beginning to prepare for this book. Mark Waid is a notorious Silver Age trivia beast. What does this mean? I don’t know.
But the line from this interview that intrigues me most is: “It’s spy craft and secrets and all of her pasts, and it all ties together in ways that it couldn’t be anything else.”
This Creative Team is a Big Deal
Here’s what Axel Alonso had to say about it: “Black Widow’s a great character, an important character. An award-winning team like this sends a message how important she is.”
I don’t believe “big names” always produce the best work. Marjorie Liu came to Black Widow having never written an ongoing comic before, and she turned in my top run of all time. But I do think big names get attention, and that more people, especially people who write about comics for major websites, will treat a book more substantially with hyped names attatched. (See also: the folks who saw this announcement and thought Black Widow might “finally” become a character with substance.) This creative team was nominated for every major comics award for Daredevil. It matters that Black Widow is going to be their follow-up.
When the first Avengers movie came out, Marvel released a three-issue tie-in miniseries starring Black Widow. It featured like eight different fill-in artists, and no cohesive visual program. The story was designed to fit into the back of Russian Maxim magazines, the action was contrived so that Natasha would fight twice every issue in some state of undress. At the time, it was the only female-led book Marvel was publishing. It was disposable, and that told me Marvel found Natasha disposable.
When the first Avengers movie came out, Marvel launched a Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction and David Aja, who had previously won an Eisner together on Immortal Iron Fist. That book was a critical darling and runaway smash, and it raised Clint’s profile something major. They had Clint guest star in seventeen different titles in the build-up, including having him lead the Secret Avengers for some reason. Despite getting half the movie screentime and a fourth of the lines, Clint wasn’t disposable. Marvel cared enough to put one of their most-loved creative teams on his comic, and let them make it their own. I wondered when Natasha would deserve the same treatment. It turns out: four years and two movies later.
The All-Dude Creative Team is Also a Deal
The chief complaint I’ve heard about this announcement is that there’s zero women on this, a book starring a female character. I’m sympathetic to the concern, but it actually doesn’t overstress me. Two of Natasha’s most major writers are female, and she has a novel coming out next week by Margaret Stohl, so women are definitely shaping her mythology. But maybe more importantly: all-male teams on female-lead books are not actually the norm at Marvel. Comics Alliance reports that of 14 female-led solo titles, only four have an all-male team.
What does stress me is that there’s probably not a female creative team in comics that would have the same name and critical clout as Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. Over at The Mary Sue, Carolyn Cox makes the point that “the gender divide in comics often doesn’t allow for women to be assigned passion projects,” and that’s true, but I don’t actually think it applies to books that feature female leads. These are the only books women consistantly get work on and maybe the only books they get asked to write. It’s much, much harder to find girl names on books like Iron Man or Captain America. And it’s extremely difficult for female creators to develop an A-list reputation when they’re limited to lady books.
Celebrating an A-list team on a female-led book feels a little wonky because of that.
We had been planning our exit on Daredevil for awhile. But part of the dance we were doing was, “Okay, where do we go next?” We want to stay together, we want to do something together, but neither of us are big fans of strong-arming people off books. That said, it was a weird combination of, “There’s only so many books open at this exact moment, but that changes with Secret Wars, do you guys want to stay on Daredevil a little bit longer? Or leave a little bit sooner?” And that’s the dance we waffled around for about six months or so — not so much us pitching them what we want to do next, but sort of taking a lead from them as, “What’s available?” And we turned down a couple of things that weren’t in Chris’ wheelhouse or mine, but once Widow became available, I think we knew instantly that was the one.
Oh, (Dottie Underwood)’s a slippery bitch. We haven’t seen the last of her. Peggy has male baddies that she fights, but to have someone who is physically her equal – she’s a Black Widow, incredibly capable and very smart – I think that shows some balance for Peggy, like a flip side of the same coin. You’ll see more of her in Season 2.
Key creative decisions are now being made by Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito and Victoria Alonso alone. Any drag or difficulty caused by the Creative Committee is over, and any skinflint choices and bizarre decisions made by Ike are out of the way (trivia: I understand the reason there are no Black Widow toys is specifically because Ike, with a background in toys, believes girl toys do not sell and thus vetoed them again and again. One guy was the roadblock.), and now we’re going to see Marvel Studios operating at full power as it goes into Phase Three.
Devin Faraci, The Marvel Creative Comittee is Over
This excerpt has gotten a lot of people excited about a forthcoming wave of Black Widow merch. Ike Perlmutter is the source of many Marvel ills, and all second-hand info I have points to him being the exact kind of guy willing to throw a tantrum about girl cooties killing the toy market. We know from leaked emails that he thinks women-led films bomb and that he can’t spell Elektra. Bleeding Cool has been trying to peddle a conspiracy theory about Perlmutter cancelling Fantastic Four forever and intentionally sabatoging X-men sales for the past few months, because movies. Ike Perlmutter does not like the superheroes that I do.
The thing is, though, Ike Perlmutter is actually not going away. Even if the reports of the Creative Committee’s turn out to be greatly exagerrated, Marvel Studios’s newfound freedom applies only to Marvel Studios. Ike Perlmutter remains in charge of publishing, television, and merchandising. His business background is in merchandising and he rose to power at Marvel through buying Toy Biz, Inc., which later became Marvel Toys. If he were to retain tight-fisted control over one Marvel Department into the far future, it would probably be merchandising. (I say, from my distinctly outside baseball viewbox.)
Marvel Studios moving out from oversight is probably a good thing. But he still thinks girl toys don’t sell, and he isn’t all the way gone.
On Tuesday, Marvel announced that Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1 will also include a bonus story featuring the debut of Red Widow. Here’s the blurb from writer Margaret Stohl that The Mary Sue got to scoop.
The Red Widow is a powerful new female superhero for the Marvel universe. In many ways, she’s the opposite of the Black Widow—she actually chooses to become the Red Widow—but both Widows share a mysterious bond and a history, and will change the course of each other’s lives, moving forward. And of course, this is just the beginning for this enigmatic and deadly new character. Red Widow’s story first emerges within the pages of Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1, and will then be featured in my upcoming (prose) novel, Black Widow: Forever Red. I couldn’t be prouder of both Widows—and of Marvel Comics, for being so supportive of the two of them.
That’s sparse intel, of course, and in the tradition of vague solicit blurbs, it doesn’t necessarily make sense. Natasha did choose to become the Black Widow, even if it was the wrong choice to make. And then she chose to keep being the Black Widow, to make up for that first choice. Doing some quick detectiving on the Black Widow: Forever Red Amazon summary, though, makes things a bit clearer:
Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.
Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments-until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.
It sounds like the contrast is between Natasha’s duty, and Ava’s desire. The back-up story will be illustrated by Nico Leon. TMS has another couple of panels for preview to help with the speculating:
So, pick up the Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary one-shot to learn more. Also pick up the Mockingbird issue because seriously goddamn why has it taken Marvel so long to publish a Mockingbird issue?