When she’s not saving the world with the Avengers, Marvel Comics‘ Black Widow atones for the carnage and destruction she caused while working as a spy for the KGB, as she undertakes mercenary jobs that meet her moral code and uses the money to build a charitable foundation. Writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Phil Noto have been chronicling Natasha’s solo adventures in the current “Black Widow” ongoing series and in “Black Widow” #12, they’ll show what happens when the world and Natasha’s fellow Avengers become aware of her exploits.
Natasha’s solo missions will come to light when a news anchor, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, airs an investigation into whether the Widow’s mercenary jobs are causing are more harm than good. CBR News spoke with Edmondson about Cooper’s guest appearance in the book and the other guest stars from the Marvel U that will appear in the months ahead.
CBR News: Nathan, these past few issues of “Black Widow” have featured plenty of Marvel Universe guest stars, and there are still more to come. We’ll talk about those in a bit, but I wanted to start off by talking about an upcoming real world guest star, news anchor Anderson Cooper. How did the appearance come about? Is Cooper a fan of the book or the Black Widow character?
Nathan Edmondson: Anderson is probably my biggest fan. He’s the chair of the Nathan Edmondson Fan Club and is constantly bugging me to sign stuff. He pleaded with me to put him in, and I quote, “the definitely most sweet comic ever.”
Actually, I had some connections /interactions with Anderson due to my former career in Washington DC, and I knew he was a comic book reader — I sent him a care package of books sometime last year. We knew we had this big turn coming up in “Black Widow,” and all of it begins in a public way. Both due to my connection and because I think Anderson is — and represents — the kind of journalism that would ask the tough questions about an Avenger’s activities, I thought it would be a great fit. I’m glad he did too!
What’s it like writing such a prominent journalist into a spy book like “Black Widow?” What can you tell us about Cooper’s role in issue #12? Is this just a cameo, or might he appear in future issues?
He might appear in future issues, I wouldn’t rule it out. All I can say about his role right now is that a “Special Report” from him on Black Widow will rock her world, and challenge her relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers setting up a very new direction in her world for the third arc of our series. So it’s more than a cameo –Mr. Cooper plays a very significant part in Natasha’s journey.
We’ve really skirted around the geopolitics of what Natasha does for as long as possible to make this book as personal and intimate as possible, but it’s time to see how her actions are affecting the world, for better or worse. Anderson’s CNN report is our doorway into that part of the story.
Let’s back up a little bit and talk about issues #7-9. In these issues there’s been a lot of talk of the detrimental effect of loneliness, but yet Natasha is not physically alone in them. She’s come face to face with old lovers like Daredevil and the Winter Soldier (who she of course doesn’t remember being in a relationship with) and The Punisher, who has had an antagonistic relationship with groups she’s associated. In two of these situations she had a gun pointed at an unarmed man and seemed furious enough to use it. What can you tell us about Natasha’s mental state going into issue #10? Has hunting for the mysterious organization, Chaos, turned her into the type of person that needs to be talked down from an interrogation by the Punisher, or is there something else going on with her?
All I’ll say is that these are keen observations and this metaphorical web she sits on is proving just as treacherous to her as it is to her foes, if she’s pushed too much in the wrong direction. So she may have some hard choices up ahead, and she might not always have someone to pull her hand back. As they say, something’s gotta give. Or maybe we haven’t yet seen what she is capable of.
In “Black Widow” #10, you bring back a character who made a brief appearance in a recent issue, Hawkeye. What do you find most interesting about Hawkeye’s relationship with Natasha? Can you talk about, hint, or tease, how that relationship might impact Natasha’s quest to save her lawyer, Isaiah, from his captors?
I can’t (or won’t) talk plot details. Natasha’s relationships have always been remarkably complicated, but between the past and the future many, many things have changed which will affect her relationships for better or worse. That will be pretty clear with Clint, and as you may have noted about Nat’s relationships, there is no such thing as a status quo, not with anyone.
On October’s “Black Widow” #11, you tackle Natasha’s feelings about the death of Wolverine by teaming her up with X-23. What made you want to bring X-23 into this book? What was it like bouncing her off of Natasha?
In part, I picked X-23 for this issue because of how much readers were left wanting in Phil’s past work with her. It was a great opportunity, like with Hawkeye, to give the readers a menu item they were craving. Beyond that, seeing Laura and Natasha together gives us a new perspective on Black Widow’s mission and mental state, and we get, as well, the opportunity to see how Wolverine’s passing affects both women, even if we only show that in subtle ways. They are, after all, on a mission.
We already talked about issue #12’s real life guest star, Anderson Cooper, but I understand it also features some more fictional ones in the form of the new Howling Commandos unit you created and introduced in “Punisher” and the Avengers. What else can you tell us about the plot and themes of this issue? How big a role do the Avengers and the Howling Commandos play in it?
Black Widow is on a mission with the Howling Commandos and we will get a deeper glimpse into the Marvel U’s secret Black Ops group. The Avengers will appear, indeed, but I won’t say what they’re up to. As always, this is Natasha’s story and the focus will be on her, but this is a fun issue where we expand the borders of her dark world to see a few more bits of Marvel and its players, all of whom are important to Natasha, Frank, Deathlok and the Marvel U as a whole.
“Black Widow” #12 marks Phil Noto’s latest issue as not just the penciler, but the entire artistic creative team for this first year of the series — a pretty extraordinary feat in this day and age. How does it feel to have someone like Phil doing an entire year on this book? What can we expect from his work on issues #10-12?
Phil is an amazing guy; he’s humble and talented and dedicated and he couldn’t be more of a pleasure to work with. Illustrating the book totally makes it much more precious and personal to both of us and his continuity of care on the art ensures something truly special with each issue. I do my best to make each issue a new visual challenge to keep it interesting to him, but I don’t know what I did to deserve him (as can be said of every artist I’ve worked with, too).
How does it feel to be reaching the end of “Black Widow’s” first year? Can you talk about, hint, or tease, where Natasha will be physically and emotionally by year’s end and what sort of plans you have for her in 2015?
I’m so proud of this book and “Punisher” as well, rounding the corner of a first successful year. With Natasha, we’re prepared to take her in a new direction: so don’t get too comfortable with her world, we are constantly shaking it up.
“Where is Jake Ellis?” #4 and “The Dream Merchant” #4 are also on the stands right now. Don’t miss those when you head in to pull your “Punisher” and “Black Widow!”