When legendary creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first brought several of Marvel Comics’ best selling solo characters together to form “The Avengers” in 1963 they did so for several reasons. One was to increase the dramatic scope and scale of their stories by pitting their combined protagonists against foes no single hero could face on their own. Another was the combination of these characters allowed for a variety of tales and viewpoints as heroes from one world were immersed into the completely different worlds of their team mates.
Readers loved seeing super soldiers and super spies mix with gods, aliens, and super scientists, turning “Avengers” into one of Marvel’s most successful comic franchises and it was one of the reasons why this summer’s feature film adaptation was so successful. That fun continues this November when writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Stefano Caselli take over “Avengers Assemble,” the newest series in the Avengers franchise, starting with Issue #9. CBR News spoke with the writer about her initial plans for the book which include “The Widow’s Ledger,” a story arc beginning in February’s issue #12 which focuses on the Black Widow, announced by Marvel today at their “Marvel Now!: The Avengers” panel at New York Comic Con.
CBR News: Kelly Sue, before we get into your second arc on “Avengers Assemble” let’s talk a little bit about your initial plans for this series. How does it feel to be working on an Avengers title and ultimately what do you want to do with this book?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: It’s terrifying. C’mon! Can we just pretend nobody reads the Avengers or has any preconceived notions about these characters?
Ultimately what do I want to do with this book? The same thing I want to do with any book. I’m genuinely afraid of articulating it for you because there’s no way of saying it that doesn’t sound — depending on your perspective — either pretentious, naive or grandiose. Possibly all three. But here we go: I want to write stories with characters I care about in such a way that offers some genuine surprises and moments of authentic emotional connection. Four color operas, minus the score.
Now, I’m not saying I’m successful; I’m saying that’s the goal. Also: fun. I want to have the fun.
Your “Avengers Assemble” run will focus on a smaller, core and rotating cast of characters, and your initial story puts the spotlight on the Hulk and Iron Man. What do you find most interesting about these two characters?
That they’re so alike and so opposite at the same time. They’re both brilliant men, both men of science and both heroes of their own making, but — well — compare them. If you start looking for it, it becomes really fascinating. The Hulk is about uncapped rage, right? Iron Man is literally a metal suit — a containment vessel. Id vs. Superego. Iron Man is an optimistic take on the future and human technology — look what we can make ourselves into! The Hulk is science gone wrong — look at what we can make ourselves into!
Then, interestingly, Stark is kind of a wreck of a human being — manic, voracious — he’s anything but at peace. Banner is a shockingly well-balanced guy in his current guise.
It goes on and on.
Your Hulk and Iron Man story runs through issues #9-11 of “Avengers Assemble.” Then, in February’s Issue #12, you kick off a new story titled “The Widow’s Ledger” that focuses on a character you’ve written several times, the Black Widow. In this story line you’re dealing with her past as a Soviet agent. How do you think Natasha feels about her past when this story begins? How much of her activities as a Soviet agent does she feel were done because of conditioning? And how much of her spy work was her making choices with her own free will?
I think Natasha is a terribly broken human being. Not broken like a train wreck, broken like — cold; Ice cold. I don’t think she lets herself feel much of anything; certainly not very deeply. Feelings affect the mission, you know? I think Natasha is constantly calculating — the concept of the ledger for her — whether it’s literal or figurative, it’s brilliant. She’s forever calculating her next move, her mistakes, her wins and her debts. I don’t think she regrets her past, but I do think she has calculated atonements to make.
As far as her own free will — I expect everyone has a different take on this. My Natasha takes responsibility for all of her actions as choices. She just doesn’t allow herself the messy human behavior of wringing her hands and second guessing everything. What’s done is done; it is what it is. You own it, make good where it’s owed and move on. Period.
Hawkeye is also a large part of this story and he’s had a long complex relationship with Natasha. What’s your sense of the current state of their relationship? What do you think these two characters mean to each other?
I think they’re important to each other, but I don’t actually give it more or deeper meaning than Clint’s relationship with Bobbi or Jessica. In the context of this story, they’re more connected by the event in Natasha’s past than their previous romantic entanglement. That’s a factor that probably means more to Jessica than it does Clint or Natasha. I’m just speculating here.
Fraction [DeConnick’s husband, “Hawkeye” writer Matt Fraction] describes Natasha as Clint’s “work wife.” I get that.
As you mentioned, the other major character in “The Widow’s Ledger” is Jessica Drew AKA Spider-Woman. She’s in an interesting situation given that she’s in an a romantic relationship with Hawkeye and she has a past similar to Natahsha’s in that she was a pawn of the terrorist group HYDRA for many years. What can you tell us about Jessica’s perspective at the beginning of this story?
What’s that phrase? “A hot mess?” I actually had to consult twitter to make sure I understood it correctly and turns out there’s not really a consensus, but whatever. If Natasha is cold, Jessica is two inches from hot mess territory. She’s full of feelings. And feelings about her feelings. And anger about having feelings. And so on.
How does she about feel about the mission that she’s going on with Hawkeye and Black Widow? What’s it like for her to go on a mission with these two characters?
It’s hell on earth, are you kidding? Third wheel, between the impossible-to-read boyfriend and his work wife? Hell. On. Earth. And yet, Jessica will find a way to make it work.
Can you tell us anything more about the plot and themes of “The Widow’s Ledger?”
It’s about debts.
What about the obstacles and adversaries that the Widow, Hawkeye, and Spider-Woman will face in this story? Which types of adversaries make the best foils for these characters?
I’m going to play coy with you here, in part because I’ve busted my bum this week and gotten very little actual writing done and I feel the wheels coming off. But! It’s still an honest answer: for this foe, it’s very, very personal.
“Legion Lost” artist Pete Woods will bring the battle between the Widow and her allies and their enemies to life. What do you feel he brings to this story as an artist?
Detail and nuance. Pete’s faces are fantastic — the acting has weight, and feels real.
Finally, “The Widow’s Ledger concludes in March with “Avengers Assemble” #13. So can you hint or tease about the stories you have lined up after that? What kind of Spring are you planning for the cast of “Avengers Assemble?”
Can we have fun? Let’s have some fun. It’s fun when it’s fun.
If anyone ever gives you the chance to write the Avengers — and in particular, to work with this editorial team, you TOTALLY SHOULD!
“Avengers Assemble” #9 by DeConnick and Caselli goes on sale in November, and “The Widow’s Ledger” with art by Pete Woods starts in February’s #12.