During his reign as king of the Inhumans, Black Bolt made a number of choices that impacted the Marvel Universe in a profound way. From serving on a secret Illuminati of heroes to detonating a Terrigen Bomb that transformed thousands of people around the globe into super-powered Inhumans, Blackagar Boltagon's legacy looms large. He is no longer a king, though, nor is he the same man who made those impactful decisions. In the inaugural arc of the new Black Bolt ongoing series, writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward trapped the character in a nightmarish cosmic prison, an experience that changed his personality -- and his superhuman abilities.
His adventure has also bestowed upon him new responsibilities, like an alien ward and the responsibility of bringing the news of the death and heroic sacrifice of his fellow inmate the Absorbing Man to the supervillain's wife, Titania. In Black Bolt #8 Ahmed and Ward kick off a new arc that finds their title character returning to Earth to fulfill those obligations while also coming face to face with the choices he made as king and the tragedies that befell his people while he was imprisoned.
CBR: Black Bolt has finally escaped prison and made it to Earth, but he's come home a changed man, both in terms of powers and personality. In issue #7, he still felt like a man of action who believes in authority, but one who also believes in mercy and is very dedicated to protecting his new ward, Blinky.
Saladin Ahmed: That's fair -- they had this space adventure on a ship going home in issue #7, and they had that for several reasons. Part of the reason was because Black Bolt had been weakened physically, and he's also in a post-traumatic mental state. Both he and Blinky are given what they've been through.
His experiences in prison softened him, and we'll really explore that once he gets home and we see the contrast to the way he was. When he left Earth, he was technically no longer a king, but he was very much this kind of imperious royal figure, and he's come home pretty different. So we're going to see this contrast and see him react to the people, places, and things that he had a very different relationship to before he left.
In a way, Blinky and Lockjaw have been sort of the heart of this book. They helped temper some of the darker and horrific scenes of the first arc and also provided some poignant and very sweet moments that admittedly caused me to tear up on several occasions. What inspired the creation of Blinky, and what inspired you to use Lockjaw in this way?
I always end up writing darker than I think I write. I don't like unrelenting darkness. I like humor, and I like love.
I had to think a lot about the somewhat cheesy choice to end the first arc on the word love. It's important to me -- I'm a dad myself -- to look at the world in a way that allows for seeing generosity, loyalty and connection, and not just seeing the dark things.
With Lockjaw specifically, when I was writing that issue several months ago, I was kind of going through some stuff. [Laughs] My cousin's dog, who I was spending a lot of time with, provided me with this kind of solace. So while I was spending some time with this pooch, I started thinking about therapy dogs, human-animal connections, and that kind of stuff. Black Bolt's bond with Lockjaw has always been there, but it hasn't really been explored the way it could be. So I kind of wanted to dig into that.
In issue #5 you fleshed out Lockjaw's origin a little more and added some new elements to it.
I did. There's been some ambiguity as to where Lockjaw came from. I still left it in pretty broad strokes. Things will be explored in more detail in an upcoming Lockjaw miniseries that Daniel Kibblesmith is writing.
I did introduce an origin that showed how Lockjaw was a crucial part of Black Bolt's childhood. They spent that childhood together. We'll get into that more in the next few issues, but Black Bolt's childhood has been one of the things that's really compelling to me about the character. He was essentially stuck in total isolation. So, to my mind, he had an abusive childhood, and Lockjaw is sort of this beacon for him as a kid -- even as a man. It was really fun to pull on those heartstrings, and people responded wonderfully to it.
Going back to what you said earlier, it feels like with the first arc you looked at who he was as a person, and with this second arc of him coming home, you're looking at who he was as a king versus who he is now.
Part of it is just scratching a kind of world building and plot itch. He spent several months away from Inhumanity and the rest of the Marvel Universe, and that worked for that period of time. Now it's time for him to come back and resume and reexamine relationships and dynamics. Prison was a very closed world. Now he's come back to this broader world, and it's hard for him to do.
We're going to see him deal with his actual child. He's coming home with an adopted kid, but he's got a son, Ahura, who he's not had the best relationship with. So we're going to see that get picked up. We're going to see him deal with the fall out from his imperial decisions with Terrigen and all that happened after he released the bomb; the consequences of which he never fully had to wrangle with.
So all of his past is going to catch up with him. It's been revolving in the back of his mind for the past several months, but now he's going to have to come back as this changed person and reckon with these people and situations. And of course a lot has happened since he's been gone too.