The road to heroics in the Marvel Universe is often a dangerous and difficult one, but for the super spy and superhero known as the Black Widow (AKA Natasha Romanoff) the journey was especially arduous. At a young age, she was a victim of a horrific and sinister crime. The perpetrators were the agents of the former Soviet Union’s top secret training facility, The Red Room, which stole the childhoods of Natasha and countless other young girls by transforming them into the chemically altered spies and assassins that made up their Black Widow program. When Natasha became an adult she broke free from the Soviet Union and vowed the Red Room would not steal the innocence of any more children.
In the debut arc of the new ongoing “Black Widow” series, co-writers Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, who also provides the title's art, Natasha made the horrific discovery that the Red Room had been reborn as the freelance “Dark Room.” In October’s “Black Widow” #7 Natasha will use her copious cunning and newly acquired espionage organization to target the Dark Room for destruction.
CBR News: Chris, you and Mark introduced some pretty intriguing concepts in your initial arc -- The Weeping Lion and his global blackmail organization that weaponizes secrets, and the new incarnation of the organization that created and trained the Widow, the Dark Room. What inspired these concepts?
Chris Samnee: I feel some of the best Marvel stories spin out of what's going on in the world around us. With Natasha being tied to secretive organizations (be that the Red Room, KGB/ S.H.I.E.L.D.) it made sense to have a villain who could use Nat's dark past against her. The Weeping Lion concept spun out of thinking what one of the professional whistle blowing figures that have popped up in our culture might be like in the Marvel Universe.
Your first arc ended with Natasha in control of the Weeping Lion's organization. How much story time passes between the end of issue of issue #6, and issue #7, which kicks off your second arc? And what does it mean for a person like Natasha to control an organization like this?
About a week has passed since the end of #6 as we start issue #7. Lion still has some scrapes and bruises from their last throw-down, but he looks to have quickly acclimated to his and Nat's new dynamic.
As for Nat running the Weeping Lion's organization, it's actually a much smaller operation than one might think, but she's having no problem using it to her achieve her goal of closing the Dark Room, the latest incarnation of the Red Room, where Natasha was trained from childhood to be a spy/assassin.
How personal of a quest for Natasha is closing the Dark Room? And how dangerous and powerful is the organization?
Incredibly personal. Natasha sees herself in all of the new recruits to the Dark Room. And Nat is going do whatever it takes to ensure that these kids don't have to go through the horrors she's had to experience.
How dangerous and powerful? Imagine a dozen Black Widows -- the most highly skilled, deadliest spy in the world this side of Nick Fury -- working for the bad guys. Each one a weapon in their own right. Combined, they're an atom bomb.
The two major players in the Dark Room are Recluse, its headmistress who has a grudge against Natasha, and her mother, the former headmistress of the Red Room. As a writer, what do you find most interesting about these two characters and their dynamic?
Recluse has had a personal grudge against Natasha since their childhood. Jealousy over the affection her mother gave Natasha instead of her has fueled her hatred for Nat and desire to start the Dark Room as a way to prove her worth to Headmistress after all these years. Playing with that dynamic has been a lot of fun.
What went into the design of Recluse?
My personal tastes tend to lean toward simple costume design, so a mostly-black suit as a nod to Black Widow’s was a must. But Anya is less imposing at first blush. By making her a little leaner, with her hair up in a ballerina bun, I wanted her to look more the part of a dancer than even Natasha. But looks are deceiving, as she's been laser-focused on nothing but training to beat Black Widow most of her life.
What can you tell us about how the Widow's battle with Recluse and the Dark Room will manifest?
Big, big action -- and maybe a surprise guest or two. The final setting for Nat and Anya's battle, as suggested by our editor Jake Thomas, is just so crazy that it's actually brilliant.
Will the Dark Room be Natasha's only adversaries in this arc? Has her relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. improved? Or are they and other agents of law and order still gunning for her?
Nat has made more enemies than she can count -- and secrets leaked from the Weeping Lion didn't do her any favors. S.H.I.E.L.D. and more are still on her tail throughout this arc, for sure.
What's it been like bringing this second arc to life with Mark Waid, colorist Matt Wilson, and letterer Joe Caramagna?
It's been amazing. I feel like we became a family during our time on “Daredevil,” and now with [editors] Jake [Thomas] and Kathleen [Wisneski] (I wonder if they’re the adoptive parents in this analogy?) I've been so happy to continue that relationship.
Finally, can you leave us with any hints or teases about your long term plans for "Black Widow?" Will we see her become involved with more of the elements of the larger Marvel Universe that are part of sort of the action-espionage corner? Like, perhaps, Hydra?
No Hydra, I'm afraid; that's well-trod ground in another book these days, but we will be seeing more of the Marvel Universe pop in here and there going forward. There are so many great characters at Marvel we'd be fools not to play with more if we're given the opportunity, right?