Johnston Spills "Blood on the Streets"

Daredevil recently began a radical approach to crime fighting by assuming the leadership of the secret society of ninja assassins known as the Hand. This Summer, when writer Andy Diggle's event miniseries "Shadowland" begins, Daredevil and the Hand will escalate their crusade against crime and heaven help anyone who gets in their way, be it hero or villain.

Come August, in the four issue tie-in miniseries "Shadowland: Blood on the Streets" by writer Antony Johnston and artist Wellinton Alves, three highly paid Marvel heroes and one street level vigilante must discover if Daredevil's new way of fighting crime involves sanctioning murder. CBR News spoke with Johnston about the project.

CBR News: Antony, what inspired "Shadowland: Blood on the Streets," and why was the story one that wasn't suited to be told in the core "Shadowland" series?

Antony Johnston: When "Shadowland" was being planned, one of the decisions made was to do a bunch of one-shots and miniseries to tie in, as a way to focus on some peripheral characters and bring back other "street level" characters that we maybe hadn't seen in a while.

So there was a list of possible characters who could be involved - this was very early on, before "Shadowland" itself was fully plotted, so nothing was set in stone - and one or two of them were characters I'd already expressed an interest in, outside of "Shadowland." Steve Wacker, senior editor on "DD" and big cheese on "Shadowland" itself, asked if I wanted to take a crack at them in this context, with a couple of one-shots.

I'd barely had chance to say yes before Steve had one of those brainwaves which make him so worryingly dangerous and suddenly I was pitching not just a couple of one-shots, but a four-issue series featuring a whole bunch of these characters working together. (He then promptly handed editorial off to the unsuspecting Bill Rosemann, whose inbox has never been quite the same since I was allowed to invade it.)

I came up with some ideas, all rather dark and noir in tone, to suit the street-level feel we wanted and settled on four characters to involve. They're not necessarily the most popular characters around, but they all have good potential and fit into this story very well. "Noir, gritty and urban" is how I described it in the pitch and the finished book will follow through on that. It gets pretty dark in places, both figuratively and literally.

Those four characters being Silver Sable, Misty Knight, Paladin and the Shroud. What do you find most intriguing about each of these characters?

Sable and Misty are the two characters I mentioned before - I love strong female characters and I especially like those two for being strong-willed, realistically motivated and lacking in superpowers (well, apart from Misty's bionic arm, but she's not exactly the Hulk). Paladin's interesting because, like Sable, he's mainly motivated by money, although he's also rather fond of notoriety - and, again, no powers. Finally, Shroud is the oddball of the group, the dark vigilante. And sure, he has real powers, but they're still pretty limited.

I guess I just like the more human characters, the men and women who can't stand there and take a bullet to the chest without blinking. They have to rely on their skills and smarts instead and they're putting a lot more on the line than many other heroes. That makes them very interesting to me.

How would you describe the initial dynamic between these four characters? Does the fact that Misty, Silver Sable and Paladin all work as detectives and soldiers for hire unite them at all? Does the Shroud have anything in common with the other characters?

The initial dynamic can best be described as "suspicious, bordering on hostile." Each of these characters has a reason for being involved in the story, but none of those reasons are the same and they all become involved in different ways.

The fact that three of them work for money actually pits them against one another instead of uniting them. And Shroud has very little in common with the others - he's the closest thing to a traditional hero we have in the mix, but even then, he's pretty dark (literally!) and has his own motivations.

With the series focusing on four different character, is there one in particular whose perspective the story is told from?

Misty Knight is our primary viewpoint character and drives the central narrative. We get plenty of time with all the others and peek inside their heads a little, but her story is the spine of it.

The plot is very simple; the Hand is killing low-rent mobsters, men everyone knows are crooks, but who haven't been convicted. Shroud wants to stop this from happening and Misty gets involved because of her ties to Daredevil. I'm not going to tell you how Sable and Paladin enter the frame, but suffice to say these events get the ball rolling and lead Misty, especially, down a dark path she'll wish she hadn't started.

It sounds like the various organized crime factions in Marvel's New York play a role in this story. Will we see established gangs and players like Wilson Fisk, the Owl and the Karnelli crime family from "Amazing Spider-Man?" Or are you introducing some new factions?

The Fortunatos, from "Spider-Man," are the crime family we use to kick things off - but they're hardly high rollers and that's an important part of the story. The Hand isn't killing the big guns, it's the C and D-listers who normally escape the attention of New York's superheroes. Why is that? The answer is one of the story's mysteries.

Does Daredevil himself actually play a role, or is he more of a looming presence that is felt rather than seen?

Daredevil, the Hand and their Shadowland fortress itself are indeed a looming presence. DD doesn't appear in the pages of "Blood on the Streets," but the Hand does and Misty is also appearing in "Shadowland" as part of the co-ordination between the titles. The main supporting player, someone I hope old-school fans will be happy to see, is Lt Rafe Scarfe (Misty's old partner from her days in the NYPD) who's investigating several of the mob murder cases.

Wellinton Alves is an up and coming artist, but you've worked with him in the past. What's it like working with him again?

Awesomeness. I've known about Wellinton for a while - he drew a short of mine in "Yuggoth Creatures," a Lovecraftian title I wrote for Avatar about five years back - and even back then, I could tell he was a big talent. He's only improved with time; the pages I've seen so far are fantastic, with a combination of great action, storytelling and character acting. I couldn't be happier and I hope readers will feel the same way.

"Shadowland: Blood on the Streets" and the "Shadowland" tie in story in "Daredevil" #508-511, which you're co-writing with Andy Diggle, are the first Marvel event stories you've had such a strong hand in shaping. How does it feel to be part of such a big story?

It's very interesting, especially as I can see it from different sides - I know how and why things are playing out in the big leagues of "Shadowland" and "Daredevil," but I also have this little mini-event, off in its own world, to take care of. That's a big advantage, though; it allows me to maneuver "Blood on the Streets" around the main events and ensure they sync up well.

Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda 1 cover
Review: Black Panther and the Agents of Wakanda #1 Brings Eclectic Fun

More in Comics