Sometimes the best way to catch a criminal is to become one — or, at least, convince your target that you’ve broken bad. In the Marvel Universe, this is a particularly risky gamble for heroes who have to infiltrate the ranks of criminals armed with super powers and high technology, something the spider-powered hero known as Silk is just starting to understand. In the debut issue of her new series, writer Robbie Thompson and artist Stacey Lee revealed that while it appeared that Cindy Moon had infiltrated the criminal empire of the Black Cat, she is actually working with S.H.I.E.L.D. to take the villain down.
Balancing a double life is a particularly dangerous challenge for Silk since she spent much of her formative years locked away from the world in a bunker, which means she’s still establishing her heroic and personal identities. CBR News spoke with Thompson about the idea to send Silk uncover and his takes on Cindy’ S.H.I.E.L.D. handler Mockingbird, the Black Cat and the Cat’s chief supercrime rivals, the Goblin Nation and their new king, Phil Urich.
CBR News: Let’s start with the big twist: the fact that Cindy has not in fact broke bad at all and is working undercover for S.H.I.E.L.D. to infiltrate the Black Cat’s organization. What inspired you to take the series in this direction?
Robbie Thompson: When Editor Nick Lowe called about the re-launch of “Silk,” we started by talking about the eight month time gap, and looking to find ways to take advantage of that to show Cindy and Silk in the highest contrast we could, compared to how we last saw her. One of the things we’ve talked about has been that Cindy is trying to find out who she is and where she fits in. After ten years in a bunker, that’s up there on her to-do-list — but saying that and doing that? Not easy to do. It’s a very scary prospect, especially after all that time alone. So, since the book has focused on identity, we thought it would be interesting to see Cindy go undercover. Because while her intentions are heroic, and she is trying to find out more about what happened to her brother, she’s also avoiding figuring out who she really is by pretending to be something else. And that’s a dangerous thing to do.
When we were putting together this new arc, we talked about classic undercover stories like “Donnie Brasco,” “Miami Vice,” “Alias” and “Point Break” (Johnny Utah!) In those stories, the protagonist’s intentions are pure, but while “under,” they get a sense of who the “bad guys” really are. The bad guys are humanized, and in so doing, those protagonists run the risk of corruption if they stay under too long. That’s a great playground to explore what’s going on internally with a character, especially one like Cindy, who is still dealing with the anger and PTSD that she’s been feeling since getting out of the bunker. It’s a precarious spot for Cindy, long-term. Like Kurt Vonnegut said in “Mother Night,” “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be”
The first issue made it seem like Cindy is balancing everything fairly well — but is she?
Yeah, she’s doing okay with it in Issue #1, trying to focus on the positive and trying to remain balanced. But as we’ll see in the subsequent issues, those positives and that balance are slowly going to get chipped away as she gets closer to Black Cat and, more importantly, closer to some of the emotions she’s kept bottled up. Nick and I have talked about it in terms of the bunker — Cindy may be out, but some of her feelings are still locked away in that bunker. Those feelings are going to come bubbling to the surface the deeper under she gets, and the more she’s asked to rely on darker instincts.
Keeping an eye on Cindy and helping her navigate her morally murky new role is Mockingbird, her S.H.I.E.L.D. handler. How big of a role will Bobbi play in this book, and how do she and Cindy initially view each other? It seems Bobbi is more than a little worried about her asset.
I love Bobbi, and I love that she’s taking a bigger role in the Marvel Universe across the board. I think she is a bit of a role model for Cindy, but Bobbi’s a trained professional badass — and she knows that Cindy is not. At all. So, she’s worried about Cindy, but she also needs her help in taking down Cat. The deeper Cindy goes, the more that relationship will be tested.
In “Amazing Spider-Man,” we’ve seen Mockingbird work closely with Peter Parker, so that begs the question of, how much does Peter know about what’s going on with Cindy?
Peter is quite busy, so Cindy and her actions are not currently on his radar — but he does find out about her extracurricular activities in our first arc, and is none too happy about it. Peter and Cindy have a complicated relationship, and it’s been fun to continue to grow that relationship and see how they work as friends.
One of the reasons Cindy is working with S.H.I.E.L.D. is they’re helping her find her missing family and care for her brother, Albert. The room Albert was in at the end of that issue was decorated with Silk press clippings — is Albert’s Silk’s biggest fan?
He’s a huge Silk fan, and an even bigger fan of Cindy Moon. Albert was afraid of Cindy’s powers back in the day, but he’s lived a few hard years since and now sees his sister in an entirely new light. Albert always looked up to Cindy before she got her powers, so I’m looking forward to exploring their relationship now that they’ve been reunited.
Albert’s past with the Goblin Nation has given Cindy a sort of vendetta against the group, but we’ve not seen her go up against the group’s new leader, Phil Urich, the Goblin King. What’s it like putting Phil, a hero who went bad, up against Cindy, a hero who’s pretending to be bad?
Silk and Goblin King are on a collision course in our first arc, and it’s been fun to have them square off. And it’s true, Phil broke bad and stayed bad, which is a cautionary tale for Cindy, especially since we’ll see that the Goblin King is even more ambitious than he has been before — which is not at all good business for Black Cat.
The glimpse we got of the Black Cat in “Silk” #1 wasn’t that large. So what can you tell us about the state of her crime empire eight months after “Secret Wars?” Has the eight months of off panel time changed Felicia at all?
Black Cat and her empire have only grown over the last eight months. She’s become a big mover and shaker in the criminal underworld, and she has no intention of slowing down until she’s at the very top. We’re going to be exploring Cat’s empire and her motivations as the book goes along. She’s a dark mentor of sorts to Silk, sensing the anger and frustration that’s bubbling underneath Silk’s skin, and trying to get it to surface so she can exploit it for her empire.
It seems like Stacey Lee is having just as much fun with this new direction of the book as you are. What are some things that she’s added to your scripts that readers might not be aware of?
As you can see in the pages of Issue #1, Stacey has once again elevated her game and is doing a fantastic job bringing Cindy, Silk and the world of the book to life. There’s so much detail and emotion in every panel. I think a great example of what Stacey adds is actually in the opening pages. In the script, I was pretty basic in describing Cindy’s new apartment as small, but in the dialogue she talks about how much it’s hers. Stacey made that real by what she created, and so much more personal. Her rendering of Cindy’s apartment was pitch perfect — she added so much personality and heart and detail. It feels lived in, and the effect is that you really feel Cindy has made the absolute most with such a tiny place. It’s home. Her home. Stacey elevates each and every panel, of each and every page of the book — she’s the best.
It seems like you’re very much interested in keeping Cindy’s personal life and relationships at the FACT Channel an important part of the book as well. How big a role will that aspect of her life play in upcoming issues of “Silk?”
Cindy’s still trying to get her personal life going, so her friends at the FACT Channel will still be an important part of the book as well — and that’s a credit to Editor Nick Lowe, who is always pushing and encouraging us to explore Cindy’s personal life and make sure that part of her life is as well rendered as her hero life. For me as a writer, that line of thinking has led to some of my favorite parts in the book — character beats where we get to see Cindy come out of her shell and be herself a bit more in “real” life. It also led to her relationship with J. Jonah Jameson, one that’s in pretty stark contrast with JJJ’s relationship with Peter.
“Silk” #2 arrived in stores today.
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