Worlds Black is the new red Nathan Ed­mond­son

As the Black Widow steals the spot­light in a new se­ries, Nathan Ed­mond­son talks about her murky past and why some­times even the Avengers need the softly, softly ap­proach

Comic Heroes - - Front Page - By David West

born au­gusta, ge­or­gia high olym­pus now black widow more www.nathan-e.com

Natalia “Natasha” Ro­manova first sashayed into the Marvel Uni­verse in the pages of Tales Of Sus­pense #52 in 1964. In her de­but, Natasha took the form of a glam­orous Soviet spy, co­de­named Black Widow, who was sent to the United States by her KGB masters to se­duce Tony Stark and gain ac­cess to his in­dus­trial se­crets.

Af­ter team­ing up with Hawk­eye (then a vil­lain him­self) and the Crim­son Dy­namo dur­ing sev­eral run-ins with Iron Man, Natasha turned against her Soviet overlords, aban­doned Mother Rus­sia and joined the stars and stripes team. She be­came an Avenger, went on to lead the short-lived su­perteam The Cham­pi­ons, and in the process be­came one of Marvel’s most en­dur­ing su­per­heroines.

As she ap­proaches her 50th an­niver­sary, the cat­suit-clad se­cret agent has never en­joyed a higher pro­file both in comics and in the movies, where Scar­lett Jo­hans­son brought her to life in Iron Man 2 and the box of­fice record-break­ing smash The Avengers. Now she takes cen­tre stage in her new solo se­ries by artist Phil Noto and writer Nathan Ed­mond­son, who checks in to re­veal his plans for the deadly Widow. Comic He­roes: When a char­ac­ter has as much his­tory (and as com­pli­cated a his­tory) as Natasha, is that bag­gage weigh­ing her down or does it give you a lot to work with?

“What’s great about Natasha is her past is, on the one hand, known to ev­ery­one but on the other fairly murky and not well de­fined. That’s our ad­van­tage as sto­ry­tellers; we now know her in­ti­mately and we will slowly in­tro­duce her to those who don’t, and tan­ta­lise those who do with very new slices of her past and present.”

How much have the Iron Man and The Avengers movies driven a resur­gence of in­ter­est in Natasha? NE: “So far, a sig­nif­i­cant amount and I think Black Widow’s fame will take an­other gi­ant leap this year be­tween the comic and the Cap­tain Amer­ica: The Win­ter Sol­dier film, in which she will play a ma­jor role. Joss Whe­don has also dis­cussed how she will be a main player in next year’s The Avengers 2 so her star, I be­lieve, is go­ing to keep ris­ing for quite some time.” CH: What tone are you go­ing for with the se­ries? Spy thriller? Su­per­hero ad­ven­ture? Grim and gritty?

“I think Phil and I have struck a very fun bal­ance. Our ap­proach to Black Widow has all the bom­bast of a badass su­per­hero comic with the tooth and nail of Natasha’s vil­lain­ous past and ruth­less meth­ods and ca­pa­bil­i­ties. She’s un­com­pro­mis­ing, and some­times the pages are too. And ul­ti­mately it is a spy thriller; Natasha is the es­pi­onage arm of the Avengers and she is a mer­ce­nary spy-as­sas­sin her­self. She is the quiet and pre­cise ap­proach to the world’s big bad prob­lems, even if ‘quiet’ in­volves some big ex­plo­sions. She’s thought­ful and she doesn’t move with­out the right in­for­ma­tion, which she of­ten gath­ers her­self; thus she is a spy first and fore­most.” CH: Natasha is tough but she’s not su­per­pow­ered. Speak­ing cre­atively, is that a plus or a draw­back?

“Per­son­ally it is a ma­jor plus to be work­ing on this book where we chal­lenge a ‘reg­u­lar’ per­son with in­cred­i­ble odds. I en­joy tak­ing a real-world char­ac­ter and see­ing how high I can make them jump. We’re con­stantly push­ing

Natasha’s lim­its and test­ing her against var­i­ous vil­lains and sticky sit­u­a­tions. In the Marvel Uni­verse, Natasha’s hu­man­ness is, in fact, a plus. There are sit­u­a­tions where Cap­tain Amer­ica, Iron Man or Thor can’t break their way through and crush an en­emy, when more fi­nesse and spy work is re­quired. There are coun­tries that SHIELD can’t in­fil­trate, but she, a onewoman army, can. Mostly, though, our Black Widow se­ries fo­cuses on Natasha when she isn’t stand­ing with any team or agency. We will wit­ness her home life, her solo mis­sions, her on­go­ing and la­bo­ri­ous jour­ney of atone­ment.” CH: Have you had to do much re­search into Rus­sia and the his­tory of the Soviet Union?

“I cer­tainly came to this book with a work­ing knowl­edge, es­pe­cially Cold War-pe­riod his­tory. In ad­di­tion to be­ing a fairly well-read stu­dent of his­tory, my pre­vi­ous spy work filled my shelves with books on the area and I’ll ex­plore more as nec­es­sary. There are some nods to Rus­sian leg­ends and the KGB, and per­haps a vil­lain or two born in the glory of St Peters­burg or the rub­ble of Len­ingrad.” CH: Can you give us any hints about who and what Natasha is up against in the open­ing plot line? NE: “War­lords, vi­cious crim­i­nals, deadly as­sas­sins, one pissed off re­li­gious nut and a para­noid su­pervil­lain.” CH: What about a Rogue’s Gallery? NE: “We will pull this cur­tain back slowly, in some sub­tle and some overt ways. Ul­ti­mately, this is Natasha’s book but her jour­ney will in­evitably lead her across the paths of oth­ers.”

Any love in­ter­ests on the hori­zon? Or old flames?

“On the hori­zon, yes. We don’t jump into any soap op­eras right away. Natasha’s a busy girl; love isn’t a pri­or­ity with deadly ninja as­sas­sins at her throat. We want to make it clear that part of her atone­ment for her past is a present lone­li­ness – very much like a sin­gle par­ent may put dat­ing on the back­burner, she has a higher pri­or­ity that drives her. Lone­li­ness can creep up though and we all, once in a while, need some­one to hold on to. Who Natasha lets in close in those colder mo­ments is a very dif­fi­cult ques­tion. Who can she trust, re­ally?” CH: In her ear­li­est ap­pear­ances, Natasha was a femme fa­tale. Over the years, she has grown to be­come stronger, more dy­namic and to lead other he­roes into bat­tle. How do you want to see her char­ac­ter grow go­ing for­ward?

“I see her draw­ing from the strengths of both while ul­ti­mately climb­ing to­ward a su­per­heroic sta­tus where she fun­da­men­tally changes the state of global war­fare; this, though, will come only through mon­u­men­tally dif­fi­cult strug­gles and a long, lonely, ded­i­cated jour­ney.”

Above: Thanks to re­cent box of­fice smashes, Black Widow’s star has never been higher – 50 years af­ter she first made an ap­pear­ance op­po­site Iron Man in Tales Of Sus­pense.

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