One of the hot titles coming from Marvel NOW! is Black Widow – a superhero whose popularity catapulted with the cameos followed by leading roles in the Marvel Studios films. Dedicating an ongoing title to this character only made sense, but to show readers the biggest publisher of superhero comics today was taking this venture seriously, it needed to support the title with top talent. Enter artist Phil Noto and writer Nathan Edmondson.
As the series is already knee-deep into its second story arc, Newsarama took a few minutes to talk with Edmondson about the past, present, and future for this hot new series.
Newsarama: Nathan, aside from being the writer for Black Widow, you keep busy on a number of related and unrelated projects. What keeps you busy day in and out? How do you manage it all?
Nathan Edmondson: A daughter growing up too fast, a hungry dog and a mortgage keep me motivated to work as far ahead on every project as possible. With enough lead time on one thing, I can devote space to another, then another before the first one comes back around. It’s a carefully orchestrated system, the gears of which are lubricated with stress and elbow grease.
Nrama: The first volume of Black Widow hit shelves in comic shops in mid-July. Overall, what's the response been for this new series?
Edmondson: It’s out, yeah! Up soon is PUNISHER!
And I don’t think it’s a surprise to say that the response to BLACK WIDOW has been far more positive and enthusiastic than our wildest hopes. The book is, well, a hit. And Punisher too! I feel blessed, but of course it’s the artists who deserve the credit.
Nrama: I'm curious what you find to be the most challenging aspect/s of writing Black Widow? What are the most appealing?
Edmondson: Probably the most challenging — and appealing — is that I have to strive to give Natasha the space and freedom in the story to surprise me. Because she does, and will.
Nrama: What can you tell us about your working process with Phil Noto?
Edmondson: Phil is a total, devoted pro; the nicest guy and the easiest collaborator. Our interaction is necessarily minimal; I know how much — or rather, how little — he needs in a script, and his brilliance carries it from there. We know Natasha, and that’s key. We both follow her into her adventures.
Nrama: You mention "interaction is necessarily minimal" between Phil and yourself. For the "process geeks" out there, does this mean you lean more towards a "Marvel" style scripting process or is it a leaner, full script approach? When does Phil step in and Nathan step back?
Edmondson: No, not a “marvel” style script; my scripts are structured and broken down into panels, but I keep the descriptions fairly spartan, adding only the absolute necessary details to the descriptions, and I’m also aware of, and comfortable with the face that Phil may throw some of my descriptions out the window for a better overall effect.
Nrama: For readers who aren't familiar with your current run, how does this new series differentiate itself from previous takes on the character?
Edmondson: I prefer not to make any kinds of comparisons to previous iterations, but I will say simply that we’ve approached her book with a focus on her world, her world as it relates to HER, and not her world as visible in contrast to other heroes or heroines. This is Natasha’s book, and it’s a lonely world, a lonely, lethal world.
Nrama: One thing the seems rather apparent is the general "one and done" approach you're taking in writing each story with collaborator, Phil Noto. What was your reasoning for this direction versus a more continuity-focused narrative?
Edmondson: There is in fact a longer arc playing out slowly in the pages. And in the first six issues, it’s only the first three that are really stand-alones, before the Molot Boga arc begins to play out. But it was important to us to first show some “days in the life” of the killer merc.
Nrama: Black Widow has also come across as much more of a spy book than a superhero comic. Was there a reason you opted to move more in this direction rather than focusing on her role as an agent of Shield and member of the Avengers?
Edmondson: Again, this is Natasha’s book, Not “The Avengers with Black Widow” or something. We don’t want to ignore the fact that she’s an avenger, but we want to show what’s up when she’s on her own. On her own, she’s an operative, a spy, a mercenary. She doesn’t fly or have super-soldier abilities, it’s just her muscle, wit and determination that drive her ability and skill.
Nrama: On the other hand, you've recently introduced some other superheroes into the series with Daredevil in Issue #7 and the Winter Soldier in #8 playing upon Natasha's shared history with each individual. Can readers expect to see Matt and Bucky again – or other characters for that matter?
Edmondson: A “perhaps, yes, probably, yes” to both, so far as we can see ahead into the future of the series!
Nrama: We're going into Issue #9 and so far, you've kept the content focused more on "work" and less on "play." Is there a reason you've eschewed any sort of romantic or overtly sexual overtones that readers might have otherwise expected from a character whose namesake calls to mind the femme fatale image, which she was originally based upon?
Edmondson: We early on — our whole team — decided we didn’t want this to be an oversexualized portrayal of the character and we didn’t want Natasha to be defined by who she slept with or what men were in her life. This is her story and if romance becomes important to the story — as it does fleetingly in the "Bitter Cold" issue — then we’ll work it in, but otherwise we won’t focus that much on it.
Nrama: Isaiah is also turning into a really interesting and complex character the more that we learn about him. Why did you decide to take Black Widow's accountant and flesh him out as well?
Edmondson: Like Natasha, Isaiah continues to surprise us and he’s a character that readers are responding to, as well so naturally we want to see and know more of him.
Nrama: What other plans do you have in store as we move towards Issue #9 and the approximate half-way point into the second arc of Black Widow?
Edmondson: We have a couple of wildly exciting issues coming up that start to bring the idea of CHAOS fully into the light. What comes next? You’ve got to read to find out!
Nrama: Last question: Any other future projects you'll be working on that readers should be on the lookout for?
Edmondson: Keep your ears and eyes open for a Nerd HQ-based announcement about a new project this week!
Black Widow #9 will be available on August 6th in both retail stores and digitally on Comixology. Readers can also catch up on volume one of the trade paperback now on Comixology and at comic shops, or on August 5th through other retail venues.