By Vaneta Rogers
In June, Spider-Man fans get to catch a thief as Jen Van Meter brings her unique brand of "heist storytelling" to the new four-issue mini-series Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat.
The comic will be a tie-in to the Kraven-focused Grim Hunt storyline that will be taking place in Amazing Spider-Man at the same time.
Telling a story called "The Trophy Hunters," the Black Cat series will introduce Black Cat's "crew" while exploring why Felicia loves being a thief. With pencils by Javier Pulido, the first issue will have a cover by Amanda Conner with a variant cover by J. Scott Campbell, and will kick off a story that guest stars Spidey himself and the diabolical Kraven family.
Newsarama talked with Van Meter about the mini-series and why she specifically asked to write a story about Black Cat.
Newsarama: Jen, was this Black Cat story something you wanted to do, or something Marvel asked you to do?
Jen Van Meter: It's sort of both. Steve Wacker and I talk fairly frequently about the possibility of working together again, because we've enjoyed it in the past. And awhile back, I had told him that if there's ever anything that comes up with Black Cat, I would be really interested. So he contacted me awhile back and asked if I'd be interested in a Black Cat mini. I was!
In the last couple months, Leverage has become one of our favorite shows to watch with our kids. And so I was really excited about getting to do a story about a thief because I'm really enjoying that structure of story, and I've always really liked heist stories anyway.
So I had a couple of ideas of things I wanted to do with her. But I liked the idea of her having to defend her reputation as an excellent thief, and someone putting her reputation in jeopardy. And Steve told me that, since it's coming out next to some other stuff that was going on with Spider-Man, I saw a connection that seemed really useful to me as a storyteller. And he thought it was great. So we've been building it from there.
Nrama: You mentioned that, before it was even available, you told Steve you'd specifically like to do a story about Black Cat. Why this character in particular?
Van Meter: She's one of the few Marvel female characters that I know a good deal about, and I like how she's been written as this sort of feisty breeze that blows through Spider-Man's life. I like her, but she's always seen through his eyes, in my experience of her. I rarely see her written outside his point of view, so the idea of writing from her own point of view and casting her as the center of her own story seemed like something I'd enjoy doing.
Nrama: You mentioned Leverage and being a fan of that show. I know a lot of the heists on that show are done by a team. Is Black Cat going to be working with a group in this comic, or will she be going solo like we've seen in the past?
Van Meter: She is a solo thief. She goes in alone. I think that's part of who she is. But you can't ask me to write anything and leave out family for very long. It's one of the things I've gone back to. And in her case, her support staff is her family. So we'll meet the guy who does a lot of her information gathering. We'll meet the sisters who make a lot of her gear and costuming for her. They're a part of her story and a part of her life. And I wanted to do that, especially after I saw that other writers are showing her as someone who has a day job now and is busy. It struck me that somebody who might once have said she could do all of this on her own, the more technology becomes a part of security over the course of her life, and the busier she gets as Felicia, the more she's going to need other people as resources to get the job done.
I enjoy locating people in the communities where they already exist. I think you get to see characters from different points of view and see different aspects of them when you see them next to people they trust and relate to in a different way.
Nrama: What's the premise for the story?
Van Meter: We're going to meet her, finding out that somebody is framing her, making it look as if she's been doing some jobs that she has not been doing. There are many problems with this for her, but one of them is that the person doing these heists and pretending to be her is doing them badly. So she hates that. And her crew resents it, because it doesn't make them look good.
So she has to go find out who's setting her up and why. But there will be multiple heists over the course of the story. And we're going to get to see a little bit about where she comes from. I'm not going all the way back to origin stuff, but there will be things that surround her origin.
And my goal with all of this is to tell a really fun and exciting story about her, from her perspective, and explore a little bit about why she does what she does. I know that you can read a character bio that says she steals because her father was a great thief, and that she's trying to impress her mom.
I'm more interested in how it resonates with her emotionally when she's doing it. I think that, as much as she enjoys an occasional hook-up with Spider-Man, one of the things that makes her able to look at someone she's compatible with and say, "Yeah, this is pretty nice once in awhile, but that's all it is," is that for her, there is a relationship with the stuff she steals that surpasses any relationship she might have with someone like Spider-Man. As a thief, the planning of the job and the getting of the target is a profoundly emotional and passionate experience.
Nrama: How does Spider-Man get involved in the story?
Van Meter: I can't tell you a lot, except to say that she really wishes he wasn't. Part of the story is that she would very much prefer that he was nowhere near her for these four issues. And I don't want to go into too much detail about why, because there are things that might spoil other people's stories and things that would spoil my own.
Nrama: Are you familiar with Javier's work, and what do you think he'll bring to the story?
Van Meter: We had already plotted the story when Steve came back to me and said, "What would you think of having Javier coming on to do the art?" And I kind of nearly wet myself, because I love his work on Human Target. He's got a very noir, cinematic style. His stuff, to me, looks like an Italian crime film from 1972. There's a sharpness. I was really excited about the idea of it.
I had said something to Steve about taking Felicia and giving her a story that someone would give to Steve McQueen. And then putting Javier on the art amps up that feel for the story. And the other thing I love is that Javier does not draw women in the most conventional way for superhero art. And I think it give the whole story a different flavor, because while she's sexy when Javier draws her, it's not the same kind of sexy we normally see for Felicia. And I'm excited about that too, because I think it gives people a chance to see her as a different person.
Nrama: This ties into the Grim Hunt. Does that mean the Kravinoffs will be playing a role?
Van Meter: The mini-series is called the Trophy Hunters, and Felicia is one of them. And we know that big game hunters take trophies and put big heads on the walls and things like that. There is a connection. It's not a direct connection, but some of those characters are involved.
Nrama: For fans of your work, what else are you working on?
Van Meter: I've been doing the co-features in JSA All-Stars, and that's been a lot of fun. I've been doing the Liberty Belle and Hourman story since Issue #2. And again, I get to do something with costumed heroes who are in an unusual situation, because they're married. I pitched it as sort of Romancing the Stone, because it's an international adventure/quest with Tigress and Icicle. The reason I love those characters is because of a story I worked on with Steve Wacker.
And I'm working on more Hopeless Savages for Oni. And I just did a little story for an Oni book called Resurrection. I did a little 10-page tale for them that I had a lot of fun writing. It was much grimmer than what I usually do.
Nrama: Then just to finish up, Jen, now that you've had a chance to write Black Cat, what do you think of the character, and what are you hoping to accomplish in your portrayal of her?
Van Meter: I've discover how much fun she is to write, especially her dialogue. She doesn't have to talk like a good guy. And I enjoy writing villains. The more you give me villains and people who are in the gray area between hero and villain, I enjoy them so much because they can say outrageous things that straight-forward heroes can't say. They don't have to like everybody or be completely open-hearted and generous.
And I don't tend to work with women who are glamorous and flashy, so it's been interesting for me to work with that sort of female character. I also enjoy working with the nobility of the people you don't expect it from, and the dignity of people who start off seeming undignified. I think those contrasts are really interesting in story.
I don't think she's a simple character, and I think it's unfortunate when she seems simple. And I'm hoping what comes out of this is something that makes her more resonate.Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat begins June 2010