Felicia Hardy is well into her first solo series from writer Jed MacKay – and with Black Cat #9, he’ll get a new creative partner for a two-part arc: artist Kris Anka.
And that’s not all – MacKay is writing a ticket to take Anka’s signature stylish art to Madripoor and right into the claws of Wolverine. The Madripoor heist revolves around a piece of the puzzle that’s been building since the series’ first issue – and it even brings in X-Men foe Kade Kilgore, the one-time child Black King of the Hellfire Club.
As luck would have it, Newsarama spoke to MacKay ahead of Black Cat #9’s February 5 release to find out what’s in store as the titular anti-hero heads to Marvel’s most wretched hive of scum and villainy.
Newsarama: Jed, for this new arc that kicks off in Black Cat #9, you’re taking Felicia out of NYC and into Madripoor - otherwise known as Wolverine’s stomping grounds – where it seems she’s going up against him directly. Just how feral are things gonna get?
Jed MacKay: I don't think I'm telling tales out of school when I say that while #9 keeps it classy, #10 is our most violent issue yet. [Laughs] Felicia doesn't mind a throwdown, but that's not her specialty, she's a thief and does thief things.
Generally, she beats her enemies with planning and improvisation, and the claws are for when that doesn't work.
Wolverine, however, is an unkillable murder-man who has knives for hands - if we didn't like him so much, he'd belong in a slasher movie. As you might imagine, throwing those two radically different styles of problem-solving together is going to be explosive.
Nrama: The solicitation for Black Cat #9 mentions Wolverine’s alter ego Patch – and something he has that Black Cat wants. What can you tell us about her quarry here?
MacKay: Sometimes when we read comics, we forget that not everyone knows what we know. Sure, Logan's Patch identity is hilarious to us as readers, but there's no reason that Felicia would know that.
So when she and the crew jet off to Madripoor to track down a specific piece of art last known to belong to a mysterious Mr. Patch - a piece of art that is another piece of the puzzle that we've putting together over the last year - she has no idea what she's walking into.
Nrama: We’ve also seen that in #10, Kade Kilgore makes his entrance. What draws you to Kade as a foil for Felicia Hardy? How has he changed since the last time we saw him? Kids grow up fast…
MacKay: The thing I like about Kade is the thing that makes a lot of people hate him: he's a total and absolute little #$%&.
In my early outlines, Felicia's first heist would have put her up against him, but we pivoted early on, and he stayed in my back pocket. The thing about Kade is that he's so used to being in control, so used to getting what he wants- he's rich, he has no morals and is limited only by his sadism.
So of course, when you have someone like that, you confront him with someone he can't control, and no one can control the Black Cat. Kade hates dealing with someone who won't listen to him and isn't afraid of him, someone who treats him like the horrible child that he is, he hates it so much.
And that's why it's fun - taking a little #$%& like Kade Kilgore and just sticking it to him.
Nrama: You’ve got Kris Anka drawing this arc. How are you taking advantage of his design sense? What does he bring to a larger-than-life crime tale like this?
MacKay: Well, I don't tell him how to dress the characters, that's for sure. Everything Kris draws is so clean and cool, and his heroes are powerful, sexy figures rampaging through whatever story he works on. So, getting to see his work on a Black Cat/ Wolverine story in Madripoor was a delight. Knowing Kris was going to drawing these two issues (and having been a fan of his for years and years), I tried to throw in all the things I'd like to see him draw- we have rooftop chases, casino scams, canal chases, mercenaries, slick schemes and flagrant violence. And of course??? It all looked great??? It's all rather self-indulgent, I guess.
Nrama: On that note, what’s your favorite thing he’s drawn for this story so far?
MacKay: Specific thing: a bit where Patch turns up his eyepatch to look at something with both eyes.
A general thing: Let's be honest here, it all looks good. Background, props, layouts, whatever. But it really comes down to the characters. Kris draws Wolverine real short, like he's supposed to be, so when he and Felicia stand next to one another, it's really great (she's got like seven inches on him). There's such expression and acting in the characters, in the way they stand and move that tells the reader so much before the dialogue gets anywhere near the page, it's a delight.
Nrama: You’ve been writing Black Cat for going on 9 issues now – a significant run for a first time solo character these days. How has your take on who she is and how she operates changed? How do you think she’s changed as a character over these issues so far?
MacKay: We've been fortunate - back when we were putting the series together last year, it was understood that we'd get 10 issues if we were lucky, so I planned accordingly. Since then our limit has kept getting pushed back, which has allowed us to spread out a bit and explore parts of Felicia's life outside of the non-stop action. Her date with Batroc, her market day with her mom, the flashbacks to her time training with the Black Fox; all of these things let us try out some different avenues in seeing what makes her tick.
A lot of my writing happens on the page, in the moment. Things change in ways that surprise me, while feeling like that's the way they always should have been. I wasn't sure how I wanted Felicia and Spider-Man to interact in the Annual, and it wasn't until I sat down to write it that I felt it fall into place. Similarly, the way her relationships with her mom, with her henchmen, with the Black Fox have developed. She's been growing as we've been progressing, and it's exciting to see that go on.
Nrama: Felicia Hardy skirts the line of hero and villain a bit more than many lead characters. How has writing a master thief who is not exactly on the up-and-up influenced your approach to protagonists in superhero stories?
MacKay: I like writing characters with selfish motives. Black Cat is a big part of that, and the Taskmaster series that will be starting up in April is an extension of that idea (taken to an extreme, of course). Felicia does right, but reluctantly.
She's not a villain and she's not a hero, she acts in her own self-interest but does the right thing when she has to. Granted, her interpretation of "the right thing" is wildly open to interpretation (as is "when she has to"), but she knows what she can get away with before she begins feeling bad about it.
Nrama: After this Madripoor arc, what’s coming up for Black Cat?
MacKay: After Madripoor, Felicia and her crew return to the States to pull a job targeting a character who we've been saving for a real barn-burner of a heist (Spoilers: It’s Iron Man). After that, we have a more personal, done-in-one story featuring a character who I've wanted to get to all along. After that, we're looking at a three-part story, one for all the marbles: the job that we've been building up to since issue #1.
After that? We're cooking up some big plans, and hope to cook up even more for the future! People have been great to support our weird little book, and I hope that readers will continue to enjoy (and pre-order) it because I know we're getting into issue numbers that a book like ours doesn't usually get into, and I don't think there's any reason we can't go higher and higher!