As a great poet once sang "cause baby now we got bad blood."
Black Widow's first solo feature film and new comic book series might be delayed, but if fans are clamoring for some new thrilling Romanoff super spy adventures, Serial Box might have what you're looking for with Marvel's Black Widow: Bad Blood. Much like Serial Box's other productions, these prose-style radio plays bring Marvel heroes to life - complete with sound effects.
In Bad Blood, narrator Sarah Natochenny (voice actor of Pokemon's Ash Ketchum) and and a team of writers led by Lindsay Smith follow Natasha as she hunts down the person (or persons) who stole her blood for mysterious purposes - as well as that of Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. the Winter Soldier.
With the first episode dropping Tuesday, Newsarama spoke with Smith about Bad Blood, leading a team of all-women writers, and what Black Widow means to her. Marvel's Black Widow: Bad Blood is available direct from Serial Box, as well as through Apple's App Store and Android's Play Store.
Newsarama: Lindsay, before we get into the details about Marvel's Black Widow: Bad Blood, take us through how you came to join the team on it. How did that come about?
Lindsay Smith: I've worked with Serial Box in the past as a lead writer for another one of their titles, The Witch That Came In From The Cold, which is a Cold War/fantasy espionage series about witches and spies going on in Cold War Europe. So I worked with them for quite a while and I was also a writer on their Orphan Black serial as well.
Nrama: Before you started writing this, were you a fan of Black Widow? Did you have any predespotions about the character or just have bits and pieces here and there?
Smith: So a lot of my fiction and my original novels are centered around Cold War settings. My background is actually in Russian studies and computer security.
Nrama: Oh, perfect!
Smith: Yeah! So I'm a huge Soviet history fan and love espionage drama. Needless to say I've been a huge Black Widow fangirl for quite some time. My first novel, Sekret, was about psychic spies in the Cold War and my first project with Serial Box, The Witch That Came In From The Cold, had a similar setting so working on this seemed like a natural fit for me.
Nrama: You're the lead writer and you have this team, and the first episode is written by you and Taylor Stevens. What was the collaboration like? How did the script get broken down?
Smith: So Taylor is pretty fantastic, especially when it comes to staging action scenes and keeping a relentless thrilling pace to things so I really appreciate being able to learn that from her. Basically, we had this draft document that we would ping pong back and forth with one another and fleshing out various scenes. She would comment on my scenes, I would comment on hers. It all just melded together really nicely. I like getting to see her style and how she approaches things while trying to infuse more atmospheric writing.
Nrama: Natasha has a run-in with Bucky Barnes here, so how would you describe their relationship or partnership in Bad Blood?
Smith: So in Bad Blood, Bucky has broken free of the Red Room from his handlers in Hydra. They have a history when they were in the Red Room together, so after he's broken free they don't really have that close kinship as free people basically. They're trying to find that common ground and what that looks like when they're their own people. They're trying to figure out who they are when they're not putting on their masks and I love that aspect, especially with Bucky trying to figure out who he is underneath all of his programming.
Nrama: Are there plans for other Marvel villain cameos or are you keeping it low key with a smaller cast? Are you playing up more to the superhero aspect or more to the spy smasher sort of story?
Smith: We really wanted this to feel like a spy drama first and foremost because I think that's what Natasha does best. She doesn't have the same power level as say Iron Man or Captain America, but she's more cerebral. She's relying more on her instinct and her own determination to survive and thrive no matter the situation. So I think we really got to explore that and let her stand on her own.
That being said, there are a few cameos I don't want to spoil and a hint of the larger world out there in the Marvel Universe.
Nrama: What do you think it is that makes something like this so unique? Marvel has tried other things in the past like motion comics and they have other serialized podcasts like the Wolverine one with Stitcher, but what is it about this platform that you yourself find unique and enjoy?
Smith: I love that Wolverine podcast, it's so original! The thing I have loved about Serial Box is the sense of collaboration you get to enjoy from it. You get all of these fiction writers coming together and you get a feel of how all of their strengths are added to the project in a way that you get from a single author. Being to be able to read it or hear it in these small digestible bits makes it so easy too. I've enjoyed so many of the Serial Box projects, and working on them too, it is a very freeing platform that you get to work with all these writers to create something unique and focused.
Nrama: Was there something from your educational background with the Soviet history you really wanted to implement here?
Smith: Oh absolutely. I love getting into how the Cold War really gets into Natasha's psyche and how she views things. It also depends on what Natasha you're talking about as to when she came up in the 60s or the 80s, those are both completely different Russias. So that can change her world view.
It's really cool to get to explore that but for this Natasha we have her having experienced a different selection of Soviet eras of the past, so she's kinda got a couple of different things that she's drawing from in her worldview.
As someone who has broken free of the Red Room since then, she's also reacting to that but it's so hard for her to break free because that's where so much of her training comes from. So you get to see that coming out in her actions and thoughts, which is something I love about prose. It's how much we see inside her head.
Nrama: How would you describe your prose style when dealing with this? For example, looking back at how Fleming would even describe how Bond would fire a gun. For Bad Blood, where did you draw your influences from?
Smith: Those are good examples and, it's terrible, but my absolute favorite is The Spy Who Loved Me because it's actually written from the love interest's point of view. It's so different and very bizarre.
The Bond novels and movies were such a big influence on me growing up, but now you have Taylor Stevens, who I pitched her name out in my wildest hopes and dreams when we were putting together the team for this project. So I'm thrilled she was able to come aboard. I also love thrillers written by Gillian Flynn and Tana French as they are huge inspirations for me.
Nrama: As the lead writer working with an all-women team, how were the scripts broken down and distributed for assignment?
Smith: So Taylor and I went back and forth to flesh out this rough idea for what we wanted season one to look like; what the overarching narrative was going to be. Once we got that together, we sent it out to the other writers and spent the weekend together at Serial Box's headquarters where we just hashed it out.
It was really cool how everyone gravitated towards certain episodes, depending on their strengths. We've got Mikki Kendall who is writing these really in-depth moments of Natasha getting into her psyche, so yeah it's really cool to see how it naturally sourced itself out among the writers.
Nrama: Did you learn anything new about yourself or discover a new strength in your writing as you were working with this team?
Smith: Yeah and that's been pretty true of all the Serial Box projects I've worked on. You can have this great idea and then you get a team together and they question it and really helps you grow and think more critically about your storytelling. Also, it's also fun to see when one person comes up with something that nobody else in the room even thought off and adds that to the story.
Nrama: Lastly, for Black Widow fans who have to wait longer for her movie and her new comic book series, what would be the biggest drawing point for somebody to check out Marvel's Black Widow: Bad Blood?
Smith: This is about doing what she does best. She doesn't have to fit into a larger team or have to be part of an ensemble. She can take the lead in her own world and shape the narrative of the character she's capable of being. It's really a celebration of Natasha all on her own.