Van Meter's Lucky "Black Cat"

Thu, April 22nd, 2010 at 10:58am PDT | Updated: April 25th, 2010 at 9:19pm

Comic Books
Kevin Mahadeo, Staff Writer
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"Amazing Spider-Man Presents: The Black Cat" #1 slinks into stores in June

The Black Cat loves to steal, and this June she's stealing the show in her very own brand new miniseries by writer Jen Van Meter and artist Javier Pulido, "Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Black Cat."

Although originally created by writer Marv Wolfman as a counter to Spider-Woman, the Black Cat ended up sinking her claws into the spectacular Spider-Man as a reoccurring character in Marvel's "Amazing Spider-Man" title. Felicia Hardy's profession as a cat bugler first made her an adversary of Spider-Man, however, the two quickly developed an attraction to one another and she became an on-again, off-again love interest for the wall-crawling hero. The Black Cat returned to modern continuity Spider-Man stories in "Amazing" issues #606-607, a two-part arc aptly titled "Back in Black Cat." In the story, Spidey and Felicia reunited for the first time following the events of "Brand New Day," rekindling their strange romantic entanglement, despite constant complications from the Black Cat's regular forays into thievery and her "bad luck" powers, which constantly create problems for the web slinger.

The new four-issue miniseries by Van Meter and Pulido spins Felicia into a story that ties somewhat tangentially into the upcoming "Grim Hunt" storyline running through "Amazing" issues #634-637 in June. Van Meter spoke with CBR about the title and her thoughts and feelings on arguably the single greatest thief in the Marvel Universe.

One of the biggest things Van Meter wanted to accomplish in this limited series was to give Felicia Hardy her own sense of identity beyond her relationship with Spider-Man. "For the most part, whenever anybody sees her in a Spider-Man story, she's obviously a sexual romantic interest for him. But her impact on the story tends to be, 'so there's this thief chick and she complicates things.' That leaves a whole lot open for what her life is like when she's not interacting with him," Van Meter told CBR. "My love of thief stuff and thief stories and heist films and things like that made me really want to take this on and try to do something that opens her up as a person with goals of her own. All the stuff that you wouldn't see when Spider-Man doesn't see it. What I was looking for was a plot that would give her the opportunity to show a little more on what she is about."

The miniseries' action gets underway when a mysterious villain attacks Felicia's professional reputation. Needless to say, this prompts Black Cat to seek out her attacker and let loose some of that infamous bad luck upon them. Through this, the book introduces a number of new characters that play an integral role in Black Cat's thieving lifestyle. "As much as she is somebody who works alone, I didn't find it terribly plausible that somebody who does what she does does it without the aid of others. She has a bit of a crew that works for her and that help her in different aspects of her work," Van Meter revealed. "I don't want to give away too many spoilers, but basically, her skill set includes, but is not limited to, the physical aspects of getting into a place and taking things. But we also know that she's got a day job and some kind of a life. It seems to me that [she would have] somebody who will run a lot of the tech stuff in advance of planning a job, or who will help her figure out what she needs to know to get into a place. Somebody who would potentially would be her inner face for getting jobs. There's not a lot of point in being a professional thief if you haven't figured out how to monetize it, which means somebody has to be willing to pay for what you take, once in a while. If it's not convenient for you to do that yourself, then you'd want somebody who will handle some of that for you. She's probably got multiple fences, but I deal with at least one in this story."

Van Meter's story will also introduce a pair of sisters that help with the engineering side of things, building equipment or modify the Cat's costume in any way needed. These characters form a pseudo family for the feline thief, since she lacks an actual one with her father being dead and her mother refusing to talk to her because of the Cat's illegal life choices. "Part of what this story is about is her negotiating the difference between who the Black Cat knows and trusts and cares about and the people that, as Felicia, she's concerned with - and the degree to which she feels whether that is a double life or just putting a costume on the same person," explained the writer. "I think Felicia, to a great degree, her identity is so tied up with being a thief that if you said, 'Stop that, for me,' it would be like somebody telling you or me to stop being you. I wanted to put her through some of those questions a little bit. She really does love what she does. I don't think there's any point in dressing up in the suit and doing the risky jobs if you're doing it just for cash. The character is clearly somebody who is making a very fine living with easier stuff than what she has. So, there's another reason that she does it. I think part of that is tied up in her origin of who her dad was, but I think part of it is also tied up in her blessing...and her defect that she maybe can't imagine life not as a thief."

Amanda Conner covers Van Meter and Javier Pulido's Black Cat tale

Another aspect of the character Van Meter said she took some time deciding on how to approach are Felicia's "bad luck" powers. Although there have been inconsistencies over the years as to how exactly the powers work and the extent of whom they work on, the author said she's come up with her own theories on the nature of that ol' Black Cat magic. "Right now, it seems like it's only Spider-Man [they affect]," laughed Van Meter. "The way that I'm treating it is that it comes and it goes, but it's not necessarily her that turns it on and off. I've got a couple beats where it's clear that it happens not just to Spider-Man. My current operating theory is that, if you piss her off, you're more likely to drop your coffee down the front of your shirt than if you don't. It's a little bit of a power and a little bit of a coincidence, and she's doesn't necessarily have anything to say about it. I think that, in her mind, that it happens most predominantly with Spider-Man confirms that they have some kind of special chemistry."

Speaking of the amazing arachnid, Van Meter said that although the story is very much Felicia's, Spider-Man and the Cat interact in some way or form every issue. However, it mostly involves the Cat trying to keep the Spider at paw's length. "She's trying to get him far away from him as possible, because her logic is that he has bad luck when he's around her," explained the writer. "If the thing I'm involved in is bad for you, you shouldn't be around me. If there's a trap, that's when you'll fall in it. The dynamic between them is her trying to override his basic decency, because if he thinks she's in trouble, he'll try to help. So there is a little bit of drama between them that's really fun to write."

Van Meter also spent time contemplating the relationship between the two characters. The author said she believes that Felicia's attraction to the friendly neighborhood hero ties directly into her love of stealing. "She's not necessarily in love with him. She's doesn't want to be his girlfriend and go to the prom. She doesn't want to have his babies. She doesn't want to get rid of all their gear and go build a little house in the woods together," said Van Meter. "What she has with him is very specific to who they are when they're doing their jobs. That's where he is interesting to her. I realized that he is very like a museum piece. He is like the Hope Diamond under glass in museum. She is not supposed to have him. He is one of the good guys. From her point of view, the thing that's so electric when they're together is that it's not supposed to be happening.

"She looks at the him and the way the world views him and has the same reaction she'd have to watching people walk sightlessly by a Degas in a museum while they're eating their lunch," she continued. "I don't think she thinks anybody in the world can possibly understand his true worth and value the way she does. So, it's okay that she steals him periodically. When they spend the night together, I think that's largely how she sees it - like stealing something other people don't treasure enough."

As mentioned previously, Van Meter's love of thief stories and heist films helped her decide to tackle this title. However, the author explained that when penning a prose of that genre, medium plays a major part in how you approach the story. "I think there are people who are attracted to heist and theft stories for the clever. What they want to see is outrageously smart people being outrageously smart about how to pull off something complicated," she said. "The pleasure in making it and in viewing it is in watching people do these ornate and intricate little puzzles. You see pieces fall, like in Tetris, and you don't know how everything is going to assemble itself until, 'Huzzah! They did it!' I love those things as a consumer. I think it's a great thing for film because of the way you can order and present information. I think it's harder to do that kind of plot in prose fiction because there are fewer tricks for revealing and not revealing.

"When doing this, what I've come to realize is that the short hand of comics and the demands on the artist are such that what you're telling about the story is the cleverness of the person," continued the writer. "These stories about thievery are really about an interesting kind of break in. Somebody who doesn't take out of need, but out of the thrill of taking. The thing that is under Lucite and special gases and pressure sensitive plates in a highly guarded museum, it calls to them like a crossword puzzle. I'm fascinated by the romance between the thief and the object. There are a lot of great thief stories, but it's just a good thief story unless it's about who she is and why she is doing it. I don't think a lot of time has been spent on that for this character. She really loves the game between herself, and the object and whoever is trying to keep it from her."

As for the future of Van Meter and her romance with the thief, the writer readily admitted she definitely wouldn't feel it to be bad luck if the Black Cat crossed her path again. "If I could write more with this character, I would agree to do it in a heartbeat. I've become very, very fond of her. I was at WonderCon and somebody asked me what I like about working with Steve Wacker. He keeps asking me to do things that I don't think I can do, and the minute I start trying to figure out how to pitch it, I'm in love with it and don't want to do anything else. I think she could have real legs as a character with her own stories to tell in the Marvel U. And I would love to be a part of that if the powers that be saw fit to let it happen."

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TAGS:  marvel comics, black cat, amazing spider-man, jen van meter

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