Before they were superheroes, Natasha Romanoff and Bobbi Morse were two of the Marvel Universe's top espionage agents. As the Black Widow Romanoff's masters in Soviet Intelligence enhanced her physical abilities and sent her to America where she ran afoul of Iron Man on several occasions. In a couple of those instances, she manipulated Clint Barton in his costumed identity of Hawkeye into attacking Iron Man. Hawkeye was later given a chance to make up for his villainous acts by becoming an Avenger. When she broke free from her Soviet masters, The Widow was also offered a chance to repent by becoming both an Avenger and a freelance operative of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Bobbi Morse was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who created her Mockingbird identity as a way of exposing corruption in the ranks of the organization. Eventually, she resigned from the agency and encountered Hawkeye during the course of an independent investigation. The two fell in love, got married and went on to set up the West Coast branch of the Avengers. Complications on a time travel mission to the past and Mockingbird's apparent death lead to the dissolution of their marriage. In the aftermath of the Skrulls' Secret Invasion of Earth, Morse was discovered to be still alive and she and Hawkeye decided to attempt to rekindle their romantic relationship.
Currently, Hawkeye and Mockingbird star in their self - titled series, written by Jim McCann with art by David Lopez, which chronicles the couple's pursuit of the world's most dangerous super terrorists. The Widow also has her own self - titled series which will be taken over by the new creative team of writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Manuel Garcia in September. This December and January, the ghosts of Hawkeye, Mockingbird and the Widow's pasts will come back to haunt them when their two titles cross over for a storyline titled "Widow Maker." CBR News spoke with McCann and Swierczynski about the crossover which begins in "Hawkeye & Mockingbird" #7 and then continues in "Black Widow #9.
CBR News: Given the shared history and backgrounds of your characters, it seems like a crossover between "Black Widow" and "Hawkeye & Mockingbird" would be a natural story to tell. Who's idea was this and how long has it been in the works?
Jim McCann: It was an idea I think everyone involved with both series was heading towards. When Duane took over "Black Widow," he was gung ho for it, and after "Hawkeye & Mockingbird" #6, that book was primed for even more complications a crossover event like this brings to the table. Plus, the fans have been asking every month when Black Widow & Hawkeye will cross paths, so now they know!
Duane Swierczynski: Jim's right - I was gung ho for the idea from the beginning, and happily, Jim's ideas fit in perfectly with what I had in mind for Natasha during the coming year. So perfectly, I'm starting to think Jim has my basement office bugged.
"Widow Maker" doesn't begin until the end of the year, so what can people expect from the "Hawkeye & Mockingbird" and "Black Widow" stories leading up to it?
JM: For "Hawkeye & Mockingbird," the first arc ("Ghosts") deals with putting their past to rest, but also concentrates a lot on action and consequences (especially as seen in issue 2). By issue 6, there are major shake - ups and revelations that make this the best and worst time for the events of "Widow Maker" to occur.
DS: Meanwhile, in "Black Widow," you'll be seeing the first hints of the threat that will be in full bloom by "Widow Maker." (I'd tell you more, but then I'd have to do you - know - what to you.) My first arc starts with issue #6 in September, but I hope everyone's been picking up Marjorie Liu's opening arc, because it rocks.
I imagine one of the most fun things about crossovers is the chance to writer the other creator's characters. So, Duane, what's it like writing Hawkeye and Mockingbird? What do you find interesting about them? And Jim, how are you enjoying writing the Widow? What do you find most compelling about her?
DS: I've always been fascinated by Hawkeye. Pretty much the only guy - other than Prince - who can get away with the whole purple thing. Seriously, what's been the most fun is dipping into the spy end of the Marvel Universe, with crazy and complicated characters like Mockingbird and Dominic Fortune.
JM: For me, I love the idea of showing how different Natasha and Bobbi are in their approach to the same job - being super hero super spies. Black Widow is a fun character to write because she's so cool, almost cold in her approach. Mockingbird's been in a state of emotional unrest since she came back so it's an interesting change. Also, writing Clint's first love and his true love in the same place with Hawkeye stuck in the middle - love it.
Given Hawkeye and the Widow's shared history, there might be an uncomfortable and interesting dynamic between the three protagonists of this story. How would you describe Hawkeye's feelings towards the Widow? Subconsciously or consciously, does he harbor any malice towards her for manipulating him at the start of his career? Does the Widow feel any guilt or romantic feelings towards Hawkeye? And how does Bobbi feel about being around one of Clint's exes...who just happens to be another highly trained spy? Any feelings of jealousy or that she was his second choice?
JM: I think Clint's gotten over what Natasha did during his first appearances, but I also think that he knows she is damn good at keeping secrets. He knows Mockingbird has her share of them, and by the time "Widow Maker" starts, he has his own to add to the mix. He is wary of her, but respects her. As for emotional feelings, we'll have to read to find out, now, won't we? Mockingbird isn't jealous and I don't think she thinks of herself as a second choice - Clint didn't know her when he hooked up with Black Widow. Everyone is thrown into the action and plot of "Widow Maker," fighting for their lives and traveling all around the world, so their first thoughts aren't emotional ones. That said, emotions will play a role in the story as it progresses.
DS: I don't think the Widow is up nights thinking about Clint - it's just not her style. That said, sparks do tend to fly when you throw two attractive people into an insanely dangerous situation together...I mean, hell, even Matt Damon found time to get down with his bad self in those "Bourne" movies.
What can you tell us about the plot and themes of this crossover? It sounds like you're telling a story that's both a mystery and an action thriller style cat and mouse game.
JM: The plot is very much cat and mouse - where the entire world is the mousetrap. We've got a familiar looking villain in Ronin, super spies and governments all over the globe being taken out and dismantled and two of our main characters targeted for death. Survival is one of the themes for sure, in more ways than one.
DS: I love that - "the entire world is the mousetrap." We need to have Jonathan Nolan direct the film version of "Widow Maker"!
How is this story structured? Is it like your traditional crossover where one issue flows into the next, or can both books be read separately?
JM: It's a four-part story that flows one into the next over two months.
DS: If you read one of my issues without reading one of Jim's, you will be banned from reading my next issue (and vice versa). Don't test us. We have spies everywhere.
It sounds as though the chief obstacle and adversary of this storyline is a character who has assumed Hawkeye's old Ronin identity. How dangerous is the person in the Ronin suit in this story? Do they have their own agenda for killing spies, or is Ronin an agent of someone else?
JM: The agenda and the identity are the keys to "Widow Maker." We can say that, over the course of this, you will learn why Ronin exists and for how long it has.
DS: Does Ronin serve someone else? Interesting thought. But consider the traditional definition of ronin: a samurai without a master.
Who are some of the supporting players we'll be seeing in this story? Will Hawkeye and Mockingbird's ally, Dominic Fortune, play a role?
JM: Dom is all over this story, too. As you can see in "Hawkeye & Mockingbird," he is a thorn in Clint's side, but has some connections that cannot be rivaled. There will be some surprising characters showing up from both titles.
DS: I wanted to include Cable, but...
It sounds like this story will definitely have a lot of action packed moments, but it also seems like you're making room for some possible humor and some emotionally heavy sequences as well. How much humor is involved in this storyline and can we expect some of these characters to be put through the emotional wringer as well?
JM: There's humor, but most of all there is fighting for their lives. There's secrets, lies, double-crossing and a lot of shades of gray. All things you could you ask for in a super hero event involving these characters. And emotional wringers galore for every single character!
DS: What's cool about spy fiction is the idea that you really can't trust anybody - even those closest to you. No matter what you've shared in the past. No matter how well you think you know them. This kind of paranoia tends to wreak havoc on your average spy's relationships.
Any final thoughts you would like to share on "Widow Maker?"
JM: This is a great place for readers of one book to start reading the other and for new readers to jump on both titles. And I know for a fact that this is one story you won't want to miss, because things happen here that will profoundly affect all three title characters and at least one of our cast - members will come out of this facing the greatest change they have ever faced!
DS: Seriously, if you skip an issue...we will know.