|"Black Widow" #3,
Cover by Greg Land
Morgan has written two noir tinged science fiction novels, "Altered Carbon" and "Broken Angels." His novels feature Takeshi Kovacs, a man who has been a private eye and a soldier. "Black Widow" is Morgan's first comic work. "I was head-hunted by Jenny Lee at Marvel," Morgan told CBR News. "She'd just read 'Altered Carbon' and liked the way I'd handled my female characters, principally the way in which they weren't defined by their sex. She wanted to see if I'd be interested in importing that approach into a Marvel series. She ran a few characters past me, and as soon as I heard about the Black Widow, I was hooked."
Before being recruited for "Black Widow," Morgan had been a comic fan, but not a typical one. "I have quite a substantial collection of graphic novels, but I don't buy the monthlies," Morgan explained. "Mostly that's to do with length and instant gratification - I want to be able to immerse myself in a story for hours rather than minutes, and I hate having to wait for the next installment of anything. Past favorites include Miller's 'Dark Knight,' Moore's 'From Hell' and 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,' Ennis and Dillon's 'Preacher' and Joe Sacco's 'Palestine.' Currently, I'm hooked on Mike Carey's 'Lucifer' series and Marjane Satrapi's 'Persepolis.''
|"Black Widow" #3 interior art by Bill Sienkiewicz|
During his research, Morgan read many Black Widow stories, but the one that stood out the most for him was "Daredevil/Black Widow: Abattoir," a graphic novel by Jim Starlin and Joe Chiodo. "It was very raw, and somewhat different than most of the other stuff I was wading through," said Morgan. "It made me sit up and take notice late one night when I'd already been reading BW stories for three or four hours. There was a dark menace to the artwork that extended even to the sequences with that arch goody-goody Daredevil. And of course it was thematically interesting, dealing as it did with child sex abuse and its consequences."
Morgan's research enabled him to determine the core elements that defined the Widow. "Alienation, isolation and loss. The Widow is essentially alone, she's walked away from her homeland and all that that implies, she has lost all the standard emotional support systems we take for granted - parents, family, partner etc - and the profession she's engaged in is a profoundly dehumanizing one. To my mind that makes her as dangerous a character as you could ever build. And fascinating into the bargain, because with that kind of emotional instability underlying a brutal, trained-in spy competence, there's just no telling which way she'll jump at any given moment or how far she'll go."
In issue two of the mini-series, Morgan reveals a big change - The Black Widow no longer uses her trademark wrist blasters. "In my mind they symbolized everything that needed to change about the character - they were a hideous welding of cod-femininity (bracelets, jewelry) and kitsch James Bond weaponry," Morgan said. "I didn't want my Black Widow to be some cute sub-Bond girl who only lights up when the [male] hero happens by, I wanted her to cast her own shadow, and I wanted it to be a dark one. Put it this way - which Batman do you prefer the Adam West TV incarnation or Frank Miller's 'Dark Knight?' Exactly. No contest. I wanted to apply the same logic to what I was doing with Black Widow, and that meant the girly shit had to go."
Morgan admits that switching from prose novels to comic scripts was a learning experience. "When you're used to turning in 400 page novels, trying to get a story down in twenty two pages of five to seven panels each is a serious challenge. In fact, the first issue I roughed out later turned out to have enough material for all of BW #1 and #2 and then some. But I had a fine mentor in Jenny Lee - she helped me up the learning curve with infinite patience and has given me lots of support throughout."
Morgan and Lee are currently discussing a return to the Widow's world of intrigue and subterfuge. " I'm talking to Jenny Lee about either an on-going monthly or a second mini-series, but nothing's finalized as yet," Morgan said. "I'd love to do either. I'm immersed in the character now and there's huge mileage left in both Natasha's internal dynamics and the global plot she's webbed up in."
"Black Widow" issues one and two are available now. Issue three is solicited for a November 24th release. Those who like their espionage epics in collected editions can pick up the graphic novel collecting the entire "Black Widow" mini-series in April 2005.