Blackman Explores Marvel's Mercenary Underworld in "Elektra"

Thu, May 22nd, 2014 at 9:58am PDT

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

Though the Marvel Universe is filled with interesting heroes and villains, some of its most intriguing characters walk a more morally fluid path, the idea of what's good and what's evil defined by the client that's currently paying them. Of these mercenaries, one of the most dangerous is the assassin known as Elektra.

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In the first issue of the character's new ongoing series, writer Haden Blackman and artist Mike Del Mundo began exploring this super powered underworld when Elektra Natchios accepted a different kind of contract: Bring in one of the Marvel U's most elusive killers, and protect him from the other hired guns that are after him. CBR News spoke with Blackman about the story and what he has in store for "Elektra."

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CBR News: Haden, you kicked off "Elektra" by tasking your title character with a mission not to kill one of the world's most dangerous assassins, Cape Crow, but to protect him from the dozens of other killers that are gunning for him, a challenge she accepted, almost nonchalantly. Does Elektra know what she's getting into?

Elektra's quest for Cape Crow gets more complicated in the second issue of her new series

Haden Blackman: In Issue #1, Elektra realizes that her life has been defined by others, and she wants to break that cycle. But the only way she knows how to do that is through embracing what she thinks she really is -- an assassin. She accepts the mission to find Cape Crow because it will get her out of New York, which she views as a cage and a constant reminder of her painful past. Going into Issue #2, she knows that the mission is dangerous and she takes it seriously, but she also has confidence in her own abilities. What she can't anticipate is the threat that is Bloody Lips.

Elektra receives her assignment from a new character the Matchmaker. What can you tell us about her? What inspired her creation? Fom the way she talks, it sounds like she's an independent contractor who's not associated with the Assassin's Guild.

Matchmaker is one of the new characters who will flesh out Elektra's supporting cast. She is an independent operator who connects assassins with contracts that best fit their skills. In Issue #1, she hints at being very, very old -- but, she is an anachronism, adopting 1920s fashion and language because that is an era that she greatly enjoyed. In this first arc, she goes along with Elektra in order to ensure she gets her cut of the contract.

The presence of the Matchmaker and talk of characters like the Assassin's Guild and Taskmaster made it feel like you're interested in exploring the corner of the Marvel Universe inhabited by contract killers and mercenaries.

I am totally fascinated by this gray area of the Marvel Universe. I really want to explore what it takes to be an assassin or bounty hunter in a world populated by people who can tear down buildings and phase through walls. In the first arc, Elektra will go toe-to-toe with Scalphunter and Lady Bullseye in addition to Bloody Lips and Cape Crow. Moving forward, I plan to explore the Assassin's Guild and hopefully bring in some existing characters from all corners of the Marvel Universe.

As you mentioned, one of the primary antagonists of this initial arc is Bloody Lips, who I believe is a new character created by you and artist Mike Del Mundo. What made him a good adversary for Elektra? From what I could tell, he gains the skills, abilities, and memories of the beings he consumes -- is that correct?

Mike del Mundo and Marc D'Alfonso bring Monster Island to life

Yeah. We'll learn, as the arc progresses, that while he enjoys the strength and vitality he gains from eating other creatures, he's really after the memories of other murderers. Like many serial killers, he is obsessed with reliving his kills, but his power allows him to also relive the kills of those whose memories he absorbs, and he craves that. For him, Cape Crow and Elektra represent irresistible challenges. They are worthy adversaries who will test all of his abilities, and eating them will give him their skills and knowledge. But most importantly, he'll gain the memories of all of their kills, which he can experience over and over again.

The arc will draw parallels between Elektra and Bloody Lips. We'll explore how tragedies in their pasts shaped them, but also show how there are certain elements about each character that are immutable and constant. Along the way, we'll see Elektra trying to figure out if she has a moral code, or any lines she won't cross.

What was the thinking behind sending a shadowy character like Elektra to such a wondrous and dangerous location as Monster Island?

I wanted to show that Elektra could be capable and effective in a wide range of environments. She is well-prepared, smart, cunning, resourceful and tough. She uses the location to her advantage.

Of course, Elektra is on the island to pursue another new character, the mysterious assassin known as Cape Crow. What do you want readers to know about Cape Crow?

Cape Crow operated for decades, and retired at the top of his game. He's responsible for the deaths of hundreds, including many rival assassins. As we learn in Issue #1, he specialized in stealing contracts from other assassins -- some of whom he killed -- which earned the wrath of the Guild and others. We also see that he was capable of taking on multiple assassins at once. If you look closely at the panels in Issue #1, you'll note that he excels at using an enemy's weapons against them. But, he did retire -- and one of the questions we'll be exploring is why.

Blackman plans to continue to explore and expand Marvel's cadre of shadowy assassins and mercenaries in future issues

Artist Mike Del Mundo and colorist Marc D'Alfonso are doing an amazing job on "Elektra." What can we expect from them on upcoming issues?

The art team on the book is incredible. Issue #2 is lush, and really captures both the mystery and beauty of Monster Island. Mike also designed a great new monster for a major setpiece. Issue #3 takes us to a very haunting location, and Mike and Marc have brought it life with great detail. But, I think I'm most impressed by some of the more surreal moments, like the opening dance-to-fight sequence in Issue #1. We have moments like that throughout the arc.

Finally, in issue #1 we saw that Matt Murdock was on Elektra's mind, but I'm curious about her thoughts on one of her most recent relationships, with her Thunderbolts teammate the Punisher. What's your sense of the relationship between Elektra and Frank Castle? Is there a chance we might see the Punisher further down the road in "Elektra?"

Right now, I want to focus on creating new relationships for Elektra. However, Punisher showing up somewhere down the line is definitely a possibility.

I hope fans feel they are getting an authentic Elektra story with this book -- one that gives us more insight into her as a character and presents her with some hard choices, but that doesn't shirk away from the fact that she is an assassin.

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TAGS:  marvel comics, elektra, w haden blackman, mike del mundo

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