Tiger Tiger Burning Bright: Pierce Talks "White Tiger"

Mon, March 6th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Dave Richards, Staff Writer

In the 1970s, a mystically empowered hero named the White Tiger prowled the streets of New York City hunting criminal prey. The original White Tiger AKA Hector Ayla's career came to a tragic end in the pages of 2003's "Daredevil" #40 where he was gunned down. Now, Ayala's niece, Angela Del Toro, has emerged as a new White Tiger who has come into possession of the mystical amulet that was the source of her uncle's super abilities and she's looking to continue his heroic legacy. This fall, Angela's adventures will be chronicled in "White Tiger," a six-issue mini-series from Marvel Comics written by New York Times best selling author Tamora Pierce and her husband Timothy Liebe. CBR News spoke with Pierce about the series, which spins out of Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev's acclaimed "Daredevil" run.

"White Tiger" may be the first comic Pierce has penned, but having been a fan of four-color funny books for many years, she's quite familiar with the medium. "I've been a comics fan since sixth grade," Pierce told CBR News. "My husband/co-writer Tim [Timothy Liebe] has been a comic book fan for even longer. Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman are household Gods to us, right along with Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. All over our apartment are stacks of books that sport names like Millar, Simone, Morrison, Bendis, Whedon, Straczynski, plus dozens of other writers."

Pierce's eclectic tastes in comics run the gamut from fantasy to superhero action and she has a hard time picking her favorite tales, but cited amongst them Frank Miller's "Ronin," "Batman: Year One" and "The Dark Knight Returns" ("Carrie Kelly's Robin made me so happy I forgave him making Green Arrow an embittered nutball," said Pierce). She went on to site the work of Neil Gaiman in "Sandman," particularly "A Dream of a Thousand Cats," "Midsummer's Night Dream" and "Death: the Time of Your Life." Plus books like Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men: Gifted and Dangerous" and Grant Morrison's "Arkham Asylum." "And of course The Daughters of the Dragon, who stayed with me twenty years," said Pierce. "I love almost anything that happens with Wolverine - the character blazes through any story, no matter what hell the writer puts him through. And my husband Tim (who will be co-writing 'White Tiger' with me) and I are both fascinated by Emma Frost and how her character is shaping up. It's great to see one of the Good Guys able to grok just what makes a Bad Guy tick, because she used to be one herself (and sometimes you wonder how close to the line she steps even now).

"Tim is a Spider-Man fan from way back - like, back when Mary Jane Watson was Peter Parker's buddy rather than his lifelong great love and wife," Pierce continued. "When the 'Ultimate Spider-Man' arc with Gwen moving in with Peter and Aunt May came out, he'd wander around our apartment muttering, 'Gwen Stacey is Peter Parker's sister? That's not right on so many levels!'"

"Ultimate Spider-Man" writer Brian Bendis's run on "Daredevil" was another series of stories that Pierce loved. "Matt heading from the blue and into the black to go all Kingpin on the city's ass-- what a twist!" Pierce said. "I got all wound up in the power equations of Hell's Kitchen-- Matt as social activist, Daredevil fighting crime with crime, Fisk manipulating Federal agencies for his own use (hmm, does that sound familiar?). It was fascinating how many different changes Bendis rang believably on characters we were sure we knew. It was an amazing balancing act for just about every character - and somehow, it just seemed right that it should end with Matt finally losing his balance and falling."

Angela Del Toro, the new White Tiger, made her debut during Bendis's time on "Daredevil," so Pierce was very excited when Marvel's Ruwan Jayatilleke offered her the chance to write the further adventures of the new Tiger. "Ruwan bounced a few ideas back and forth with me," Pierce stated. "White Tiger came up: Bendis was just bringing Angela forward in 'Daredevil.' To me this was a sign that the relationship had to be. The first completely satisfying kick-ass female heroes I found in fiction were in the 1970s, in Marvel's 'Deadly Hands of Kung Fu' magazine. The Daughters of the Dragon were the main attraction for me, but I also followed the adventures of the Sons of the Tiger, and the arrival of the White Tiger-- Angela's uncle Hector. Writing for Angela, the new White Tiger, seemed like a perfect launch into comics."

Angela has already shown heroism in her chosen profession of FBI agent. Now in "White Tiger," she has to learn to be heroic in her new path as a costumed crime fighter-- a path that often works outside of the law. "The core of Angela's being is that of a good, solid cop who's changing her entire way of life," Pierce explained. "Cops, you may recall, are deeply conflicted about 'the costumes.' Angela has serious adjusting to do, resolving the contradiction between being a good citizen...and being a good superhero.

"She's a good, solid cop who got handed this thing from outside the envelope, and she's determined to do the right thing in spite of it," Pierce continued. "She's got a great, dry sense of humor; she could kick ass before the White Tiger amulets came along. And now that she has them, she can kick major ass and chew bubble gum-- and she will still do her damndest to do the right thing, even if certain other superheroes drop in to keep an eye on her and try to tempt her from the Path of Truth and Righteousness with Krispy Kremes. She is straight up, which means that being a superhero is going to be a learning process. I just love dumping a learning process on my characters , and Angela's just the girl to tell me to stick it in my eye."

For Angela, part of the learning process of being a superhero will involve settling old scores. "Angela needs to establish herself as a hero in the eyes of the world," Pierce said. "She also needs to settle accounts with Sano, the Yakuza responsible for shooting her FBI partner and his crew. Like any tiger, she will make sure all the predators know where her territory is and what happens to people who poach on it."

Pierce remained tight lipped about other plot details and adversaries that the White Tiger will face in the mini-series. "My fans could have warned you about this side of me: they'll be wondering on the boards about what's going to happen in the new books, and I'll post just to say, 'I know, but I'm not going to tell you,'" she said. "It makes them scream, and then I laugh. Fan torture makes me very happy. In this case, I need to hint some, but I really can't give up the store. Comic fans are too expert at piecing a plot together from hints, and from bits that show up in other books."

Pierce was willing to divulge details about the supporting cast of "White Tiger," but those aspects are still being worked out. "Some characters we'd originally envisioned using are being used elsewhere, and some new characters we've created might not fit in the Marvel Multiverse," Pierce stated. "In this way, writing comics is very different from writing novels set in universes I create and control-- it's a lot easier for me to ensure that my lady knight Alanna isn't doing something that would conflict with her appearing in books that feature her daughter! But trust me, Tim and I will have a strong cast we know will appeal to Marvel's regular fan base. Our editor Ruwan Jayatilleke is making sure of that!"

There will be some other characters in "White Tiger" that will appeal to regular Marvel fans. Pierce promised that there will be guest appearances by other Marvel heroes. "Just think of some of those gritty guys who protect the folks of New York's five boroughs! They're all just all one big, dysfunctional family!"

Life will become incredibly complicated for many of New York's costumed crime fighters in May when Marvel's epic "Civil War" storyline begins. However, the White Tiger won't be one of those crime fighters. Pierce and Liebe's mini-series takes place after the conclusion of Bendis's "Daredevil" run but before "Civil War." "That's a shitstorm we can deal with later!" Pierce said.

Writing "White Tiger" has many perks for Pierce. Not only does she get to write a strong, kick-ass Marvel heroine, but she gets to work with artist David Mack who is doing character designs on the book and provides the covers for the mini-series. "As a writer, I'm in awe of artists-- I can't even draw," Pierce said. "To watch someone like Mack work, and turn ideas into images, is one of the main reasons I always wanted to do comics and one of the reasons I always loved comics. Tim's a little more cool about words-into-images, coming from an early film background, but he's still pretty jacked about this process, too.

"Mack's strong, painterly approach really grabs me in the gut: he knows how to create strong visuals that jump out of the array on a magazine stand and shriek, 'What are you looking at those for? Look at me!'" Pierce continued. "His covers will tell the world that Angela's White Tiger is significantly different from any other White Tiger."

Pierce promises to deliver a gritty, exciting and action packed tale in "White Tiger," but understands that she is new to comics and some readers might be skeptical about her comic scripting abilities. "For the regular comics' readership, if you're worried that we're going to do something soft and cute, maybe you want to read my books," she said. "And if you want to learn more about my other work, there's my website. White Tiger is going to take no prisoners, folks. Bet on it."

 
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