Comics

Black Cat Writer Jed MacKay Sends the Marvel Antihero Beyond King in Black

The Marvel Universe is a place where an ambitious and cunning criminal can earn a lot of money, along with some very powerful enemies. Over the years, the Black Cat has amassed her fair share of both, but Felicia Hardy’s recent actions have led to high stakes and high-profile heists that have put her in the cross-hairs of some powerful heroes and omnipresent villains.

Writer Jed MacKay chronicled this new, dangerous era for the Black Cat in the first volume of her very first ongoing series in 2019. And in the recently launched second volume, MacKay and artist C.F. Villa took the Black Cat’s larcenous adventures into the realm of cosmic horror with an inaugural arc that tied into the King in Black event. After that arc comes to a close in this week’s Black Cat #3, March’s Black Cat #4 MacKay and artist Nina Vakueva reintroduce their protagonist’s ongoing war with New York City’s shadowy Thieves Guild and set up an arc that pays off on that long-form story that’s been building since 2019’s Black Cat #1.

CBR spoke with MacKay about those stories, how they’re fueled by his love for Marvel continuity, and how later this year Felicia Hardy will set her sights on the grandest of scores; the Infinity Stones. CBR also has a preview of C.F. Villa and Brian Reber’s art from Black Cat #3, Nina Vakueva and Reber’s art from Black Cat #4 and Michael Dowling and Reber’s art from Black Cat #5.

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CBR: The new volume of Black Cat kicked off with a new-reader-friendly tie-in arc to Marvel’s King in Black event. How did it feel to come back from a several-month hiatus and tell a heist story set against the backdrop of this event?

Jed MacKay: Almost a year ago, COVID came out of nowhere and trashed everybody’s plans for everything. Black Cat had been written pretty far in advance too. I had Issues #13-17 written. We went on hiatus after Issue #12 though, and everyone was on hiatus for a couple of months. #12 seemed like a good stopping point for a little while until the market was back up and ready to roll.

In between that, King in Black came out. So plans were in place for that and I got the call to say we’re going to start Black Cat up again with a couple of provisos. The first was a new #1 because this is American superhero comics and that’s what we do. The second was that we were going to kick off with a three-part King in Black arc.

That was exciting because we’re going to continue the story we started back in Issue #1 of Vol. One. We’re also going to start off with a bang by getting involved in this event. So, it was an interesting idea and challenge.

That new #1 ended up being very difficult for me. [Laughs] Because there were three goals that had to be addressed at once. First, it had to be a new #1. So, you had to get new readers in and say, “Here’s this character, her perspective, her crew, and what they get up to.” Secondly, it had to be a Black Cat book, so continuing readers would not feel like this was the tutorial they could skip. The third was it had to be a King in Black book that set everything up so that the reader who may or may not be reading the main King in Black title would know everything that was going on. However, we wanted to make sure that the readers of the main King in Black title aren’t just seeing a rehash of things. We don’t want people to think they already bought this story.

So, it was a tricky balance to walk. I think we got there though, and Issues #2-3 of this arc are more of a straight-ahead Black Cat story.

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This arc gives you a chance to show off your protagonist and her assistants in a huge adventure. What do you want new readers to know about your take on Felicia and her assistants, Bruno and Dr. Boris Korpse?

Felicia is obviously the most important part of this book, and one of its main goals is to give her room to shine on her own. It’s the first time she’s had her own ongoing book. It’s the first time she’s been given the spotlight in a way that she hasn’t before. We really want to show people why this is a character they should care about, and that she’s someone who’s putting something out there that you’re not going to get in another book.

So we have our super-thief character and as part and parcel to that, she’s got her crew, Boris and Bruno. They were with her from her very first appearance in Spider-Man way back in the day, and bringing them back as her crew, as we did in our last Issue #1, provides a sense of continuity. This is a new story for Felicia, and we’re building new history for her, but we’re very aware of the things that came before. We’re also aware of the history this character has in the Marvel Universe and the relationships she has with different characters. I also enjoy having a crew. I like Boris and Bruno a lot. They’re a lot of fun to write, and it’s good for Felicia to have people to react to the things she does.

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One thing I’ve noticed about this book and your other titles is a love for the sort of story potential of Marvel continuity. We saw it on display in Issues #1-2 of this new volume of Black Cat with the Spider-Mobile, the Anti-Venom suits, and the Asgardian staff Felicia uses at the end of Issue #2.

I started reading comics in the ’90s, but I didn’t have a lot of new ones. What I grew up reading were my dad’s old comics from the late ’60s and through the ’70s. So, a lot of that older stuff really has a special place in my heart, and I really like going back to find gems that people have forgotten about or maybe got short shrift the first time around. I like dusting those things off and seeing what new uses we can find for them.

For instance, in the first draft of my King in Black story, Issue #2 had them running around in a stolen Quinjet. That was fine, but it’s not as fun as taking something that already exists and bringing it back to show people. That’s why we shifted from a Quinjet to the Spider-Mobile. It was a lot more exciting and looks a lot better on the page. It also roots the book and character in Marvel history.

It feels like Black Cat is the perfect place to do stuff like that since it’s a heist book and often needs a MacGuffin.

Yes, and given that she’s doing a different job every few issues, she usually needs a different skill set to accomplish those jobs. So we brought back Xander the Merciless for the Doctor Strange job. We brought in Blastaar for the Fantastic Four job, which isn’t exactly a deep cut. I just like him.

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This arc has also featured some recent continuity nods like the ghost dog Bats and the Asgardian staff from Donny Cates and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s Doctor Strange run.

Yes, part of that is I really like Bats. He’s one of my favorite characters to use. If I could keep him in Black Cat full time I would, but I don’t think editorial would let me get away with that.

We saw Felicia use the Asgardian staff at the end of Issue #2. What does that mean for issue #3?

Back in Donny Cates and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s run on Doctor Strange, Stephen got this staff from Asgard’s World tree, Yggdrasil, which is a conduit to enormous, incalculable power. So, it’s extremely dangerous and extremely ill-advised for someone who is not a trained magician to use. This is something that Doctor Strange had difficulty with, whereas Felicia’s experience with magic is generally, “I don’t like it and try to stay far away from it.” So we’ll see how that goes.

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At the end of the last volume of Black Cat, you were telling a long-form story about Felicia and the Black Fox’s battle against New York’s Thieves Guild. Will that come back into play after the King in Black arc wraps?

Yes, Issue #4 will bring us back into that story in a way that I think will help catch new readers up. Then in Issue #5 we get right into it. That’s where the big job they’ve been planning for kicks off. So we’ll see Felicia, the Fox, Bruno and Boris and all the pieces are in place. This is where all the jobs they’ve pulled over the last year and a half come to fruition. We’ll see what happens when they try to rip off the New York Thieves Guild.

Issue #4 also picks up some continuity; Spider-Man supporting character Lily Hollister becoming Queen Cat in the Axis Hobgoblin mini-series from 2014. What made you want to bring Lilly into the book?

She was always kind of in the back of my head. I really liked the Axis: Hobgoblin series. It was a lot of fun and the art was amazing. Lily Hollister stuck around for me though because she’s the Queen Cat. She’s a heroic rip-off of Felicia. So, how’s that going to affect her? What does she do when she comes face-to-face with the person who originated the identity and who has resumed their larcenous ways?

So we’ll dive more into the head of Lilly Hollister in issue #4. It will be a change of pace, but I’m excited to see what people think of it.

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You’re working with some great artists on Black Cat; C.F. Villa, Nina Vakueva, and Mike Dowling.

Yes, C.F., did amazing work on Issues #1-2, and he said Issue #3 was his favorite. It looks really good. Nina is doing issue #4 with Lilly Hollister, and then Mike Dowling who did the Black Fox back up in the first issue of our first volume and the Felicia-Batroc story in Issue #6 is coming back. It’s always a pleasure to work with Mike. He has such an elegant sense of style and design. Some of the pages he’s done for this arc are spectacular. And then C.F. comes back with Issue #8 for our biggest story yet!

Finally, you ended Issue #1 of this new volume with a teaser that suggested your long-term plans for this book involve Felicia and her crew trying to swipe Infinity Stones. Is that a fair interpretation of that teaser?

I wouldn’t say it’s too far off the mark. I can’t say too much about future plans at this time, but it has been pretty heavily foreshadowed that we’ve got some sort of conflict between Felicia and Star, the host of the Reality Stone. Kris Anka did a great cover foreshadowing that on Star #5 and then Nina’s preview page was really good. So, perhaps we’ll see Felicia biting off a little more than she can chew. We’ll also see her put in a bit off spot though too. So stay tuned to see how that all shakes out over the summer.

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