Exclusive Interview: Haden Blackman brings assassin Elektra into Marvel Now
She has been murdered, reborn, spurned by her blind lover, a thief, an assassin, a hero, an anti-hero and even kidnapped and replicated by invading alien Skrulls.
In the long life of Elektra, it is safe to say no time has been dull. That is why there is excitement over a coming new treatment of the character by writer Haden Blackman and artist Mike Del Mundo which debuts in April.
To get to the heart of the matter, Cosmic Book News M.E. Byron Brewer caught up with Blackman and exclusively delved into his plans for Marvel’s most misunderstood assassin.
Cosmic Book News: With Zeb Wells popularly announced to be the author of Elektra, how did Haden Blackman become involved?
Haden Blackman: After Jim Williams and I stepped away from Batwoman, Stephen Wacker was kind enough to offer us a safe place to land at Marvel with Elektra. Jim's schedule with Sandman prevented him from collaborating on the book, but after I was assured that Zeb's departure was based on his television commitments and nothing else, I began working up a pitch with editor Sana Amanat. The whole process took about a month, but most of that was me just making sure I had something to say about Elektra and that I could get into her head in a way that readers will hopefully find interesting.
Haden Blackman: Growing up reading comics, I didn't really follow specific writers -- I cast a wide net and read everything I could get my hands on. Over time, I kept coming back to the writers who wrote stories or created characters that I just couldn't forget (and I would often read and reread those issues and arcs over and over again). Frank Miller is part of that list -- which also includes Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, John Byrne, J.M. DeMatteis, Chris Claremont and Jim Starlin, among others -- largely due to the Elektra storyline in Daredevil, which I found incredibly powerful as a kid. There's no doubt that Frank Miller will be forever linked to the character, and any interpretation of Elektra needs to take that into account. At the same time, I am looking at that as Elektra's starting point. So many great Elektra storylines have come since, including Zeb's Dark Reign arc. If I am so fortunate, I'd like to be able to create a version of Elektra that outwardly resembles Zeb's taciturn, focused, and resourceful warrior, with the inner workings of Miller's more conflicted and edgy Elektra from Elektra Assassin.
Haden Blackman: The Elektra ongoing is firmly grounded in the Marvel Universe, but we're going to be taking her to the far corners of that world, putting Elektra into locations and conflicts that might be a bit unexpected. Along the way, we'll be introducing new rivals and enemies, allies and eventually perhaps even a new love interest or two. The supporting cast will be a mix of exiting and new characters, but the first few issues definitely put the emphasis on "new."
We're not completely ignoring her past -- in fact, there are a great many references to the key events that helped shape her -- but we're also not dwelling on it or rehashing hold ground. For example, while The Hand makes an appearance in the first issue, ninja are not the central threat that Elektra will be facing in the foreseeable future -- we've seen that fight played out too many times already, and we know how it ends. Instead, I want to pit Elektra against enemies that pose a new challenge, one that she might not be able to readily overcome.
Haden Blackman: In the first arc, Elektra has realized that she's spent most of her life letting other people define and control her, whether that's her father, the Hand, the Kingpin, or even Daredevil. Now, she's trying to break free of that cycle, but she doesn't really know where to begin, so she falls back on the one thin she does know about herself -- she's a damn good assassin. Elektra takes a job to hunt down Cape Crow, a legendary contract killer who has been in hiding for years. But, the contract she accepts is one that requires her to bring him in alive. Meanwhile, other assassins are looking to put his head on a platter.
Haden Blackman: Absolutely. Again, we're definitely not ignoring her past. Bullseye makes an appearance in the first issue, for example, but in a way that will hopefully be unexpected for readers.
Haden Blackman: Yes! Mike Del Mundo came up with an amazing design for a villain that feels very different from anyone Elektra has fought in the past, and I worked up a pretty dark backstory to go along with those sketches. As with Elektra, we'll be getting into this villain's head, hearing his thoughts and learning more about him with each issue. The character is gruesome on some level, but also hopefully a bit charismatic and fun to read. And, he's a bit different from a standard Elektra villain in that he has actual superpowers -- he's not just a skilled combatant (though he is that too), but he has a whole lot of abilities that put her at a decided disadvantage.
Haden Blackman: I hope so. While outwardly she remains fairly terse -- she doesn't necessarily open up and confide in others easily -- we will actually be spending a fair amount of time in her head, getting a glimpse at her thoughts and feelings and memories. I feel that the way that Elektra looks at the world, the things she remembers and obsesses about, will surprise readers.
Haden Blackman: Mike is an incredible talent. I really value his ability to make even bloody combat beautiful on some level. He's also amazing with panel design, and cramming a ton of information into a single spread without making it feel crowded. In Issue #1, we have a spread drawing parallels between ballet and fighting, and then another that makes subtle comparisons between Elektra and the new villain. Mike also had to design a number of new characters, including Matchmaker, a woman who connects assassins with lucrative contracts that fit their skills. She's an anachronism in many ways, and he designed her clothing, environment and even equipment to capture this feeling.
Haden Blackman: Probably not. Batwoman and Elektra are two incredibly different characters. Batwoman had a very well-defined, strong moral center, and lines that we knew she absolutely would never cross. Elektra is still defining those things for herself, which to me is very interesting to explore. I also felt like our run on Batwoman was very much about family dynamics -- we wanted to tear it down and build it back up. Elektra is focused on other themes, including the search for that moral center.
With all that said, one thing we always tried to champion with Batwoman that I will continue to push with Elektra is the idea that there is no status quo -- Elektra needs to change over time, and things can't just "go back to normal" after the end of each arc. There is no "normal" when it comes to Elektra.
Haden Blackman: I'm really honored to be part of the Madefire family. Madefire produces incredibly immersive motion books that I think are going to redefine graphic storytelling.The first few episodes of my graphic novel The Irons are currently available on the platform. The story is set in the future, on an overpopulated "Ellis Island" world where the impoverished populace is being hunted by a serial killer known as the Hijacker, who hacks the planet's system of teleporters to abduct and then mutilate his victims. A deeply-in-debt and bitter detective is chasing the murderer in the hopes that she can earn the reward for his capture and finally buy her way off-world. I'm again working with a great artist in Gary Erskine (Warheads), who has created an amazingly detailed world.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Haden Blackman for taking time out of his schedule to answer our questions about his new book. Thanks also to Marvel’s own Chris D’Lando, who helped make this interview possible.
“Elektra” #1 hits stores in April!