Published November 22, 2016

Black Bolt Brings the Noise

The silent king of the Inhumans gets loud with a new ongoing series!

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How can you not love Black Bolt? A king with a power so huge he has to almost constantly hold it back; a power that forces him to stay silent and keeps him always a little shrouded in mystery.

If you love the one-time ruler of the Inhumans like we do, you’re in luck, because he will shortly have his own series: BLACK BOLT beginning in May of 2017. We caught up with writer Saladin Ahmed—who will team with artist Christian Ward—to give us some insight into his process of chronicling this intriguing character. You have an impressive resume as a writer of fiction and poetry. This is your first time transitioning into comics. Can you tell us a little about that experience? Any differences or similarities?

Saladin Ahmed: I’ve definitely enjoyed the collaboration aspect. Writing a novel involves you, sitting in a room, alone for years, just kind of pounding away, word after word after word. But this feels very different. Comics owe at least as much to the art as the writing, and there has been this back and froth that I’ve really enjoyed. It has inspired me. Also, I’ve found it harder to get stuck when writing comics than it is when writing a novel, because you’ve got artists and editors helping to keep things rolling. And the editor has a very different role. When I write a novel, my editor will look over my stuff, but it’s very much my world that I’ve created. In comics, I’m dealing with the whole Marvel Universe, which includes a lot of moving parts, and my editor, Wil Moss, really helps with that. I’ve enjoyed working with him. You write largely fantasy and science-fiction. So your writing seems like a natural fit for a story about the king of the Inhumans. How has that background played into your writing process with this book?

Saladin Ahmed: My training as a fantasy and sci-fi writer really began with Marvel Comics. Reading Marvel stuff when I was six, seven, eight years old, trained me as a writer, even before I read the novels that later became influences for me. Everyone from Jack Kirby and Stan Lee onward, I see as my bread and butter. I’ve found it really interesting to come back to that, in terms of style. My approach to fantasy and science-fiction has a lot of different influences, but a lot of the archetypes that I work with, and a lot of the attention to language, go back to Marvel comics. So now, I get to complete the circle. Black Bolt has so much power that he has to hold himself back. So he has an interesting internal conflict. What has it been like writing him?

Saladin Ahmed: I see him as a terrifying challenge for a writer, and a dream for a writer at the same time. Because we don’t hear him speak very much, for the most part, we see him as kind of a blank slate, whom the other characters sort of react to and speak for. And he has this lineage as the strong, silent type. I’ve had fun using those archetypes and stylistic devices, and then bringing it home, so to speak.

Black Bolt by Christian Ward

Black Bolt by Christian Ward

I won’t give away too much, but one of the major points in the plot involves his power being linked to his speech. And you’ll see the character subjected to things he hasn’t experienced before, in terms of exploring what his powers—and holding them back—mean for him. Also, this is a solo Black Bolt book, although we traditionally see him as part of a team. A lot of his portrayal as a character has involved the ways in which he gets bounced off of the characters around him. So I’ve had fun playing with that in a solo book. The Inhumans have enjoyed a bit of a surge lately, with their conflict with the mutants in IvX, Ulysses’ role in Civil War II, and their prominent role on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the upcoming ABC “Marvel’s Inhumans” series. Why do you think audiences find these characters so compelling?

Saladin Ahmed: First, I’ll say that it felt like a wonderful and intense bombshell to suddenly see that the Inhumans will get their own show. I’ve been thinking about Black Bolt very intensely for a while now. I consider him a fan favorite for Marvel nerds, but the general public may not know him as well as they know, say Hulk or Wolverine. And then this announcement goes out, and I see Black Bolt’s face everywhere!

And as far as the Inhumans, I find them compelling because—although this has shifted recently—traditionally, we’ve seen them as a hidden people, and a kind of parallel people. With the X-Men, I consider it integral to their story that they come up in human families and exist within human society. Whereas with the Inhumans, classically—though they’ve seen some changes in the last few years—they have their own society, and Black Bolt serves as the king of these hidden people. Yet, they have very human personalities and dynamics, so they serve as kind of a mirror image of human society, and I think people find that interesting. What characters would you like to see Black Bolt interact with in the book?

Saladin Ahmed: I’ve always loved Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man. And I had the chance to put him into this book, as sort of a protagonist. You’ll see an element of a buddy movie between Crusher and Black Bolt, which I don’t think most people would expect, and I’ve had a lot of fun with that.

BLACK BOLT starts with a scream May 2017 from Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward!


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