Bullpen Bulletins: Jed MacKay on 'Avengers Mech Strike,' 'Black Cat,' and More
The mighty Marvel Bullpen Bulletins are back, True Believers! First up: an interview with Jed MacKay!
Since 1965, Bullpen Bulletins have been your exclusive source for inside stories and stats direct from the humble halls of the House of Ideas!
In the special return edition of Bullpen Bulletins, BLACK CAT series writer Jed MacKay dishes the full scoop on all things Felicia Hardy, how artist C.F. Villa is pulling out all the stops for the new series, and what he loves about writing our beloved cat burglar!
And that’s not he’s got up his sleeve; Jed’s also tackling an altogether different series with artist Carlos Magno in AVENGERS MECH STRIKE and shares some exclusive details about Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…in mech suits!?
But wait…we’re getting word that he’ll be sharing more insights on TASKMASTER, plus some personal stories and info as well! Get to know the wondrous writer that is Jed MacKay right…now!
What are you most excited about concerning Black Cat’s return?
Jed MacKay: I don't think it would surprise anyone to hear that the "end" of what we'll call Volume 1 of BLACK CAT (#1-12) wasn't exactly planned—COVID having the effect that it did on the comics industry meant that a lot of books found themselves cancelled or put on indefinite hiatus. What that meant for us was that a story that was ~75% of the way to its conclusion was suddenly left hanging at that three-quarter mark, which is a pretty unsatisfying spot to be in.
HOWEVER, the triumphant return of BLACK CAT after ~3 months of hiatus means that we're back on track to do what we had been planning from #1—following Felicia and her crew through the big heist they've been working on from the get go (after her KING IN BLACK run-in, of course).
Comics and sales being what they are, it can feel like a real win when you have the opportunity to finish something you had started in the way you wanted to, and even more so in the midst of an extremely bad year.
That said, we've got plenty more in the tank after we conclude the “Thieves Guild” story, so don't think that we're planning on letting off the gas anytime soon!
You’ve worked with C.F. Villa before on BLACK CAT (2019) #11-12. What can you tell us about working with him, and what does Villa’s style bring to this next volume?
I've been a C.F. Villa fan for a while actually, since his days doing RPG manual illustrations! I fear that I've been (and continue to be) quite cruel to him—once I realized that he could draw pretty much anything and make it look amazing, I've found my demands of him getting more and more outrageous (buckle up for issues #1-3).
C.F. has a style that's super-fluid, his action scenes are effortless and dynamic, and his character acting is perfect for this book. Basically, he's the whole package, and I've been lucky to work with him.
Since you’ve written 12 issues of BLACK CAT already, do you have any favorite moments in the time spent writing Black Cat?
There's been a lot to love about writing Black Cat—getting to know Felicia and her supporting cast, working with such a wide and talented team of collaborators, but I think the real highlight of working on this book has been seeing people who have had little to no interest in the character become fans. BLACK CAT is, for a Marvel book, a little different from the usual Super Hero title and Felicia Hardy is a little different kind of character, and it's been great to see that resonate with people.
Have there been any specific challenges working on BLACK CAT that have contributed to your growth as a writer?
Well, obviously Felicia's identity, sexuality, and experiences are quite a bit different from my own, and trying to approach her character, her voice, her motivations in ways that pay respect to that while not falling victim to my own blind spots has been a constant challenge. For the most part, I'm happy with how I've negotiated that challenge, but always try to be aware of and intentional in the way I write Felicia as a whole person.
As a writer, what or who is your muse when it comes to writing Felicia Hardy the character and BLACK CAT the series?
I've mentioned it before, but my version of Felicia comes from a very specific vein of crime fiction—breezy, romantic, high-energy heist stories. Where looking good doing the job is almost as important as the reward, where style is rated over sense, and where no one would look askance and a handful of gags. The Italian Job (1969), The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), and a scattering of ‘60s-‘70s crime/spy-fi shows like The Avengers, The Saint, and The Rockford Files all point to where Felicia's DNA in this series comes from.
AVENGERS MECH STRIKE
What excites you about being able to tell this story? What drew you to this book in particular?
It's the Avengers! Earth's Mightiest Heroes! I had never written a team book before, and certainly not one with such a cast of top-tier characters. Throw in the added challenge of "...and they all have to wear giant mech suits,” and it was a really interesting opportunity to work at a scale that I hadn't before.
What can you tell us about your artistic collaborators and what their styles bring to the book?
Carlos Magno is not afraid of scale. We're talking about the Avengers, here—huge battles, huge threats, huge characters, huge robots. I've been trying to channel that idea in my scripts, and in pretty much every case, Carlos takes those ideas, those images and set pieces and makes them bigger. I think he may just be showing off at this point. And not only is he buffing everything up, he's doing it so fast. I usually pride myself in keeping well ahead of the art on books I work on, but there have been times when I've had to hustle to keep ahead of his work!
How is writing AVENGERS MECH STRIKE special or different versus writing BLACK CAT or other projects that you’ve worked on?
MECH STRIKE and BLACK CAT are pretty much on opposite ends of the spectrum— BLACK CAT tends to be a small-scale, small-cast criminal operation, while MECH STRIKE is an Avengers book, with a large cast of A-list characters and existential problems on a global scale. There was certainly a bit of shifting of gears to be done in that regard, but it made for a very interesting change.
GETTING TO KNOW JED
With the pandemic causing a break in work for many, pencils down and everything, how have you stayed busy? Did you find any new hobbies?
I've been painting up a pile of miniatures through the quarantine season, mostly for Warhammer Underworlds. It's a great escape for me—focusing on such a small thing as a model of some horrible plastic mutant or whatever and the incremental changes you make with each coat of paint and each stroke is enormously calming. I'm extremely bad at the game, though.
Looking back on this year, what are you most proud of?
On 2020? Not losing my mind, I guess. But really, it's been a busy year for me, pandemic-related shutdown aside. I've been working pretty steadily behind the scenes on a few unannounced projects that I'm really excited to see come out, as well as the ones already announced—BLACK CAT returning, TASKMASTER finally getting on the go, MECH STRIKE coming in the new year. I'm always worried about what the next project is going to be, as is the freelancer's life, but for the moment I've got everything slotted in and it's going to be a good 2021!
What are some of your goals for the new year?
Like most people, I'd like to get healthier—quarantine lifestyle has not done me any favours. I've been working to get more organized as well—as I take on more work, I need to be better at making sure I'm using my time in a way that everything gets done and no one's left hanging on my account. It's been going pretty well so far, so we'll see how it goes!
What are your scripts like? Are your panel descriptions straightforward and specific, or do you find yourself waxing poetic and detailing emotions to inspire an artist's interpretation?
I think my scripts are probably on the looser side—I obviously describe panels and dialogue, but generally I try to give the artist as much support as they need, while leaving them plenty of room to set things up in the way they find most interesting. There are instances where I go harder in describing things, to the point of mocking up suggested layouts to get the idea across, but at the end of the day, the artists I work with are better than I am at this and I need to just let them do their jobs.
From DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON to MAN WITHOUT FEAR to BLACK CAT and TASKMASTER, your style has such a fleet-footed, sharp, visceral feeling to it. What pieces of media outside of comics would you say have influenced your work the most? Any films, shows, novels--or even paintings, poetry, or the oeuvre of a particular artist in general?
It depends on the book, really. BLACK CAT I spoke to already, whereas TASKMASTER has strong buddy-cop movie influences, as I grew up on ‘80s and ‘90s action movies of varying quality. The influences are worn pretty baldly on the sleeve in DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON: “Bunraku" (#1) wanted a bit of Pynchon's California high-weirdness...
...“Old Weapons” (#2) was a bit Roger Moore Bond (though mainly a love letter to Master of Kung Fu)...
At the time, I approached each book as if it was the last I'd get to do, so I wanted to make sure I did the things I wanted to do while I could!
Read AVENGERS MECH STRIKE, BLACK CAT, and TASKMASTER at your local comic shop right now—and read BLACK CAT (2019), DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON, and MAN WITHOUT FEAR with Marvel Unlimited today!
Stay savvy with Bullpen Bulletins on Marvel.com! Pax et Justitia!
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