Recently, I had the chance to interview Margaret Stohl, a great author, and talk about the second novel in the series she is writing about Marvel’s Black Widow. This new book is called Black Widow: Red Vengeance and chronicles the continuing adventures of Natasha and Ava Orlova, the new Red Widow that we met in the previous book, Black Widow: Forever Red. Keep reading for our interview:
Ms. Margaret Stohl: This is Margaret, hi, glad to be here! My book is Black Widow: Red Vengeance, so it’s the sequel to Black Widow: Forever Red. And it’s a really closely connected response to the first book, where something tragic happens to both characters and this is the vendetta that follows. But in terms of the comic world, it is the equivalent of a separate issue where it really follows the specific sort of worldwide drama through four continents. There’s a lot of action, some big enemies and, of course, some emotional stuff as well.
It’s more of an exploration of Ava, the younger protagonist, becoming the Red Widow and her own character with her own mission, goals, and personality, and clashing with Natasha, the Black Widow, who has her own very specific personality.
ComicBooked: My question is, for Natasha in this and the first book, I can kind of tell that you focused more on the comic character. However, did the movie version of Black Widow influence you at all in how you portrayed Natasha in the books?
Ms. Margaret Stohl: Yes, I always have Black Widow from the movies in mind because I think she’s done such a great job for so many of my readers in bringing the Black Widow character to life. Black Widow has been around for 50 years, she really has had so many creators. But I specifically think that her current cinematic version is incredibly successful with the book. I’m a fan.
ComicBooked: Natasha’s background is definitely for more mature audiences, while Ava is a character that would draw in more of a Young Adult audience. Did you struggle to contrast these two characters or was it actually a little easier because of their differences?
Ms. Margaret Stohl: Part of what happens with Marvel– I was actually talking about this yesterday with Axel Alonso, the Editor in Chief. We were having a conversation at lunch with some people from Lucas Films and we were talking about the difference between how Marvel handles the storied universe and how Lucas handles it, because Lucas obviously has a shorter period to control and everything more directly aligns with fewer big moments.
But remember when you have 80 years of Marvel, there’s going to be so many versions of characters and versions of universes. However, you can find the through-line of a character. For example, you can find the way Natasha Romanoff has asked questions or viewed herself as less than a hero while still being a hero for 50 years. That is the same regardless of the fishnets and how the rest changes from creator to creator.
At the same time though, I knew right away what my focus was. A YA lens is a very specific lens to look through. Understanding my genre the way I do, this is what I came up with: I knew very clearly we needed the clean protagonist, we needed a teen romance, we needed a teen lens to look at things.
In a way it was easier because they were so different and I could also look at the parts of Natasha that directly spoke to Ava, so she showed us the parts of herself that Ava could handle. At the same time, I would point out that teenagers are the smartest, most sophisticated people I know who are dealing with life’s huge issues from a very young age. In a way, adults spend a lot more time distracting themselves with more trivial things than teenagers.
It’s never a less sophisticated story you tell for a teen. In fact, authors are not successful when they try to dumb it down for a teen. That’s just not how a teen mind operates. You have a very sophisticated mind in your reader when you have a teen reader, you just don’t necessarily get into some of the darker content.
That said, I do love writing spy and military thrillers, and Natasha uses a lot of weapons. That’s just part of who that character is. Before I began writing Natasha Romanoff, I had never written a character who used a gun. So that was an interesting transition for me. In fact, it’s been easier with Captain Marvel because Captain Marvel’s power is her body, or her ability to absorb or contain other powers. It’s just much harder for me, particularly as a parent, to deal with the gun violence.
Although, considering my understanding of the spy world, the Marvel world, and the military world, I can tell you the difference between assault weapons and artillery. But it’s definitely not what I was used to doing. So that was harder. Gun violence was harder for me.
ComicBooked: Okay. Well to follow up with that, would you feel like Natasha’s character back then shaped her as more of a big sister/mother-type character now?
Ms. Margaret Stohl: More of a big sister, mentor for sure. That’s definitely a new relationship. I mean, that’s partly something Natasha goes through for the first time, with the discovery of Alexei. But it’s an awkward relationship. Natasha doesn’t know how to do that. It was sort of fun trying to see her deal with this.
A great interview and I want to thank Margaret Stohl as well as the folks at Marvel Press for setting up the interview.
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