Interview with Haden Blackman
(March 2014)

Haden Blackman will be writing the new ELEKTRA series, with artist Mike Del Mundo joining him on the title in April. Here we discuss Elektra's past and what drew him to the character and the new book. Many thanks to Mr. Blackman for this opportunity.

Kuljit Mithra: With writer Zeb Wells having to step down from writing this new series to focus on other commitments, you've taken over writing a character that has had some relatively successful series in the past, and has had some recent popularity with Wells' DARK REIGN: ELEKTRA series and her appearances in THUNDERBOLTS.
First off, was there any hesitation to take on this character, just due to her history with Frank Miller? There was a time when no one wanted to write her, just because "she was Frank's".

Haden Blackman: Sure, but the bigger issue for me was whether or not I had anything to add to the character. If I felt like I couldn't help develop her into something more than just a supporting character in someone else's story, then I wouldn't have taken this project on at all.

Mithra: What was it that interested you in this job and how much of the story is based on your own plots, and elements from Wells' initial pitch?

Blackman: First and foremost, I was drawn to the challenge of writing a character like Elektra, who is very physical, chooses her words very carefully, and has been largely defined by her relationships to others. I wanted to see if I could get inside her head, create a cast designed to support her instead of the other way around, and put her into situations and conflicts we might not expect.

I actually never read Zeb's pitch; I'm sure it's incredible, but I didn't want to steal any of his ideas. That's his story, and someday he might want to write it. We are using a character design that Mike Del Mundo came up with when Zeb was still attached to the series, but I worked out his origin, personality, powers, and motives from scratch based on Mike's sketches.

Mithra: Artist Mike Del Mundo has been producing some beautiful preview artwork which reminds me a lot of ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN. Is this series going to focus on that aspect of her character... the assassin? Or will we also learn more about Elektra outside of that killer-for-hire world? I bring up the "assassin" aspect of her character because there are many people who I've corresponded with through the site that think there really isn't more to her... "she's just a cold emotionless killer and really isn't interesting"... but I feel the whole Skrull storyline and what Wells revealed was a nice spin on her.

Blackman: Mike's work is amazing. He's able to capture a sense of movement and convey intense action extremely well, and then can shift gears to show quiet character moments and close-ups of Elektra wrestling with a decision. He makes two characters talking in a room interesting.

As far as the "assassin" element, we're definitely not shying away from that part of her past. She is an assassin - it's what she's been trained to do, it's really what she knows best. However, in this first arc, her mission requires her to bring her target in alive, and takes her to the far corners of the Marvel universe -- places you might not expect to find Elektra.

I'm also trying to get into her head a bit more. I love writing captions from the character's point-of-view, exploring what they might be thinking, feeling, remembering. I'm hopeful this will provide a bit of a door into Elektra, show that she's more than just an emotionless killer.

Mithra: Do you have all the events of "Skrullektra" and Elektra straight, because I still don't feel I have a firm grasp on who was who during Enemy of the State and the Skrull Invasion.

Blackman: I think so, but that knowledge isn't really required to enjoy this new series. Zeb did a great job dealing with the aftermath of the Skrull invasion, and I don't really want to retread that ground. Her experiences in Skrull captivity are definitely part of who she is, but in this new series, Elektra is committed to defining herself on her terms.

Mithra: Have you read many of the stories from her previous two series or mini-series? I really was a fan of Greg Rucka's take, as he tried to show what Elektra was all about if she couldn't be an assassin.

Blackman: I've read and reread most of the Elektra stories, including Elektra Assassin, mostly so I could avoid exploring the same territory if possible.

Mithra: Another complaint I hear is that Elektra just isn't interesting if she's the lead character... she works better when interacting with Daredevil or Punisher or Wolverine etc. Do you think that's a valid complaint because then I often hear others say they like it when she's working alone.

Blackman: I don't agree with that sentiment at all, or I wouldn't have pitched working on the series. Punisher first appeared as just another Spider-Man villain, and Wolverine as a foe for the Hulk, but both have obviously become integral to the Marvel Universe. I think Elektra has the potential to stand on her own. At the same time, interaction between characters produces drama. Wolverine wouldn't be half as interesting without his relationships with Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Sabretooth, Storm, Jean Grey... So, I definitely want to surround her with a few key characters that can serve as foils, rivals, allies, even love interests, to further develop Elektra herself.

Mithra: Do you think Elektra has ever forgiven Matt Murdock for not "saving" her father?

Blackman: That's a great question... I think by this point, the answer is probably yes. What is less certain is whether or not Elektra has forgiven herself.

Mithra: I'm trying not to ask too many spoiler-type questions about the series, but I have to ask if any of Daredevil or Bullseye or The Hand will make an appearance in the series at some point.

Blackman: Without given away too much, yes. We're introducing a lot of new characters, but we'll never ignore Elektra's past. And part of ensuring she can be the star of her own book is ensuring that she is also well integrated into the greater Marvel Universe, so it's important that she interact with other well-known and established characters from time to time.

Mithra: How has it been working with Del Mundo? I'm guessing many of his pages were already completed before you came onboard?

Blackman: It's been fantastic. Mike is a great collaborator, and is doing stunning work. His panel design, in particular, is very inspired in the first issue. The series is throwing a lot his way -- new characters to design, exotic locales, crazy action... He has this great ability to make the violence in the book beautiful.

I'm not sure how much work Mike had done on any previous version of the series, but because we aren't using any pre-existing scripts or story lines, he basically had to start from scratch when I came onboard. Mike did have some sketches of a new villain, designs for at least two covers, and some layouts for a sequence drawing parallels between dance and martial arts, all of which we have found a way to use.

Mithra: And last question... when you are writing Elektra... who is in your mind? The comic version of Elektra? Whose version? An actress you picture as Elektra?

Blackman: My hope is that I can show a complex character who is actually combination of a few different influences. I'm really trying to channel both the Wells and Miller versions of the character if possible. Externally, when she's interacting with others, she's very similar to Zeb's Elektra -- she allows her actions to speak for her. Internally, she's more tumultuous, as I remember Elektra from Elektra Assassin the first time I read it.

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(c) 2014 Kuljit Mithra & Haden Blackman
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
http://www.manwithoutfear.com
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