Comic Book Resources (CBR) recently interviewed me about my upcoming Mockingbird comic book. I did a little name dropping.
CBR News: It's easy for the bad guys of the Marvel Universe to underestimate Mockingbird since she has no super powers, but they do so at their own peril, because Bobbi Morse is a highly trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. And as both an Avenger and a spy she's used her physical prowess -- and devastating wit -- to help save the world on multiple occasions.
As an Avenger, Mockingbird fought alongside her now ex-husband Hawkeye for many years. Fans of Marvel television know Bobbi Morse as a spy, thanks to her role on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." where she's portrayed by actress Adrianne Palicki and often fights along side a different ex-husband, mercenary Lance Hunter.
This September, acclaimed thriller writer Chelsea Cain will make her comics debut with "Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary," a story that features art by Joëlle Jones and is sure to please fans of both incarnations of the title character. We spoke with Cain about the book which sends Bobbi after the murderer of a loved one and introduces her ties to the Lance Hunter of the Marvel Universe, a spy who worked for several British espionage agencies. We also touch on the fateful dinner party she and her husband hosted that lead to both her writing for Marvel, and writer Chuck Palahniuk penning "Fight Club 2" for Dark Horse.
CBR News: What made Bobbi Morse an interesting protagonist for you? Which aspects of her character are you especially interested in exploring in this story?
Artist Paul Renaud's cover for "Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary"
Chelsea Cain: I felt like I could give her a point of view. Because despite her questionable taste in men (Ka-Zar anyone?) and the fact that her reality often turns out to be a lie, she is obviously cool and smart and badass and she knows how to deliver a good zinger at her ex-husband's expense. Basically, I have a feminist agenda.
Also, I have no shame. This is important. It has gotten me far. I got this gig through sheer gall. I emailed [Brian Michael] Bendis and was like, "I want to write Mockingbird!" and he wrote back and was like, "Yeahhh, we need to talk." And he came over and sat me down and explained very patiently and gently that Marvel doesn't generally hire people with zero experience. And I was like, "I want to write Mockingbird!" And he sighed and put his head in his hands. But in a strange fit of kismet (or as my husband calls it, The Law of Everything Working Out for Chelsea), Marvel happened to be planning this Mockingbird one-off. And there I was jumping up and down with my hand in the air.
As an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a member of the Avengers Mockingbird regularly finds herself dealing with such fantastic threats as world conquering super villains and high tech terrorists, but the solicits for your story make it sound like it's more of a gritty revenge tale. So what can you tell us about the situation Mockingbird becomes embroiled in in your one-shot? How would you describe the tone?
It's a psychological thriller. Someone important to Bobbi is killed, and she goes after the killer. She doesn't even wear the costume. It's a personal mission. She saves the world all the time; that's just Tuesdays. I think the stakes can feel higher sometimes with a smaller story. Or possibly I've just really screwed up. Conquering super villains, you say?
What sort of hints can you offer up about the adversaries the title character is up against in your "Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary" special?
He wear argyle socks. So he's obviously a psychopath.
[Laughs] Who are some of the supporting players Bobbi will encounter in your story? Will we see some of her more famous associates, like her ex-husband Hawkeye, or her former Secret Avengers teammate, Black Widow?
I would love to write that book. I think the three of them should go on a cruise together. Those ladies could teach Clint a thing or two about shuffleboard. I am a big fan of the Clint-Bobbi relationship. They have great chemistry. You know who else I love? Lance Hunter. He's Bobbi's ex-husband on the TV show, because I guess Clint was busy. Hunter is a smart-ass romantic who works for a shadowy government organization. Sound familiar? I know! Bobbi sure has a type.
Anyway "the studio" wanted Hunter in the anniversary issue, so as not to confuse things (more). They never call "the studio" by name -- it's just always "the studio." I kind of thought it was funny -- the fact that Bobbi has these two almost interchangeable ex-husbands, both of whom are in no way over her, so I tried to have fun with that in the one-off. It's murder-y, yes, but not without laughs.
Bringing your characters to life is Joëlle Jones,a versatile artist who does everything from the viking horror of "Helheim" to the suburban crime/comedy "Lady Killer." She also has experience working with prose writers making their comic debut, having worked with Janet and Alex Evanovich on their graphic novel "Troublemaker."
She worked on "Troublemaker?!" I did not know that. If that's true, then I'm sure she did her very best. I am a huge fan of "Lady Killer." It's got such an amazing look -- that cool, mid-century aesthetic, plus very excellent blood spatter.
I wanted this book to have a '70s vibe -- it doesn't take place in the '70s, but I wanted the visual reference. Think, "Klute," or "The Eiger Sanction." Back when people shot each other while wearing leather jackets in front of dramatically-patterned wallpaper. Also, Joëlle draws beautiful women. She's really good at that. But she doesn't draw them through the male gaze. Let me paraphrase: Their tits and ass aren't raised like they're ready to be mounted. I considered that a plus.
Christian Ward's variant covers for every "S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary" one-shot
You're best known as a thriller writer, but comics have been a big part of your life. You co-wrote a parody self help book for super heroes with your husband, Marc Mohan, titled "Does this Cape Make Me Look Fat?" and you're friends with a number of comic creators. How long have you been interested in comics? And what made you want to try your hand at the format?
Marc and I hang out with a lot of comics people. They are like pigeons here in Portland. If you stop and pay attention to one the next thing you know there are thirty-five of them standing around you with their heads cocked. If the first pigeon likes you, you're in. You know what comics people like to talk about? Comics. I have never met people more interested in discussing their work, with the possible exception of PhD candidates. I started asking questions just to get a word in edgewise. I'm a casual comics fan compared to my husband (he bags and boards and enters each issue in his database). But I'm a fan.
I remember buying the first issue of Bendis' "Alias" when it came out, and it really re-lit my appreciation of the form. Much the same way that Matt Fraction's "Hawkeye" did, or Kelly Sue DeConnick's "Captain Marvel." There was just this sense of reinvention and smarts. I can't talk about comics the way my husband can, but I can talk about story. I am endlessly interested in narrative, and pretty soon I found myself at parties full of comics people, having these conversations with Matt Fraction. He'd be going on about shape and time and the page turn, and I had no fucking idea what he was talking about. He thinks about story in this whole different way. Which, out of professional jealousy, made me want to crack it.
That said, "Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary" is your first comics work. Aside form emailing Bendis, how did it come about? Were the seeds for this project planted at the same dinner party where Chuck Palahniuk was convinced to do "Fight Club 2" as a comic project?
Marc and I hosted that dinner party with the singular goal of convincing Chuck to write a comic. Marc was the one who came up with the idea. It was just an aside, "You know who should write a comic? Chuck!" Then I went with it with the tenacity of a terrier. It just made so much sense to me. Bendis, his wife Alisa, Matt, Kelly Sue, and Marc and I had spent the whole evening plying Chuck with wine and explaining why this comic book needed to happen. We were making great headway, too. Then Matt looked up at me and said, "You should write a comic book, too." (I had clearly been dazzling him with my insights into shape and time and the page turn.) I practically choked, because I found the idea of writing a comic book thrilling and terrifying and intimidating, and also because Chuck was looking right at me and I didn't want him to think that I was trying to talk him into doing something that I was too chicken to try myself.
That was like two years ago. So obviously I was a little chicken. Probably because -- despite what we all told Chuck that evening -- I read enough comic books to know that prose writers should not write them, because they almost always suck.