‘Black Cat’ Writer Jed MacKay: The Conskipper Interview

Felicia Hardy first entered Peter Parker’s life way back in July of 1979, and she has remained a fan favorite character and a constant friend/foe/lover for the wall crawler ever since (sometimes all in the same issue).

Although she did appear in two headlining mini-series in 1994 and 2010, Black Cat never got a shot at her own ongoing title until 2019. Under the guidance of writer Jed MacKay, Black Cat has become an unmitigated success, with the first four issues in the new series requiring second printings to keep up with demand.

MacKay was able to take some time out of his busy writing schedule to talk about Black Cat, his upcoming Taskmaster series, and even Ulysses Bloodstone in this exclusive interview.

Your take on Black Cat is a very unique one and one that fans haven’t seen before.  What was your pitch for this series? 

Jed MacKay: When Black Cat was first brought to me, I had to think about how I wanted to go about it- Felicia has been a lot of things in her time- thief, love interest, damsel in distress, thief, vigilante, detective, thief, crime boss, etc. I wanted to go back to what I felt was her most iconic role- a thief, yes, but a glamorous, larger than life, devil-may-care thief, someone who positions themself outside of the usual hero/villain dynamic. Similarly, I pivoted a bit from the usual cat burglar angle, as I felt there was only so many times I could tell that story, and instead moved her towards big, colorful jobs with wacky plans, in the heist movie vein. A breezy, high-flying life of crime, entered into not from desperation, but from a love of the game and addiction to excitement.

Your current run on Black Cat has Felicia interact with a lot of characters that fans might not expect, and incorporates many “forgotten gems”.  How do you go about incorporating such a diverse cast of characters in a story about a skilled thief?

MacKay: We’ve been trying to draw from some of the more obscure characters in Marvel’s back catalogue, in part because it’s easy (they don’t have as much continuity bogging them down) and in part because it’s fun- digging up old characters, dusting them off, and tossing them back into circulation, even just for a little while, is a gas. You can still pivot them as you need to, but fans still get a kick out of deep cuts. Bruno, Boris and the Black Fox have all become important supporting characters for Felicia, and other out of left field folks like Xander (the Merciless) and Queen Cat are all characters that I think can benefit from even a little fresh attention. While sure, I could just make up new characters, Marvel has such a wealth of bit players who appeared once or twice and never again that there’s a nearly endless well to draw from. 

Black Cat’s supporting cast is very important to the success of the stories so far and Boris and Bruno have become fan favorites.  Do you have as much fun writing them as fans have enjoying their banter and interactions?

MacKay: When I was doing my initial Black Cat research, I came across Bruno and Boris immediately, appearing as they did in Felicia’s first appearance back in ASM #194. Those two were a gift- I knew going in that I wanted Felicia to have a crew helping in her schemes, and the boys fit that mold perfectly. They’re the perfect compliment to Felicia- one stolid and dependable, the other explosive and erratic, but both devoted to the Black Cat. They give her someone to talk to in planning scenes, they take care of off-panel action while the attention is on her, and add criminal color to her heists while never overshadowing her.

What did artist Travel Foreman bring to the series?

MacKay: Travel set the tone early on- he established how things in these stories looked, set the level of energy we were working with, and redesigned Boris, Bruno and the Black Fox for their regular appearances. Travel has an amazing sense of design and movement, and when he lets loose on the weird stuff he makes it tough for anyone to keep up!

It is clear through the characters and script that you have a deep knowledge and love of the Marvel Universe. Are there characters that you’d like to work in that you haven’t so far?

MacKay: I’ve been lucky- I’ve been able to work with a lot of characters that I like and who wouldn’t normally appear in books. Ulysses Bloodstone is one of those, and Alpha Flight are another- as much as I love Alpha Flight, they just can’t seem to keep a series going, so I was very fortunate to be able to do an AF story in the Alpha Flight: True North anthology last year. There are plenty of other characters I’d love to work with and for whom I have ideas: Mockingbird, Iron Man, Dazzler, the Bedlam Brothers, more Daughters of the Dragon, more Alpha Flight, &c. so hopefully I’ll get a chance with them!

Speaking of Bloodstone, you wrote a story about him for the Bizarre Adventures one-shot from 2019 and he also appears in the first issue of Black Cat.  Do you think you could write a series based on the character? 

MacKay: I would love to do a Bloodstones series! I don’t feel like it’s particularly likely, but I’ve always got ideas for it in my back pocket in the event of hell freezing over/pigs flying/ &c. &c. 

Your new Taskmaster series was unfortunately delayed, but fans are anxiously awaiting the first issue. The character’s popularity has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.  Why do you think fans are so drawn to the villain?  

MacKay: Taskmaster appeals to fans for a lot of reasons, I think. Some people like him because he’s a bad ass, and that’s very true. Other people like him because he’s a deeply silly character, which is also true. He’s a character who gets a fair amount of exposure playing the heavy for other, more popular villains, but he always gets some killer lines and moments. I like him because he’s all those things at once, and those contrasts make him really interesting- he’s the true professional, the wise-cracking tough guy, while at the same time being a coward and bully who knows when he’s licked and isn’t interested in dying for what is always just a job.

You also have a story in the Free Comic Book Day/Summer Spider-Man comic.  What can you tell us about this experience?

MacKay: It was great! Pat Gleason draws an extraordinary Felicia (as well as literally every other thing he draws) and Dave Curiel and Joe Caramagna brought his art and my talking to life. I’ve always loved FCBD and was psyched to have a Black Cat story for people this year (even if we didn’t end up, you know, having a FCBD this year). FCBD is when a lot of people pick up their first comics, and what they see there can turn them into fans. Being picked to take part in that was a real honor.

Black Cat #12 by MacKay and artist C.F. Villa (with a cover by J. Scott Campbell) goes on sale on August 5. Taskmaster #1 is currently scheduled to be released on November 11, 2020.

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