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Black Cat came back: Her first solo Marvel comic series continues with a 'madcap adventure'

By Dana Forsythe
Black Cat #2 - (W) Jed McKay (A) C.F. Vila (CA) Pepe Larraz

Marvel recently announced that its Black Cat comic series, a mixture of superheroes and '60s heist films, will soon be slinking back to life. It's perfect timing because, according to writer Jed McKay, there’s much more story to be told. When we last left off, Felicia Hardy had already stolen an astonishing amount of swag from Marvel’s most powerful superheroes (Dr. Strange, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four, to name a few!) in hopes of swiping the ultimate prize from Odessa Drake and the Thieves Guild. 

But there’s much more trouble ahead: Black Cat relaunches in December with a new #1. In addition to dealing with the return of the Queen Cat (aka Lilly Hollister) in the previous issue, Felicia Hardy has been recruited to steal something very precious from the Black King himself, Knull. According to the solicitation, in December’s Black Cat #1, Knull rudely interrupts the Black Cat's latest heist, so the Cat and her crew aim to steal “something of greatest value to both Knull and Earth's hope of survival.”

Even though the series is relaunching with a tie-in, McKay said nothing is being left behind from the previous stories.

“We're continuing on from where circumstances caused us to leave off with #12, with the additional bonus of throwing a King in Black adventure in there,” he says. “If you're just joining us, we hope you like what you see and decide to take the plunge on continuing with us! We've got plenty more in the tank.”

It’s surprising that the series, which went on hiatus in August, is actually the first-ever ongoing comic the Black Cat has headlined, considering that the character has been around for almost 60 years. Beloved as one of the Marvel Universe’s best burglars and foil to the amazing Spider-Man, Felicia Hardy has walked the fine line of anti-hero and villain since she made her debut in Amazing Spider-Man #194. Created by writer Marv Wolfman and illustrators Keith Pollard and Frank Giacoia, the highly skilled cat burglar first crossed paths with Spider-Man while trying to free her father from prison.

Fun, light, and loaded with twists and turns, McKay’s Black Cat also provided fans a more focused look at the character. Notably, McKay says he tried to avoid using Spider-Man in the storyline in order to keep things fresh.  The book also reunited Felicia with her original crew of Dr. Boris Korpse and Bruno Granger and her occasional mentor, the Fox.

This week, McKay spoke to SYFY WIRE about relaunching the series in the midst of a major Marvel event, why he didn’t want to include Spider-Man in the first arc, and what we can expect when Felicia goes up against the Thieves Guild in the next few issues.

Black Cat #1 Preview Page 1 - (W) Jed McKay (A) C.F. Villa

Looking back at Issues #1-12 of Black Cat, could you tell us what comic books you looked at for inspiration or research when you were writing it, especially considering Black Cat somehow never had a solo series before? Were there things you avoided?

Gearing up for writing Black Cat the first time around, I knew there were some ideas I wanted to have as touchstones. I went back and dug through Felicia's earlier appearances to get into how she created her roots in the Marvel Universe, then her more modern appearances to see where she was at the moment, and then back and forth through her history to cover all the bases and see how different creative teams depicted her, looking at what worked and what didn't. I wanted to keep the tone fun and breezy to start with while acknowledging Felicia's depth of personality. 

The only real line in the sand that established straight off was that I didn't want to put Spider-Man in the book until I felt that Felicia and her own support cast had found their feet. While he's obviously an important character in Black Cat history and I find their relationship endlessly interesting, it was important to me that the book was "Black Cat," not "Spider-Man's Gal Pal, Black Cat".

The Black Cat series thus far has been a fun, never-ending heist movie. I wanted to ask if you took any inspiration from any particular heist films or TV shows for the book.

Felicia has always been best known as a thief, and I think that's where she works best, so I wanted to create that atmosphere of breezy, stylish, madcap adventure. Felicia and her crew aren't people who live a desperate and miserable life of crime. She steals because she loves to, because a life perpendicular to the law is the only place where she fits in and because she looks great doing it, along with her misfit boys.

The Italian Job (1969) and The Castle of Cagliostro (1979) were two big influences when I was starting to put things together, but it owes debts to The Saint (1962-1969), The Avengers (1961-1969), and other crime shows and movies with that same style and sass.

Black Cat #1 Preview Page 2 - (W) Jed McKay (A) C.F. Villa

The Black Cat series launched around the idea of Felicia pulling off a major heist from the Thieves Guild. Can you talk a bit about how that idea was built up. How it tied into ASM and what it could mean for Felicia's story moving forward?

Felicia going up against the Guild was pretty much baked into the premise from the jump- the series basically spun out of Felicia's return in the pages of ASM, where Felicia's... contentious relationship with the Guild was established as a Big Deal in her life. Throughout her series, she's been putting into place the pieces of that heist, and despite delays and hiatus, we're going to see that plan finally come to fruition beginning in Black Cat #5, which is going to be a real barn-burner of an arc!

Felicia has a big job to pull off coming up in the King in Black event. Can you talk a little bit about bringing the series back from hiatus in the middle of this major Marvel event?

Felicia's King in Black arc has presented an interesting opportunity to throw her at a different kind of threat — up 'til now, Felicia has been firmly in control of her adventures, planning job after job, heist after heist. Now, the events of the greater Marvel Universe come crashing, quite literally, into her life. We see Felicia on the back foot, having to run a desperate game on an enemy normally well outside of her pay grade. That said, Knull may be some genocidal space-god with an army of malevolent slime, but even a space-gods can have a run of bad luck...

For new readers who might be interested in the whole King in Black event, it presents a good jumping-on point, while long-time readers can see it as the scenic route on the way back to the Thieves Guild plotline (which will of course resume after King in Black).

Can you tell us anything about who we saw at the end of Issue #12, on the rooftops in a very similar costume to the Black Cat?

Why, Lily Hollister, of course — The Queen Cat. Lily was a mover and shaker in the Spider-Man corner of the Marvel universe a little while back, where she was the villain Menace, another in the long line of Goblin characters who have made Spider-Man's life difficult. Lily eventually got pinched, got thrown in the river, and lost her memory, only to take on a new identity as the Queen Cat, one of the Hobgoblin's new heroes. Since the Hobgoblin mini ended, we haven't seen much of Lily, but that's about to change. We'll catch up with the Queen Cat and what kind of trouble she's going to bring to Felicia in Black Cat #4!

Black Cat #1 Preview Page 3 - (W) Jed McKay (A) C.F. Villa

You've brought in several Marvel characters including Iron Fist and Batroc for Felicia to play with. I'm curious why you chose those characters specifically to incorporate and if there are any others you're itching to use?

It generally depends on A) what the story requires and B) what characters I like. [Laughs.] Ripping off Danny Rand served the story first and foremost, as we're tying Felicia's plan to rip off the Guild into Rand/Randall family history with the Randall Gate that is required. Similarly, Batroc seemed a good choice for Felicia's change of pace date night issue, as he's a character that I think that she has a lot in common with, based on their shared criminal outlooks. 

That said, they're both characters who I really like, and part of the fun of writing Black Cat is having Felicia bounce off of other Marvel Universe staples. Other favorites for me have been her interactions with the Beetle, roping a skeptical Wolverine into her plans, playing Iron Man for a chump, all that. We've been trying (and continue to try) to show how Felicia fits in the Marvel Universe on her own, and how she's smart enough to deserve a seat at that solo-series table with everyone else.

Felicia is a complicated character without a lot of history. I think you do a good job of painting her as a person who is fiercely independent but also loves being around other people. What was it like for you to add to her history since she's had so few solo stories?

It's always a fun game to thread new backstory into old characters. You want to add something that is interesting and useful for the story, while still paying respect to what came before. It's always a delight to get into secret histories — connecting the Drakes and the Hardys with Walt and Castillo, getting into what makes the schismatic New York Thieves Guild different from the orthodox Guilds around the world, the Black Fox, Tamara Blake, and how that all comes to a head in the present.