AVENGERS CONFIDENTIAL EXCLUSIVE Interview with Writer Marjorie M. Liu

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, writer Marjorie M. Liu discusses the crafting of the story for Avengers Assembled: Black Widow & The Punisher, the new animated film from Marvel Entertainment that is being released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 25th.

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By EdGross - 3/22/2014

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & The Punisher arrives on Blu-ray and DVD this Tuesday, March 25th. In the animated film, The Punisher is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Avenger, Black Widow. At the orders of Director Nick Fury, Punisher an Black Widow are sent on a mission to stop Leviathan, a global terrorist organization, that plans to sell stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to the highest bidder. Now, the vigilante and the spy must work together to prevent this technology from falling into the wrong hands. The fate of the world, and of The Avengers, hangs in the balance.


The film's story is written by Marjorie M. Liu, author of two ongoing New York Times bestselling series: the Hunter Kiss urban fantasy series (the latest of which, Labyrinth of Stars, is now in print) and the Dirk &  Steele paranormal romance novels.  Additionally, she authored Black Widow: The Name of the Rose, NYX: No Way Home, and the novel X-Men: Dark Mirror -- and wrote for the Astonishing X-Men, which received national media attention for featuring the gay wedding of X-Man Northstar and his boyfriend, and was also nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for its 'outstanding representation of the LGBT Community'.  In the following exclusive one-on-one interview, she discusses Avengers Confidential.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Let's start from the beginning - how did you get involved with this particular project?
MARJORIE M. LIU: The producers approached me with four words: Black Widow versus Punisher. And I said, "Yes, absolutely." That was the only thing I had in the beginning -- the characters -- but that was a lot, because they're such distinct personalities. The producers, too, were lovely to work with, and gave me a lot of good advice that set me on the right track.


VOICES FROM KRYPTON: In considering the characters of Black Widow and The Punisher, what are your feelings about them?
MARJORIE M. LIU: The Punisher was one of the first characters I encountered when I began reading comics, and I became totally hooked on his quiet, relentless drive to take vengeance on the bad guys. He's an "every man" who just happens to be an incredibly cunning vigilante, and even though he's a borderline sociopath, he does have a code of honor -- a very powerful sense of right and wrong. Black Widow shares a similar sensibility. She's just as ruthless, just as implacable, but her moral compass is even more powerful than her skills as a warrior and spy -- and ultimately, like Frank, that's what drives her. It makes all their missions very personal, and I love the very peculiar intimacy that creates between themselves and their targets.


VOICES FROM KRYPTON: How would you describe the elements that make them similar and keep them separate from each other?
MARJORIE M. LIU: As for their differences, let's just start with the most obvious: Frank is not a subtle dude. He's all about shock and awe when it comes to taking out his targets, while Natasha has a lighter hand. She's a spy -- drawing attention to herself is not what she does, unless there's a tactical reason for it. She also doesn't have the same mean streak that Frank does. Let's be honest: Frank likes to torture people. He doesn't just want to kill the bad guys, he wants to terrorize them until they pee their pants and scream for their mommies. Natasha, however, will offer a clean quick death.


VOICES FROM KRYPTON: So in creating a story that puts the two of them together, how would you describe the dynamic that develops between them?
MARJORIE M. LIU: Natasha has been sent to bring Frank in, which creates immediate tension between them. Do they fight? Yes. Do they grudgingly agree to work together for the greater good? That, too. And while they don't start out as friends, I think they both sense in each other a very direct ruthlessness that makes them stand apart from others. I mean, even Natasha (though she's an Avenger) is the wild card on the team. She's the one who can be most counted on to be unpredictable, to make the hard choices that the others won't. And as the movie progresses, Punisher and Black Widow begin to see each other in this new light -- not as enemies or friends, but something in between: a team.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: I'd like your thoughts on this particular storyline, the evolution of the characters you'd hoped for and so on.
MARJORIE M. LIU: I wanted to write a story about trust. These are two characters who don't trust easily, so why in the world should they trust each other? There's no rational reason Black Widow should trust the Punisher -- and vice versa. Both have very different reasons for being on this mission. And yet they learn to depend on each other -- and they learn how to talk to each other, which is even more important.


VOICES FROM KRYPTON: I recognize that this sounds disrespectful and I certainly don't mean it that way, but it felt like the arrival of The Avengers in the film was the least interesting part of the story. Did that feel organic to you or, for commercial reasons, was there a need to get them involved?
MARJORIE M. LIU: Well, while I believe The Punisher and Black Widow were more than capable of solving the final crisis on their own, there's something to be said for a giant smack-down with a bunch of super-powered types.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: As we leave this particular storyline, where does it leave Black Widow and The Punisher? Again, as a storyteller, do they simply go their separate ways or do you imagine them being drawn back together again someday?
MARJORIE M. LIU: The story leaves open many possibilities, the most likely of which is that they cross paths again. I think that once you've found a good partner, it's hard to let that go -- even for loners like them.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Any other projects you're currently working on?
MARJORIE M. LIU: My latest novel was just released -- called Labyrinth of Stars, the fifth in my Hunter Kiss series. It's about a woman covered in living demonic tattoos that make her invulnerable by day, and that peel off her body at night to form her own personal army. You can find out more at my website: http://marjoriemliu.com/

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TheGambitFreak - 3/22/2014, 3:33 PM
No offense, I heard the story was really good. But even die hard anime lovers are saying Marvel just does not work in manga or anime form. I full-heartedly agree.
GeekyCheekyChic - 3/22/2014, 3:37 PM
I actually liked it. Made me want the Punisher in the MCU full time but I know that's tough because he is such an R rated character
KidGoku - 3/22/2014, 3:42 PM
Marvel and anime don't mix at all really, it's just weird.
KidGoku - 3/22/2014, 3:42 PM
Coming from an anime lover.
Omarvls - 3/22/2014, 3:43 PM
Punisher for HBO
DrDoom - 3/22/2014, 3:46 PM
Movie is alright. Fun but nothing special, although it does prove that Frank needs to be in the MCU, pronto.
Minato - 3/22/2014, 3:57 PM
I will check this out but then again I check out almost everything that deals with Heroes. Her brief description of Hunters Kiss is quite intriguing. I might have to read it
TheRealRemyLebeau - 3/22/2014, 4:00 PM
Marvel and anime are perfect for each other. The first pilot animated X-Men cartoon was an anime. Most of the best Marvel Arcade Games had anime in it. If that pilot would have survived with the writing of the fox tv version then it would have destroyed all cartoons including the legendary Dragonball Z which is an anime also. The best toons in history are anime. ;)
CONTI513 - 3/22/2014, 4:38 PM
I prefer animation like we saw in previous marvel releases ( ironman, dr.strange, E.M.H, ultimate spiderman etc.)
CONTI513 - 3/22/2014, 4:39 PM
I would love to see a good Ghostrider animated dvd
MrCBM - 3/22/2014, 4:40 PM
I have no idea why Punisher wasn't included in the netflix shows.
YoungThanos - 3/22/2014, 5:11 PM
@MrCBM56, who's says he wont make a cameo in one or all of them...?
ScionStorm - 3/22/2014, 5:19 PM
I disagree. I think Marvel and Anime can work well together. But I think Marvel needs to stop working with studio MadHouse. Because that is definitely not working for Marvel. Try a different studio please. There are several studios out there with long track records and good shows. I just don't think MadHouse is working for them at all.
Minato - 3/22/2014, 5:26 PM
Just checked it out and I enjoyed it. Im a huge anime and comics fan and I understand where some of you say they don’t mix all the time. This was one of the rare times where I think they blended perfectly. The story was decent the action was superb and the characters were accurate. I don’t think they had to force the Avengers into the story like that but it was refreshing to see Ms Marvel in her newer suit and Hulk smashing. I give it a C+
NightForce - 3/22/2014, 6:21 PM
Yeah a TV-MA Netflix Punisher show would be the shit :/ It could still be set in the MCU doesn't have to cross over all of the time just be set in that universe.

Not sure how I feel about Marvel in anime form. The only anime I'm really into right now and like a lot is Attack on Titan, but I'm trying to be more open minded when it comes to anime.
sKeemAn - 3/22/2014, 6:47 PM
This was a pleasant surprise. I didnt even know it was coming out til I saw it up for download. And yes it signifies just how much Punisher needs to be in the MCU.
Mrsinister - 3/22/2014, 7:33 PM
no thanks. the manga style isnt working for me
MightyZeus - 3/22/2014, 8:18 PM
A Punisher show would be great.
Minato - 3/22/2014, 8:39 PM
The thing about Punisher being used in the MCU is that eventually Evans, Hemsworth, RDJ and Ruffalos contracts will be up. When that happens they are going to want to change up the entire Avengers roster and the thing about their rosters they are normally made up of powerhouses and street level heroes. Imagine the next Avengers roster being Captain Ms Marvel, Dr Strange, Punisher, Black Panther, Vision, Bucky Cap and Antman and Wasp.
Carl - 3/22/2014, 8:39 PM
women and comics don't mix in my opinion.
Shadow137 - 3/22/2014, 8:50 PM
the animation was great but the story was just awful.
Ineedrevelation - 3/22/2014, 9:25 PM
I have it and it's amazing. Animation top notch and great story around Punisher and Black Widow.

Best Marvel has done in quite a while
ScionStorm - 3/22/2014, 9:34 PM
@ArmoredAsgardian Have you tried Darker Than Black yet?
hunterelf - 3/22/2014, 9:43 PM
the only thing wrong with these anime are they are somehow linked to japan, which makes no sense, the iron man one was just so incredibly stupid, tony stark speaking japanese and operates there, really? the x men go to japan to fight some evil dude, really? I get the wolverine one set in japan but they prettied him up and made him look like a teen wolf.... Geez, Japan's not the center of the universe!!!
ThePowerCosmic - 3/22/2014, 10:21 PM
Marvel and Anime? Never liked the idea.

Marvel needs a Bruce Timm like designer/director to run their animation department. They get this concept for their films with Whedon/Fiege and that turned out great.

I would put Mark Waid and Chris Samnee in charge of putting a Marvel animated universe together...If you read their Daredevil series it would translate so well to animated films or a series.
ScionStorm - 3/22/2014, 11:24 PM
There's an interesting battle between two teleporters starting at about 2:30 in this video. I don't think I've ever seen Marvel do anything like this even with the multiple super powered teleporters in their universe though I wish they would.

Sorry, I can't seem to get this video embedded. But this is the link. You can jump right to 2:30.
To Aru Majutsu No Index II Episode 7.flv
Blastaar - 3/23/2014, 12:04 AM
This was actually pretty good but I hate it when anime tries to unnecessarily re-enterpret Marvel characters sometimes. I hated looking at a 7Ft tall skinny Wolverine, that REALLY annoyed me. Also anime doesn't do too well drawing other characters of color such as Black people.
Blastaar - 3/23/2014, 12:05 AM
I also don't like anime staff trying to inject their "own" cheesy made up characters into the MU.
loki668 - 3/23/2014, 12:12 AM
I wish I was more of an anime fan. I just have a hard time with manga and anime, as it's really "hit and miss" with me (more misses than hits).
Wiccan - 3/23/2014, 1:06 AM
@loki668 try Fullmetal Alchemist it's quite americanised. I found that Avengers Confidential was really good. There's a really cool character in it, somebody who Hercules hang out with for a bit. :)
B4TM4N - 3/23/2014, 1:14 AM
Watched it. CRAP! The animation was just rubbish put the whole thing off. Stop doing anime Marvel. Shit don't work.
Demongod20 - 3/23/2014, 1:59 AM
Anime is better than American style animation. The problem with Marvel anime style movies is that they purposely try to inject stereotypical anime archetypes into the movie instead of just leaving well enough alone. Let the anime animator create the characters as they are instead of try to reinvent them with stereotypical anime tropes.
GoldSlayer1 - 3/23/2014, 2:12 AM
I was never into "Manga" (i dont call it anime because i refer to anything animated as anime or cartoon) but the only shows i did like (and A LOT) that can be considered "Manga" were DBZ and Avatar (TLA and TLK)

I personally prefer DC's style of animation.
DCAU, YJ, Various animated DC movies, etc.

I just feel like its what fits best for DC, and IMO is vastly superior to what marvel has.
GoldSlayer1 - 3/23/2014, 2:27 AM
the animation is also a big reason why i'm not into marvel animated as much.

I didn't like how Marvel Anime looked
didn't like Spiderman: TNAS
dont like Ultimate spiderman
Dont like Avengers assemble
and dont like hulk agents of smash.

I did however found the 90s spiderman series to be pretty decent.
and i also liked the simplistic style of Spectacular Spiderman
Which was a great series, and ironically directed by Greg Weisman, a DC guy that also created the Gargoyls series from the 90s (another great show).

they were headed in a good direction with Avengers: EMH until it got cancelled and replaced with Avengers Assemble.

I guess what i like most about DC is that they have a darker and more serious approach to their animation and stories.

but overall, DC Animation pumps out much better quality, and at a much higher quantity compared to marvel.
mgeoff88 - 3/23/2014, 3:13 AM
Seeing a Marvel animated movie done in anime style is weird to me.

I used to be a big anime fun, but I would've preferred this animation style to be done in the style of Hulk vs. Wolverine/Thor. That was top notch animation.

@EdGross Great interview! And could you put in a good word for me with Marjorie M. Liu? ;P

@Carl I strongly disagree with your sentiment, partner.
loki668 - 3/23/2014, 3:22 AM

You're the second person to recommend Full Metal Alchemist to me, so I guess that I'll try that. I'll take a look at Avengers Confidential as well. The sad part of this is, I've spent a LOT of time in Japan and the anime bug never bit me once.
SCURVYDOG619 - 3/23/2014, 5:02 AM
Full Metal Alchemist and FMA:Brotherhood are really good.

Black Lagoon just premiered on Toonami tonight and is VERY interesting-even though Madhouse is involved in it.
Bl00dwerK - 3/23/2014, 5:11 AM
She's cute...
Kyos - 3/23/2014, 5:23 AM
Anime has a ton of different styles and genres, and like with most other things there's everything in quality from really bad to absolutely great. And like with a lot of things which is which depends on personal preference and taste to no small degree.

I haven't actually watched any of the Marvel anime things, and I can understand how the mix might seem weird to people (I've only seen pictures of anime Wolverine... urm...). I think I'm gonna give this one here a try!

Good interview (as usual), Ed! :)
TheRealRemyLebeau - 3/23/2014, 6:21 AM
Thought folks should read this about how much anime has influenced or had a hand in cartoons we have loved.

Generally, the term anime has been accepted to encapsulate animation produced explicitly in Japan. [3] As anime became increasingly popular, Western animation studios began implementing some visual stylizations typical in anime—such as exaggerated facial expressions and "super deformed" versions of characters. In particular, works like The Batman, Teen Titans, Batman Beyond [4] and Spiderman Unlimited [5] displayed some characteristics of anime. Particularly for Batman Beyond, some of its production processes were outsourced in Japan. [4]

United States

An example of the anime-influenced animation frequently utilized in Teen Titans.

The influence of anime on Western animation can be seen as far back as the 1980s, when animations such as Transformers were inspired by mecha anime (although the original Transformers animated series was Japanese-animated, and its accompanying toy-line were re-issues of Japanese toys, so this may not count as an example). The influence of mecha anime on the Transformers franchise continues today, with the creators of Transformers Animated citing relatively recent Gainax productions, specifically Diebuster and Gurren Lagann, as major influences. [6]

The advent of anime stylizations appearing in Western animation questioned the established meaning of "anime." [1] There are several Western animators who collaborated with anime creators while producing Western animations. For example, production on The Animatrix began when the Wachowskis visited some of the creators of the anime films that had been a strong influence on their work, and decided to collaborate with them. [7] The collaboration between Western and Japanese animators dates back to the early 1980s, such as the Dungeons & Dragons animated series being a co-production between Marvel Animation and Toei Animation. [8] A number of other American animations of the 1980s and 1990s were outsourced to Japanese anime studios, most notably TMS Entertainment, which animated popular television productions such as DuckTales, Batman: The Animated Series, Animaniacs, and Spider-Man.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is another example of a Western animation influenced by anime, or, as it has recently been called, an "Amerime". Though technically not an anime because of its American origin, some fans consider it an anime because both its plot and style are very similar to ones normally seen in anime. One review has commented that "Avatar and Korra blurs the line between anime and (US) domestic cartoons until it becomes irrelevant." [9] In addition, Avatar has many features of anime such as having a different color palette from other animated shows. [10] Avatar creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino confirmed a particular anime influence in a magazine interview; that of "Hayao Miyazaki, especially Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke" [11]

as well as My Neighbor Totoro. [12] Avatar also draws inspiration from the anime works of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, as well as FLCL of Gainax. Other various studios from which inspiration was drawn include Studio 4°C, Production I.G, and Studio Ghibli. [13]

The Boondocks is a successful and controversial anime-influenced American animation based on the comic strip of the same name. Unlike the shows mentioned earlier, The Boondocks is aimed at adults and airs on Adult Swim, a mature-oriented TV network that shares channel space with Cartoon Network. Aaron McGruder, the creator of both the comic and the animation says in an interview that the series was influenced by his love of anime and manga. He cites Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo as sources of inspiration for the series' fight scenes. The opening sequence of season 1 is also remarkably similar to that of Samurai Champloo. Some of the humor is based on the characters' anime-style movements. The second season features segments animated by Japanese animation studio Madhouse. As a result, the second season of the series has more detailed animation as well as minor updates for most of the character designs.

Anime has also had an influence on Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks productions. Glen Keane, the animator for successful Disney films such as The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Tangled, has credited anime, specifically Hayao Miyazaki, as a "huge influence" on his work and on Disney in general during the past two decades. [14] Pete Docter, director of the popular films Up and Monsters, Inc. as well as a co-creator of other Pixar works, has also described anime, specifically Miyazaki, as an influence on his work. [15] Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois described Miyazaki's anti-war and flight themes as an influence for creating How to Train Your Dragon.
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