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/