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Marvel Noir

Marvel Noir Redux

The writers behind X MEN NOIR and SPIDER-MAN NOIR discuss returning to the worlds they created

By Marc Strom

Noir stories may not have happy endings, but that doesn't mean they can't have sequels.

On December 2, writers David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky with artist Carmine Di Giandomenico bring you SPIDER-MAN NOIR: EYES WITHOUT A FACE #1, while on December 9 writer Fred Van Lente and artist Dennis Calero complete that one-two punch to the gut with X MEN NOIR: MARK OF CAIN #1.

Van Lente's series will catch up with the core cast members who made it out of the previous saga alive.

"They fled to the Pacific island nation of Madripoor, where they've hooked up with Angel's old friend, the mercenary Cain Marko," explains Van Lente. "Cain's discovered a treasure map to the ancient Temple-Tomb of Cyttorak, where an enormous ruby lies. Cain enlists the X Men Noir crew to

X MEN NOIR: MARK OF CAIN cover by Dennis Calero
steal the gem, but when he's murdered and the ruby disappears, Angel has a new mystery on his hands to solve."

According to the writer, the Noir version of Cain Marko will bare a number of similarities to his rampaging counter part in the regular Marvel Universe.

"Our Marko is working for unknown parties who scare even him," warns Van Lente. "But he's still Xavier's half-brother, and, in fact, Xavier is Angel's prime suspect in Cain's murder. The so-called 'Professor of Crime' has gone to work for a forbidding Genosha Bay Prison and its warden, Emma Frost. So guess where Angel's first stop in his investigation is?"

While Van Lente's initial foray into the world of X MEN NOIR had a number of elements reminiscent of classic mystery author Raymond Chandler, he'll be adding a new flavor to the mix in this series.

"You'll see a lot more 'Maltese Falcon' here, with the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak standing in for the fabled bird of that novel, so I guess a bit more [Dashiell] Hammett this time around," comments the writer.

Joined by Calero, his previous partner-in-crime, Van Lente promises fans that this series will definitely live up to its predecessor.

"Dennis Calero's artwork is even more evocative and moody in the previous series. It's a real joy to be working with him again and hope folks check out the finished product. It's going to be special."

SPIDER-MAN NOIR: EYES WITHOUT A FACE #1 preview art by Carmine Di Giandomenico
Meanwhile, SPIDER-MAN NOIR: EYES WITHOUT A FACE will pick up where the original limited series left off, situating the fictional Peter Parker in a world that evokes the real life Depression era.

"Spider-Man is continuing his battle against organized crime," confirms Hine. "1933 was a year when gangsters became the popular anti-heroes of the American public with Bonny and Clyde, Dillinger, Machinegun Kelly, the Babyface Nelson Gang, Pretty Boy Floyd, Ma Barker and the Barker/Karpis gang all running riot. The Bureau, later to become the FBI, was desperately trying to make some arrests to establish their credibility and we've reflected that with agent Jean de Wolfe pursuing the new gangster who is trying to fill the shoes of Norman Osborn.

"A few months have gone by since the end of series one," the writer continues. "[Franklin] Roosevelt is now President and there should be a new air of optimism with the hope that the Great Depression would finally come to an end. Historically, though, the bad times continued for a lot longer and the poverty and unemployment really only came to an end with the USA's entry into the Second World War. So Aunty May is still running her soup kitchen for the unemployed and arguing politics with her old friend Carver Robertson and his idealistic son, Robbie. Felicia Hardy is still running the Black Cat in the final months of Prohibition and we'll see how her relationship with Peter Parker develops into something a little less chaste than a peck on the lips."

With Spider-Man's world going through a number of changes, the protagonist has as well.

SPIDER-MAN NOIR: EYES WITHOUT A FACE #1 preview art by Carmine Di Giandomenico
"I would add that our Peter Parker has changed a lot too," chimes in Sapolsky. "He's still the young angry man he was in the first series, but when SPIDER-MAN NOIR: EYES WITHOUT A FACE begins, he's a hero that everyone in the city praises. But, one character triggers a series of events that will change Peter's world dramatically."

The new series will also introduce a number of versions of Spider-Man's traditional supporting cast and rogues gallery.

"Besides Robbie Robertson we have one of Spider-Man's traditional girlfriends and three established villains," teases Hine. "We haven't revealed any of them yet but if you want some clues, one is a masked villain who appeared in an early [Stan] Lee/[Steve] Ditko story but has rarely been seen since, one is disabled and one doesn't speak a word."

"We kind of established a tradition with volume one, showing very different incarnations of renowned characters," Sapolsky goes on. "We're expanding that in volume two, like Dave said. There's also a character, besides those mentioned above, that is key in our story. He's a complete reinvention of [someone] that was very popular in the 80's. Is he a friend or foe? You'll have to read the series to know."

Both writers had their own reasons for wanting to return to the world of Spider-Man Noir, but each seems to have gravitated towards the historical aspects of the series the most.

"For me it was interesting to read about that period, pick up on the news stories of the time and follow through on the things that caught my interest," Hine divulges. "We toyed with a few ideas, including using

SPIDER-MAN NOIR: EYES WITHOUT A FACE #1 preview art by Carmine Di Giandomenico
Venom as a street drug, but the focus shifted towards the extreme politics of the time and particularly the growth of Nazism that took root among German immigrants. The Bund and then the Friends of New Germany were openly Nazi and sponsored by Berlin. They forged links with racist groups in America like the Ku Klux Klan and The Christian Enforcers. Nazism continued to grow and thrive throughout the 30's and culminated in a mass rally in Madison Square Gardens attended by up to 22,000 supporters, seig-heiling Nazi flags.

"We delved a little into politics in the first issue [of the original series] with the Parkers re-imagined as socialist activists, something that made perfect sense for the period it was set. Some of that goes into this series. But in the end the story is about Spider-Man cleaning up the streets and the horrific consequences for the people he cares about."

For Sapolsky, the hardest part came with deciding on the story for EYES WITHOUT A FACE.

"Creating the second series was really different from the first one," admits the co-writer. "On SPIDER-MAN NOIR volume one, we came up with the whole concept and the social background in the initial pitch. And Marvel pushed us really in that direction. Hooverville, the shelters, the socialist background of the Parkers-everything was there. When we started talking about the second series, last February, we had many options, and many ideas that fortunately-or not, you guys will never know-didn't make the cut, like Venom, but it seemed too sci-fi.

SPIDER-MAN NOIR: EYES WITHOUT A FACE #1 preview art by Carmine Di Giandomenico
"And after going into different directions, we came back to the world we created and decided to expand it, to remain very noir, very pulp. The main villain was there already. We had talked about including him in the first series but couldn't. I'm glad he was saved for this one as he's one of the best villains in the Spider-Man Noir universe. I also remember the exact moment when we came up with Robbie Robertson's character. And I immediately felt we should address the black people issue in the 1930's, just like we did with the homeless in volume one."

Given the darker tones of a noir story, the writers' final teases should come as no surprise.

"Somebody dies," warns Hine.

"And somebody experiences such horrendous pain that death would be sweeter than candy for him or her," adds Sapolsky.

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      I'm really looking forward to this, especially Spider-Man Noir.I've really enjoyed the series, & Spider-Man Noir brings out a real dark aspect into this with alot of meaning, & I hope there will be lots of gun blazing & bone-breaking action into this