By Kiel Phegley
After the award-winning creative team of writer Ed Brubaker and artist Michael Lark bid an over-sized farewell to Matt Murdock in DAREDEVIL #500, THUNDERBOLTS writer Andy Diggle steps into the breach for a tour through Hell's Kitchen.
Known for gritty action and uncompromising characters, Diggle stands poised to be the latest in a long line of great writers to bring solid crime chops to DD's super hero world; we picked the writer's brain on his involvement with the series and his plans for Murdock's life in an exclusive first interview.
Marvel.com: Andy, what brought you onto this book? I don't think any of the readers were upset to hear you'd be coming on, but the news did come kind of out of the blue. Did this happen pretty quickly for you?
Andy Diggle: It was pretty much out of the blue, to be honest. I had planned on spending 2009 cooking up some creator-owned projects, and I'd pretty much made up my mind that I wouldn't be taking on any more company-owned books beyond THUNDERBOLTS. And then [editor] Warren Simons rang me up and offered me DAREDEVIL! I nearly fell off my chair. It was such a vote of confidence in me from Marvel, and it was incredibly flattering. All my indie book plans went on hold right there and then. Anything else, I would have had to think twice. But DAREDEVIL? No way. I guess I need to stop making myself promises I'm not going to keep.
Marvel.com: It's hard to imagine a Marvel comic with a higher creative pedigree than DAREDEVIL. I'm sure this is the question you're going to be getting asked more than any other, but was there any nervousness or stage fright for you in taking on this project?
Andy Diggle: Are you kidding? Being the guy to follow Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker on DAREDEVIL—those are some insanely big shoes to fill. But, y'know, stage fright is healthy. When you start taking these [kinds] of opportunities for granted, that's when you should probably go and
find something else to do for a living. I'm just going to bring my own voice to the book and have some fun with it, and I think the readers will too.
Marvel.com: When Brubaker took over, the hand off between he and Bendis' runs felt pretty seamless not so much because they coordinated story points as Ed just picked up the ball where Brian left it and said, "OK, now we're going all the way over here...to prison!" What's been your plan on where to take things up from Ed and Michael's run?
Andy Diggle: Brian's run ended with a fantastic cliffhanger—namely, Matt Murdock exposed and in prison—and Ed's been gracious enough to leave me with an equally provocative starting-point for my run. Obviously, I don't want to spoil it, but let's juts say it's a pretty challenging set-up that cuts to the core of what defines Matt Murdock, and Daredevil, as a character. It's pretty crazy! It's gonna get people talking, no question.
Marvel.com: What is your first issue of the book, and what can you say if anything about the story you've got planned?
Andy Diggle: My understanding is that issue #500 will be Ed's last. As for the specifics, I'm sworn to secrecy! But the challenge for me will be telling a story that's distinctly DAREDEVIL yet still feels fresh and new, without simply re-treading what's gone before. Staying true to the character and the spirit of the series, while still being able to shake things up and subvert expectations. That's always a fine line to navigate. But like I say, Ed's leaving me with a hell of a cliffhanger, and exploring the ramifications of that new status-quo is going to take us to some very dark and interesting places.
Marvel.com: One of the great things about DD is that there's so much ground you can cover with the character from straight crime stories to engaging legal dramas to even a little bit of social commentary depending on how you use the Hell's Kitchen setting. What are the elements of the series and of Murdock as a character that appeal most to you as a writer?
Andy Diggle: There's something about Matt Murdock's character make-up that defines all the possible reasons for dressing up in a super hero costume. His upbringing instilled with an overriding sense of justice, and both of his personas—civilian and costumed—are equally driven in pursuit of that same goal. He fights for that justice in the courtroom as Matt Murdock, but sometimes the law isn't enough, and that's why he needs Daredevil. And that's truer than ever in the world of Dark Reign. When justice cannot be found in a courtroom, and true heroes are hunted by the authorities, what then?
Marvel.com: So far, you've already played with a classic DD element by writing Bullseye in THUNDERBOLTS and in your upcoming DARK REIGN: HAWKEYE limited series. What attracts you to writing that particular character? Any chance he or any other classic DD villains will pop up in your new series?
Andy Diggle: Never say never! But I'm not sure if I'd say I'm "attracted" to writing Bullseye. Getting inside his head is not a comfortable place to be. He's probably the most monstrous character I've ever written. Some villains you love to hate, but Bullseye isn't like that. He has zero redeeming features. He's cancer. As a protagonist, you want to see him fail—but sadly, he rarely does. So in that respect, I view his stories almost as horror stories or tragedies—for those around him!
Marvel.com: HAWYEYE is the first time I can remember you taking some themes and characters from an ongoing book and breaking them out into a solo story. What's it been like building off the bigger super hero cornerstones of Dark Reign after dealing with all the cloak and dagger stuff in THUNDERBOLTS? Do you feel that the two series really operate differently?
Andy Diggle: The [Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers] teams are somewhat similar, in that they're both playing out Norman Osborn's greater plan; and both teams have secrets they're desperate to keep. The Thunderbolts are covert, while the Dark Avengers operate in full view of the media; but of course, the Dark Avengers don't want anyone to know who they really are, or what they're really up to. So in that respect, they have similar agendas. And yeah, it's fun putting my own pieces into the huge jigsaw puzzle that is Dark Reign. It's a good feeling, being part of that team.
Marvel.com: You're about to wrap up a crossover with DEADPOOL in THUNDERBOLTS, and your first Dark Reign issues of the book really synched up in some very specific ways with the rest of the Dark Reign status quo and particularly played off the launching pad of SECRET INVASION #8. As you move forward with the ongoing series, how much will you be using your new crew of Black Widow and the rest to interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe?
Andy Diggle: They'll be very much interacting with the wider Marvel Universe. What's the point of working in a shared universe if you don't, y'know, share it? Norman Osborn is running the show right now, and the Thunderbolts are his hidden dagger. That means they're going to be very much involved in the big picture, albeit behind the scenes.
Marvel.com: And while I'm on the topic of the new Thunderbolts team, after spending a little time with these guys, who's turned out to be your favorite psychopath to play with?
Andy Diggle: Favorite character? That's a toughie—I love all my babies! But Ant-Man's always great fun to write, nasty little sleaze-bag that he is; and Headsman is starting to develop as a character in a way I never quite expected. He's a bit of a simple-minded loser, but I like the guy. And Ghost always makes me laugh. But favorite character? Gotta be Black Widow. There's just something about a woman in combat gear. And that Russian accent...
Marvel.com: Have the threads of redemption started to work their way into your mind, or are you still having too much fun just letting them blow stuff to hell?
Andy Diggle: THUNDERBOLTS has always been about redemption, and that's still the case, even with this new bunch of psychos on the team. But some of them are more open to redemption than others. Each has a different reason for joining Osborn's cause, and as the pressure builds, you'll see stress-fractures start to form within the team. Blowing stuff up is always fun; but seeing which way the pieces fall afterwards, that can be even more rewarding. The great thing about having a new team is, there is no status quo. Anything can happen. And I've got a surprise coming that's going to turn everything on its head.
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