Interview With Margaret Stohl, Author of Black Widow: Red Vengeance
In Red Vengeance, Natasha Romanoff and Ava Orlova (introduced in the previous book and created by Stohl), aka Black Widow and Red Widow, have teamed up to “stop a conspiracy involving stolen nuclear warheads, mind-altering chemical weapons, and ultimately, betrayal by old friends and enemies alike.” It’s a globe-trotting adventure, taking place on four continents, aimed at stopping “a smuggling operation with ties to their old nemesis” Ivan Somodorov. It’s a story that combines Stohl’s love of travel and spy thrillers.
I was allowed to participate in a roundtable with author Margaret Stohl to talk about the new book. She describes it as “an exploration of Ava, the younger protagonist, becoming the Red Widow and her own character with her own mission, goals, and personality, and clashing with Natasha”. Because these novels are aimed at Young Adult readers, they focus on the younger character, which also gives Stohl more freedom to create emotional arcs.
At the same time, Stohl says she’s keeping the movie Black Widow in mind, because that version of the character, the current cinematic version, has done such a great job bringing the Widow to life and is so successful. She finds that a bit daunting, but loves the fans and knows they love the character. “Nobody should take these jobs,” she says, “if they don’t have a passionate conviction or love for those characters.” Creating her own Marvel character was a dream for her, and “everything that makes it terrifying also makes it the greatest job in the world.”
Stohl contrasts the two women based on their level of experience and age. “Ava needs space to grow into the hero she is, and she needs to be able to see herself differently than how Natasha necessarily sees her.” She parallels the relationship to that between Captain Marvel in the currently ongoing Civil War comic event and the younger Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, who looks up to her.
“I knew very clearly we needed the clean protagonist, we needed a teen romance, we needed a teen lens to look at things.
“Teenagers are the smartest, most sophisticated people I know who are dealing with life’s huge issues from a very young age. In a way, adults spend a lot more time distracting themselves with more trivial things than teenagers.
“It’s never a less sophisticated story you tell for a teen. In fact, authors are not successful when they try to dumb it down for a teen. That’s just not how a teen mind operates. You have a very sophisticated mind in your reader when you have a teen reader, you just don’t necessarily get into some of the darker content.”
As a fangirl, she’s excited about continuing to work with Marvel as the new writer on the monthly Captain Marvel title, which features one of her all-time favorite characters. “Every time I get to work with one of these iconic woman Marvel superheroes, that’s me feeling like I’m in the room where it happens. These things matter intensely to me, that mattered to me growing up, that mattered to many of my teen readers and also to my teen kids, so it’s an honor.”