Saladin Ahmed comments on the Inhuman monarch’s return to the throne!

The Midnight King has long ruled the Inhumans; on December 6, in the pages of BLACK BOLT #8, however, he returns to Earth, no longer a monarch in position or in self-perception. For the Inhumans left behind, he might even be viewed as a kind of absentee ruler, a man who abandoned them at a time of their greatest need.

Writer Saladin Ahmed took a break from packing up a crown and scepter to discuss the stages of Black Bolt’s rule, writing a once again voiceless protagonist, and Christian Ward’s amazing art. With Black Bolt once again voiceless, I am wondering how you and artist Christian Ward have been adapting to losing this one avenue of communication? Have you two discussed it and made a singular plan? How has it been to deal with a wordless character again?

Saladin Ahmed: We haven’t talked about it a lot so we don’t have any particular strategy for us to approach it collaboratively.

For me, from a writerly point of view, there have been a couple of points in the book where Black Bolt has had his voice and those points where he could actually speak I tend to recede the captions. Now that we are back to voiceless Black Bolt—not only one who’s restricting his speaking but physically has lost his super powered voice; something happened in that confrontation with the Jailer which we don’t quite know yet but we will be finding out more about—he really doesn’t have a voice. I’ve been leaning back on the third person captions that are sort of inside his head trying to capture the voice that I think he thinks to himself with.

Also, he’s been accompanied by Blinky. She’s—especially when he first gets back to Earth—is going to be stepping in to kind of explain to others what they’ve been through. She acts, to a degree, as his voice. In a way, similar to what Medusa did, but in a very different way; this is someone who is more like an adopted kid than a consort and she has actually psychic powers. One of the things she’s discovering is how to cultivate empathy and establish a bridge between two people and she’ll certainly be doing that in service of Black Bolt, the character, but BLACK BOLT the book as well. She’s kind of a cheat and I’m well aware of that, but you always have to find these work arounds. Obviously Christian, in handling the look of an alien prison world had some fantastic visuals to deal in and we have spoken previously about how incredible the colors have been as well. Returning to Earth, even the Earth of the Marvel Universe, would seem to be a shift towards a more mundane setting. In terms of that, how have you two discussed portraying Earth in a way that feels real but plays to his strengths and how has Christian been meeting this new challenge.

Saladin Ahmed: I’ve just been really impressed with how he has handled this transition. Again, there was no particular strategizing between us. We talk a bit, I hand him the scripts, we do talk about how the tone is shifting and therefore his color palette is shifting, but it’s not mundane. It’s astonishing.

He brings all this attention to detail and sense of panel composition, this just absolutely blazing color to the Bronx, to New Attilan on Earth, and to some familiar characters that Black Bolt will be crossing paths with as well.

I think people are only going to more impressed with the range of Christian’s art. He does [the] space thing and the psychedelic thing and the bizarre thing so well that there’s a threat of him being typecast as an artist. What people are really going to see in this second arc is that he can do a grounded Earthly super hero book just beautifully. Some of the facial expressions on the characters in this book I’m just thrilled by. What is your feeling, your interpretation, your perception of Black Bolt as King at baseline. That is, his role as status quo king during most of his existence up until the past few years of aggression and his recent absence?

Saladin Ahmed: I think he was pretty confident. I don’t think he did a lot of questioning of himself. He was an inheritor of traditions.

Of course, we aren’t just talking about a character but also how a character has been written. And a lot of writers recently like [Christopher] Priest and his [current limited series INHUMANS: THE ONCE AND FUTURE KINGS], have taken on what Black Bolt might have been thinking then because we never really got that back in the day from [Stan] Lee and [Jack] Kirby. But I think even with that kind of revisionist take on his early history, I don’t think he had any doubt he was supposed to be a monarch. I don’t think he was used to questioning himself or the kind of traditions he came from.

I think recent years have shaken that up for him though. In terms of how the Inhumans perceived him during that early period of rule, how did they feel about him, how did they experience him?

Saladin Ahmed: Pretty idyllic. He presided over a long period—now this isn’t bringing up things like the Alpha Primitives—but [for] most of Inhumans society he presided over a long period of peace and being hidden from the outside world. So I think generally his people had a sort of old school respect and awe and love but not a fuzzy soft kind of love. A kind of feudal love for him.

It is hard to know, though, is that just what Black Bolt thought people felt or if that’s what people thought. I think with any [king] that’s beloved, if you dig a little bit there are a lot of people that are not happy with him.

Black Bolt #8 cover by Christian Ward Recently, Black Bolt took a turn towards being a much more aggressive ruler with spreading the Terrigen Mist and taking on mutantkind and attacking Atlantis, and so on. How did his attitude towards himself change, in your opinion, and how did the people’s?

Saladin Ahmed: I think rather than see himself as the king of a secluded people, he began to want to carve out a place for his people in the larger world and was aggressively pre-empting how, for instance, humanity has dealt with mutants in history. I think Black Bolt was planning to put his people in a position of strength. Probably relentlessly, without much of an eye towards the consequences of that to others or his own people; [he] pursued that agenda for the past couple years.

I think that kind of—I don’t want to say imperial—but that aggressive expansionism of Inhumanity is a lot of what he is wrangling with now; how that backfired on him and his people. He certainly experienced many doubts in the prison and possible growth and change about what his role should be, but his people were unaware of that; they only perceived him as disappearing. How do those who didn’t go to space and were in the dark about Black Bolt’s imprisonment feel about what seemed like his unexplained, unreported absence?

Saladin Ahmed: This is a lot of what we are going to be contending with in the second arc, but they felt abandoned, basically. People don’t know what situation he was in, but to their mind they had this incredibly powerful ceremonial leader—even if he was not their actual acting king and a kind of progenitor—for the new Inhumans, Black Bolt brought many of them into being by releasing the Mist. Then HYDRA came after them and the Royal Family—including Black Bolt—was nowhere to be found.

There’s a lot of resentment towards that and Black Bolt is going to come face-to-face with that very soon. Like the moment he lands on Earth. What does he hope for himself in returning to the throne? Does he have a plan or a fantasy of being a new kind of king than he’s been before?

Saladin Ahmed: I think what Black Bolt—he went through a lot. In super hero comics, we often see heroes go through astonishing traumatic things and then bounce back. That’s not what’s going to happen for Black Bolt.

So rather than returning as the kind of scheming key player in events, he’s going to be coming home licking his wounds and trying to tie up loose ends of a very personal nature.

I don’t necessarily know that he is thinking of himself as a king upon his return. So considering what kind of king he will be is kind of beyond his thoughts. Emotionally speaking, when he finds out what happened when he was gone, can you give us an idea what his reaction is and what we’ll get to see of that reaction?

Saladin Ahmed: He comes back and find out and is consumed both by guilt and a sense of impotence.

What could he have done? It’s not like he chose to leave his people behind. But rather than become defensive, he’s pretty miserable.

The question for BLACK BOLT is when you are damaged and have really pressing immediate responsibilities—he has a kid in tow—how do you do your part to help fix the world?

I think that’s the question a lot of us who want to make things better have to ask ourselves. As you enter this second stage of BLACK BOLT, what has you excited, what has you anxious, what is challenging?

Saladin Ahmed: Oh, it is intensely challenging because, for one, the timeline is just tighter. You can do a lot of building for the first arc of the book because it hasn’t come out, you can do a lot more prep. Once the train is moving, you are working at a different pace. That’s been quite intense. There’s a little bit of anxiety around that.

What has been delightful has been just to bring this character back to the mainstream Marvel world. This is still going to be a book that will be off in its own corner to a degree but the first arc was very much, intentionally, isolated and self-contained. While this won’t tie heavily into Marvel continuity, with a big “C,” it has been really fun to bring this character back to Earth to interact with people from the [Inhumans’] world, from the larger Marvel Universe. Just getting to mess with that in the same way I got to mess with him individually in the first arc.

See what Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward have planned for The Midnight King in BLACK BOLT #8, headed your way December 6!

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Artist Christian Ward returns the Midnight King to his throne!

After spending his series so far fighting his way out of one of the harshest space prisons in the cosmos, Black Bolt will return to his home planet and face his subjects fully in BLACK BOLT #8 on December 6. Written by Saladin Ahmed and drawn by Christian Ward, the “Midnight King Returns to Earth” story kicks off with Blackagar Boltagon realizing what happened to his people since he left, specifically during Secret Empire.

We talked with Ward about his process for developing the visuals for each issue, creating visually arresting covers, and how Black Bolt’s changed since his time in space stir. In addition to fully drawing the issues, you also color and ink as well. What went into the decision to take on all those duties?

Christian Ward: Funnily enough, I’ve never even considered just penciling a comic. It’s because I’m half insecure about my pencils being naked and on their own and half a control freak. I studied illustration at university, then spent about five years trying to make it as a fine artist so I find it hard to not think about finished art as a fully finished page.

The colors, including the abstractions and design elements that I use, are all part of the storytelling. Moreover, I approach a comic page in much the same way I’d approach a painting. Once I’m past the layout stage of a page, I block out the characters with solid colors and then build lines and details onto these colors. Similarly, the backgrounds are often painted separately. Then layers of color are applied almost like [varnish] over the whole page. Black Bolt’s been through a lot in space; does he carry himself differently after all of that?

Christian Ward: Despite being weakened by the prison, I feel like Bolt’s more comfortable with himself. More open. In this arc, he’s going to be less angry, less openly defensive. He’s still a king, but arc one taught him better how to be a friend and a father. There’s a moment in issue #8 that made me tear up when I read Saladin’s script. It’s great to portray a softer, more human side to The Midnight King. Not that he won’t still be badass, as he’s always been. The Inhumans have also had their fair share of challenges on Earth. How do they respond to their king’s return?

Christian Ward: You’ll have to pick up issue #8 to see, but let’s just say they don’t exactly welcome Black Bolt home with open arms. The cover to BLACK BOLT #8 is particularly striking with its design and iconography. How long did it take to go from pitching ideas for that image to turning in the final draft?

Christian Ward: In many ways it’s a remake of issue #1’s cover. I was so happy with that cover; it was one of those covers that felt like inspiration hit like a lightning bolt, no pun intended. Since this is the cover for the opening of arc two, I wanted to play with the same iconography.

Compositionally it’s very similar. As with issue #1, Bolt’s fork is the focal point with the “locked up” mouth at the bottom of issue #1’s cover being replaced here in the same place with Bolt himself being in chains. A victim of his own making. Black Bolt’s tuning fork is so iconic that putting that front and center you can’t really go wrong. Now that Black Bolt’s back on Earth, he’ll surely run into some big time characters—like Captain America in issue #9—how is it getting to draw some of those stalwarts?

Christian Ward: It’s always a thrill to draw such big characters. When I was working on the cover to issue #9—which features Bolt versus Cap—I was sending work in progress of the cover to Chris Samnee who’d just announced he was the new [CAPTAIN AMERICA] artist. Chris is one of my all-time favorite artists and it’s moments like that where you realize how lucky you are. That was a real pinch-me moment.

Talking of pinch-me moments, one of the coolest things about this arc was having the opportunity to rework and design a new costume for a returning old character. Made me feel like Jamie McKelvie!. I love the idea that if the character is used again, we’ve contributed something to their history and some cool future artist might even decide to use my redesign.

All in all, working on BLACK BOLT continues to be a real blast.

Have a blast with Christian and Saladin Ahmed with BLACK BOLT #8, coming December 6!

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Writer Saladin Ahmed charts the King’s return to planet Earth!

Blackagar Boltagon has changed. And his home has changed too.

The King sails across the galaxy to return to a planet unlike anything he’s known before. On November 1, writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Frazer Irving present a most unusual homecoming in BLACK BOLT #7!

We snagged Saladin to discuss the voyage—and what Black Bolt will bring with him back to Earth. Black Bolt returns to Earth in BLACK BOLT #7how different do we find him now compared to when he departed the planet before issue #1?

Saladin Ahmed: He’s quite different.

Part of that has been what we’ve done with the series as a whole—as we never knew much about the Black Bolt that left Earth. So I’ve spent this first arc trying to get inside of who he might’ve been before.

Over the course of his imprisonment, though, he has sort of become someone else. He views his place in the world differently and most of this second arc will be about what happens when you change, come back home, and have to deal with all the things still there. Rumor has it he might not be coming back alone. What can you tell us about his travel companions?

Saladin Ahmed: Black Bolt returns with the alien psychic child Blinky. She became one of his companions in the prison and doesn’t really have anywhere to go. As we’ll see, Black Bolt tries to be a father figure again after he failed pretty miserably with his own kid. From Blinky’s perspective, what does this trip represent? What does it feel like for her?

Saladin Ahmed: Blinky had an extremely hard childhood—which we’ll get some glimpses of—and she spent time in a torture prison. So even given all the consequences and old faces Black Bolt will encounter with her by his side, I think she seems mostly wide-eyed in wonderment. She has an interest in Earth and she will have a whole new world of experiences.

I try not to write Blinky as horrendously naïve, but she is a kid. And despite a lot of the hard things that have happened to her, she tries to see what might be cool and interesting around her. And she’ll continue to do that. She’ll provide some lighter moments to the story. Black Bolt has changed, but Earth has as well. How different is the planet he returns to?

Saladin Ahmed: He spent a lot of time in prison—not all of this on-screen—but to my mind he spent a lot of time thinking about mistakes he made as a leader—the consequences of the Terrigen Mist, for instance. He comes back ready to deal with that only to find that the Inhumans faced another near-extinction event from Hydra.

This will be even more baggage for him to deal with. Very swiftly upon returning to Earth, he’ll have a reckoning with a new generation of Inhumans. The trip back to Earth promises to present its own challenges—what struggles will Black Bolt encounter along the way?

Saladin Ahmed: Well, issue #7 acts as an interval issue between the two arcs, guest drawn by Frazer Irving. An ethereal space issue. A journey.

I don’t want to give too much away, but threats emerge from the fact that Black Bolt and Blinky leave in a damaged state. Black Bolt’s power has been reduced significantly and he’s lost his voice. Lockjaw remains injured. Blinky continues trying to shake this stuff off.

They will have a passenger with them. They try to fix the situation in the prison and it seems most of the inmates escaped, but one inmate they encountered a few issues ago—Monsteroso—essentially needs a ride home. So they try to tie up some loose ends there, though they feel beleaguered at each turn. You mentioned Frazer Irving coming on as a guest artist for this one. How did you like working with him?

Saladin Ahmed: It’s interesting—Christian Ward and I have a pretty intimate bond that we’ve developed over these few issues. But really, with Frazer, I wanted to stay pretty hands-off and maybe a little looser in my scripting, just to see what he’d do.

He has a very alien style. Christian’s art has a psychedelic and cosmic feel, but Frazer’s feels more like hard science fiction in a way. It really lends itself to this story. He drew the ship that they travel on in this gorgeous way.

It felt really cool to not boss him around too much. As you mentioned, this acts as a sort of transition issue. For readers that heard the buzz and were waiting for a good moment to jump on, why does issue #7 serve as the right moment?

Saladin Ahmed: Oh, because while we certainly follow threads from the first arc, we telling a self-contained story in the second arc. BLACK BOLT #7 will be really a good place to meet the characters before we plunge into the action.

Saladin Ahmed and artist Frazer Irving’s BLACK BOLT #7 crash lands on November 1!

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The war of the disenfranchised wages across the Marvel Universe with survival at stake. 

Bred by an alien race to be a warrior caste and possessing alien DNA, the Inhumans exist as humans possessed of incredible and otherworldly powers when exposed to the substance known as Terrigen. Living secretly, for the most part, among their fellow man, the Inhumans forge their own destiny as a separate society. Dig into the history of the Inhumans with these Marvel Unlimited comics in preparation for “Marvel’s Inhumans” heading to  ABC on September 29!  

Even when they’re not actively getting involved in major situations, the Inhumans seem to find themselves smack-dab in the middle of conflict! In this case, we’re talking about a major problem with the mutant community that actually started in THE DEATH OF X by Jeff Lemire, Charles Soule and Aaron Kuder.

Set in the eight month gap between the end of SECRET WARS and the ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT launch, Cyclops and his band of militant mutants discovered the Terrigen Mist that had been floating around the world proved fatal to mutants, including Jamie Madrox who died on Genosha when the cloud passed over. 

Death of X (2016) #1

Death of X (2016) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Enraged at the prospect of more mutant deaths, Cyclops and Emma Frost alerted the world to the danger posed by the mists and then set out to destroy both of them. It worked with one of them, but a major confrontation took place that lead to the death of Cyclops at the mouth of Black Bolt. 

Death of X (2016) #3

Death of X (2016) #3

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Well, sort of. As we learned, Cyclops actually died from exposure to the mist on Genosha and Frost used his image and her powers to make it seem like he still fought the good fight, even though he actually died very early in the series. Unfortunately, driven a bit mad by her lover’s death, Frost decided that Black Bolt actually killed Scott and demanded revenge.

All of this fed right into INHUMANS VS. X-MEN, which saw the mutants and Inhumans at peace while Hank McCoy worked on a solution to the problem with Iso by his side. As it happened, though, Beast soon realized that the cloud would burst, sending the contents all over the planet which would make it uninhabitable by most mutants. 

Inhumans vs. X-Men (2016)

Inhumans vs. X-Men (2016)

What is Marvel Unlimited?

While McCoy had been working on a scientific solution, Emma had been working on a more tactical one with the likes of Magneto, his team of X-Men, Storm, Dazzler, alternate reality Jean Grey and Fantomex to take out primary Inhuman targets like Black Bolt, Karnak, Lockjaw and the rest. However, they didn’t know much about the NuHumans who not only beat Old Man Logan but also destroyed Forge’s invention for saving the day.  

Inhumans vs. X-Men (2016) #1

Inhumans vs. X-Men (2016) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Meanwhile, the captive Inhumans in Limbo worked together to free themselves and then move on to the school. Meanwhile, Inhuman Mosaic infiltrated the X-Men’s earthly stronghold and took over Magneto’s body. Once inside, he also got a look at all of the X-Men’s plans up to that point, including where they kept Black Bolt captive before being cast out. 

Inhumans vs. X-Men (2016) #4

Inhumans vs. X-Men (2016) #4

What is Marvel Unlimited?

With attacks on all sides, a major standoff took place in Limbo as Havok stood next to the chamber holding Black Bolt right in front of Medusa. Cylcops’ brother initially threatened to kill the former Inhuman king, but soon stepped aside, acknowledging that this really boiled down to a plan between Emma and Scott.

Between that and Karnak’s own escape alongside Lockjaw, the Inhumans found themselves back in the fight. However, when finally appraised of the situation regarding the cloud’s impending destruction and the adverse effects on mutants, Medusa used the Terrigen Eater to kill the cloud.

However, still driven mad by the loss of Cyclops, Emma Frost brought out a batch of Inhuman-hunting Sentinels with Magneto still backing her play, but only because of Frost’s mind manipulations. Once he realized all this, he switched sides and essentially fought alongside Medusa and Black Bolt to take Frost down.

Ultimately, they succeeded in destroying the cloud, but the relations between mutant and Inhuman may never be repaired! 

Inhumans vs. X-Men (2016) #6

Inhumans vs. X-Men (2016) #6

What is Marvel Unlimited?


The Inhumans saw themselves facing a new world order after the events of IVX. INHUMANS PRIME set the stage for the franchise moving forward, launching into books like ROYALS, BLACK BOLT and SECRET WARRIORS. The first would find most of the Royal Family taking off into space to discover their heritage while the second found their leader somewhat unfairly imprisoned and the final featured a group fighting against Hydra-Cap’s Secret Empire!

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Artist Christian Ward crafts a unique look for the Inhuman sovereign!

Over the years, Blackagar Boltagon has filled many roles: leader of the Inhumans, husband, father, intergalactic ruler—and now, prisoner! Writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Christian Ward set up quite a challenge for the one-time king when they launched BLACK BOLT a few months back: escape from an epic space prison!

Teamed up with the likes of Absorbing Man, Black Bolt continues to figure out how to flee the seemingly inescapable jail in the stars so he can find his way back to his family. We talked with Ward about designing Black Bolt’s cage, working on the silent hero, and making his mark on a childhood favorite. This book has definitely taken Black Bolt in some unexpected directions. How has it been crafting these stories with Saladin so far?

Christian Ward: I’m drawn to stories I can’t predict. I think that’s one reason why shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” are so enjoyable. Reading Saladin’s scripts for BLACK BOLT [has] had those same unexpected elements and I’ve loved reading them. Bringing a story to life that you’re already enjoying in its script form is easy. I have a background in creator-owned comics; I’m used to working on books I’m personally invested in and working on BLACK BOLT with Saladin has felt no different.

I think he would agree that we’ve really clicked working on BLACK BOLT. It’s been an absolute joy and I feel very lucky to be working with Saladin. I felt like we’re telling one story together infused with all these personal elements. I definitely feel like we’re trying to say something with BLACK BOLT, whilst remembering it’s a super hero comic and it should also be a lot of fun. Even with his first comic, Saladin’s going to be [among] many peoples’ very favorite writers. He’s certainly one of mine now and hopefully this will be the first of many projects we do together. The story mixes elements from classic prison break tales with sci-fi and super heroes. Do you enjoy playing with those pieces and building new structures with them?

Christian Ward: I do! Lots of my previous projects—like ODY-C for instance—have been about clashing genres together. I love the tension you get from mixing disparate ingredients. With BLACK BOLT, as well as the genres you mentioned, I’ve been having fun approaching parts like a Gothic horror, not just with the scenery and the lighting but also trying to use page layouts to make it feel foreboding or claustrophobic.

There have been pages where I’ve tried to make the panel [borders] feel as much of the prison bars as the ones I’ve actually drawn. Becoming narrower and narrower as our characters are contained or crushed within them. It’s been fun to allow the different genres, like horror, influence how certain elements of the book look and even let each issue feel a little different. For instance, in issue #4 I’ve been playing with formal nine-panel grids and half tone textures as a way to exaggerate the old school comic book-ness of the issue. It keeps me on my toes and hopefully it keeps the [book] exciting from issue to issue for the reader. You’re setting much of the action inside of this jail. How much of it did you have designed ahead of time?

Christian Ward: Lots of great design is about tension and what Saladin had in mind for our prison was perfect to play to that idea. He had this idea that it would be equal parts Victorian gaol and [Jack] Kirby techno, so for every stone pillar there has to be this contrasting piece of insane, impossible machinery.

I read about Panopticon so I knew I wanted there to be eyes everywhere because big floating over-watching eyes are always creepy and it had to feel huge, I wanted Black Bolt to feel insignificant there. I certainly didn’t design a physical place like an architect would, rather I spent a lot of time thinking about how it would feel, or maybe how the inmates would feel being held there. I wanted the prison to feel intangible, like a monster glimpsed in the darkness, a place that was ever changing. Somewhere it would be impossible to get your footing or stay sane. An M.C. Escher drawing come to life. BLACK BOLT has incorporated some interesting characters from Absorbing Man to Death’s Head. How has it been putting your own spin on them and making them work in this story?

Christian Ward: The first thing I have to say is what a huge and continuing honor it is to be drawing these characters that so many greats have drawn before me. It’s very exciting to, as you say, put a spin on them. It’s a tricky balancing act to honor what’s come before and try to shine a different light on them. Hopefully success comes from loving the characters in the first place. For instance, when I was a teenager Death’s Head was my favorite character growing up in the UK. He was my Hulk, my Spider-Man, my X-Men. He was my number one. So when I came to design my take on him I let that love guide the design. What I love about the character—that’s what I bring to the forefront.

And oh boy, Absorbing Man! I love drawing Carl. This might be Black Bolt’s book, but I think Crusher’s the heart of it. It’s been so much fun to draw him not as a bad guy, but as a man, and try and make him feel real. Whereas I’m trying to keep Bolt at arm’s length I really want readers to feel very empathetic towards Crusher. I’ve really grown to love the guy so I hope that’s coming through. Does Black Bolt’s silence offer any particular challenges when you’re working from panel to panel?

Christian Ward: It’s a huge challenge. I remember reading about the difference between TV, movie, and stage acting and the “volume” in which actors have to project or emote in each. Unlike in theater, for instance, on a giant movie screen the smallest of facial movements can be read. I’m aiming for giant movie screen acting here. I’ve always enjoyed comic book acting and it’s huge fun to try and convey all the subtleties of Bolt’s face. I really wanted to have him feel reserved and withdrawn from us but that as the story progressed the wall that he’d built up around himself—his own personal inner prison wall—would break down and we’d see more of those emotions showing on his face and in his body language. You know, as much as I love the big cosmic moments of the book, it was the challenge of drawing Bolt that made me take the project on and I’m having the time of my life with it.

BLACK BOLT #3 breaks into stores on July 5, with issue #4 following on August 2, thanks to Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward.

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Saladin Ahmed prepares to spring the king of the Inhumans from jail!

The new BLACK BOLT series has found the king of the Inhumans mysteriously behind bars, in a place known only as “The Prison.” How and why he ended up there might remain unknown for now, but you can bet Black Bolt won’t remain for long if he has anything to say about it—and thanks to this bizarre jail’s machinations, he can speak!

We caught up with the current “warden” of BLACK BOLT, writer Saladin Ahmed, to ask about the series, specifically issue #3—coming July 5—which features the inmates’ attempted jailbreak! At this point we’ve seen the first twos of Black Bolt, and it has set up an intriguing story. What was your motivation for throwing the king of the Inhumans into the slammer, so to speak?

Saladin Ahmed: Well, Black Bolt being sidelined from the rest of the royal family made sense for all sorts of plot and continuity reasons. But ultimately this story is about the very idea of incarceration—what is its purpose? Who does it happen to? Which crimes get punished? What does it do to people? So I suppose one of my motivations was forcing one of Marvel’s most powerful characters, a king unused to having his choices questioned—let alone labeled “crimes”!—to confront these questions in a very personal way. Can you reveal any more details about this mysterious prison where he’s incarcerated?

Saladin Ahmed: Without giving too much away: The place known only as The Prison is not what it seems. It shifts and changes, seemingly at random. It holds powerful criminals stripped of their powers. Black Bolt learned of this place in old Inhuman records known only to the king and queen. It should be a secret of his people, yet there are others here. The secrets of The Prison will be revealed over the next few issues, so all I can say is: keep reading!

Black Bolt #3 cover by Christian Ward Issue #3 promises something that readers were no doubt hoping to see: a prison break! How does Black Bolt approach the breakout?

Saladin Ahmed: As it happens, Black Bolt is reminded rather quickly that this ain’t New Attilan and that he is not a king. As “new meat” he finds himself swept up in the jailbreak, rather than masterminding it, and as a ruler he does not like that. But he needs his fellow inmates and, for reasons that will be revealed, they need him as well. And working together is their only hope. Is there anyone in this prison that he can trust to help him break out? Which inmates will play a part?

Saladin Ahmed: As I say, he will need help. As a book, BLACK BOLT is absolutely centered on its titular hero. But there is a small cast of characters that coheres around Black Bolt as a sort of ensemble. We’ve already encountered Crusher Creel, The Absorbing Man, who I really think of as the co-star of this storyline. There’s also the alien child Blinky, the aged ex-conqueror The Metal Master, and the Skrull pirate woman Raava. Each of them will have a role to play not only in the breakout, but in the book overall. Christian Ward’s artwork really captures the mood of this otherworldly prison. What’s it been like working with him?

Saladin Ahmed: It’s been a dream. Christian is not only one of the most talented artists working in comics today, he’s a joy to work with. He puts real toil and thought into every panel and every layout. My writing on this book juggles a lot of moods and aesthetics—from Kafka to “Saw,” from Kirby dots to Victorian prison houses. It’s a pretty hard range to capture visually, but Christian has not only conveyed the story I’m trying to tell, he’s improved on it. Also, the guy does his own colors!

Make a break for it on July 5 with BLACK BOLT #3 by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward!

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Black Bolt and Absorbing Man join a list of bizarre BFFs!

Black Bolt teams up with Crusher Creel, of all people, in the second issue of his new ongoing title, as Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward bring this mismatched duo together on June 7. To help prepare your mind for such a collaboration, take a look at some of Marvel’s other strange bedfellows from the past…

Aunt May and Franklin Richards

January of 1984 proved an odd month for Marvel, as editors handed the reins over to their assistants and let them go hog wild. MARVEL TEAM-UP, which regularly featured Spider-Man cavorting with various characters, ditched the Webslinger for his Aunt May, who became a herald of Galactus while paired with Franklin Richards. “Golden Oldie” figures out the World Devourer’s hunger couldn’t resist a good Twinkie before her nephew wakes up to reveal “it was all a dream.”

Marvel Two-in-One (1974) #86

Marvel Two-in-One (1974) #86

  • Published: April 10, 1982
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: April 28, 2008
  • Writer: Tom DeFalco
  • Penciler: Ron Wilson
What is Marvel Unlimited?
The Thing and Sandman

Kind of like MARVEL TEAM-UP, MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE showcased The Thing and random Marvel characters coming together to fight villains—or, in the case of issue #86, to have a beer with a villain. When Ben Grimm gets a call about Sandman drinking at a local bar, Yancy Street’s favorite son pops by to learn Flint Marko’s origin and life story. Ben cuts Sandy a break, sending the former Frightful Four member onto the straight and narrow, where he eventually becomes an Avenger.

Cable & Deadpool (2004) #1

Cable & Deadpool (2004) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?
Cable and Deadpool

You wouldn’t think a hardnosed soldier from the future would have time for Deadpool’s zany antics, but this odd couple turned into a pretty solid team over the course of their 50 issues together. Their relationship started when their DNA mixed together, linking the two whenever they tried to teleport, and ended when Cable apparently died near the end of the run. The two found each other again more recently in the pages of UNCANNY AVENGERS.

Spider-Man and Frog-Man

After his father, Leap-Frog, gave up his life of crime, Eugene Patilio took his dad’s costume and became the Fabulous Frog-Man! Together he and Spider-Man would go against The White Rabbit in MARVEL TEAM-UP #131, and eventually he went on to join Spider-Kid and The Toad as part of the Misfits.

Drax (2015) #10

Drax (2015) #10

What is Marvel Unlimited?
Fin Fang Foom and Terrax

While Fin Fang Foom and Terrax joining together on an interstellar murder spree sounds up both character’s alleys, DRAX #10 presented a different sort of team-up for the two villains. Both decided to give up their evil ways and become, of all things, farmers. Their short-lived peace comes to an end when they have to help Drax save a baby dragon. Too bad—who wouldn’t have loved a Fin Fang Foom/Terrax “farm life” comic?

See how the former king of the Inhumans does with the Absorbing Man in BLACK BOLT #2 on June 7!

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Saladin Ahmed forecasts the fate of the former Inhuman King!

The king is jailed, long live the king!

Blackagar Boltagon, King of the Inhumans, receives his own solo series, BLACK BOLT, beginning May 3, but he won’t spend it sitting on a throne in Attilan. No, the famously reticent ruler finds himself alone and behind bars, forced to ally himself with characters like Crusher Creel to escape and get some answers as to who put him in this situation.

Before the ongoing series drops, we spoke with its writer, the Hugo Award-nominated, Locust Award-winning Saladin Ahmed, author of “Throne of the Crescent Moon,” about bringing Black Bolt to a wider audience in his debut comics gig, Marvel’s influence on his writing career, the upcoming “Marvel’s Inhumans” TV show, and what it was like to take iconic royalty down a peg. So what’s it like taking on your first Marvel project, particularly one focusing on such an iconic character like Black Bolt?

Saladin Ahmed: It’s incredible. Marvel Comics are really where I learned to read [Laughs] and I’ve had a reasonably long and pretty decent career as a writer in the past decade or so, but this is my first comics project and it’s sort of coming back to where I started as a reader and even as a writer. As a kid, before I ever wrote prose stories, I drew little comics and those were directly inspired by Marvel so it really feels like coming full circle, sort of coming home in a way, which is just wonderful. And for Black Bolt to be the character, to be kind of coming into the field with, is really kind of wild. I mean I’m sure we’ll talk some about his specifics, but for me, he’s this iconic hero, but not in the way that, say, a Hulk or a Spider-Man is, right? He’s this iconic, sort of mirrored niche favorite and for that, taking on this cult hero who’s been around for decades and is direct Jack Kirby-Stan Lee’s DNA is amazing and it’s exciting to come to him at a time when he’s sort of starting to come out of the shadows as it were, or starting to come to a broader audience, certainly with the TV show and things like that. You’re pretty much at home when it comes to writing science fiction and fantasy. What tenets of these genres will we be seeing in this series?

Saladin Ahmed: Yeah, I like to think that I was a good fit and I think that part of the reason Marvel was interested in me for BLACK BOLT in particular was that the Inhumans are this sort of alien race on Earth in a way and so, all the way back to the Stan Lee days, writing about them, they had this sort of science fictional and almost fantasy edge to their kind of style, a little more so than the traditional super hero and I think that Black Bolt is—you know, this is Marvel, it’s a super hero world—but Black Bolt is this king or former king of a hidden empire that has these very antiquated institutions, it’s trying to change and that has this history of space faring as well and its roots as an alien experiment. And so, they’re all these sort of themes from science fiction and fantasy about being a stranger in your own land and about power and difference and then also these elements of world building, thinking about what a different culture is like and thinking about Attilan as a fantasy world in a way, that coexists with Earth and this is the kind of history that Black Bolt comes from. So, definitely, there’s some sort of close fit for me in terms of genre, in terms of stuff that I drew on, stuff that people have said nice things about in my prose work, I’ve tried to bring some of those strengths to the comic. In this story, Black Bolt, the king of the Inhumans, finds himself mysteriously imprisoned. Can you talk a little bit about what it was like getting in the head of a character who is essentially stripped of his title and commanding power?

Saladin Ahmed: That’s one of the central themes of the book. I’m a political guy, I’m very interested in power, I’m interested specifically in political power and incarceration and things like that and what they mean in the real world. So, for me, one of the stories I’m interested in telling and talking about these incredibly powerful characters. Black Bolt [is] not only a deposed king, but he is one of the more powerful characters, certainly on Earth and maybe in the Marvel Universe period. And what does it mean to have grown up and lived your whole life with this incredible power? And with Black Bolt, there’s this added complication of him having to keep it in constant check. And then what does it mean to be stripped of that? I’ve said elsewhere, it’s not a book that humiliates Black Bolt, but I think he does get humbled by what happens and starts to look at his place in the world and starts to maybe have some doubts that are healthy for him to have [Laughs]. He’s a kind of arrogant imperious, silent figure and so getting into his head and starting to pick apart some questions he’s asking himself, especially when he gets put into this humbled position, has been really fun. Your novel “Throne of the Crescent Moon” is about someone—Doctor Adoulla Makhslood—who, despite wanting a quiet life away from adventure, is thrown into an epic struggle against a sinister force along with a ragtag team of magical individuals. That being said, did the story of that doctor character play an influence on your take on Black Bolt who is teaming up with other inmates like the Absorbing Man, Crusher Creel?

Saladin Ahmed: Yeah. I think there’s a continuity between the characters. I think Adoulla has much more of a sense of humor and kind of class-wise, he’s much more of Crusher’s ilk from where he comes from, but I think the story of the reluctant hero, it’s a hard one to resist and I think there’s a universal sort of appeal to a character who’s not sort of striding into battle with their chin up and superman-like, but is sort of doing the job that no one else is gonna get done and so, gosh, he’s gotta do it. And there’s definitely an element of that to Black Bolt’s story in this book. As a prolific writer of poetry, did you incorporate any poetic moments into this comic?

Saladin Ahmed: [Laughs] There’s no outright poetry, but comics are what taught me about beautiful writing. That Stan Lee writing or Jim Starlin’s writing [of Adam Warlock and Dreadstar] and stuff—that kind of cosmic prose, it’s gorgeous and it’s been an influence on me in my novels and my short stories and so coming to comics, definitely, I like to pay attention to the words. I hope that people will find some engaging language, not just story in this book, but one thing I’ve really had to learn as a writer in comics is to just back off because it’s such a visual medium and my inclination as prose writer is to go on and on and when you’re writing comics and you’re working with an artist, especially one as amazing as Christian [Ward], you just start to teach yourself when to shut up [Laughs]. So there’s a poetic edge to the language, but I hope it doesn’t get excessive. Will fans be seeing this character in a new light by the end of the series? If so, what aspects of Black Bolt are you hoping to draw our attention to?

Saladin Ahmed: Well, for now, it’s an ongoing so my intention is to stick with this guy for a while and yeah, follow him through some pretty significant changes. Certainly in this first arc, yeah, he’ll be pretty radically changed in a certain sense by the end of the arc, although maybe half of that is just that we’ll have gotten to know him in a way that we haven’t before. He’s a character who people are sort of always reacting against and beholding, but we’ve never really spent much time in his head and I’m aiming to change that. And so, between getting to know him in the first place and then seeing him transform, not only in response to the events that happen in this book, but readers will see some sort of reflection on what’s happened the past few years. It’s gonna be a new reader friendly, clean start book, but there will be some harkening back to some of the big controversies he’s been involved in in the past couple of years and he’s gonna have to wrangle with some of that, some consequences to some of that personally so he’ll have gone through quite a lot by, say, the end of the first six issues. I think [readers] will see some interesting transformations and then that’ll only continue as the series goes on. How does it feel to be helming this solo series with all the hype around the “Marvel’s Inhumans” TV show coming out this fall?

Saladin Ahmed: It’s wild because I actually didn’t know about the TV show until it was announced. To a certain degree, TV and comics are pretty separate things at Marvel so it’s not gonna have a lot of influence on what I do, but it’s really exciting to kind of be helming this character at a time when people will know who he is, more and more people will know who he is. I’ve talked a little bit with Anson Mount who is gonna be playing Black Bolt in the fall and I think he seems to really get the character so I’m rooting for the show, but it won’t have a lot to do with what I do. You said you spoke with the actor who will be playing him. Was that when you were writing the comic?

Saladin Ahmed: No no no no. Not in any kind of consultation, just a Twitter chatting—good luck, good luck kind of thing. What was your favorite part about writing this series and are there any other Marvel characters you’d like to pursue in the future?

Saladin Ahmed: My favorite part…wow, that’s hard. I think collaboration has been my favorite part. This is my first comics gig and working with a great editor, Will Moss, and just an astonishing artist, Christian Ward. We go back and forth constantly at all hours with little DM’s and stuff like that. It’s been this wonderful, invigorating thing to work with such a talented artist so I’d have to say that’s probably the kind of biggest meta thing. In terms of the story itself, I think, just again, bringing this character who I think deserves a wider audience, maybe a bit more into the spotlight felt like a real honor. And where I wanna go from here, well, again, the book is an ongoing and while Crusher is sort of a featured guest star in this first arc, he certainly won’t be the only one so hopefully, we’ll get to see the characters that I wanna write in the pages of BLACK BOLT, if not beyond. Certainly I have other projects that are possibilities and we’ll just see where those go.

Hear the cry of BLACK BOLT when Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward make their voices heard on May 3!

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