Mikki Kendall and L.L. McKinney on Writing Marvel's Black Widow: Bad Blood

Illustration for article titled Mikki Kendall and L.L. McKinney on Writing Marvel's Black Widow: Bad Blood
Illustration: Serial Box

While the release of Black Widow’s first standalone film has been delayed, fear not. There is still a way for you to get your fix of the Marvel Universe’s premier spy.


Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood is an episodic series that you can read or listen to on Serial Box. The series takes place across 14 chapters and follows Black Widow as she deals with one of her most personal conflicts yet.

From Serial Box:

Someone has stolen the Black Widow’s blood. Now she must find them before it’s too late.

As Natasha Romanoff follows the trail across the globe, she discovers she wasn’t the only target. Whoever is responsible stole Bucky Barnes’ blood, too. And one thing is certain: anyone who wants the blood of the Widow and the Winter Soldier needs to be taken down, and fast.

Despite a tangled web of shared history stretching back to their Red Room days, Barnes and Romanoff must join forces, confronting the demons of their past as they race to protect their future. A single drop of blood could be all it takes to save the world—or destroy it.

The Root recently spoke with two of the women behind the series, Mikki Kendall (Hood Feminism) and L.L. McKinney (A Blade So Black).

The Root: What initially drew you both to the character?

Mikki Kendall: In my case, Alex de Campi had asked me if I’d be interested in doing a project with Serial Box and then I think I said something like “I don’t want to be the black writer that just writes black people and then disappears into the ether so I want something cool.” It wasn’t that I had a problem with writing black people, it’s just that I wanted to make sure that it was more than a token appearance. I wanted it to be a full-fledged story.

L.L. McKinney: It was the same for me., Alex de Campi also reached out to me and asked if I wanted to work on this Black Widow thing and my immediate response was “Hell yeah!” I didn’t know what it was going to be, but when certain people ask you if you want to work with certain characters, you kinda jump on it.

TR: What was the collaborative process like, working together to craft the story?


*McKinney laughs*

MK: I’m 99 percent certain the giggle you heard from Elle was because I physically act out things while I’m explaining stuff I want to include in the story. So I’m pretty sure she’s still giggling about an entire almost flip that was not a flip and the time I walked into the door.


LLM: It’s very funny because there are so many people involved in the story and there was one point—this is where Mikki threatened to physically fight me but it was good-natured—where we got to a point where I was like, “I don’t buy it,” or “I don’t get this particular thing that’s happening right here,” but I’m just one person. They spent one or two hours walking me through it and then I was like, “Okay! Alright, now I understand.” Having that many minds in a room made us able to undo a knot.

TR: What were some of the ideas and themes you wanted to explore with the character of Black Widow?


LLM: I wanted to write fight scenes. I love writing fight scenes and Black Widow kicks all the ass. And then finding out we were gonna have Bucky along I was like “Yo, let me do the thing please.”

MK: For me, I wanted to do a fight scene, but I also wanted her to be more than a foil to other people’s stuff. I really wanted Natasha to explore her own internal life a little bit. That was a big thing for me. I wasn’t expecting this to be a big psychological thing but I just wanted to see past the flips, the person behind the flips a little bit.


TR: What do you guys like about the Serial Box format?

MK: Elle and I both were having this super busy year where I don’t think either of us had the space to do a whole solo project. What I really liked about Serial Box’s format and the writing room is that you get to do the thing you want to do and not that it’s low stakes in terms of quality but it’s low stakes in terms of word count. You’ve made this plan, you’ve talked to these people, you’ve worked your stuff out and you get to write for a character you really want to write for and it doesn’t eat your year.


LLM: It was very rewarding because as we said, you still put your best stuff forward but there’s something freeing about short form. I’ve done short stories and anthologies and what not and it’s like writing short form but you’re using long-form tools to do it. Because it is part of a bigger piece but I don’t have to worry about having to form the complete arc from beginning to end. I have the episode arc but it limits itself to being able to do a short story without having to work it like a short story. It’s working a completely different muscle, creatively. So that’s what I liked. Also, I didn’t have time.

TR: Are there any other Marvel characters you’d want to tackle going forward?

LLM: I really want to do Blade right now.

MK: Okay listen, L., we’re gonna fight right now. That’s one of my favorite characters. Can’t be doing that.


LLM: I mean Blade, Storm?

MK: We’re gonna fight, for sure.

LLM: Bishop would be good.

MK: Bishop, Domino. There’s a lot.

LLM: I would love to write Spider-Byte, she’s the black Spider-Woman. There isn’t much about her out there and I would love to explore that.


MK: Okay, I’ll give you that. I would like to write Spider-Ham. I don’t really have a good reason for it except the pig cracks me up.

New episodes of Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood drop every Tuesday on Serial Box. We definitely would recommend checking it out. The story starts with a bang, is filled with intrigue and the short-form format makes it easy to finish episodes in one sitting.

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.