Interview: Writer Al Ewing On the Origins of Hitwoman 'Jennifer Blood'

This month, Al Ewing plans to go back to the past of the Garth Ennis creation Jennifer Blood, delving into the fateful past of the mom and sometime murderous vigilante. Ewing, a novelist who's also doing work for 2000 A.D. answered a few questions for MTV Geek recently about bringing Jennifer's past to life, as well as the future of the hitgirl squad the Ninjettes.

MTV Geek: Why pull the trigger now on Jennifer’s backstory?

Al Ewing: Well, I was asked if I wanted to do an annual, and the first thing that came to mind was The Death Of Sam Blute. (Well, not quite the first thing, but the best thing. We’ll streamline the story a little.) It’s a massive piece of the story, and we’ve only seen it from the one angle, which is Jen’s memories of being told about it years after the fact. I felt like I wanted a more direct look at it, so this annual is going right back to 1987 and watching it happen, and the day that led up to it.

Geek: Of course, without spoiling the contents of the issue, what were some of the ideas you wanted to get across about what makes Jennifer tick?

Ewing: It’s nothing Garth didn’t bring up during his run. Jen did not come out of a vacuum. She’s got the Blute genes, and her Dad was the worst Blute of all. Yes, Jen mostly goes after bad people, but it’s almost a matter of circumstance – she’s doing it for revenge, and later to clean up after that revenge. She’s not a heroine, and what she does isn’t anything morally defensible.

Not that she admits that to herself. She’ll justify anything to make believe she’s in the right, and in this annual we find out that her Dad might have had the same way of thinking occasionally. Maybe Sam and Jen had a lot more in common than either of them would have thought. Which, considering some of the things Sam thought about, is scary.

Geek: To what extent is her past mapped out? Do you have kind of a “map” for what all she went through to reach where she is now as a character?

Ewing: Not really—my rule is that everything that happened or was mentioned in Garth’s series is gospel, but some of the narrators are a little more unreliable than others. (Kelly, for example, was giving a condensed and slightly distorted version of her story in Jen #4, mostly because if we took everything she said at face value there’s no origin story.) If I need to fill a blank spot in her past in, I’ll fill it in, but for the most part I’m not writing any Bibles. (If we ever do another annual, I’ve got a story set in 1980 and another one maybe in the seventies – following the Blutes back through time, but we’ll see what happens.)

Geek: Were there any particular surprises for you about the directions in which the character’s past went?

Ewing: Yes. No spoilers, but I realized a few things about Jen that influenced where I take her in the third arc. This is all based on something that struck me very early on, when I read Garth’s first issue – before I was even offered the book – and it came to inform a lot of my thinking when it came to Jen.

At least one of the Blutes surprised me as well. I’ll let you guess which one, and how.

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Geek: In the main story, the solicitation points to Jennifer being willing to cross any line to protect her family. Was there any kind of deliberate parity between what’s happening in the annual and what’s going on in issue #15?

Ewing: There’s a bit of magical realism in the Annual that might find its way into the main book eventually – there’s a lot of psychosis creeping in, and sometimes that takes the form of the terrifying, inhuman and Palmer Eldritch-esque face of God. Not too much, though – just to taste. It’s still a crime book, despite how crazy it gets occasionally.

There’s a little bit of parity, relating to what I said about Jen not being a very nice person… but we are getting into spoiler territory here.

Geek: Could you tell us a little about the divide between who Jen Fellowes is and who Jennifer Blood is?

Ewing: Jennifer Blood is a mask worn by Jen Fellows so nobody suspects she’s killing people. On the other hand, Jen Fellows is a mask worn by Jennifer Blood so nobody suspects she’s killing people. It’s complicated. The important thing to focus on is that she’s killing people and she doesn’t seem to be stopping.

Geek: How’s Ninjettes coming along? The fourth issue promises a lot of answers to questions from the series.

Ewing: Yep. Everything from what really happened in Kennebunkport to the origin of Russ The Barman’s strange fixations—even where ‘Ninjettes’ came from. I was going to save all the background until after the first arc—have a "special origin issue," but it suddenly came up in the story and there was no way around it, it had to be told right then. Not to spoil, but the old and new Ninjettes might be more closely intertwined than either of them thinks.

Geek: How’s it been juggling the tones of the two books?

Ewing: With Jennifer Blood, I feel like the selling point is Jen and her life—so, if there’s a day where no violence happens, that’s fine, because there’s still tension and suspense building up. With Ninjettes, every single issue absolutely has to have a Big Crazy Action Sequence in it. Ninjettes is the summer blockbuster comic, all exploding cars and backflips and gun-fu. When I’m writing Jen, I’m thinking Breaking Bad—when I’m on Ninjettes, it’s Hobo With A Shotgun.

Geek: What’s next for the Ninjettes, do you think?

Ewing: Well, for Kelly and company, an ignominious death way back in Jennifer Blood #4. As for Varla’s crew… we’ll see. They’ll likely pop up just where you least expect them.

Geek: What else are you working on now?

Ewing: In addition to my Dynamite work, I’m working on Judge Dredd—and there’s a lot going on with Dredd at the minute. American readers who are either following the imported paper 2000AD or the DRM-free digital version will know what I’m talking about—we’re in the middle of the biggest, boldest Dredd epic maybe since the comic began, written by the great John Wagner, and – no spoilers – it is on like Donkey Kong week after week. I’m working on things to come after that, which obviously I can’t talk about in any significant detail. But it’s big stuff. It’s a fun time.

Also, my new novel Pax Omega comes out now or soon, depending on where you live. It’s a million years long and there are dinosaurs and steam-powered robots and Nazi hawkmen in it. Buy it!

The Jennifer Blood Annual will be available this month.

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