Feb 23, 2022
It's an hour of silence as we examine the Inhuman king
BLACK BOLT! Just kidding, you know neither of us can shut up for
that long… listen now!
- Get in those questions for 150th AMA
- Go back & listen to episode 68 on Medusa for better
understanding of the dynamic
- Background (1:44)
- Black Bolt (Blackagar Boltagon) created by Stan Lee and Jack
Kirby in Fantastic Four #45 (Dec. 1965)
- Black Bolt is the Inhuman king - exposed to Terrigen Mists as
an embryo, his voice has the ability to create massive, destructive
waves of energy - he was placed in a soundproof chamber and taught
to control his voice, even while sleeping
- Reenters Inhuman society at nineteen, and his brother Maximus
makes a deal with the Kree to take over - Black Bolt shouts at the
Kree ship, which crashes on the Inhuman parliament, killing his
parents - the sound also drives Maximus mad, and he swears revenge
on Black Bolt
- He ends up engaged to his distant cousin Medusa, who would
visit him in confinement, and they fell in love
- He and Medusa oversee the assimilation of Inhumans into the
larger world, and engage with many heroes and villains in the
- Had a child with Medusa, in defiance of the Genetic Council,
who believed his bloodline was too dangerous to continue - he gave
up his crown to be with his son
- Regained the crown and helped the Inhumans resettle on the Blue
Area of the Moon
- Was a member of the Illuminati, a secret group of highly
intelligent & powerful individuals that attempted to manipulate
events from behind the scenes - came to the forefront in World War
Hulk when they exiled Hulk from the planet, and he came back
seeking revenge (later revealed that this was actually a Skrull
imposter, and the real Black Bolt had been kidnapped some time
- Played a major role in Infinity, as he was the one who
discovered Thanos’ plan to kill his son Thane
- Inhumans vs. X-Men - Black Bolt’s use of his sonic scream on
Cyclops is what kicked off the major war (it was actually a mental
projection of Cyclops created by Emma Frost, as Scott had died due
to exposure to the Terrigen Mists)
- Death of the Inhumans - has his throat slit by Vox, but still
able to use his scream to escape imprisonment and joined the Royal
Family in attacking the Kree - this permanently damaged his voice,
- Issues - Theme is communication (6:00)
- Black Bolt. Blackagar Boltagon. From the first time I read the
classic Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four run, he has always fascinated me.
The basic building block of social interaction among humans -- and
insofar as we know -- Inhumans, is speech. From a philosophical
standpoint, there is no organized society without verbal
communication. It's everything. It is the singular most important
element that serves to bring people together to work as one for a
common purpose. So you take a person who -- it's not like he's
unable to speak through deafness from birth restricting his ability
to absorb what speech should sound like, or throat cancer or an
injury to the larynx or something similar preventing his vocal
cords from functioning properly. He is fully capable of exercising
that most basic tenement of social interaction, but if he utters
even the slightest whisper, even by accident, if he coughs or
sneezes, he can destroy everything and everyone around him. There's
no established canon limit on what the power of his voice can
actually accomplish, but everyone pretty much understands even the
slightest sound from him is potentially catastrophic. As if going
through life from birth having to engage in so much rigorous
physical and psychological training to never utter a sound -- not
even accidentally in your sleep -- wouldn't create enough issues
for you, let's add onto that: you're the king of an entire race of
people, entrusted with all of the responsibilities of governing and
the expectations of leadership that entails. Oh, and you
accidentally killed the primary support system you had in your
parents when you found your brother forging a pact with the aliens
who were directly responsible for your powers and understandably
lashed out. Ho -- lee -- crap. How the man didn't become a
gibbering wreck with a death wish as soon as he was old enough to
fully grasp all this is the stuff of miracles. I think the fact
that Black Bolt even functions at all, much less as well as he does
given the circumstances, is a testament to just how well the guy's
got it all together.
- Let's just try to run down what I'm sure is not a complete list
of this man's issues:
- 1) Severe isolation. Your terrigenesis turned you into a
potential weapon of mass destruction on a civilization-ending
scale. You spent most of your life from that point on having to be
in complete isolation from others and undergoing rigorous physical
and psychological training to never utter the slightest of sounds
with your voice, even by accident. Just communicating yourself,
your feelings, your wants, and your needs to other people is a
grueling exercise at best. You have to constantly make yourself
understood to others in a way that they typically don't. Think of
all the things this implies.
- 2) Crippling guilt at the very real consequences your powers
have brought. You don't have to imagine what will happen if you
slip up. You know full well. You killed your parents with your
voice. You didn't mean to, it was an accident, but it happened. You
have a family, you have a wife, you have people that you care about
who absolutely will be reduced to a fine pink mist by a weapon that
is of your person, your very essence of being, that you have almost
no control over. That is a gorgon that will haunt your soul
- 3) Overwhelming responsibility. You are not just trying to
function as a part of a society you can't realistically fit into.
You are its king. Every one of your people looks to you for
leadership, and you have to run your society and make your wishes
known without being able to easily communicate them. When you have
to have a conversation with other people where you don't know what
you're going to have to communicate in advance, you are fully
reliant on others that you have to place your trust in to
communicate for you. With all of the lack of nuance that implies.
You don't just not have a physical voice, you don't have a
metaphorical one either. It's Medusa, or Professor X, or someone
else you have a psychic connection with acting on your behalf.
That's terrifying on a deep personal level. (26:29)
- Like I said, the fact that this man functions at all is a great
credit to his incredible mental fortitude.
- Break (35:25)
- Treatment (37:27)
- In-universe - Bring him to pocket universe that neutralizes
Black Bolt’s voice to allow him to speak in his own words
- Out of universe - What does a therapist do with a patient that
is mute by choice?
- The real-world parallels, we talked about before. Deaf, hard of
hearing, and mute people. Stroke victims. People with throat cancer
or something else that necessitates an electronic voicebox. Hell,
I'll even go so far as people residing in a country where they
don't speak the prevailing language, and are reliant upon
interpreters to perform basic interactions with others. It can be a
constant, nonstop, terrifying journey through life when you just
can't communicate with others on your own. And like I said, I plead
ignorance, but I assume noncommunicative people need psychological
counseling. I just have no idea how that's done, when verbal
communication is such a vital part of the process. (43:41)
- Skit (feat. Anna from Freudian Sips) (50:14)
- DOC: Hello Black Bolt, I’m Dr. Issues. And hello again Medusa,
thanks for joining us to interpret. Normally I don’t do this, but
given the… unique communication barriers here, it’s helpful to have
- MEDUSA: Of course, Doctor, good to see you again as well. Black
Bolt and I appreciate you taking the time to speak to us.
- D: Please understand, no offense, but this is not meant to be a
couples’ session. As an interpreter, your role is to make sure that
Black Bolt’s statements are provided as clear as possible.
Therefore, I will be speaking and looking at him directly while you
assist us. If there is anything that needs clarification, please
let me know.
- M: *slightly irritated, but polite* Yes, of course, Doctor.
*pause* Black Bolt says thank you.
- D: Great. Now, what can I help you with today?
- M: Black Bolt says he wants to make strides with the world at
large…without disrupting his personal life.
- D: That sounds reasonable, albeit a bit vague. I’m aware that
you have a large role in your kingdom. Is there a particular aspect
of your job that you’re struggling with?
- M: Black Bolt says that he detests the notion that society
can’t fix it’s own ills. *pause* My apologies, he says that he
wants… others to have more participation and involvement… so he
doesn’t have to carry most of the burden… himself.
- D: That makes sense. I emphasize appropriate delegation all of
the time. Is there something that prevents you from having the kind
of balance you envision?
- M: He says there are… too many functions to go through on a
daily basis… that are set to the royal family by default. Tradition
weighs us all down. *aside* Especially his wife.
- D: Well, based on what I know, although there is still a right
to confidentiality for the details, I can say that dovetails well
with your personal relationships.
- M: Black Bolt says that he…is thankful…someone finally
understands…wait, I’m sorry, I need to start over. Black Bolt says
he is thankful I finally understand him better now.
- D: Huh?
- M: Black Bolt wants to focus on… the loss of his free time. He
is draining himself to serve… the people and serve his family.
- D: Oh…that took a bit of a turn. I’m sorry that things have
been such a struggle. What are your coping mechanisms for
- M: Black Bolt says he enjoys time for…literature, and…taking
walks with me.
- D: Aww, that’s so kind…but he’s shooting you a glare right now.
- M: He says that is not quite what he meant.
He…likes…walking…alone…thinking about me. I apologize, he’s going
so fast now, it’s hard to keep up.
- D: You seem very angry. Do we need to take a break?
- M: I’m just fine, doctor.
- D: I meant Black Bolt. Like I said, please just tell me what he
- M: Black Bolt says that…THINGS…aren’t the way they are supposed
to be right now. This is…slightly frustrating…If I weren’t his
queen I would be…somewhere less pleasant at the moment.
- D: Are you…are you censoring him? I would strongly advise you
not to do that for the sake of any hope of progress.
- M: We apologize…as in, the royal we, because I have done
nothing wrong…Black Bolt wishes to have an
- D: An independent what?
- M: An independent…point of view on how his emotions can be
controlled OH MY!
- D: Well, I recognize what THAT finger means. It’s obvious
there’s a breakdown here. Perhaps we all could use a time out.
- M: No, let’s continue speaking. *clearly directed at Black
Bolt* After all, it’s good to get things off one’s chest, right
- BLACK BOLT: *snort* *gust of wind, small amounts of
- D: No words necessary. And I DO mean that literally. Let’s try
this one more time
- M: Black Bolt says-
- D: *interrupting* Nope. No way. I see where this is going. I
was a fool to think this wasn’t a couples’ session. No interpreter.
Black Bolt…sir. I have no problem with you as a patient. But I also
realize that I have put you in the most awkward situation
imaginable. I’m sorry. We have to find another way to do this. I
know you can write. Maybe secure email and text instead? Less
hassle this way.
- M: Black Bolt says he…wants to keep trying…wait…keep trying
how? I don’t know how that works.
- D: What is it?
- M: So, this is me talking…he wants to make sure that you know I
mean well, but tell you how I felt after my last session with you.
But, I don’t want to make it about me. That’s not the point.
- D: So he’s asking you something. That’s fine. Ultimately, it’s
up to you.
- M: Black Bolt says this interaction is a microcosm of how he
feels every day. Bottled up, locking away a part of him that no one
ever gets to know because it’s too dangerous. He…has to be a
statesman as well as a man of action, without a proper outlet.
- D: What?
- M: He wonders if that’s what childhood was supposed to be.
- D: I don’t have an answer for that. Your experience is so
beyond what I could imagine. To have someone be your voice from day
one, always refied, monitored, scrutinized, manipulated, and yet
bearing witness to the multitude of variance that humans and
Inhumans have likely described, knowing full well that would never
be your lot in anything that goes on. That’s strength…but also the
potential for agony. You’re quite the being, Black Bolt. The
definition of life’s beautiful struggle, and I thank you for what
- M: Black Bolt says…wait…he…Doctor I can’t…I won’t interpret
what he is saying.
- D: Um…did I do something to offend him?
- M: No, please understand, what is about to happen is in a
perverse way the highest honor he can bestow upon you, and we have
means to make amends.
- D: I have no clue what you’re talking about.
- M: I’ll let him explain for himself.
- D: For hims… WAIT WHAT?
- BB: *whisper* thank you *explosion sound effect*
- D: I truly appreciate the definition of peace and quiet, now
more than ever.
- Ending (57:15)
- Recommended reading: Original Inhumans introduction in
Fantastic Four - the Lee/Kirby stories are the best; also the Paul
Jenkins/Jae Lee Inhumans run
- Next episodes: Echo, 150th Episode Special, 4 from Umbrella
- Plugs for social