In the wake of the transition of the Bat-mantle to Dick Grayson, a lot of changes have been made to the Bat-Family corner of the DC Universe. One of the biggest surprises during this turbulent transition was the reveal of Stephanie Brown – formerly Spoiler, Robin's girlfriend who had until recently been thought deceased – as the newest Batgirl. With writer Bryan Q. Miller's first story arc wrapping this week, CBR News took some time to speak with him about Steph's first go at becoming a Gotham icon.
How did you get involved in writing Batgirl?
Technically, it all goes back to Geoff Johns suggesting that I go to New York for Comic Con to meet Ian Sattler and Dan DiDio. Then some "Teen Titans" came my way. My "Teen Titans" #72 script was apparently fairly well-received around the DC offices. Once my arc wrapped, I got a call from the always wonderful Michael Siglain from the Bat group, who let me know they were vetting "takes" on Stephanie's adventure under the cowl. He generally laid out the players they wanted involved, and asked if I was interested in throwing together a pitch. They liked it. Some small elements changed, but most stayed intact. And here we are!
When the title was announced, there was a huge amount of speculation as to who was going to be taking up the female Bat-mantle. Was it difficult to keep the secret under your hat that Stephanie Brown would be getting her own series?
Absolutely. Especially once some interview requests came in, and my only choice was to unleash a host of vagaries about the book to the Internet. Keeping the "Who is Batgirl?" campaign alive was paramount. Now, I can rave about who Batgirl is to people at the bus stop, which has done wonders for my social life.
Have you had any interesting fan reactions to the reveal?
People were already divided into camps before the reveal – some people love Steph. Some love Cassandra. All I can hope to do is help Cassandra fans to get to know and love Stephanie Brown. From a dramatic standpoint, there aren't many places left to go with Cassandra. Steph's a work in progress.
One of the things that has impressed readers the most about the series thus far is the obvious parallel between the Batman-Robin mentor/student relationship and the relationship between Barbara Gordon and Stephanie. Is this something that will be a cornerstone for the series, and how do you intend to expand on it?
It is absolutely the cornerstone of the series, and you'll read a version of a mission statement at the very end of the first arc. What you'll find moving forward is that Steph learns as much from Babs as Babs does from Steph. The relationship both women begin to form with Wendy will become very important to the book moving forward in the spring. You'll also see some shades of mentor/student between Jim Gordon and Detective Nick, too.
Stephanie Brown has had one of the most controversial character histories in the DCU. Now that she's the new Batgirl, what kinds of challenges do you face taking on the character?
Stephanie's checkered past within the DCU plays a big part in her headspace during these first three issues, and is pivotal to the outcome of Point of New Origin. The biggest challenge is finding a balance between who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be. You certainly don't want to ignore any of her history, but you don't have to dwell on all of it all the time, either. She's messed up – a lot – and she gets that. "You are who you choose to be" is the big mantra for Steph coming out of the next issue. We'll certainly revisit pockets of her past (specifically Black Mask and her relationship with Tim), but this book is more about her adventure moving forward. She's finally going to start growing up.
Stephanie Brown is the fifth in-continuity Batgirl, but not the only female Batperson currently based in Gotham. Are there any plans to bring over Batwoman or any of the previous Batgirls other than Barbara Gordon to help Steph in her journey to become the newest Batgirl?
Babs and Steph are the core of this title, no doubt about it. While we'll have another passing reference/flashback Cassandra soon, I'm leaving the rest of Cassandra's story to whichever lucky duck gets to write her elsewhere in 2010. As for Batwoman, I'm leaving Kate in Rucka's capable hands for the time being.
Regarding helping Steph on her journey to becoming not just a better Batgirl, but a better hero in general, she's going to make lots of new "team-up" friends starting next spring. If this year is about her trying to find her place in Gotham, then next year is all about Batgirl's orientation within the larger DCU.
Although Barbara has come into her own as Oracle, it's obvious that she misses the mantle of Batgirl - and to a point, it seems like this book is just as much about Barbara as it is about Stephanie. Do you plan to explore more of Barbara, or is this a solely Stephanie outing?
Much like Stephanie is trying to balance her double-life, Babs is going to make an attempt to rejoin the world at large. Her journey is going to be seen through her interactions not only with Steph, but with Wendy, as well.
In the past, most of Batgirl's rogues gallery ran parallel to Batman's, mostly because she traditionally works side by side with the Caped Crusader. First, do you have plans to build up a new and unique rogue's gallery for Stephanie, and second, will we be seeing her work as closely with Batman as previous Batgirls?
Steph's going to have a pretty heavy cross-over with Batman (and Robin) in the "Core Requirements" arc, but beyond that, we're doing our best to let Babs and Steph run their little operation on their own. Steph definitely has some rogues on the way, some small, some big. Her biggest "rogue" this year is her past, and the way the hero community views her. Once she overcomes that, it's "game-on" with the rogue building.
What is most exciting for you taking on these characters and crafting this new chapter in the Batgirl mythos?
Blue sky. Don't get me wrong – I love Gotham. I love the dark. The grime. The gravity of it all. But given the number of Gotham books, what's missing is the "fresh air" component. That's why we've built in the double-life for Stephanie. It lets Stephanie be a more grounded person at the end of the day – she's been through so much, it's just as important for her to redefine who Stephanie Brown is as it is for her to become a better Batgirl. When she's lost herself to her causes and devotions (slash-obsessions), things have gone… poorly for her.
Along those lines, what's most exciting is taking a character who understandably gets very little respect (and varying amounts of love) from both readers and the Bat-universe, and building her up into (hopefully) a hero who'll be seen and remembered as just that. A hero. Now, it won't be quick. There will still be a healthy amount of well-intentioned screw-ups from our girl along the way. But she'll get there. "Rome wasn't built in a day."
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Regarding Cassandra's exit, yes, I know Cassandra said she fights for the symbol on Bruce's chest. While valid, she's had a hell of a life, and had a highly abusive father. Bruce "saved" her. He gave her a purpose. Bruce even went so far as to offer to adopt Cassandra. She had finally found her place in the world. She had finally found a father she could rely on. And then Bruce died. Everyone deals with grief in his or her own way. Bruce's death was enough to shake Cassandra's Bat-related convictions a little, so she may have left to clear her head, to find focus again.
Cassandra's exit itself was brief and a little nebulous on purpose for two reasons. One – there were plans in the works for Cassandra that did not involve this book that no one wanted to spoil. Two – This isn't Cassandra's book. I love Cassandra. She's a tragic hero to the highest degree. But this book is about Babs and Steph. Giving her such a short scene might make Cassandra fans mad, but it leaves a lot left to be explored when she graces the pages of the DCU once again.
Regarding Babs' "grump" factor, she's had a tough go of it, too. The Birds fell apart on her watch, and she went through a hell of a journey in "The Cure," with hacker-friends she was trying to protect popping like grapes at Calculator's whim. She had a few shades of angry going through that mini, which is where we pick up with her here. From a writing standpoint, playing that up is immensely helpful in playing Stephanie off of her, and giving each of them something to take away form their relationship. Will she stay grumpy? No. The Babs everyone saw in Blackest Night is our Babs, post this first arc.