Fuelled by the Eisner Awards that J. H. Williams III won for Best Artist and Best Cover Artist for his run on “Detective Comics” with writer Greg Rucka earlier this year, DC Comics is launching a “Batwoman” ongoing series in 2011.
Hailed by DC Comics as the publisher’s first major gay superhero, the current Batwoman made her debut in the pages of “52” #7 in 2006.
Williams will serve as artist on the first arc of “Batwoman,” and he’s also co-writing the adventures of Kate Kane along with W. Haden Blackman, known most notably as the executive producer and writer of the hit LucasArts video game, “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.” Providing variant cover art for the initial arc is "Madame Xanadu's" Amy Reeder, who will also tackle interiors for the title's second arc.
Fans desperate to see what’s next for Kate need not wait for the new year as DC Comics releases “Batwoman” #0 this week. The special sneak preview not only serves as a primer for the series, but also sets stories in motion that will be explored over the next two years.
CBR News spoke with Williams, Blackman and Reeder about “Batwoman” and the creative team shared details about their passion for the character, the look of the red-headed hero and what’s to come for her cousin, Bette Kane, who was recently featured in an arc of “Action Comics” co-written by Rucka, as the superheroine Flamebird.
CBR News: J3, can you please kick things off by sharing your thoughts on the response you received to your run on “Detective Comics” with Greg Rucka? Why you think readers have responded so positively to Kate Kane?
JH Williams III: I think a lot had to do with the fact that, in a lot of ways, before the issues even started to debut, there was an interesting underdog aspect to the character. There were certainly a lot of fans that were interested but there were other fans that were kind of like, “Who cares?” I don’t think people were quite prepared for the level of thought that was put into the character and once they saw that execution in print that quickly changed. Whenever you have a character that has a bit of an underdog aspect, the fans that do like the character can be pretty vocal. I think that created a really strong buzz for the stuff as soon as people started to see preview pages and what was happening. That and I think we gave them something they didn’t expect, and I think that has to do a lot with why it did so well. It also certainly helped that DC put those initial issues in “Detective Comics” because that itself created some interesting controversy and raised people’s attention level to the material. That combined with the quality of what we were doing definitely sold a lot of people on it.
Haden, how did you hook up with J3 for the ongoing series? And what drew you to Kate Kane?
W. Haden Blackman: I met Jim about ten years ago at Comic-Con International: San Diego through a mutual friend, Alex Sinclair, who is a colorist. We continued to talk and exchange emails over the next couple of years and eventually it evolved into us brainstorming some pitches together. So we have some original properties that we’ve put together and pitched around a little bit. Because Jim was exclusive to DC, we put together some pitches for DC too. So when “Batwoman” became available, DC knew that they wanted Jim to be on it as an artist and people there had the idea of us writing it together based on the strength of some of the pitches that we’d already done. They agreed to it so we put together a two-year outline, kind of how we saw each arc flowing and then it went from there. It actually went really fast, in terms of “Batwoman” specifically, but it was built on a year of talking to DC about some other stuff.
In terms of the character, the most interesting thing about her is that she is the perfect kind of marriage of a very complicated personal story with the super-heroic thing and the vigilante action layered on top. So she’s interesting to me not just as a superhero but also as a kind of person; what motivates her, what drives her and the drama she has to deal with in her personal life. I love the fact that we get tackle somebody who is having difficulties on multiple fronts in terms of some of her various personal relationships: her relationship with her father, she has a cousin who is also a superhero - that’s Flamebird - she’s obviously gone through some personal relationship issues with romance, and we get to tackle that too. So that’s what’s most interesting, being able to tell a story that you could really deal with both sides or both aspects of her.
I think the other thing that’s cool about the character is where she runs in terms of Gotham. I love Gotham and to be able to take a character and tell a story that is kind of a hybrid or fusion of horror, mystery and again, big vigilante action, that was really exciting.
J3, can you please talk about the look of Kate Kane and what you feel separates from other superheroines?
Williams III: The look of the book was heavily designed, but it was all very organic in terms of how I thought about the design. My main goal was basically to create a visual look and character design and storytelling design that stood out from what might be sitting next to it on the shelf. That was the ultimate goal for it, and we’ll keep pursuing that avenue with the new material but hopefully in ways that differ slightly than what has already been seen because there is no sense in repeating ourselves. It’s a matter of creating what is visually right for the story that is being told while remaining true to what was already established. So yeah, it’s moving in interesting directions.
Amy, what do you love about Kate’s look and what will you be doing with Batwoman to make her your own?
Amy Reeder: What I really love about it is just how much I could visualize it. It really works, in a lot of ways, like a film. It felt like I could visualize who she really was. I’m definitely drawn to that, and it was kind of neat to see Jim draw her in multiple styles because it helps me to understand, while she has a certain look throughout all of those issues, who she is exactly and to develop that in my own style.
As far as what I want to do when I tackle Batwoman, my biggest goal really is to keep it true to the same mood while keeping with my style. I’m still figuring that out because I want it to be very much appropriate to the story yet still mine. I’m still kind of tinkering away at that because I really want it to be something where I have something to offer.
I know I want it to be dark. And I want it to be real. That’s the biggest thing that matters to me is that she’s real, that she feels like she’s an actual character that the reader can identify with.
You’re doing interior pages for “Batwoman” #0 but are solicited as the variant cover artist for #1. Will you be doing interior pages for the ongoing series?
Reeder: Yeah, I’m going to be doing the second arc. So, the idea is that we are trading off art duties and variant covers so when Jim is doing interiors, I’ll be doing covers and I believe, vice versa. So that will be good practice, as well. Right now, I’m working on the cover for #1 and that’s been a lot of fun. I’m pretty excited.
Can you share any details about what we’ll see in “Batwoman” #0?
Blackman: “Batwoman” #0 is really meant to serve as a primer for “Batwoman” and a prologue in some ways, but we didn’t want to it to just be that. We didn’t want it to be something only for people who didn’t read Batwoman in “Detective Comics.” We wanted people who had been following her story to get something out of it too, so we plant some seeds for things that happen, not just in the first arc but in some later arcs, as well. As I mentioned earlier, Jim and I plotted out two years worth of issues, which breaks down into four or five different arcs, so “Batwoman” #0 really kicks everything off.
Williams III: From a visual standpoint, the issue is an interesting experiment visually and storytelling wise, and I was very happy that Amy was all for that. What she brought to the table in combination with what Haden and I were doing, I think, creates a very unique single issue that people should find interestingly challenging.
ReederIt’s really interesting how it comes across. Like J.H. said, we collaborated on the actual pages and I don’t know how you felt, J.H., but it’s really interesting looking at the final version because it really seems to merge pretty well. I think it was kind of really appropriate for what we’ve done and for what the character stands for.
Williams III: I agree. The end result is pretty amazing and after reading the entire thing colored and lettered, I think it works really, really well. I’m so glad we really pushed ourselves on this.
The first arc of "Batwoman" is titled 'Hydrology.' Can you speak about what we’ll see in it?
Williams III: The trick to answering these types of questions, to me, is that too much is revealed in the previews and I’d rather let people read and discover for themselves, so I’m going to talk about this in very broad strokes. Essentially, some of the themes are going to carry over and bridge over. Of course, her relationship with her family and what that means. And how what has happened to her with her sister, Alice, and how that’s affected her dealing with these other relationships.
The other theme that’s going to carry through is the idea of playing with the supernatural, in terms of Gotham City. We did a few things in Greg’s and my run [on "Detective Comics"] that focused on that to some degree and we’re definitely pushing that even further in ways that people might not expect. I think it’s high time that we see that sort of storytelling and ideas brought to the forefront dealing with Gotham City, because Gotham City actually is quite a metaphysically dark place and that’s one of the things that we really want to comment on. At the same time, as we move from arc to arc, the themes slightly change from one another while dovetailing into each other in natural ways, so as each new arc develops we get an even bigger piece of the overall puzzle that Haden and I are building.
Blackman: There were three things for us that were big goals. First, we wanted to start introducing a rogues' gallery for Batwoman and creating brand new villains for her, so we’ll see that start to build in this first arc.
Secondly, we also wanted to tie her into the DC Universe and make sure she was very grounded in the DCU, so she’ll have a little bit more interaction with some other DCU characters. Obviously, there is a lot going on with Batman in general, so we’ll definitely comment on that and make sure she’s not forgotten with everything that’s going on with Batman.
Then the third thing is, as I mentioned earlier, just to start building on some of her other personal relationships and some things that were maybe hinted at or touched upon in Greg’s and Jim’s earlier run and really start to evolve those and start to make those much more important.
Williams III: I think one of the biggest things from that side of it, that Haden and I want to explore, is the aspect of what happened between Kate and her sister and her father. It kind of dovetails all the way back in time to when they were children and how there is this sense of survival guilt and because of recent events in her life, there’s now this sense of post traumatic stress disorder and how that can affect how she reacts and what she does and so forth. I think we’re going to present some things in interesting ways that people may not normally get to see with characters like this.
Will Bette Kane will be joining the fray as Flamebird?
Williams III: Yes, but again, I think we’ve got some interesting plans for this character that hopefully will surprise people, because a lot of the time, it’s so easy to treat that stuff as, “Oh, here’s the female version of Batman and Robin.” And that’s certainly not what we want to do. But I don’t want to comment too much further on that because some of the stuff that goes on with their relationship plays a very big plot role and I’d rather let people read that and discover that for themselves.
Blackman: If I may add, one of the things that we did have as one of our rules as we were working on the plotting was, how can we change every kind of vigilante trope on its ear? So every time we came up to something that was, for example, a sidekick, we thought, “How can we switch this up?” We tried to do that with all the kinds of trappings of a vigilante comic, but I have to say, I’m most excited about what we’re doing with Bette Kane.
“Batwoman” #0 by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman and Amy Reeder ships this week from DC Comics, and #1 hits stores in February.