DC Comics' mainly female team of vigilantes, "Birds of Prey," have been through a lot in the New 52, from in-book betrayals to real world creative shakeups. Featuring a rotating cast of ambivalent heroes and amoral villains, starting with issue #18 "Sword Of Sorcery" writer Christy Marx has been guiding the book as the permanent writer, replacing crime novelist Duane Swierczynski on the title as well as writer Jim Zubkavich who was initially announced as Swierczynski's replacement.
Though the team was originally positioned and pushed in the New 52 as an outlaw group on the run and with varying degrees of guilt, Marx explained to Comic Book Resources that her take deliberately steps away from that characterization of the team.
"To be honest, I haven't thought that much about them being outlaws. In my mind, they're heroes who happen to operate out on the fringes," Marx told CBR News. "It's an interesting mix because you have two people with super powers, one person with no powers but a brilliant mind, and one person who's been made into something that is both more and less than human. And yet they're friends and teammates who need to utterly trust and depend on one another. I would say that I see them as outsiders who are trying to do the right thing in a thankless situation."
While Marx's first storyline incorporated Batman villain Mister Freeze, according to the writer the decision to kick off her run with the coldest of Batman's rogues was less by choice and more by design -- literally, in this case.
"When I agreed to start work on the book, the next two covers were already done with Mr. Freeze on them. You could say that I wrote to match the covers," Marx said. "In reality, the major direction of the storyline had been roughly worked out months in advance, which was a good thing because the first issue was due immediately. Beyond immediately. I had to hit the ground running."
One of the biggest twists from Marx's first issues involved the betrayal of the Birds by Starling, who has subsequently disappeared from the title. But while she is not part of the book at present, the writer said fans shouldn't count her out entirely.
"By this time, people will know that Starling is no longer with the group. As far as Canary is concerned, Starling has betrayed them and aligned herself with someone evil. Starling doesn't see it that way. Starling's mindset sees it way differently, based on secret history that I hope to get into at some future point. Even though Canary has written off Starling, Starling doesn't want to be cut off from Canary. Starling doesn't care much about the rest of the team, though," Marx said.
With Starling sidelined for the foreseeable future, Marx told CBR she is having a blast writing the team's other members, especially newcomers Strix and Condor.
"Condor was a cipher in the earlier issues of the series, so I want to bring out more about his background. A crucial piece of his history is about to return in issue #22 and cause him a lot of grief," the writer teased about the Bird's sole male member.
As for the Birds' ex-Talon member, Marx said she presents some unique challenges. "Strix is a fascinating challenge as a non-speaking character. I experimented with doing some thought narration for her, and while I liked the 'voice' I came up with, it felt off to use that approach just yet," Marx said.
"There's a major aspect of Strix that I haven't had a chance to explore and that's the fact that she's not merely a child who was turned into an unkillable assassin, she's a person who is lost from her own time. She was a child in the 1940s and frozen somewhere around the early 1950s. Imagine how alien and bizarre our modern world must look and feel to her," the writer continued.
While she's enjoying members both new and old, Marx couldn't commit to naming her favorite team member to write at this point. "I don't like to single out a character because as soon as I do that, I'm shortchanging other characters."
The writer also admitted the biggest challenge thus far has nothing to do with the creative side of comics and everything to do with the churn of a monthly series.
"Mainly, it's been about catching up to the deadlines while getting to know the characters and figuring out how to make them mine," Marx said.
For Marx, writing "Birds of Prey" has involved searching for the core of each character and seeing how that plays against the other members on the team. "I like to focus on what makes the characters tick, how they interact with one another, and what changes they're going through in the process. The hardest one has been Batgirl because I want to honor what Gail Simone has done with the character, and yet I need to have her work within the framework of this group at the same time. Gail has been wonderful about keeping me informed of Batgirl developments so that I can play off of that."
If dealing Mister Freeze and Starling's betrayal wasn't enough to topple the team, Marx told CBR the Birds will take on Basilisk, the organization that first surfaced in the new 52's "Suicide Squad," in an upcoming arc. This is far from coincidence, however, as Marx is deliberately playing with ideas begun in the other New 52 book.
"It was less about Basilisk in general and more about Regulus, who happens to be running Basilisk now. I'm picking up threads with him that were begun in 'Team 7' and 'Suicide Squad.' I have an idea in mind for his back story that should be fun for people that followed the 'Team 7' book and gives it more of a personal edge for Canary. But I've also come up with some new Basilisk villains that I hope people will enjoy," Marx explained.
Marx has also enjoyed working with artist Romano Molenaar on "Birds of Prey," concluding her "Birds" discussion by praising her artistic teammates on the title.
"Romano is wonderful! But the entire team is amazing. We have a meshing of talents that have come together beautifully. They are consummate professionals, full of help and support and admiration for one another. Scott McDaniel has started doing rough layouts that are full of energy and movement. This gives Romano more time to do his gorgeous pencils. Jonathan Glapion adds his spectacular inks and Chris Sotomayor does stunning colors. Nor do I want to forget the sterling work of our letterer, Taylor Esposito."
"I'm running out of adjectives for all this talent!" Marx laughed, adding, "Comics are such a collaborative medium and everyone contributes to the final product."
"Birds of Prey" #21 goes on sale June 19.