Julie And Shawna Benson Take Flight With ‘Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey’ [Interview]
The Birds of Prey is a classic DC franchise that has been missing from the stands for the past couple of years, but that absence comes to an end soon thanks to the launch of Batgirl and The Birds of Prey as part of DC Rebirth. Written by Julie Benson and Shawna Benson of The CW's The 100, with art by We(l)come Back's Claire Roe, the series brings the classic team of Batgirl, Black Canary and Huntress together again for the first time in order to track down an imposter posing as Barbara Gordon's former identity, Oracle.
ComicsAlliance chatted to the Benson sisters about how they came to DC, their transition from television to comics, and the team dynamic of their Birds of Prey. Also, DC provided us with annotated design pages from Yanick Paquette and an exclusive look at character sketches by Claire Roe!
ComicsAlliance: Fans may know of you from you TV work, but how did your relationship with DC Comics begin?
Julie Benson: We grew up reading our dad’s Silver Age DC comics and have been voracious readers ever since. As fans, we followed numerous artists and writers on social media, Geoff Johns being one of them. After some initial introductions from mutual friends, Geoff and I met for a dinner to discuss all things DC. I spent the first twenty minutes or so waxing poetic about Crisis on Infinite Earths, leading Geoff to ask the question, “Why haven’t you guys written a comic?” I think I responded with, “Don’t you have to get permission to do something like that?”
Apparently, permission was granted, as a few weeks later, we were scheduled to meet at the DC offices to discuss our ideas. We were shocked when they pitched us Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. We were asked to turn in our take that week, and the rest is history!
CA: How are you finding the transition from writing for television to comics?
Shawna Benson: The process of breaking and writing stories for TV and for comics is surprisingly similar. We even had a writers’ room for our Rebirth issue, as we sat with Geoff and our editors to help break our story and discuss the arc we had planned for the next few issues. So transitioning from TV writing was pretty easy. The hardest part has been learning the comic script format.
JB: Yeah, directing on the page is a big no-no in TV scripting, but for comics, it’s essential to communicate story to your artist.
CA: As co-writers on Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, what’s your collaboration process like for writing issues? Is there a back-and-forth process getting them where you’re both happy with them?
SB: We break story and outline together. Once we know what we’re writing, we split up the pages and get to work individually. We check in with each other, pitch new ideas if they come up, and keep each other updated on our progress as we write, but we write separately. Once we each finish, we trade our pages and each do a pass on the other person’s work. Sometimes great ideas come from reading what’s in front of you and seeing a better way for a scene to work. It’s our process when we write television as well, and if it ain’t broke…
CA: How’s it been so far working with Claire Roe on the series? Do you get much chance to chat and plan the direction and mission statement of the series?
JB: We joke that between the three of us gals, we’re our own Birds of Prey team. Since Claire lives in Scotland, our communication is primarily via email. She was busy wrapping up art on a Boom book, We(l)come Back, while we were plugging away on writing the Rebirth book.
One of our amazing editors, Chris Conroy, put us in touch with Claire early on so we could download her on the direction of the book. We wanted to find out what she loved to draw, what she preferred we avoid, all that good stuff. So far, we’ve all been on the proverbial same page and she gets excited about stuff just like us, which is fun. It’s crazy that over the course of the Birds of Prey run only two women (Amanda Conner and Nicola Scott) have drawn the Birds; adding Claire to that roster is, in our opinion, a great move by DC to show they believe in diversity and fresh talent.
CA: Did you have any creative input when it came to redesigning the Birds for DC Rebirth?
JB: We didn’t, but we feel like they must have read our minds. The women look amazing --- tough, sexy, without being oversexualized, and each has their own attitude that practically beams off the page.
CA: We haven’t seen much of Barbara’s time as Oracle in the continuity of The New 52. Was there a discussion about how that fits into her timeline, and will we see any flashbacks to this time of her life?
JB: We've talked a lot about the timeline! But on a plot level we want to be really cagey about what we say to avoid spoiling the twists and turns we have coming…
SB: …but we think it’s safe to say that yes, you will see some of that time in future issues.
JB: We are big fans of their Batgirl run, what a ride! There are no plans at this time to include Spoiler or Operator, but don’t think we wouldn’t love a good cameo if the story has room for it.
CA: From the covers and design sheets we’ve seen, it seems that this Huntress is Helena Bertinelli AKA Matron of Spyral. Will we see how she makes the move from spymaster to vigilante, and is there any connection to the most recent Huntress, Helena Wayne?
JB: We’re pulling Helena straight from the Grayson pages and Spyral into Birds of Prey. Her journey from spy to vigilante is fairly quick, as her motivation for revenge focuses her from business missions to a much more personal one.
CA: Do your experiences working on an ensemble show like The 100 lend themselves to writing a team book like Batgirl and The Birds of Prey?
SB: Absolutely! When writing an ensemble, you have to understand each character’s personal journey and their point of view. As each character comes into contact with another, those differences in journeys and POV inform whether those interactions are going to be positive, negative or somewhere in between. The Birds of Prey of course have three very different characters, each with their own background and journey to this place, but they also have interesting similarities. We look forward to exploring how those differences and similarities between the characters inform their relationships with each other.
CA: What’s the team dynamic like as we join the book? Is everyone getting along, or is it more of a case of everyone needs something from everyone else?
JB: Barbara and Dinah have been seen working together a few times in the Black Canary run, and are close pals. Their history working together in Babs's Oracle days helped cement their relationship. Helena, however, is the wild card of the bunch as her mission interferes with Barbara’s goal to take down this new Oracle. They’ll have to work together to successfully achieve their goals, but it won’t come easy.
CA: Are there any plans to expand the roster beyond the traditional three Birds?
JB: It’s been discussed, but for this first run, the focus is on our traditional trio of Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 is out July 20 from DC Comics.
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