Mike W. Barr On ‘Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Katana And Deadshot’ [Interview]
As you've probably already heard, there's a Suicide Squad movie on the way, and that means that the spotlight is once again falling onto some of DC's most ruthless villains-turned-government operatives. But in addition to longtime Squad mainstays like Deadshot and Harley Quinn, one other character is getting ready for a turn on the big screen: Katana, the modern samurai created by Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo for Batman and the Outsiders.
To that end, DC has announced Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Katana and Deadshot, a double-sized six-issue miniseries featuring two stories, including a new adventure with Katana and the Squad taking on Kobra by Barr and artist Diogenes Neves. To find out more, I spoke to Barr about creating Katana, returning to the character after so long, and how he thinks she's going to fit in with her new team.
ComicsAlliance: I wanted to start by talking about the process of you and Jim Aparo creating Katana. How did she come about as a character?
Mike W. Barr: When we created Batman and the Outsiders, we brought in, of course, Black Lightning and Metamorpho, who were pre-existing characters, which we thought would give the series some sort of gravitas and a sense of existing in the DC Universe. Then we needed three new characters, and so far, none of the characters we'd picked for the Outsiders had been women, so I decided that there would be an almost mini-Batman-and-Robin team, Katana and Halo. I'd always been interested in Japanese culture and samurai, so I decided that the character of Katana would be a female samurai.
CA: You mentioned the relationship that she has with Halo, which is something that I found really interesting about the story. She's out for revenge, trying to kill someone, but much like Batman, there's a completely different side of her that comes out around her sidekick.
MWB: That was a deliberate echo of what I saw as the relationship between Batman and Robin. It turns out that Batman set that up deliberately, because he saw the same thing. The interesting thing about it is that like Batman and Robin, Katana and Halo, though they work really well as a team, also worked really well as separate characters. Halo and Katana haven't been together for a long time in the comics, and Katana seems to be a pretty popular character in the comics and in other media as well.
CA: Have you kept track of Katana over the years, as a character that you co-created?
MWB: I haven't read all of the stories, no, but I've certainly kept track of what she's been up to. It was very interesting when she was put into the Justice League, because they found a way to make her work in there. It's been cool to have her have that kind of exposure. The media exposure has also been interesting, first in the Beware the Batman cartoon, and then in Arrow, and now this DC Super Hero Girls line, where they're doing this kid version of Katana.
CA: And on Brave and the Bold, too!
MWB: Sure. She showed up in two different versions on Brave and the Bold. There was that schoolgirl version.
CA: So what's it like to come back to her after so many years? Obviously, you're coming back into a completely different version of the universe than when you first created her, so was getting used to that a challenge at all?
MWB: It has been challenging to some extent, yes. Once in a while, I'll want to reference something that happened in Katana's life before, and then I have to stop myself short and realize that it hasn't actually happened in this version of the DC Universe, and that was the old version. The personality of the character of Katana is so strong, though, that I can usually work out a way to reference, if not that particular issue that I wanted to, something similar that's happened in the past.
CA: Was there anything in particular?
MWB: No, not in particular. I do miss the relationship between Katana and Halo, but everything's always changing in the DC Universe. You never know when that's coming back.
CA: Katana as a member of the Suicide Squad is something that made a lot of sense to me. When we first see her back in the '80s, she's so intense and driven by tragedy, and it feels like if she never met Batman, the Squad is exactly where she would've wound up. Did that idea appeal to you, or is that just me?
MWB: I think you're a little off on your own thing, but that's okay. That was a ramification for the character that I hadn't considered --- what if she hadn't met Batman? I don't know exactly what her role is in the Suicide Squad movie, but I have to assume that if she's a member of the Squad, she's probably considered a villain in that version of the universe, which, of course, she's not in the comics. Well, she is by the authorities. [Laughs]
It'll be interesting to see how they make that work. It's not inconsistent with the character to have her as a member of the Suicide Squad. It'll be interesting to see how they work out all the backstory. I feel like the movie Katana will have a haunted sword, for instance, the Soultaker. That'll be pretty cool to see, one way or the other.
CA: The mini-series you're writing is about Katana teaming up with the Suicide Squad, which of course includes Deadshot. You know that I'm a fan of yours and I go back to your stuff quite a bit, but I think this is the first time you've written Deadshot, right?
MWB: Yes. It's the first time I've written pretty much any of the Suicide Squad characters, although Dan DiDio did suggest a couple of villain characters that I'd created to use in the book, which was good of him. But yes, this is the first time I've written Deadshot and most of the Squad characters, so I've been doing a lot of research and reading up on them to make sure I get it right.
CA: I know that you were a big fan in your run on Detective Comics of doing stories that were tributes to Golden and Silver Age stories --- the stories you did with Alan Davis always had those big Silver Age style splash pages. The Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers run was kind of the first that really did that, to go and bring back Hugo Strange and Deadshot from early days, so even though you hadn't worked on him, I felt like there would be a connection there.
MWB: That was one of the interesting things about the assignment. The original incarnation of Deadshot has very deep roots in Batman, and any time that I can use anything that has something to do with Batman, that's okay with me! Captain Boomerang, of course, who's going to be a member of the Suicide Squad in the Katana miniseries, is a classic Flash villain. I was delighted to have them in there.
CA: What's the relationship like between Katana and Deadshot? Deadshot in Suicide Squad has, historically, been a pretty amoral character, but Katana's often very driven.
MWB: I haven't actually written the two of them together yet, but when I do, that's something I want to explore. Deadshot is a very intriguing character. As you point out, he seems to be almost amoral, but I think he has this code of very rough honor underneath all of that. I think there are things he won't do, and it'll be interesting to see how tightly he can walk that line.
CA: You mentioned some villains as well?
MWB: Oh, I can always talk about Kobra. In a way, it's kind of a three-pronged approach. Katana teams up with the Suicide Squad, but they're always about five seconds away from turning on each other because their goals are that far apart. Kobra, of course, wants to kill them both, and they both want to kill Kobra, so it works out fine.
Kobra, I've always had a lot of affection for as one of the last things that Jack Kirby created at DC. I've always liked to try to bring some new wrinkles to those original Kirby concepts. I was very glad to see him become a cult leader, because that makes him a little bit different from Dr. Doom, who he bore a lot of similarities to.
CA: How do Deadshot and Katana get involved with fighting Kobra?
MBW: Katana basically goes looking for more information about the Soultaker, her sword. She starts to get involved in that, and unfortunately for her, she's distracted from that when she gets involved with the Suicide Squad and Kobra.
CA: Is there anything else you'd like to mention?
MWB: It's not about the upcoming story, but when I think of Katana, I always think of Batman and the Outsiders, and when I think of Batman, as you know, I always think of Bill Finger. I was delighted that DC has announced that Bill Finger will receive a credit on some of the upcoming Batman projects.
That's so great. I imagine that when I see Batman v Superman, I'm going to be the only guy applauding when that credit comes up on the screen. I've taken some heat over my championing of Bill Finger over the years, but it's going to be great to see his name up there on the big screen --- and hopefully someday in the comics as well.