Alisa Kwitney Brings Stephanie Brown Back as Batgirl for ‘Convergence’ [Interview]
DC's big Convergence event seems set to bring back a lot of familiar faces, with solicitations teasing new stories featuring characters ranging from Ryan Choi through to the married Clark Kent and Lois Lane. But more than anyone else, it's the return of a certain blonde Batgirl that really got people talking.
After recently showing up in Batman: Eternal under her guise as Spoiler, this April sees the return of Stephanie Brown as Batgirl, for a two-part story from the creative team of Alisa Kwitney, Rick Leonardi, and Mark Pennington. Trapped under one of Brainiac's domes as part of Convergence, the two-parter sees Stephanie, Cassandra Cain and Tim Drake join forces to protect Gotham from -- what else? -- a giant rampaging gorilla. Gorilla Grodd, no less. And Catman's there too! With so much going on in just two issues, we spoke to Kwitney about what we can expect from Stephanie Brown's return this April.
Comics Alliance: Steph is a much-loved character, especially since Bryan Q. Miller’s run on the Batgirl series. How do you view her as a character?
Alisa Kwitney: Steph is buoyant, which is an underrated personality trait. In real life, most of the people who manage to survive against all odds have a stubborn streak of optimism that keeps them from giving up. Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl stories capture Steph’s resilience and humor without ever feeling frothy or insubstantial. I think that’s what appeals to Stephanie Brown fans – I know it’s what appeals to me.
CA: What’s her mindset as this new two-parter starts? What has she been up to, and where do we find her now?
AK: Stephanie is in a Gotham that has been trapped under a forcefield for a year. The forcefield has cut the city off from the rest of the world, essentially turning the entire city into a walled ghetto. At first, Stephanie tries to help keep the order as Batgirl, but after a traumatic incident with an out-of-control crowd, she’s hung up her cape and begins working as a medic in some of the worst parts of town.
As the story begins, she’s living in an apartment with Cassandra Cain, who is still Black Bat and is patrolling with Red Robin. But Tim [Drake] and Steph are no longer dating, and don't really communicate much. When Stephanie is chosen as one of Gotham’s champions, and Cassandra and Tim are not, it shakes up all three of them.
CA: How have you found writing those three characters together?
AK: When I started writing Stephanie’s story, I knew right away that I wanted to involve Cassandra and Tim. I thought Steph and Cass had some issues to work out, because on the one hand, they’re really good friends and they complement and support each other, but on the other hand, Cassandra is a fighting prodigy. I don’t think Steph feels competitive, but I think that she’s got to be aware that Cassandra is the superior fighter. How does that impact on their relationship once they move past the initial mentoring stage?
As for Tim, I think they’ve always had some issues with figuring out what part of their romantic relationship is about Red Robin and Spoiler or Red Robin and Batgirl, and what part is about Tim and Steph. They’re a bit like actors who fall in love on set, and now need to figure out if they still have something when they’re not in costume and not working together.
I like the complication that Tim and Cass are friends, but I think it’s important to me that there’s no romantic triangle here. Personally, I think friendship can be every bit as complicated and interesting as romance.
CA: The trio are coming up against characters from the Flashpoint Universe – Catman and Grodd. Why choose those two for the story?
AK: I chose Flashpoint Catman as Steph’s opponent because Catman’s such an intriguingly conflicted character, and because Flashpoint Catman is onstage for such a brief moment before he’s, well, gone.
Obviously, this is Flashpoint Catman before Grodd kills him, and since there’s a giant, angry gorilla on the cover of Batgirl #1, I’m pretty sure I’m not giving away anything when I say that Flashpoint Grodd’s in this, too. I really wanted to give Catman his own character arc in this two-parter, even though it’s not the main focus of the story.
CA: Art for the issue is from the team of Rick Leonardi and Mark Pennington. How have you found working with them? What does their artwork bring to the story you’re telling?
AK: I’ve always loved Mark’s inking style, but this is the first time I’ve worked with Rick. I hope it won’t be the last. He’s incredibly intelligent about storytelling, and there have been a couple of times where he’s said, “You know, you suggested this in your script, but if we handle it like this instead, it might work better.” And he was right each time.
CA: There's been a lot of talk about the book in relation to Convergence, but what’s your approach been to writing this particular two-parter? Is it a relatively stand-alone story from the main event, or does it play into Convergence itself?
AK: My goal was to write a story that made sense both as a part of Convergence and as a self-contained Stephanie Brown tale, so I suppose that puts it in the “relatively stand-alone” camp.
CA: You’re probably best known to comic fans as an editor, having worked extensively on books like Sandman over at Vertigo. How did you get involved in Convergence?
AK: [Editor] Marie Javins was working on Convergence, and she asked me if I wanted to throw my hat in the ring and make a pitch for a character. I was travelling in England at the time, and Marie said, “You’ll have to turn things around really quickly - and you might not want to mention the fact that you’re on the road, because it might make people nervous!"
I owe Marie a lot!