Risen From Darkness: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher And Babs Tarr Talk ‘Batgirl’ [Interview]
Despite all the big publishing news to come out around or during last month's San Diego Comic-Con, the new comic book that remains most anticipated by many superhero fans -- and by others who don't yet know they're waiting for it -- is Batgirl. Perhaps the one DC or Marvel comic that really does deserve a new #1 issue, Batgirl's youthful and stylish revamp at the hands of Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr and Brenden Fletcher was met with massive electronic response when it was announced just ahead of the San Diego show, inspiring countless pieces of fan-art, praise from women readers and pros, and some criticism from current fans for seemingly abandoning the darker aesthetic values of the three-year-old New 52 title.
There's a lot to unpack about the new Batgirl and we only had a few minutes with her new creative team in which to do it at SDCC. Read on for remarks by series co-writer and layout artist Cameron Stewart, co-writer Brenden Fletcher, editor Mark Doyle, and of course series artist (and, perhaps, the series' spiritual guide) Babs Tarr.
ComicsAlliance: As many folks know, Barbara Gordon has gone through a lot of trauma and turmoil that we have seen in the last few years since she reclaimed the Batgirl identity in the New 52. It has been a very dark story. So I was struck by your very different work on this new "chapter," if you will, and this new take on the character. What were your thoughts behind taking her in this new direction?
Cameron Stewart: I was not particularly interested creatively in doing a dark, grim story with Batgirl. I wanted to do something that was light and fun and sort of consistent to the way that Batgirl has been portrayed for almost fifty years in all kinds of other media. But it had been established in this previous run that she had had a lot of trauma and things, so we talked about how we could sort of move her into a better place and get her past all of that. So, in talking with Mark, and with what some of the other writers were going with some of the other books, we were talking about how Barbara would basically be pushed to the breaking point -- like pushed to the limit to where if she continued down this path the darkness would consume her. She would be lost. She would basically become Batman. She didn't want that to happen and we didn't want that to happen to her.
Brenden Fletcher: [Our series] is her recognition of that. Really.
CS: Yeah, exactly.
BF: That is what sets Barbara Gordon apart from Bruce Wayne. Where Bruce Wayne would have continued down that path, Barbara Gordon puts on the breaks. She says, "This isn't me. Guys, this isn't me. Are you doing this to me? Have I done this to myself? I need to take a moment and just do something for myself."
However, she is always going to be Batgirl. She is always going to be a superhero. She is always going to fight for what's right. So though she tries to remove herself from the aspects of her life that are creating this darkness that is consuming her, of course she always has her eye on those who are less fortunate and those in trouble. She is always going to stick up for those that need help.
CS: We were sort of speculating on the paths of the characters. She is 21-years-old, she has had a crime fighting career since she was 16. We kind of thought, well, she has sort of had this very unusual life since she was 16 years old and she has maybe been denied that normal life of growing up as a teenager and as a young woman. We thought that it would be fun for her to kind of want to reclaim that. So, she has had it with Gotham and all of the misery and the darkness and the serial killers and everything. She thinks, "I kind of want to have fun and be a young girl in the city the way that every other normal young girl is." She moves to this new trendy part of the city to try to start again and have this fun life. But of course she can't ever really leave Batgirl behind her and she gets drawn back in.
CA: One of my questions was whether she would encounter some threats in Burnside. What can you tell us about those threats?
Babs Tarr: LITERALLY NOT ANYTHING!
CS: I can tell you what were are not going to do. We really wanted to have the opportunity to separate this from the rest of the Batman universe. She still lives in that world, but she is sort of separating herself from it. What we are not going to do is have cameos from Batman, the Joker, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn and so on. We are taking the opportunity to create a whole new series of opponents for her. We can't really go into a lot of detail about that, unfortunately, because it would reveal too much. We are trying to do a series of self contained stories that each issue is sort of a one-off story but then they are connected by a larger arc, so she will have a variety of interesting, flamboyant opponents for her to fight in each issue. Then she also has the struggles of her social life as well. She has the pressure of moving out and being in a new city and not being able to make rent. She has got school work to do.
BT: Maybe dating some boys -- cute boys.
BF: On top of that she really can't do anything -- anything, because she is doing her Masters and she has got this thesis to deal with. How can you have any kind of life when you have a thesis? Is she going to have to choose between completing her Masters program and having any kind of life, be that a crime-fighting life or a social life? I mean, we are arguably putting her in more peril that she has ever been in before!
CA: I am looking forward to the fashion sense you're bringing to the character. What's influencing your choices with Batgirl and what else we can expect from the artwork?
BT: What I am excited about is giving each of the characters in the book their own sense of fashion. I feel like that's always missing from comics because boys are writing them. They're like, generic skirt, generic heels. Each character, each lady, is going to have their own fashion board. I'm already starting a Pinterest where this is Babs' style and this is the roommate's style and this is Alyssa's style. I am trying to have Babs be more down to earth but still practical but still cute. Then another character will be a little tougher so she will wear more leather jackets and heels. Another one might be older so she will be dressed a little more sophisticated. They all have personalities beyond their costumes and I am going to try to add that.
I always loved Betty and Veronica when I was little because in every issue they were wearing different outfits, their hair is different, they have different earrings, their shoes are different. I'm going to try to do blog post afterwards, when the issues comes out, saying that this is what Babs was wearing... "if you going to TopShop or Madewell, this is where you can grab those things!" Hopefully it will be on the Batgirl Tumblr. Hopefully we will make little fashions posts and put them there. It will be really cool.
Mark Doyle: I think we need to team up with someone to create a fashion line.
CS: There are some blogs that do that. They post outfits that are inspired by superhero costumes, based off of color schemes and stuff.
BT: It is called Polyvore, guys. Get with it.
CA: I was going to point out my shoes --
BT: I know, girl. Amazing!
MD: I'm sorry. I already pointed them out to Babs earlier.
BT: Mark spotted them before I did!
MD: I was like, Oh my god look at her shoes.
CA: My last question is actually about something called resiliency. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back after a huge stressor, a trauma, a loss. We know that Batgirl is essentially someone who has a strong sense of resiliency. What is it about her that keeps her resilient and what can we learn from her to be resilient ourselves?
BF: This is a woman with an indomitable spirit. I mean even more so I think you can say that more than Bruce Wayne. She will not lose herself to the darkness. She will always keep herself pure. She didn't require and sort of trauma in her life to thrust her into the world of adventure. She wanted it. She was born with that spirit.
CS: She does what she does not out of tragedy or revenge or anything she does it because it is the right thing to do.
BF: That speaks to her upbringing. Raised by Jim Gordon. That is where she comes from, that is the core of this woman's being. I think that no matter what her circumstance, she will always rise above any sort of darkness in her life and she will always continue to fight for what is right in whatever manner -- no matter how old she is, what station she has assumed in her life, what uniform she wears. She will always fight for what is right. She is able to keep that darkness at bay, unlike Bruce.
BT: She grew up with a great dad and a great childhood. She does have that sense of justice, despite all of those traumas, and I think that that helps you bounce back from those tragedies that she has been put through. She has those memories of positive things and it can be better and it can be different and she can say, I don't have to stay in this if I don't want to get lost in it.
CS: She can have a dark past but it doesn't have to define her present.
CS: It is something that is still apart of her. We aren't ignoring the fact or erasing the stuff that happened to her but it doesn't have to define who she is now or who she needs to be.