Justin Gray and Ron Randall on Convergence’s ‘Catwoman': Rising to the Occasion and Stooping to New Lows [Interview]
Though she’s best known as a seductive jewel thief, Catwoman has long been a protector of the unprotected. Justin Gray and Ron Randall will continue this tradition in the two issue Catwoman miniseries during DC's Convergence event, wherein the erstwhile villainess becomes Suicide Slum’s watchful eye --- only to encounter the Batman of the Kingdom Come universe standing in her way. What’s a bad-girl-gone-good to do? ComicsAlliance sought out the creative team to discuss the past, present, and future of DC’s feline fatale.
ComicsAlliance: Even by comics standards, Catwoman has seen a lot of reinterpretation over the years. What Catwoman eras are you drawing on the most for this miniseries?
Ron Randall: This is the 90's era Catwoman, and the design of the character comes from those stories. I saw my task as to bring my own style of drawing and my own perceptions of Selina to that "version" of the character.
Justin Gray: As Ron stated, this is the Jo Duffy, Jim Balent and Dick Giordano Catwoman that appeared in August of '93. They were the "purple costume thief with a heart of gold" stories.
CA: What’s behind the decision to bring Kingdom Come Batman into this story?
JG: When asked what groups of characters we would like to work with in advance I wanted Kingdom Come and Red Son, because those are not only recognizable and fantastic takes on the DC heroes, but also because I personally admire the work that was done on both. I felt it was very important from a character and story standpoint that Batman and Catwoman should be together here.
CA: What defines Catwoman, in your opinions? Is she a selfish thief, a reluctant hero, something in between?
RR: Well, surely she's both. And other things as well. We are all selfish thieves and reluctant heroes, depending on whatever circumstances and pressures are at play in our worlds in the moment. With a character, you step onto very dangerous ground the moment you try to boil down their "profile" to a single, focused aspect. So, I think Selina can rise to an occasion or stoop to a low level depending on what stresses she's under. That keeps her alive and fascinating as a character to work with.
JG: I think the best version of Catwoman takes into account that she’s walking a fine line at all times between heroine and villainess, extremely confident in who she is, a woman that owns her sexuality in a way that no other female character in the DC universe does. Catwoman is very human, void of superpowers and yet she deals with and often confronts the same villains that Batman does and she does it without armor. Her relationship with Bruce is also one of the more complex and mature in comics.
RR: I do think it's fun and interesting to think of Selina as more of an "improviser," someone figuring things out on the fly and learning on the job, so to speak, as a great contrast with Batman's deliberative, think-three-steps-ahead way of operating. That doesn't mean she's the amateur and he's the pro, it's just a difference in temperaments and styles. I find that stuff juicy to play with.
CA: Ron, your work spans multiple genres and eras. What makes depicting Catwoman different from any other character?
RR: Well, there's such a very specific body language that just suggests itself with Selina. It's a distinctive attitude that's unlike any other character. She's wonderful in that it is always clear to know the feeling I was going for -- how she'd move, the combination of self-contained confidence paired with a restless, always alert stance -- obviously, as "feline" as I could make it. While at the same time remembering she's a woman. Great stuff to play with as you try to reveal character through body language and poses.
And in her expressions, that range of a certain aloofness, a cockiness all the way through absolutely feral rage. And again, under it all remembering she's a human, with very human emotional responses that underlie and inform all the surface "cat" mannerisms. Without that, I likely would have slipped into emotional caricature.
CA: Justin, your work runs the gamut from cheery --- Power Girl --- to true grit ---Jonah Hex. What tone can we expect for Catwoman?
JG: I was going for a blend of high-flying action and adventure with a post-apocalyptic twist. There are some darkly comedic moments, but I liked the idea that Catwoman the thief, with nothing to steal, decides to become a vigilante. Part of the fun was to realize that Catwoman has been stealing knowledge from Batman. In a strange way her interaction with him has been training her and making her a better fighter and she uses that to her advantage in this story.
CA: You’re digging into all kinds of different corners of the DC universe for this story — proving that even in an ever-changing industry, some things retain their appeal. What’s the key to telling a superhero story that lasts?
RR: I think you want to find a story that rings emotionally true, that observes and reveals something about being "human." I think you always strive for that. You don't worry about creating something that will last, you don't worry about pleasing or surprising a reader with a clever plot turn. All that will take care of itself if you tell a true story. It's easier said than done, but it's the only thing really worth striving for.
JG: I personally don't think there is a key because that would indicate a simple answer or solution, but there are known ingredients. Yes it takes a great story and it takes a great collaborative effort from artists, writers and editors, but it also has to resonate with people across a wide demographic.
In comics those stories can be personal and yet universal. Some superhero stories resonate because they inspire an emotional response or encourage us to be the best we can be, some because they anchor us to a moment in time that we feel a part of. Because of the cyclical nature of comics this is why we need an ever changing and expanding industry, one that provides new people and a new generation the opportunity to experience the story that connects them to comics on a personal level. Superhero stories endure because they’re symbolic of our inner desires and outward hope for a better world.
CA: Do you have any hopes for Catwoman’s future in the post-Convergence DC universe?
RR: If you mean "publishing hopes," certainly. I think she's a rich character with tremendous potential that deserves a spotlight. I'd love to see her walking that fine line between redemption and catastrophe issue after issue.
JG: Catwoman is a vital and important part of the DC Universe no matter what form it takes.
CA: Do you have any “wishlist” characters or titles you’d love to work on in the future?
RR: Ah. How much time have you got? There are a lot of characters I'd love to take a turn on, and some I'd be happy to return to. Any number of characters who can have a good story told about them.
The most compelling are the ones where I have a clear image in my head of who they are. I knew how I felt about Supergirl, so when I did my run on those books, it felt very clear. Same with Wonder Woman. Same with these Catwoman issues. I think Superman would be a terrific assignment because he's so well-defined, and yet I think I might have something to say about him that might be a little different than what anyone else has done yet. Black Canary is another character that I've always felt I had a "take" on. Huntress. Starfire. Like I said, how much time have you got?
JG: I don’t necessarily have a wish list. At this point I’m more interested in exploring new creative opportunities as a writer. This was a great chance to work with Ron and [editor] Marie [Javins] and put myself out there as a solo writer, all while having fun with a character I genuinely enjoyed writing.
Convergence: Catwoman #1 goes on sale April 15th 2015.