by Vince Brusio
The inner thoughts of a woman that wears a mask would be a dream assignment for any licensed psychologist. The observations, notes, and feedback wouldn’t escape past a closed door, either. But you get a peek at those posssible couch conversations right here in this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview with Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV as they get things going for their new run on DC Comics’ Batwoman.
Batwoman Rebirth #1 (DEC160238) is in comic shops February 15.
Vince Brusio: So tell us, Marguerite, has your work on DC Bombshells prepped you for Batwoman? How do you see your work on this new title being different, and yet the same in that you’re writing about a DC super heroine, but the focus is now more concentrated?
Marguerite Bennett: Oh yes, absolutely! There are worlds of fun moving between the two. Each story has to examine who Kate is at her core — the unflinching, inherent elements of her conscience and personality, while each series then lobs entirely different crises in her direction, which then alter her accordingly.
In DC Bombshells, Kate’s battle experiences were fighting fascists during the Spanish Civil War; in Batwoman, she was trained at West Point. In Bombshells, Kate has felt isolated but for her superhero friends like Wonder Woman and Vixen; in Batwoman and Detective Comics, Kate’s father Jacob is alive, kicking, and two handfuls of trouble. Yet in both, she has conflicting relationships with Renee Montoya and Maggie Sawyer; in both, her stubborn, ferocious conviction in fighting injustice makes her one of the most striking and memorable heroines in the DCU.
Vince Brusio: How do you get in the mind of Kate Kane? What kind of back-and-forth did you do with co-writer James Tynion to help nail down her voice for this series?
Marguerite Bennett: James and I peek over each other’s shoulders all the time through the series, balancing tone, examining motive. (We also meet at a Mediterranean joint and talk plot over kebabs and olives. And cocktails. Maybe a few cocktails.)
For my own part, I try to get down to where I am in times of danger. That voice in your head when a car doesn’t see you in an intersection. That voice when there’s a man keeping pace ten feet behind you for the last ten minutes on your walk home. When Kate is Batwoman, her voice sounds a lot like that, to me. If this happens, what do you need to survive? Tell me the facts. Look around you. Think, Bennett. Think, Kane.
When she’s Kate, her actions are more decompressed, which is a challenge for her — Kate has a lot of risk of self-destruction. She decompresses to the point that she evaporates into booze, recklessness, hateful love affairs, bitter self-indulgence. Being Batwoman is the anchor of her life. It is a moment of clarity in the storm of darkness and noise.
Vince Brusio: You’re a big fan of Steve Epting, yes? Why? How do you feel about Steve’s initial pencils for this series? What kind of input did you offer, if any?
Marguerite Bennett: If you want to open your phone and find that little emoji with hearts for eyes and then that little emoji where it’s crying its heart out, those are the most succinct answers for how I feel about Steve’s art. His layouts, his structures, his character details, the tension in his art, the elegance, the control — his work is exquisite and he is an absolute gentleman. I have no idea what I ever did to deserve to work with someone like him. In short, Steve Epting is a genius and I will fistfight anyone who doesn’t agree.
Vince Brusio: Do you plan on re-examining Kate’s experience in the military for this series? Is that background essential to knowing how Kate reacts to a given threat? Or will Kate be looking forward more than backward?
Marguerite Bennett: We will be looking forward and back through a lot of the series, examining Kate’s decisions as well as her experiences and how they have brought her to where she is. We want the series to be absolutely as accessible as possible, and we very much hope the Rebirth issue will be an invigorating jumping-on point for Kate’s fans as well as the curious. There is new information for all.
Vince Brusio: Describe your working relationship with James Tynion IV on this title. How did you two meet each other halfway on the writing chores? How do you two complement one another? And if you had to choose a clever metaphor to describe how you two approached writing this series, what would you offer?
Marguerite Bennett: James is my brother! In Detective, I follow his lead, and in Batwoman, he supports mine. He has the most gorgeous ideas for explosive, superheroic moments—the innovation that makes DC as iconic as it is—and I hope you’ll find my contributions emotional, painful, beautiful, and brutally funny. (Also a little sexy, ‘cause why not.)
We complement each other in his attention to how big we can go in the glory and spectacle, and my attention to how deep we can go when we’re breaking characters down to the bone. We compliment each other in that my dresses are very pretty and his beard is very handsome.
If I had to use a clever metaphor, I’d say we are the two of the chosen scions of House Bat-Books, and instead of me going off to be a sneaky courtly lady and him going off to be a revenge killer with a skinny sword, we’re teaming up to knock over the Iron Throne and sabotage the entire system from within. The rotten tyrants of the DCU better get ready. Batwoman is coming.
Vince Brusio: James, how does working with the psychology of Batwoman compare to working with the psychology of Batman in Detective Comics?
James Tynion IV: It's honestly fascinating. The dichotomy between the two characters is one of the core drivers of my Detective run. It shapes every arc, every issue. First off, there’s the fascinating similarities. I see their drive, their need to act as being part of their core. They are unshakeable in that way. Their goals supersede everything in their life, including their own happiness and comfort. I mean, they have a fundamentally similar origin. Their families were either partially or entirely killed when they were children, and they built themselves into something that can fight back against that specific action. Kate's mother was killed by terrorism, so she built herself into a soldier. Bruce's parents were killed by crime, so he built himself into a crime-fighter. But their differences are just as interesting. Kate's journey towards being the perfect soldier was stopped dead in its tracks when she was 20 years old, when she was expelled from Westpoint and pushed out of the armed services for being gay. She collapsed after that, into herself, into alcohol, and really lost her sense of purpose and sense of self, before she saw Batman in action and realized there was a different way to serve. Bruce's path to Batman was NEVER interrupted. It means that Batwoman can question herself in a way that Batman can't really, and it means she can be more vulnerable in a really palpable way. It also, most importantly, means she knows that sometimes she makes the wrong decision. She's aware that the path she's on is self-destructive, but she's taken it anyways. There's almost more agency in her decision to be Batwoman, than Bruce's decision to be Batman, which is practically cosmically ordained. He didn't choose to become Batman. Batman was always the end goal. Kate made the choice, which means, that ultimately, she may have chosen wrong.
Vince Brusio: Now that you’re extending your reach further into the “Bat” universe, what goals do you set as a writer?
James Tynion IV: Honestly, it's to tell great stories. Full stop. There's a responsibility with a line of comics as storied as the Batman Franchise. There are so many good Bat-comics. Literally some of the best stories ever told in the comic medium are Batman stories. And for me, the Bat-Family has always been a focal point in what I've loved about the DC Universe. The way each character plays on the Bat Mythos, but can come at it from some personal angle that would be unnatural to put on Batman himself. So there's a responsibility to live up to the possibility of what you can do with these stories. I remember, when I had my first meeting about Detective with Geoff Johns, we talked a lot about what makes a moment with a character definitive, and that's always in my mind. How do you distill the very essence of these characters down to their core, so that there's inherent interest and tension whenever they appear in a panel together? How each scene with those characters needs to rotate on the axis of those core traits. You want moments that feel so natural to each of the characters you can't believe they haven't happened before. Those moments are always the truest moments. The breakthrough that define characters and make a run definitive. And that's the goal with Detective, and with Batwoman. To tell definitive stories that sit on the shelf as necessary reading for the next ten, twenty, thirty years.
Vince Brusio: What’s it like to work with Marguerite on this book? How did you two spar over ideas when they were in their infancy?
James Tynion IV: The upside of working with Marguerite, is that she's quite literally one of my closest friends in the world. We used to talk about what we'd do with Batwoman as a character long before either of us started writing her professionally. So, honestly, the process was less sparring, and more grabbing a drink at a nice restaurant and talking about the core nature of the character and how to draw out a perfect story, with perfect antagonists, from that core. We knew we wanted to explore Kate's "Lost Year," the time after she was expelled from West Point, before she saw Batman in action for the first time. We wanted to take that little shadow of her past and stare into it, right at the moment where Kate had NO IDEA who she was, and play that off of the present, where she feels very much centered and in control of her life. It's a dichotomy Marguerite and I understand well, and wanted to lean into, and it's probably the most important guiding force in the first year of the book.
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Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.