BATWOMAN's New Writer Tackles Marriage, Controversy, & Challenges of the DCU
CREDIT: DC Comics
Fans of comic books are used to seeing new creative teams take over their favorite books after a couple years. But the DC character Batwoman has had so few creators involved in her development since her introduction that it's hard to imagine someone new taking over.
But with the very public departure of J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman, who launched the Batwoman title in 2011, DC faced not only the daunting task of finding the next set of creators for Batwoman, but they also had to deal with an added controversy. Because the outgoing writers claimed DC refused to let Batwoman get married — and since the character is in a lesbian relationship —the reversal of the marriage storyline implied to some mainstream news outlets that her sexual orientation was at the root of the anti-marriage stance.
DC needed a quick save, and they got it in the form of Marc Andreyko, who was announced as the new writer beginning with Batwoman #25. Best known for his long run on DC's critically acclaimed Manhunter title, Andreyko has been recently writing under-the-radar stories for DC on short-lived titles like DC Universe Presents and Sword of Sorcery.
On Batwoman, Andreyko will be working with Jeremy Haun, who was already involved with the title, and the two will try to give the character a fresh start while also trying to win over fans of the former creative team's innovative style. Newsarama talked to Andreyko to find out what he's hoping to bring to the title and what his response is to the allegations that the reversal of Kate's marriage plans had controversial motivations.
Newsarama: Marc, obviously you're taking over this book after a bit of a brouhaha over the creative team change. But up front, I'd like to just ask about your reaction to the way the mainstream press reacted to the news that DC didn't want the character married. Because it would have been a gay marriage, there was a sense that the book might back away from Kate Kane's sexuality. And just to confirm, now that you're taking over Batwoman, will her sexuality still be a part of her life?
Marc Andreyko: Of course. I think part of the brouhaha was that the internet is always looking for the dirty story, and the lack of wanting the character to get married had nothing to do with their sexuality. It has to do with, you know, the New 52 is very young, very new, and having characters get married brings an inherent sort of age to the proceedings.
It was absolutely not an anti-gay thing. It was just a creative overview that marriage right now, at this point in the DC Universe, is not something they want to explore. And that's a completely viable thing.
Any claims of homophobia against DC are completely ridiculous. I've been an out gay creator my entire career, and I've had nothing but support — and, if anything, pushing from DC to do more. So no, they've been one of the most consistently great places for not only LGBT characters, but for creators as well. They're ahead of the curve with the country, as far as that goes.
And you know, of course, as a gay man, I would never take a job — any job — where I thought there was homophobia or anti-gay subtext at all. People who know who I am know I'm a loud-mouth. So I would be the first person to complain if that was the case, so I have nothing but praise for DC on this.
And as far as Kate's sexuality and her relationship with Maggie, that's going to be explored in great depth. But it will be the same way that, when Peter Parker was dating Mary Jane, their sexuality was explored. It's not going to be a "capital G" gay issue book, by any means. Being didactic is not something I enjoy as a writer or as a reader.
There's going to be all kinds of complications in their relationship, but that's what relationships are. The moment you add two people into a room, complications arise, whether you want them to or not.
Nrama: Then let's talk about your hopes for the character. A lot of people are citing your work on Manhunter when they consider what you'll bring to Batwoman. Do you agree that the characters are similar? Or are they more different than might seem at first glance?
Andreyko: Well, on first glance, they're both named Kate and they're both pretty powerful, strong-willed women. But other than that, that's where they depart. No one ever says that Bruce Wayne and Bruce Banner are the same because they're both superheroes named Bruce. I think that there's an inherent, inadvertent sort of learned sexism when it comes to female characters.
But they're entirely different people. They're both fascinating. But they're entirely different people with their own foibles and weaknesses and strengths.
Greg [Rucka, who first wrote Batwoman stories] and J.H. and Haden have done such a great job establishing such a distinct personality for Kate Kane, that picking up the reins from where they left off is not only going to be a lot of fun, but it's a great responsibility, because they created such a rich character.
Nrama: Is your hope to continue the same type of tone on Batwoman? It sounds like you're going to keep the established voice and personality for the character, but what about the book overall? Is there anything that's going to change or be added to the book as you come on board?
Andreyko: She's definitely going to be much more integrated into the DC Universe proper. The book as it has been published so far has been kind of off in its own little corner of Gotham and the DC Universe, and not a whole lot of interaction with all the other heroes and villains, and all the great things that come with the rich tapestry of the DC Universe.
So she's going to definitely be more involved in things — in an organic way; we're not going to shoehorn in Streaky the Supercat in a crossover or anything.
But it just makes sense, when there are these kinds of characters that are existing side-by-side — Gotham City's only so big. They're going to bump into each other. And it seems to me to be more of a distraction to not have that interaction than to have that interaction. But the interaction will always serve the story. It's not going to be crossover for crossover's sake.
That the great thing about working with the Bat-office. Mike Marts and Rachel Gluckstern and everybody over there have done such a great job of keeping a cohesive sub-universe without making it seem forced. I'm really excited to be working with these people because they know what they're doing better than almost anyone working in mainstream comics right now.
Nrama: I know it's early yet, but are there any aspects of Batwoman (or other characters in her world) that you're hoping to focus upon?
Andreyko: I would like to key in on one of her personal issues. I'd like to deal with some of the things that fascinate me about her, and explore them and how her personality traits and/or flaws, depending on how you look at them, affect her interaction with the characters around her.
The thing that's so fascinating is that so many of her supporting cast — I think almost all of her supporting cast — know that she does this Batwoman thing. So that's a big issue and a big stress point for a lot of people, you know? It's akin to having a relative who's in the military and they're serving overseas. You're always going to be worried because they're always putting themselves in harm's way. So that's going to be an issue.
And then there's light stuff too. I would certainly like to have Kate be a little happier than she has been. Her life thus far has been so full of stress and grief. I think Bette Kane is a great source of lightness in her life, and I think that's going to be a lot of fun.
And just exploring her relationship with Maggie. She's been such a loner for such a long time that having a relationship with someone is going to require her to be on a learning curve as well, learning how to trust and learning how to be open. So there's all sorts of interesting stuff.
Nrama: Assuming you're familiar with Jeremy Haun's artwork, or maybe you've seen what he's doing for Batwoman, are you writing toward his strengths? And what do you think he'll bring to the title?
Andreyko: Jeremy and I have actually worked together before. He did a number of the Manhunter back-ups in Streets of Gotham a few years back. So getting to work with him again is a lot of fun, because I think he's a really talented artist.
And I always write with the artist in mind, so I'm definitely going to be trying to write to his strengths.
We're definitely going to take advantage of the fact that this book has an established artistic voice of being really experimental in its page layout. So to be able to continue that — not to be copying J.H. at all, because that's a fool's errand and an impossible task, but because the readers of the book expect an interesting page layout. I'm encouraging the artists on this book to stretch their wings and play and take advantage of this opportunity that isn't really in a lot of traditional superhero books.
Nrama: I know you're also writing an upcoming Cinderella story for Vertigo's Fairest series, and as Fables fans know, Cinderella is a tough super-spy. I only mention that because, as people point toward your Manhunter work and now your Batwoman run, you seem to be writing a lot of strong, tough women. Why do you think it's a strength of yours — or something you enjoy? Or did it just kind of happen?
Andreyko: Well, yes to all of those. I've always been fascinated by the female characters that, if they were men, there wouldn't be any issues with their character flaws. You know, I always cite one of the big influences on the creation of Kate Spencer in Manhunter was Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect — the character she plays there is a homicide detective who smokes and drinks and can't maintain a relationship and is really aggressive and sort of initially unlikeable. And I think — once again, circling back to what I said before — I think it's interesting that, because these characters are women that these traits are suddenly considered daring.
I certainly have no interest in writing the woman who stays home and bakes pies — the Betty Crockers from the '50s. I think these characters have a real fascination for me with women that are outside what are the established social norms, and things that have been engrained in us through media.
And yeah, Cinderella has been a blast to write. Cinderella is a completely different voice than any character I've written before, and she's just a lot of fun. Getting to work with Bill Willingham and Shelly Bond and Sean McManus, the artist on the book. Sean is just doing the work of his career. It's just absolutely going to make people's head spin when they see the art on this book.
I always say I've been blessed by working with artists who make me look like I know what I'm doing.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Marc, is there anything else you want to tell fans about Batwoman?
Andreyko: All I've really got to say is I'm incredibly excited to be taking on this challenge. I've been really, really happy, and pleasantly surprised, with the support that the inter webs have shown on taking over this book. And I'm really taking it super-seriously. I really want to make this book a great, great book and live up to the reputation the book has had in the past. So hopefully the fans will be able to look at it with an open mind, and hopefully they'll like my take on Kate Kane and her supporting cast.