MARGUERITE BENNETT Tries to Put a Face on JOKER's DAUGHTER

DC February 2014 solicitations
Credit: DC Comics

Writer Marguerite Bennett already has a reputation at DC for writing villains and "creepy" stories. In January, she'll use those talents to further develop the New 52 version of Joker's Daughter – one of the characters DC teased this week in a Thanksgiving-themed image filled with hints about next year's weekly series, Batman: Eternal.

Bennett first started writing for DC by pairing up with one of her former college teachers, Scott Snyder, on July's Batman Annual #2. Then in September, she survived the controversy that erupted when DC released an image of the new Lobo — the character she was featuring in her Villains Month issue, Justice League #23.2: Lobo.

Credit: DC Comics

Earlier this month, Bennett wrote a flashback issue featuring Barbara Gordon in Batgirl #25, a Zero Year tie-in. In January, readers will get to see a one-issue story she's writing for Talon after the departure of the series' regular writer, James Tynion IV. Then in February comes two one-shots from Bennett: Superman: Lois Lane and Batman: Joker's Daughter.

(For folks who are wondering where Bennett came from, she started working on comics with Snyder after he noticed her work as a student at Sarah Lawrence College. Snyder teaches at the school; Bennett just received an MFA in writing there — see our interviews with Bennett from earlier this year for more details).

The writer seems to be at the center of a lot of one-issue stories that are helping to build characters toward bigger stories — particularly within the Batman Universe. With Joker's Daughter, Bennett says she's hoping to add "gravity and pathos" to the character. Newsarama talked to Bennett to find out more.

Newsarama: Marguerite, before we get to your Joker's Daughter issue, I'd like to talk about the issue of Talon you're writing in January. Anything you can tell us about that one issue's story?

Marguerite Bennett: I’m so, so glad you asked about this story! I’m so proud of it and feel so fondly towards it—it was actually the very first thing I wrote for DC Comics, back when Scott and I were working on the Batman Annual in the spring of this year.

Talon #15 is a one-shot horror story set in the 1920's, focusing on an African-American Talon named Jonas. The story moves backwards through his life, from the opulence of the circus to the torture of the labyrinth, as Jonas recalls the forces that brought him to this point of madness and violence. I love it dearly, and Jorge Lucas’ art is just tremendous — dense and haunting. (And he doesn’t make fun of me when I try to speak Spanish in our e-mails.)

Credit: DC Comics

Nrama: So does Calvin appear in this story? Or is this something that stands alone, and can be picked up by established and new readers alike?

Bennett: A reader won’t need any acquaintance with Calvin Rose or his allies. Talon #15 is solely about Jonas, the Talon of the Roaring Twenties. You needn’t have read any of the excellent Mr. James Tynion’s Talon previously to understand this issue; having read Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s "Court of Owls" arc on Batman will help, naturally, but my intention was that any reader with only a passing familiarity with the Court could explore the world of our story. Talon #15 is a horror tale, first and foremost, from a different world and time.

Nrama: OK, now let's talk about Batman: Joker's Daughter. You've established since you started writing for DC that you have a knack for writing creepy villains, so it's fitting that you'd get to help define this new villain. Is there any particular theme you're hoping to explore through her character?

Bennett: I wanted to express the strange, twisted devotion a reader often has for the Joker. This could not come from any standing identity — not as a henchman, who fears him, nor a heroine or hero who can hate him while feeling a pull of fascination for him — not as Harley, who can meet him with intimacy, or even as Batman, who can see him as his own fixed point and antithesis, his polar star.

This is a story of worship, as the Joker’s Daughter hunts for the great and horrible entity that could give her life meaning, make her chosen. This is devotion to a savage and absent god — how people define themselves through what they adore and revere and fear and desire. I wouldn’t dare pass something like that up.

Nrama: We've seen her in other stories over the last few months, in Catwoman and her Villains Month issue. And she just showed up in the teaser image that DC released for next year's Batman: Eternal weekly series. Can you describe the hopes for this spotlight issue? Assuming it takes her from her current status and kind of gets her to the next stage, what are you hoping to bring to the character?

Bennett: Primarily? Gravity and pathos. A purpose and a drive — a devotion. Before, Joker’s Daughter seemed (to paraphrase King) like that little rogue blood clot, looking for a place to rupture into an aneurysm—just bouncing around the system, causing damage where she landed. I wanted to focus her, hone her—see what she could accomplish when driven by a devotion that could give her the meaning and significance and validation she craves. (Admittedly, she could always be fractured right back to that little skipping razor blade of a girl, but that’s a matter for the future.)

Nrama: We've seen the origin of Joker's Daughter, but what's the timing of your story in her career behind the "mask?" How would you describe Joker's Daughter at this point in her evolution?

Can I spoil just the very first page? May I do that?

Nrama: Of course!

Credit: DC Comics

Bennett: Joker’s Daughter crouches in the rubble of the sewer that winds down to the ruins of the Underground; around her through the fetid dark, rats skitter and squirm. JD rocks in the filthy water, holding the Joker’s severed and rotting face in her hands, her splintered nails (still with their traces of glitter nail polish) coarse on the bone-pale skin. She needs to feel the Joker’s presence, needs to feel close and chosen and worthy, stricken in the knowledge that she is no daughter to him, not blood of his blood or flesh of his flesh. She bends down and sets her brown, broken teeth into the white flesh, and bites into the mask—she strains her neck, the face distorting, as she worries and rends a long, thin slice of flesh free. This, she draws slowly between her smeared red mouth in a long, greasy sluuuuurp. She rocks back on her heels, tormented, then sighs, almost with bliss. Now she is flesh of his flesh, has taken communion with her foul god.

Nrama: I know it's only one issue, but what can you reveal about the story we'll see in the issue?

Bennett: This is a pilgrimage, taken on the quest for her god. What’s worse—not finding him, or finding him?

Nrama: The Bat-universe is really diverse, so just about anyone could show up in this issue. But can you spoil who might show up in your one-shot?

Bennett: The story wouldn’t be complete without Batman. The others I’m afraid are secret.

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