Word on the street (or the DC offices) is that the recent new direction of Batgirl inspired many of the new titles being launched by the publisher this June. The DC Universe may never been the same, and that’s a good thing, cause if it weren’t for Batgirl, Black Canary wouldn’t be singing in a band…
Writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and artist Babs Tarr will be continuing their run on Batgirl, bringing new troubles and adventures for our young Barbara Gordon.
While Barbara is fighting crime elsewhere, Black Canary’s Dinah is rocking out in her newly formed rock band. One of the new 24 titles coming this June and July, Black Canary will have a couch-surfing Dinah simultaneously fighting crime and stage fright, as she leads a band of modern day rock n’ roll youngsters, written by Fletcher and drawn by Annie Wu.
This gang of young talent met up with Newsarama to discuss 60s’ rock inspiration, Batgirl’s woes and their astonishment that DC would allow them to put Black Canary in a band. You have been warned - there is a lot of giddy excitement coming your way.
But first, here’s the June solicitation for each.
"There’s a new Batman in town…and that spells bad news for Barbara Gordon! She’s already got enough upheaval in her life, with her roommate Frankie in on her biggest secret…and now she’s looking to get even more involved in Batgirl’s business!"
"Dinah Lance hits the road! After years as a soldier and vigilante, the LAST place Dinah saw herself is on stage…but she’s quickly learning she’d die to protect the gang of misfits she’s fallen into. And she just might have to – for some reason, the newly rechristened band Black Canary seems to be a magnet for trouble…and Dinah’s not gonna believe it when she finds out the reason why! Martial arts, super-spies, and rock ‘n’ roll combine, from Brenden Fletcher (BATGIRL) and Annie Wu (Hawkeye)!"
Newsarama: Guys, so what’s the deal with Batgirl? What’s the high concept, where are you guys going with her character?
Brenden Fletcher: So we came up with this idea how we wanted to see Barbara Gordon and Batgirl and its taken us six issues to tell the story of her journey from where she was to where she is as a person who’s found balance in her normal life and life as a vigilante. So, that’s our first story arc - the first six issues that are coming to a close, issue #41 which comes out in June is kind of like our first real issue of Batgirl, where she has to balance life and she can go out there and fight crime that we all know she can do, so we’re really excited to enter this era of amazing ass-kicking Batgirl. She’s been through so much darkness that when we came to our story we saw her rebel against that, but she went too far, so the six issues is kind of like her journey of finding a middle ground.
Babs Tarr: Lots of fun and balancing what’s she been through. So much fun.
Nrama: Do you think that Batgirl as a rebellious female character, has inspired other characters like Bizarro? Crazier characters that are kind of steering away from traditional superheroes.
Tarr: I think DC saw how excited people got about our book and they though maybe they should keep taking more risks. Obviously our art direction was different and was received so well, and they saw that and are taking notice.
Fletcher: I like to take it back to Mark Doyle, because we don’t know if people have been pitching Batgirl like this for 20 years, but it was Mark’s vision that allowed us to execute our vision of what Batgirl should be like, and to green-light books like Gotham Academy - it’s a book DC has never done before. That’s all Mark; having a vision that his group of titles are fighting for
Cameron Stewart: And seeing it received so well by people who’ve clearly been clamoring for something that’s different.
Fletcher: We’re so grateful, thankful for the opportunity to be allowed to do this, and we’re grateful for the readers.
Stewart: People have been so supported, and (we’ve been) bombarded with fan art and all things that show they’re super passionate about it.
Tarr: It lets us have more fun, like “Oh what can we do for the readers, what would they like?”
Stewart: It becomes like a conversation almost, where we make a comic and then people make fan work on Tumblr and we’re like “Oh, that’s amazing!”. We want to make another to give in; it becomes like an interactive thing, back and forth.
Fletcher: It’s an amazing kind of thing especially with Black Canary.
Nrama: Jim Lee and Dan (DiDio) mentioned that the success from Batgirl kind of inspired Black Canary.
Stewart: Well we, when we were first writing the first arc for Batgirl and we had Dinah in it, Brenden and I were kind of joking around about like this Brooklyn-like neighborhood, and so obviously there’s going to be bands. Well, we were like, Black Canary’s power is her voice and so she would totally be in a band, but it was a joke, but then we were like, actually that’s kind of a good idea, and so we started writing it into the series
Fletcher: Music was part of the conversation. It wasn’t something we came up with as we went along, as you’ll see from the cover of #35, it was something we came up with, like our template of what our first arc would look like, and surprisingly we got away with it and we were like, “She’s in a band!”, and we were waiting for editorial to come back and say “We like everything but Black Canary is not going to be in a band,” but everyone was okay with it and we were like “ We can let her be in a band!”
Nrama: So you meant it when you said she was going to be “more rock n’ roll,” cause she’s literally in a band.
Fletcher: There’s a reason why she is in a band though, like there’s a life long reason why. It’s not like in the story-this is not a choice she is making for the rest of her life - she’s just doing it. She’s lost her home, she’s lost everything, she doesn’t have a team to lead, her best friend is not acting like the woman she knows she is, and she’s sleeping on a couch. I mean, she’s got nothing but she’s found commodity with these people she’s hanging out with, and you’ll only see it in a few panels here, but she’s found a weird community with these people she hangs out and then she plays in a band. She’s up on stage, and then it turns out she can sing, so it’s a series of certain events that becomes an opportunity and that sort of rolls into a big finale in Batgirl #40, and that spins out into our new series.
Nrama: So Black Canary… what’s the high concept with the series other than the band?
Fletcher: Rock n’ roll road trip, in a nutshell
Nrama: That sounds like something someone in their 20s would do - sleeping on a couch and wanting to start a band.
Fletcher: Well if you look at the data, most of the superhero characters in the New 52 are all in their 20s. How old is Superman? 25? 26? All these characters are pretty young and most people don’t know that, and that’s why with Batgirl, we were getting a lot of, “You’ve de-aged her! You’ve made her younger!”, but nope ever since the first issue of Batgirl, it says she is 21, and so we’re writing a 21-year-old and Dinah is about 26, so she’s still in her 20s but she’s already been in the military, she’s already been a fighter on the streets. She’s a young woman whose lived a super fulfilled life, but this is the next chapter in her life, and her past doesn’t just disappear, so while she’s on the road with this band, fulfilling her contract, danger turns its ugly head and turns up at these shows and she’s with a bunch of people that aren’t fighters, but they are a new team in a way and she has to figure out how to lead them without them getting killed, while trying to do these do these shows, and she’s ultimately responsible for a lot that’s happening.
Nrama: Is there going to be a lot of cameos? Some old faces in the Black Canary series?
Fletcher: Are you digging for information? [Laughs] I think what Annie and I are most excited about is our new characters, the ladies in the band. They form a significant part of the drama, the conflict that you’re going to see us playing with, but of course you’re going to recognize some faces that will turn up a bit later. Maybe not on the onset, but definitely this ties with what happened to Dinah in Mission Zero, what happened with Team 7. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but it’s her life and now she happens to be in a band, her life comes back.
Nrama: What’s the band’s name, again?
Fletcher: Black Canary! Mhhm, Black Canary. [Laughs] Is that okay, can that be allowed?
Nrama: Yeah well she’s the star, she’s the leader so she can name it that.
Fletcher: That’s a cool band name. I’d be in a band called Black Canary. Wait till you see Annie’s design work for the band. It’s stellar!
Annie Wu: Oh yeah, (I was) really inspired by the stuff from bands and gig posters from the 60s and screen prints, and that whole fleeting aspect of it. Like having done details and incorporating some of those and some of that imagery to the book itself.
Fletcher: And fashion.
Wu: Fashion yeah, like being a superhero and being a superstar and all the dramatic aspects that come with it.
Fletcher: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the fishnets are back. It gives us an excuse, cause there’s no real world excuse for Dinah to be wearing fishnets while superhero-ing it.
Wu: That’s why the rock band makes total sense.
Fletcher: We’re really excited to talk more about it and show you guys more stuff, but it’s going to be a really fun book, a book like DC has never done before. Can’t believe they’re letting us do this.
Nrama: So…you can’t name any new faces?
Fletcher: Well we can, but it’s not going to hold any new meaning. It’s just going to be a bunch of names. The band is a significant part though.
Nrama: Are they all superheroes too?
Fletcher: No she’s the only one.
Wu: And she’s going to be the one uncomfortable on stage, as a singer. She’s not going to know what she’s doing and they’re going to try to help her out, but while the fights start happening she’s going to be the one that gets everyone together, so they transition and they’re all out of their comfort zone, a back and forth.
Fletcher: It’s going to be a fish out of water situation.
Nrama: Scott Pilgrim kind of comes to mind here.
Fletcher: It is a bit, as if Scott Pilgrim had a military background and wasn’t entirely comfortable being on stage. Dina is the best martial artist in the DC universe. There might be a lot of butt-kicking in this book
Wu: If Scott was one of the most lethal people in the universe.
Nrama: With DC expecting so many new things in June, as readers, what are you most looking forward to just sitting down and checking out yourself?
Wu: I think they released that one promo image and I was like immediately sold, that’s like the weirdest thing to bring, well considering the lineup. So many cool choices but like bringing back a character like Prez and doing a take on him.
Fletcher: Also, for art, the guy drawing Omega Men….man! I Googled his art (Barnaby Bagenda) when they were talking about him today…this guy just blew me away! This guy’s art is incredible, but from what I knew about before, from what I saw the art of and heard the concept of, was Damian: Son of Batman. Patrick Gleason’s book is going to be the book that readers of Gotham Academy are going to be able to pick up as their other title. It’s a great compliment, it’s not going to maybe feed intoGotham Academy, like maybe we could, as we’re working on these books, but Pat’s talking a lot to us about what he wants to do and were talking to him about Gotham Academy stuff, and this book is going to be super exciting and super different and is going to find a whole new potential and new audience that DC maybe doesn’t have right now, and I don’t think you’re going to be seeing it in the promo stuff yet, but it feels like Avatar: The Last Airbender. So cool.
Tarr: I’m looking forward to Black Canary [laughs]. Ming Doyle is writing one (Constantine: The Hellblazer), which I think is going to be great. I like her art so I’m really excited about the one she’s working on. It’s so cool to see all these great illustrators having a chance to draw a book.
Stewart: Well, also Prez, and I’m interested in We Are Robin also. I think We Are Robin sounds really cool.
Fletcher: But seriously, it’s hard to pick. I think this is an incredibly diverse lineup of books.
Nrama: A lot of out-of-left-field stuff too, right?
Stewart: It’s different and different is always interesting so its nice that that’s the stuff people are responding too
Tarr: Yeah, more crazy fun stuff will happen after, about something being completely different, and all of these books will prove to be solid. I’ve read a bunch of the pitches, Everything I’ve read so far has taken me back in its level of quality, but it’s the new, that the weird moves for DC that make you turn your head and go, “Ok, alright, awesome. Take a chance! Do more of that!,” and I think that’s allowing us to do Black Canary in a band.
Fletcher: Yeah, it’s easy to get excited